Vietnam in November
Vietnam has enough to dazzle even the most seasoned of travellers. Fascinating history, remarkable landscapes, exceptional food and amazing people lead the way in attracting millions of visitors to the land of the Ascending Dragon each year.
As a country, Vietnam beautifully blends the world-renowned and quiet, astonishing surprises. It possesses a very high level of biodiversity and is home to two World Natural Heritage Sites. It is famed for its varied terrain and coastline, stunning bright and bustling cities, cuisine and captivating past. On top of that, it houses many tombs and temples, hosts unique markets, boasts impressive architecture and has some of the best-known, most bucket-listed road trips found anywhere in the world.
The easternmost country on the Southeast Asian Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam’s population hovers around the 100 million mark, placing it comfortably in the top twenty most populous countries in the world. It shares land borders with China, Laos and Cambodia while its eastern border leads on to the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea. (The South China Sea is often referred to as the East Sea in Vietnam. The implication that China has ownership over the whole body of water is intolerable to many Vietnamese people).
Vietnam has had a turbulent history, repelling foreign invaders over an extended period of around 2000 years. The country has named many of its streets and popular spots after national heroes who have led efforts in defending the nation. Located so close to a much larger and at times more powerful country in China, a struggle for freedom has gripped Vietnam since as early as the 2nd Century BC.
More recently and perhaps better known around the world, was the American War in Vietnam. Spirit, grit and determination of the Vietnamese people saw the American army added to a long list of invaders who were ultimately driven back from the lands, although the effects of the war are still felt today. Some areas, in mountainous areas, remain banned to the public due to unexploded landmines.
Over the past twenty years, Vietnam has made exceptional progress as a nation. Its economy has been growing rapidly, among the quickest in the world and most people are now able to afford transportation (the usual choice being a motorbike). Middle-class people are prospering, and luxuries are becoming a more common feature in houses. Through this, however, the country has resolutely remained a one-party state. Protests and dissent around this are not well received.
Vietnam in November
The North and South of Vietnam enjoy some of their best conditions during the month of November, making it an ideal time to visit for beach, culture and adventure in these regions. International visitors arrive in large numbers to welcome the winter high season and with arguably some of the country’s greatest assets being found in the North and South, there is a lot of value to travelling during this time.
November sees dry and cool weather return to the northern regions of Vietnam after the hot and wet summer. These are considered among the best conditions to explore Sapa, the capital Hanoi and Halong Bay, the World Heritage Site. Temperatures average out at around 24°C, a comfortable and manageable heat for most travellers, while the mountainous regions of the far north are predominantly clear. November is considered to be among the best months to go trekking in the region, and it is also suggested as the best time to go for a boat cruise on Halong Bay.
Glorious weather returns in the southerly regions, including to Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta. Clear, blue skies, a drop in humidity and temperatures of around 27°C make for perfect days exploring, or relaxing on the best beaches the country has to offer in November. Phan Thiet & Mui Ne, Ho Tram & Long Hai are easy to reach from Ho Chi Minh, seeing fantastic blue skies and plenty of sun during November and are, therefore, superb options for enjoying a Vietnamese beach.
The central coastal regions, on the other hand, are experiencing their heaviest rainfalls of any point throughout the year. Hoi An, in particular, is prone to flooding during the month and heavy storms are expected. Temperatures across the central region can differ from place to place, though Hoi An will average out at between 23°C and 25°C. Nha Trang, a little further south down the coast, will be experiencing heavy rains too. In fact, nearly half of the city’s annual rainfall falls in the months of October and November. The Central Highlands, however, offer a different prospect. Clear skies and little rain are expected, making it a great time to explore.
It is important to carefully consider the locations you are travelling to and the weather that will be experienced there. While it is certainly still possible to enjoy a country like Vietnam regardless of the weather, torrential rains can cause flooding, disrupting industries including travel and posing serious problems for visitors to the country.
November will pose no such problems for anyone looking to visit the north and the south but be wary of visiting the central coastal regions at this time.
Festivals and Events
November isn’t the best month to travel to Vietnam if you were hoping to attend festivals and events, though the huge crowds would make you think there were, and the attractions of the country would make any disappointment quickly fade.
There is, however, one festival in particular that is worth keeping an eye out for. Ooc Om Bok is the largest and liveliest Khmer religious festivals. Specific to the Mekong Delta, it is held on the fourteenth day of the tenth lunar month each year. Locals pray to the moon deity, wishing for good luck and a bumper crop. Thousands gather to watch boat races and there will be plenty of music, dancing and fruit. Visitors can revel in the boisterous atmosphere, be treated to exquisite local cuisine and take beautiful pictures of wild lanterns.
Where to Go
Coming into one of its busiest and best seasons, a cruise along Halong Bay is a must-visit for anyone travelling to Vietnam. That is even more so for anyone visiting in November. The Bay is a World Heritage Site and at this time of year will be bathed in stunning blue skies, topped only by the miraculous surroundings you will find yourself in. The crowds will be flocking in during November, so book accommodation and activities well in advance.
Ho Chi Minh City
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the most populous city and the financial centre of Vietnam. If that sounds scary and is likely to put you off, don’t let it! Yes, it lacks the scenery and awe-inspiring sights of much of the country, but it is a pivotal place to visit in understanding the culture and history of Vietnam. From the War Remnants Museum to the Củ Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh is a great place to explore from. Even just crossing the road is a fascinating experience!
Known as the ‘rice bowl of Vietnam’ and dubbed a ‘biological treasure trove’, the Mekong Delta is a water world of boats, houses and markets floating upon crisscrossing rivers, canals and streams. Home to over a thousand species of animal, some previously thought to be extinct, the dazzling colours and uniqueness of the Delta make it an amazing adventure among busy locals going about their every day.
While November rains are hitting the central region along the coastline hard, the highlands are prospering. Lush and prospering, they represent innumerable opportunities to see a different side of Vietnam to what many other regions offer. The area is not as socially or economically developed as other regions in the country despite its richness in natural resources. If anything, this is more of a reason to visit, both for the positivity your money can bring and the authentic experience you will receive.
The capital of Vietnam and its second-largest city, Hanoi is sometimes known as the ‘city of lakes’.It is built between two rivers and has incredible scenery for a city of its size; it also retains an old quarter which is a throwback to a by-gone era. It is considered a cultural centre of the country and many of the cultures and peoples who have inhabited the country throughout the centuries have left their mark and imprint on the place. Hanoi is often used as a base to explore Halong Bay, too, although it is around a four-hour drive away.
Known for its spectacular scenery, when Sapa started growing as a holiday destination, it was predominantly Vietnamese people travelling to the area. Now, it is popular among international tourists who visit to explore its grand scenery and rich variety of plants and wildlife in the mountainous regions. Many of the species found here are only found in northern Vietnam.
What to Do
Take a Halong Bay Boat Cruise
Spectacular Halong Bay is absolutely worth the drive and tussle with swarming crowds of tourists to see. 1,600 islands poke out of the sea in a dramatic scene of mountains, sea and sky. With November’s expected weather, it is the perfect time to take the boat cruise that will leave you with enviable memories for life. Cruises are available for a single day or over multiple days. For those who are interested in taking a Halong cruise tour, you can click here for more information. The area is abounding in activities and you can visit caves, kayak on the surrounding waters or visit the town back on land for entertainment and delicious food as well as marvelling at one of the most stunning backdrops in the world.
Catch a Sunrise and a Sunset
Easily combined with other activities. However, you choose to do it, be sure not to miss out on an unforgettable sunrise and sunset at some point during your trip. Halong Bay, up in the Central Highlands or while visiting Sapa will be great opportunities to do this.
Sail on the Mekong Delta
Set sail down the Delta on a group tour or a private trip. Sit back and relax, enjoying the sensational views and take in each moment. Stop off at different villages and towns along the way, explore the local markets and taste the best flavours the region has to offer. The culture here is friendly and joyful and the fruit from the markets is exceptional.
Go for a Trek
Trekking in Vietnam is growing in popularity and it’s understandable why. Mountains and lush greenery spark the interest of experienced trekkers and beginners alike. The Central Highlands are ideal for trekking and a great place to start looking if that takes your fancy. Always do your research carefully and take local advice where appropriate, as some mountains are off-limits and illegal to trek in Vietnam due to dangers posed from unexploded devices planted during the Vietnam War.
Stroll Around a Town or City and Indulge in Street Food
Step into the culture and take a walk around one of Vietnam’s bustling cities. That, in itself, is an incredible experience. Learn to cross roads Vietnamese-style, join the bustling crowds in markets, shops and admiring wonderful architecture before tucking into some delicious street food. Highly recommended is the bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich packed full with pickled vegetables, chilli, coriander, and cuts of meat (usually pork).
Relax and Play on the Beach
A holiday to a country with a coastline like Vietnam is never going to pass by without some time spent at the beach. In November, your best bet for beach time is either when visiting Halong Bay, or when you are in the southern regions. Phan Thiet and Mui Ne, Ho Tram & Long Hai are within easy reach of Ho Chi Minh and will be experiencing fantastic beach weather through the month. Playing sport on the beach is a great way to make friends with some of the locals who may ask to join in the fun!
Visit the War Remnants Museum
Containing exhibits from the Vietnam war, the War Remnants Museum is a moving and astonishing place to visit in Ho Chi Minh City. Featuring real-life accounts from the Vietnamese people, it allows you to really appreciate the magnitude and impact that the war had on the country. Sources from around the world are used to add balance to the telling of the story. Your visit will require time to really soak in the information and be prepared for some upsetting exhibits. The museum really is a vital part of any trip to Vietnam.
Spend Time at a Project
Despite great advances and growth in its economy, Vietnam, like any country around the world, has people who are less fortunate. There are many projects in place across the country to help with different causes. You can play just a little part to a ginormous effect by visiting a project designed at helping people who are struggling during your visit. Such projects may include visiting a restaurant designed at helping unemployed youths train as chefs or visiting an orphanage and spending some time with the children there.
Crawl in the Củ Chi Tunnels
An immense network of connecting tunnels, visitors can explore the Củ Chi Tunnels and learn all about their history and use during the war years. They were used by the Vietnamese soldiers as hideout spots, communication and supply routes, hospitals, living quarters and for storing food and weapons. When you enter one, you will realise just how incredible that is. Unaccessible to the Americans with their additional kit and generally bigger physiques, the tunnels were pivotal in the Vietnamese war effort.
Things to Check Before you Travel
It is always worth being up-to-date before you travel anywhere. Ensure your immunisations are done and you have seen a doctor in advance of your trip to check you are ready to go. Purchase comprehensive insurance that covers any eventuality. Also, check up on the places you are going to be travelling. Hoi An, Hue and Nha Trang are incredible places to travel to, but can be unsuitable at this time of year. Make sure you are aware of what the conditions will be like wherever you are travelling to and prepare accordingly.
If you are planning on visiting temples during your visit, it is worth ensuring you have some clothes with you that have long sleeves and cover your legs. It can be possible for such items to be borrowed, but you will be more comfortable wearing your own and not reliant on these being available. Avoid pointing your feet in the direction of sacred objects, remove your shoes if entering a private house and avoid patting people on their head.
Eating Street Food
Food is a vital part of any culture and Vietnamese street food can be incredible. However, you should choose carefully and wisely when it comes to trying street food no matter how delicious it smells and looks. Spot the places that are popular with tourists where the chefs will be used to accommodating for tourists. Although a street food vendor may be popular with locals, and it will no doubt taste amazing, the local people will have stomachs that are used to food cooked in that way and in those conditions. Tourist-friendly vendors are plentiful, so there is no need for you to miss out.
Crossing the Road
Especially in the big cities, if you are waiting for a gap in the traffic, you will be waiting a long, long time! In Vietnam, there is a system which, to many around the world, sounds like it is completely bonkers. But, it works! To cross the road, step out even as traffic, which will mainly be motorbikes, approaches and keep walking. Do not stop and try not to change pace and the traffic will avoid you. Eye-contact with drivers and riders will help. I know it sounds mad, but it quickly becomes familiar and a lot more comfortable. It is totally normal in Vietnam and the drivers are used to it.
It is also worthwhile noting that Vietnamese people don’t use their horn aggressively but to pass messages and inform people that they are there. You will get used to the constant noise and don’t take it personally!
Be Prepared to Become a Millionaire!
The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong. Five English pounds are worth comfortably over 100,000 Dong meaning you are more than likely going to become a millionaire when you get your money exchanged. Congratulations, and don’t spend it all at once!
Vietnam is simply an amazing place. The people, the culture, the history, the scenery. Everything about it screams that it is an exceptional place to travel. Don’t miss out, get planning your November journey today!
Is Vietnam safe?
Vietnam is a relatively safe country to travel in, although sensible precautions must be taken to keep yourself safe. Scams do exist and may be targeted at tourists, so be wary, and it is safest to stay in well lit areas and walk in groups where possible. Pickpocketing and bag snatching can happen, so take care of your belongings and always be alert in public.
Can I rent a car or motorbike?
You will need an International Driving Licence to rent either a car or a motorbike, but it is possible. It is advised that only confident drivers attempt driving in Vietnam, as the experience is likely to be very different to what you are used to with different systems and attitudes.
Do I need a Visa for Vietnam?
Travellers from many countries can travel to Vietnam without a Visa for a stay of up to 30 days. You will need a passport with a minimum validity of six months, and this will need to be handed over when you check in to a hotel. Make sure you check with your own country’s advice before travelling that you have all the documentation required.