Although in the South of the country, the weather is simply taken for granted – the biggest conversation is when the rainy season will start and end, in the North, it is a totally different scenario. Although in the heat of the summertime, no one looks at the weather forecast, this is not the case for the remainder of the year where the weather is one of the main sources of conversation.
The four seasons
Unlike the South of the country where there are only two seasons – dry and wet- in Hanoi, there are the full four seasons., although it is important to note they are rather condensed – with Autumn and Spring being relatively sort, Winter consisting of a few weeks and summer stretching on and on.
Winter in Hanoi starts at the beginning of December or may start as early as mid-November. As with all the seasons, there is a sudden change – without warning – one day you are in Autumn mode – wandering around with just a light cardigan and then the next day you are suddenly n a huge winter jacket.
You will be amazed at the winter wear that adults and children wear – typically jackets that would not be out of place in the depths of Winter in Canada – thick gloves or mittens, woollen hats and long scarves.
Once Winter starts it becomes progressively colder each day until you find that in the middle of January, you really are seriously cold. Although the temperature is not that low, due to the humidity it feels really bitter – especially in the morning when you are going to work and in the early evening when you are coming home.
You know it is cold when on your bike, you look out for buses and try to snuggle in next to them to stay warm! Hanoi bike riders also respond to the cold by riding with one hand only, the other hand firmly tucked into their pocket!
It is important to note that all apartments and houses in Hanoi do not have heating. This means that although the temperature is not that low ( perhaps getting to 12 degrees Celcius at night ) as there is no heating, it can feel extremely cold. You will need a duvet and probably a blanket as well ( as the duvets are not thick ) and perhaps you will even need to invest in a hot water bottle !! The good thing is that electric hot water bottles are readily available ( from China ) – these are a wonderful invention as you plug them in for a few minutes and the heat lasts for hours! Then if you do wake up in the middle of the night too cold then it is easy to lean over and plug it in for a few minutes and have a lovely hot water bottle once again!
Spring starts mid-February ( Winter is not long ! ) when the temperatures start to pick up and hover around the 22 degree mark during the day but drop to 17 or so at night. The biggest problem with Spring is that it is wet – not the torrential downpours of the monsoon season which come in a sudden outburst and then are gone – but a miserable drizzle or simply wetness in the air – which can last the whole day!
As a result, March is always referred to in Hanoi as “ mouldy March “ – the month when you get home from school one day to find your paint has suddenly fallen off the wall and appears to have gone mouldy overnight !! In many apartments, you will find there is a tumble drier and you may have been wondering why there is such a thing when clothes usually dry almost instantly – well – it is for the month of March – as it is really hard to get things thoroughly dry due to the high level of moisture in the air so your clothes end up with that musty smell! ( do a big wash in January instead! )
Clothing wise, during Spring, if walking you only need a cardigan, however, if on the bike the jacket is still needed morning and evening – although in the middle of the day, a cardigan is enough!
Just when you think that there will never be another blue sky and wondering when you will not be feeling permanently wet, summer appears! It is an instant thing – one day it is 22 degrees and the next it is 32 degrees! Once the summer comes there is no reverting back into Spring – instead, the temperature only increases day by day until in mid-June it is super hot – both day and night – with the temperature not dipping belong 30 degrees Celsius day and night.
In the middle of summer, it is hard to walk far as you will be dripping in sweat before long – so it is a time for lots of ice cream and cold drinks as well as a dip in one of the innumerous swimming pools in Hanoi.
The summer goes on for a long time – way past the typical summer seasons in the West with September and October still being very hot.
Then as suddenly as the summer started, the Autumn comes – many say that this is the best time of the year in Hanoi as it is pleasantly warm ( about 28 degrees Celsius) but not too hot. The temperature is pretty consistent both day and night – so you can run or cycle etc without dripping in sweat so there are a lot of people out walking this time of year.
Overall, the weather in Hanoi is often a shock for newcomers – who assume that the whole of Vietnam is simply one long summer and are often unprepared for the Winter and have to scour around for thicker clothing at the last minute! – so be prepared!