The times they are a changin’! A few years ago it would have been unimaginable for most Vietnamese to spend the New Year Tết somewhere else in the privacy of their home. But the festival is traditionally celebrated in the family circle, and serves primarily to honor the ancestors who are symbolically invited the evening before to spend the festivities with their family. In the meantime, however, in some members of the more or less prosperous middle class have begun to rethink, and many benefit from the consecutive free days to go on vacation, either within the country or abroad. Vietnamese prefer to travel in large or larger groups with a crowded tour program, similar to the Japanese or Chinese.
Among the most popular destinations in the country include Sa Pa, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Halong Bay, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet / Mui Ne and the islands of Con Dao and Phu Quoc. Traveling abroad mainly lead to ASEAN countries such as Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore, where Vietnamese people can travel visa-free, but also to China, Hong Kong or South Korea.
Many Vietnamese tour operators feel a great demand for services for which they offer tours. Except for a few remaining seats, those are sold out almost completely. Saigontourist e.g. hosts during the period of the New Year more than 10,000 customers, of which more than 4,000 travel abroad. That is one third more than last year. The services offered by some travel agencies in Hanoi are fully booked for weeks or months.
The prices are correspondingly high. For example, we must pay for a five-day trip to Thailand on New Year’s around eight million VNĐ (around 300 euros). On other days, the same journey will cost only about 5.5 million VNĐ. Partly responsible for those price increases are also the sharply increased fares due to high travel volume. The tickets from Hanoi to Bangkok, for example, are twice as expensive as in normal times. Even to Singapore and Hong Kong, the airlines claim a high extra charge. Nevertheless, especially for Vietnam’s “New Year” (13.2.), there are no free seats on flights longer available to most destinations.
For this New Year, more than 500,000 Vietnamese living abroad, are expected to come back home and celebrate the first day of the Lunar New Year with their relatives. At most tourist destinations, it will therefore be fairly crowded. At least in the first week after New Year’s Day spontaneously traveling the country is practically impossible due to fully booked flights, trains and buses. Especially backpackers, who have not booked anything in advance, should be prepared.