Huge crowds expected in Vietnam's top tourist destinations this spring festival

By Phong Vinh, Vi Vu   January 18, 2018 | 03:00 am PT
Huge crowds expected in Vietnam's top tourist destinations this spring festival
Tourists crowd up in Da Lat in Vietnam's Central Highlands during the Lunar New Year festival in 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Kem
From northern mountains to southern beaches, hotels are already booked up a month before the country's longest holiday.

The Lunar New Year, the most important festival in Vietnam, is no longer just about house parties. The long holiday has become a good time to travel, and bookings in popular tourist towns across the country have been flooding in.

Travel fever has spread from the southern island of Phu Quoc to the mountainous town of Sa Pa up north ahead of the holiday, which will peak in mid-February.

Holiday seekers have learned from past experiences to avoid cheap and middle-range facilities, which tend to raise prices when demand is high, but they're not having much luck with luxury hotels either.

Kim Hanh from Saigon said she has been looking for a high-end resort in Phu Quoc but they are already fully booked for the first three days of the new year, between February 16 and 18.

Some places only have rooms from February 20, the last day of the one-week break, which is known as Tet in Vietnam.

Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam and offers excellent seafood and a captivating landscape. However, the island’s natural beauty has been compromised by a tourism boom that has led to the development of a safari park and a bunch of luxury hotels springing up, and that development does not look like slowing given the demand.

In the ancient town of Hoi An in central Vietnam, five-star hotels also expect to be crowded during Tet, and several are also fully booked for the first three days.

But travelers may still be able to find vacant rooms at homestay facilities for between VND200,000 ($8.80) and VND1 million ($44) a night, according to locals.

Once a bustling trade port, Hoi An draws tourists thanks to its mesmerizing wooden architecture, pagodas, streetside eateries, vintage tailor shops and sparkling street lanterns. It is often praised as one of the most peaceful towns in the country, except during the holidays.

More than a thousand kilometers (680 miles) to the north, the mountainous town of Sa Pa is experiencing the same holiday rush, prompting booking sites to urge travelers to make their minds up quickly before prices surge.

Three-star hotels and more luxurious accommodation tend to keep their prices stable, but smaller facilities are subject to price changes.

The owner of one guesthouse said that many hotels will raise prices by up to 40 percent over the holiday as their employees will have to work three times harder.

Perched at 1,600 meters above sea level, Sa Pa is often described as the perfect place for travelers looking for a strenuous mountain trek or a rice paddy tour.

Demand for air travel for the coming Lunar New Year is also expected to surge more than 20 percent from last year, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said last month, as cited by local media.

Carriers have registered thousands of extra domestic flights for the holiday, mainly from Hanoi to Saigon.

Train and bus companies have also announced more services, expecting even higher demand than last year.

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