If you are looking for big gregarious celebrations then Saigon during Lunar New Year is probably not for you. If on the other hand you want to see Ho Chi Minh City a little more laid back than usual, then it is actually quite a good time to come here.
What the Lunar New Year?
Lunar New Year saw hat most of the world know as Chinese New Year, although in Korea they say Korean New Year and in Vietnam they say Vietnamese New Year. The politically correct term is thus Lunar New Year.
This comes every January or February and is done on the Lunar (moon calendar). It brings in not just a new year, but also a new animal. This year that animal is a Dragon – which is in fact mythical creature.
It is also the biggest fracking movement of people on the planet, particularly in China and Vietnam, which often leads to the big cities, such as Saigon becoming little more than ghost towns – at least for a few days.
Yet despite this and indeed some of the higher costs than can occur at this time, there are some cheap you can utilize to save money and indeed time.
Saigon during Lunar New Year
Saigon during lunar new year is largely deserted as people go home to their families, meaning that much like places such as Shenzhen, or Beijing in China many city dwellers originate from out of town.
This means that for a few days before and after actual new year services are less and restaurants etc more often than not exist on skeleton staff. Also and perhaps more importantly it also means that traveling OUT of Saigon can be an absolute cost and logistical nightmare.
Foe these few days though it is actually quite nice to be in Ho Chi Minh City with to being less of a shit show than normal. Things still happen, but a slower pace and with less people. Fireworks wise there are a few at midnight, but also less than you would see in a big Chinese city.
Can you eat and drink in Saigon at new year?
While many things such as waterparks and them like are indeed closed at this time, as well as many restaurants, bars and food courts, there are probably still at least 20-30% of shops that do remain open.
So, yes there are less choices, as well as the choices you do have utilizing a skeleton crew of staff, it is much less dead than many cities in China and you can at least still get fed.
On top of this there are always things like 7-Eleven, Family Mart and the like that manage to stay open 24-7, thus meaning you can still get food, or drink at any time of day.
And Walking Street Saigon during New Year?
This place that never sleeps does not even sleep at Chinese New Year, barely taking a nap. Yes it is at a much lower frequency, but there are still the big booming bars, girls dancing on poles, and the ever plucky freelancers.
Said freelancers are particularly “eager” just before New Year, as they seek to get a last big score to fill up those red envelopes with.
And getting out of Saigon?
While you will hear horror stories about traveling ins Vietnam during Lunar New Year, there are a few little cheats, or at least helpful hint you can go by.
Generally speaking this means that getting out of places like Saigon, or indeed Shenzhen, or Beijing in China tends to be easier at New Year as most people traveling are doing it in the other direction.
Therefore getting out to the street food of Da Lat, or the beaches of Nah Trang is no hassle. With the later for example I found the trains to be largely empty.
If you do go though and have any plans of returning you will need to stay away at least a few days, or indeed risk coming back with the hordes of other returnees to the country…… You can read about taking age bus to Saigon here.