“When’s the best time to visit Vietnam?”
We know the scenario. You are planning to take go to Vietnam, but wonder where and when to go. Honestly, it’s a complicated question, based on your tastes and experiences as much as the time of year. We’re here to help…
First off, you can go to pretty much anywhere in Vietnam any time of year and likely have a fantastic time.
That said, the slender tropical nation has multiple climate considerations within its S-shape span of 1000 miles, north to south. That’s because each of its three regions – north (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa), center (Danang, Hoi An, Hoi An) and south (Saigon, Mekong Delta, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang) – tend to live by their own climate rules.
In the north, you’ll actually note temperatures do change throughout the year. Elsewhere it’s going to be pretty hot, and really it’s only the monsoon season you need to think about when planning your trip.
In the south, rains can sometimes even be fun. It’ll be baking hot, then you notice suddenly the sky is black and it pours for a half hour, then the rain disappears. Some rainstorms are more serious situations, however, particularly in the center around Danang. Even Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) got flooded in late 2018 after a huge storm.
To help with all this, let us consider…
VIETNAM’S WEATHER BY DESTINATION
Here’s are overview for some of the main destinations, going roughly from south to north (as the best itineraries do).
SAIGON (HO CHI MINH CITY)
In the south, temperatures are pretty constant (averaging 80°-plus Fahrenheit, about 30° Celsius, all year). Vietnam’s largest city is nicest January through March. April and May start to bake, but are fine if you don’t mind showering twice a day – or taking afternoon breaks indoors, as many locals do. Double-check to make sure your accommodations have air-conditioning. Some rain hits most days June to October, but tend to be short storms – and it’s not like the city stops for anything. November and December starts to dry out and cool off.
Ideal time to go: December to March. But anytime is fine if you’re up for hot weather.
Temperatures are similar to Saigon’s. December to March are great times to go. Rainy season matches Saigon’s, but not worth cancelling a trip over.
Ideal time to go: December to March.
DANANG & HOI AN
January to March are great, peaking at 80° Farenheit (27° Celsius). And it’s fine through summer. It does get hotter in April-May, while June-August is peak season for temperatures and travelers (with daily highs breaking 90° Farenheit, or 33° Celsius). It cools a bit in September to December, but rain and monsoons come in too. Rain is enough here to consider visiting elsewhere in Vietnam.
Ideal time to go: January to May, fine June to July.
Similar to Danang’s weather but a degree or two higher as it’s inland from sea breezes. January to March are wonderful times to go. April to August is hot, though Hue’s summer is less crowded than Danang’s beaches. Like Danang, September-December is monsoon season.
Ideal time to go: January to July.
It’s gets chilly January-February (lows of 55° Fahrenheit, or 13° Celsius). This might not seem cold to you back in Minnesota, but humidity (and a general lack on insulation) means you can get a chill in your bones that’s hard to shake in some cases. (So, yes, pack a sweater.) The temperatures rise a bit in March-April, which is a nice time to visit the capital. May and June gets really hot and humid, daily highs reaching 90° Fahrenheit (32° Celsius). July to September is hot, humid with more rain. October and November are wonderful. December starts to cool back down.
Ideal time to go: March-April or October-November.
Similar to Hanoi. It’s too cold to swim December through March, and foggy too. Rains can cancel trip in summer. October’s nice. Gets chilly by November.
Ideal time to go: March-April or October-November.
There’s snow in the mountains in winter, and June to early September rains really harshen a trip’s experience.
Ideal time to go: March-May, October to mid December.
MONTH-BY-MONTH WEATHER CHART
This chart breaks down key weather considerations for each of the three hubs to the main regions. Pink is likely the most optimal time to visit, light blue means rain you can likely manage, heavier rains you’d probably best avoid are dark blue. Unmarked months mean it’s hot or crowded – but absolutely fine to visit.
So where should you go?
We plan to create sample one- and two-week suggested itineraries for both first-time and repeat visitors in upcoming posts. Meanwhile, if you’re hoping to visit more than one region, here are the best two to visit, broken down by bi-monthly periods.
JANUARY-FEBRUARY (Saigon & Danang)
Have a day or two in Saigon, maybe a couple days in the Mekong. Fly to Danang for about $60 one way, taxi straight to historic Hoi An. Get clothes made from tailors, maybe visit the Golden Bridge on a day trip. Fly out from Danang, or back to Saigon.
MARCH-APRIL (Hanoi & Danang)
Hanoi and Danang. Fly into Hanoi for a couple days in the capital. Time’s pretty short, so save Sapa and see Halong Bay for a couple days. Then fly to Danang, as outlined above.
MAY-JUNE (Hanoi OR Saigon & Danang)
It’s up to your preference. Saigon’s got the edge on nightlife and food, Hanoi has more evocative attractions. We’ll cover this big decision more in another post.
JULY-AUGUST (Saigon & Danang)
Start in Saigon, maybe see the Mekong or Dalat if it’s too hot for you, the fly to Danang. Note the beaches in Danang are BUSY in summer. We prefer Hoi An’s anyway.
SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER (Saigon & Hanoi)
Use an “open-jaw” ticket to fly into one and out the other. We prefer going south-to-north. Saigon sometimes underwhelms visitors, particularly at an end of the trip. With effort you could get Saigon, Mekong Delta, Hanoi, Halong Bay. You could EASILY fill a week in just the north, by going to Hanoi, Sapa and Halong Bay.
NOVEMBER-DECEMBER (Saigon & Hanoi)
As shown above. In December, you might not enjoy Sapa or Halong Bay as much.