When deciding the best time to visit Vietnam, consider the country's tropical monsoon climate, dominated by the south or southwesterly monsoon from May to September and the northeast monsoon from October to April. The southern summer monsoon brings rain to the two deltas and west-facing slopes, while the cold winter monsoon picks up moisture over the Gulf of Tonkin and dumps it along the central coast and the eastern edge of the central highlands. Within this basic pattern there are marked differences according to altitude and latitude; temperatures in the south remain equable all year round, while the north experiences distinct seasonal variations.
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Climate in southern Vietnam
In southern Vietnam the dry season lasts from December to late April or May, and the rains from May through to November. Since most rain falls in brief afternoon downpours, this need not be off-putting, though flooding at this time of year can cause problems in the Mekong Delta. Daytime temperatures in the region rarely drop below 20°C, occasionally hitting 40°C during the hottest months (March, April and May). The climate of the central highlands generally follows the same pattern, though temperatures are cooler, especially at night. Again, the monsoon rains of May to October can make transport more complicated, sometimes washing out roads and cutting off remoter villages.
Climate on the central coast
Along the central coast the rainfall pattern reverses under the influence of the northeast monsoon. Around Nha Trang the wet season starts with a flourish in November and continues through December. Further north, around Hue and Da Nang, the rains last a bit longer, from September to February. And if you’re hoping to hit the beaches that stretch from Da Nang to Hoi An, be warned that when the northeasterly winter monsoon hits, the riptides become particularly dangerous. So the best time of year to visit these two cities is in the spring (Feb–May). If you’re planning on visiting Hoi An, it’s best to avoid the months of October and November, when serious flooding can mean water in the streets can be knee- or waist high.
Temperatures reach their maximum (often in the upper 30s) from June to August, when it’s pleasant to escape into the hills. The northern stretches of this coastal region experience a more extreme climate, with a shorter rainy season (peaking in Sept and Oct) and a hot dry summer. The coast of central Vietnam is the zone most likely to be hit by typhoons, bringing torrential rain and hurricane-force winds. Though notoriously difficult to predict, in general the typhoon season lasts from August to November.
Climate in northern Vietnam
The best time to travel to northern Vietnam is from October to December, when it is generally warm and sunny, after which cold winter weather sets in, accompanied by fine persistent mists which can last for several days. Springtime, between March and May is also a good time to visit, when temperatures start to rise, and spring flowers are in full bloom. Temperatures build to summer maximums that occasionally reach 40°C between May and August, though they tend to hover around a more reasonable 30°C in Hanoi. However, summer is also the rainy season, when heavy downpours render the low-lying delta area almost unbearably hot and sticky, and flooding is a regular hazard.
The northern mountains share the same basic regime, though temperatures are considerably cooler and higher regions see ground frosts, or even a rare snowfall, during the winter (Dec–Feb).
Visiting Vietnam during festivals
When deciding on the best time to visit Vietnam it's worth taking a look at the calendar of annual festivals, so that you can perhaps build your itinerary around some of them. The most important is Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, and lasts for seven days sometime between the last week of January and the third week of February. Families get together to celebrate and there's a party-like atmosphere in the cities, with colourful decorations adorning the streets, the scent of incense in the air, and glorious fireworks displays filling the skies.
Best month to visit Vietnam
With such a complicated weather picture, there’s no one particular season to recommend as the best time for visiting Vietnam. Overall, autumn (Sept-Dec) and spring (March and April) are probably the most favourable seasons if you’re covering the whole country.