As Christmas has just passed, followed by New Year’s Eve, then Tet – the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebrations beginning at the end of January – now is a very good time to start planning and thinking ahead.
While I’m well aware that most people reading this article are experienced enough in local situations to decide well in advance on their holiday plans, it never hurts to remind ourselves about the important stuff before we get carried away by the dreamy holiday atmosphere!
As the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries will experience modest growth in the first half of next year, getting around the country is going to take some tricky calculations for both homeward locals and foreigners wanting to get out about.
The word this year is to keep your ears to the ground for last-minute changes in travel viability and schedules. I know that may contradict my advice to book early but that’s the best we can all do at the moment.
In years past, booking any Tet travel was always advisably done at least a month in advance as the likelihood of getting caught in large local crowds trying to get out of town and obtaining a good seat on a bus, train or airplane narrows in success the closer we inch toward the holidays.
Local travel will be down on last year’s numbers as people will be reluctant to travel due to COVID-19.
Due to incomes and budgets being reduced by the pandemic, its economic impact will also lower the travel figures.
New Year is probably going to be ‘stay near home’ affairs. Although you can guarantee big crowds during New Year's Eve celebrations, most foreigners will have more modest home or local pub parties.
The big consideration is the period after New Year's Eve and Tet. Unsurprisingly given local customs, it’s one of the busiest times of the year for the locals. In order to usher in the 2022 Lunar New Year, Vietnamese spend an amazing amount of time and effort on cleaning and repainting their homes, doing repairs, and preparing holiday food and accommodation for visiting families and a lot more.
These activities become more frantic before Tet as people buy goodies and rush around. The most important point is that everything slows down, government offices, notaries and any visa or work permit situations will become far more difficult to work with, so I highly recommend you make arrangements with your school, office or travel agent early so as not to be caught out by the holiday shutdowns. Actually, you’d be surprised how many people do forget to plan for these things!
A biggie to ponder is home security.
I live in Hoi An and either of the two New Years that we celebrate creates golden opportunities for thieves and pickpockets.
Dog theft is rampant around this time of the year too, as crooks look to make some quick money. House-sitting, dog hotels, and dog baby-sitting are good ideas and check your security cameras as well. One thing I got undone last year was forgetting to stock up on dog food as the pet shops were closed just a tad too long, oops!
Although I’m not a big fan of organized festive restaurant food deals (I simply can’t eat that much food!), there are great bargains out there but be warned, a lot of these deals book out early so don’t wait too long to organize that family dinner.
For Tet, the mantra should be Dong, Accommodation, Food, Transport (DAFT)!
During the official Tet festival, there’ll be a run on the ATMs wherever you are, so making a withdrawal days before the official holiday dates – which for 2022 run from January 31 to February 4 – might just save your holiday cheer!
Gas stations in many areas will only be open on a half-day or early closing (at 5:00 am or 6:00 pm) basis, so planning motorbike tours should really be done after the main holidays as it’s anyone’s guess what hours people will be opening out in the countryside!
Food in general shouldn’t be a problem – it’s more your ‘harder to get’ or exotic items to stock up on. In my case, it’s New Zealand cheese, European sausages, and high-end chocolate! Check with your local shops first.
We can’t really predict what’s going to happen with the weather around anytime between now and the end of Tet. Thankfully, we’ve had a relatively mild winter with few severe storms, yet keeping an eye on the weather is just common sense.
The important things during these potentially stressful holidays, particularly if you have a family, are just riding with the inevitable hiccups and problems and your ability to stay chilled out. It's not an easy thing over these last two years; however, the opportunities to have fun, catch up with friends and family, and simply get out of the house are priceless.
In any case, have wonderful, safe, and happy holidays! (And don’t forget to feed the god!)