The Tet Survival Guide
Banks, hospitals, restaurants, shops, attractions, etiquette - The essential guide on how to tackle Tet like a pro
et, the Vietnamese new year - the biggest, brightest and loudest festival is a huge draw for everyone, particularly Vietnamese nationals as it's also a week-to 10 day long national holiday.
Depending on which day Tet falls, all banks will close the day before (on the eve of Tet) and will remain closed for approximately seven days (if Tet happens to fall on a weekend, this closure can be prelonged). ATMs will be stocked daily, but due to high demand it’s not unusual for some to run dry. For cash transfer emergencies, the Western Union branches at 2, Phan Chau Trinh or 594, Hai Ba Trung will remain open.
*Credit cards are accepted in most tourist shops, restaurants and hotels though there is usually a small charge. **Money exchange should not be a problem. Most businesses will accept foreign currency, especially US Dollars (although don’t expect a great exchange rate). Alternatives are your hotel or any of the gold shops located on the edge of most markets (it is likely that they may close on the afternoon of the 15th Feb through to the 17th).
HOSPITALS, PHARMACIES, DOCTORS
Hospitals and doctors clinics will close to everything except emergencies for approximately a week, beginning the day before Tet. Pharmacies will be open, but times will be ad-hoc. Plug this number into your phone for both emergencies and non-emergencies (Tet is not a good time to visit the local hospital in either of these scenarios) - +84 236 3582 699 (the Family Medical Practice in Da Nang).
Like any time of the year, don’t take a motorbike taxi. Other taxi services: Mai Linh (green), Faifo (yellow) will be working a short shift. If you plan on staying out late, ask your hotel to prebook a car for your return journey or download this app - https://play.google.com/store/apps/... Be aware that the roads can be deadly for the duration of the Tet holiday (yes, even around Hoi An). The safest time to cycle is between 12:30 and 1:30pm (nap time) or early in the morning (before 10:00am). Where possible use the scenic pathways through the rice fields that connect Cua Dai rd and the old town outskirts to Hai Ba Trung (An Bang beach). These are all mapped out for you on our Around Hoi An Map (you can download it to your phone to use even when you don’t have internet here - http://www.coastvietnam.com/hoian-t... or pick up a paper copy from the airport, your resort or one of the many popular restaurants or shops in the area).
On Tet eve, it is customary for people to visit their local/family temple, assembly hall or pagoda. This means the old town remains open to motorised transport. Though the temples are open, out of cultural respect save your visit for a couple of days. Ancient houses also serve as family homes, so expect them to close on significant days. During the Festival all visitors to the old town are asked to buy an entrance ticket (valid for the length of your visit). However, ticket booths are likely to be closed on the main day.
Unlike previous years, Hoi An’s market traders have begun to make hay while the sunshines; as have many of the restaurants. Menus are no longer quite so limited and many restaurants remain open throughout the holiday period. The exceptions are a few of the very western focused businesses (Morning Glory, Cargo, The Shore House, etc) who will close or operate on shorter hours (check on Facebook business pages). The reason for this is Hoi An is a hugely popular Tet holiday destination for national tourists, who prefer smaller local restaurants and street food. To cater for this Nguyen Truong To (the street that runs north of Le Loi) transforms into Hoi An’s temporary street food district. The food is delicious and the atmosphere festive - do eat here at least once. Vegetarian dishes are bountiful as well as seasonal specialities like Bánh Chưng (steamed pork in banana leaves) and numerous forms of xôi (sticky rice).
Many smaller, family run businesses shut up shop, particularly tailors. The main reason for this is because the shops outsource all the tailoring to home based businesses, most of whom take time off to be with family. The few that choose to work over Tet can be overstretched, quality of workmanship goes downhill and prices double. Tet is not a good time to get a new suit. Most ‘off the rack’ shops remain open, although hours can be sketchy.
ETIQUETTE: Tet (New Years Day)
Tet can be a minefield for the average Joe, but fortunately tourists are offered some leeway. To gain kudos and respect from your temporary neighbours be impeccably behaved on new years day (16th Feb). Bear in mind that it is considered lucky to wear bright colours (red is a winner, white is for funerals) and a broad grin - your behaviour on the first day sets the tone for the year, so when communicating act with decorum, kindness and grace (whatever you do, don’t lose your temper). This day is for families, an awful lot of thought is put into the first house guest of the day (many homeowners with businesses like home stays where they can’t be sure of this will stay up till midnight on Tet eve to cross the threshold themselves). The rest of us should try to avoid bumbling into anyone’s home on the 16th Feb, unless invited (remember to take off your shoes).
ETIQUETTE: Post Tet
Almost all shops and businesses will close (even if just for a few hours) so that they can hold a reopening ceremony. The time and date for this varies for each family. The ceremony is ancestrally based and is similar to the set-up for many businesses on full and new moon evenings (but far, far more important). A table of offerings is set, incense is burned, colourful rice scattered on the pavements and roads (for the ancient Cham ancestors). Some may even utilise the services of a monk for the ceremony. Similar to the first visitor on new years day, a lot of responsibility is held by the first customer to visit after the reopening ceremony. In fact, this is the one time of the year when you absolutely have to ‘BUY SOMETHING’. Even if that something is very small, the success of their business year lies in your hands. The best advice here is to only shop if you are serious.
Above all, smile. No one really expects you to fall in line with the complex cultural rituals, but your neighbours will appreciate you more if you exercise patience, use your common sense and indulge a little (where appropriate) in the festivities.
Tet Festival dates 2018- 2022
16th February 2018 - Year of the Dog
5th February 2019 - Year of the Pig
25th January 2020 - Year of the Rat
12th February 2021 - Year of The Buffalo
1st February 2022 - Year of the Tiger
Thursday 15th - Wednesday 21st Feb 2018
Monday 4th February - Monday 11th February 2019
Friday 24th January - Thursday 30th January 2020
Thursday 11th February - Wednesday 17th February 2021
Monday 31st january - Monday 7th February 2022