Vietnam Surf Trip Wisdom

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Contents of this article
  • The local information that you need to know before planning your surf trip to Vietnam
  • Waves and winds in Vietnam, recommended season by surfing skill
  • Wetsuit information and sea water temperature in Vietnam
  • Surfing experience, surfboard rental, surf guides
  • Local surfers and localism
SayamaMove

This article is for anyone who is looking for their next overseas surf trip destination or considering a Vietnam surf trip.

Table of Contents

Language

The language spoken in Vietnam is called Vietnamese language. More and more young people speak English, mainly in metropolitan areas. Occasionally, I encountered some people who can speak in Japanese. The good thing about Southeast Asia is that you can get by even if you don’t understand the language.

Population

Vietnam as a whole has approximately 98 million people. It is the 15th most densely populated country in the world.

Safety and Credibility

A safe and entertaining night out

Serious crimes involving foreigners are rare in Vietnam. There are some thefts and muggings in some areas, but it is possible to walk alone at night. Overall, safety is good and it is an ideal destination for overseas surf trips.

Watch out for people who speak the same language

When abroad, be aware of people from your own country. If you are Japanese, you should be wary of Japanese or Japanese-speaking people. Their aim is to make money from people in unfamiliar places. Their motives are either to approach you in a friendly manner or to set up a shop or place as a trap and wait for you. The way to recognise a bad Japanese is to imagine what the person would look like if he/she were in Japan. As far as the Japanese are concerned, the result of all of this pondering is almost always correct. If the person has a bad impression in Japan, there is a high probability that he/she is a bad person in Vietnam as well. Japanese common sense does not apply at all abroad, but this common sense does apply to Japanese people abroad. This alone will prevent 80% of the damage.

Air Travel

Utilise flight ticket finder websites and applications

Use an airline ticket search website, such as Skyscanner, to find a route to your location. You can then purchase tickets directly from the respective airline websites. Airlines in Vietnam include Vietnam Airlines, Pacific Airlines, Vietjet Air, and Bamboo Airways. For domestic travel, choose Vietnam Airlines, which has the fewest delays possible.

Surfboard baggage charges

Before purchasing a ticket, it is advised to check beforehand whether the size of the surfboard can be loaded in the cabin and the fee that you need to pay the airline for. After purchasing a ticket, it is advisable to contact the airline to reconfirm the dimensions, number of pieces and weight of the surfboard case in three dimensions along with the booking information. Surfboard charges are higher for international flights, e.g. JPY 20,000, and lower for domestic flights, e.g. JPY 2,000. Surfboard charge prices fluctuate and are not stable. It is better to assume that prices will vary from time to time and not become a surfer who complains at the airport counter. If the surfboard is broken during air transport, it will be abandoned due to a disclaimer.

Getting Around

Grab and other car-dispatch apps

Car hire applications such as Grab are a cheap and convenient way to get around when travelling, as Grab allows you to set your pick-up and drop-off locations on the smartphone app. lt also means that you don’t need to speak Vietnamese throughout the entire journey. No cash is required if payment is set up with a credit card. All you have to do is simply select a location, get on, pay by credit card, get off and that’s it. In case of trouble, you can contact Grab through the app itself to report route problems and process refunds. Despite the above good points, many Vietnamese drivers will bother to call you after arranging a dispatch, which reminds you that there is no credit economy in place. They also often press for a direct contract without using the Grab system and recommend going to distant tourist destinations.

Taxi

Traditional taxis have an older vehicle, sometimes they will not take you for short distances, and they are more expensive. Nevertheless, if I had to take a taxi, I would choose a green Mai Linh taxi. I once took a taxi in Hanoi where the fare meter went up at breakneck speed, but I got out immediately and did not pay. The driver did not put up much of a fight because it was in the city and he was the one who was in the wrong. No police was involved.

If this had happened in a rural area with few pedestrians, and the victim was not a seasoned traveller, the damage would have been greater. On the other hand, the Mai Linh taxi drivers we encountered at the rural railway station of Muong Man left a very good impression on us. These regional and individual differences are probably present in Vietnam.

Transporting surfboards by car

When transporting surfboards by car, you can manage to load even long boards if you choose a car model with seven seats. For surfboards over 9 ft, it is better to arrange for a larger vehicle called a Transit. It is recommended that surfboards are to be placed inside the vehicle and not on the roof.

Type of vehicle: Transit

Bike rental

It is not recommended to hire a motorbike as there are plenty of risks involved. However, as long as there are no traffic accidents or motorbikes are stolen, the cost is good: you can rent a motorbike for as little as VND 100,000 a day or VND 1,500,000 a month. Bike rental shops are everywhere, and the more touristic the area, the easier it is to find one. You can probably arrange this at the reception of your accommodation. It is common for motorbikes to be uninsured and some motorbike rental shops operate without a business licence. You are responsible for the cost of bike repairs, bike theft and medical treatment for injuries. If you are transported out of the country to Singapore or Thailand, depending on the extent of your injuries, your out-of-pocket costs may exceed USD 80,000, payable in advance.

Money Exchange

Foreign currency exchange is available at jewellers in town

A good way to exchange money is to either exchange a minimal amount in your home country or not exchange any money and exchange it at a jewellers in town on arrival. Conversion rates are better at airports, hotels and jewellers, in that order, with a difference of 5-10% or more. It is easier to use the exchange notes if you get half in green VND 100,000 notes (approx. JPY 500) and half in VND 500,000 notes (approx. JPY 2,500). Many people in Vietnam do not have change, so a combination of VND 50,000 and VND 100,000 notes is also easy to use for tens of thousands of Japanese yen.

Withdrawing local currency at ATMs

Credit card cash advances are one of the safest ways to obtain local currency. Fees are JPY 200-300 for every JPY 10,000 and the conversion rate is the card company’s own rate, which is not very good. ATMs can be found along many roads where there are many banks, and many people find it easier to use ATMs if you select English language as there is no Japanese language on the ATM operation guide. Withdrawal amounts range from VND 2,000,000 to VND 3,000,000 (JPY 10,000 to JPY 15,000) per transaction.

You need to repeat the process a number of times until you reach the required amount. In the capital city of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, some ATMs can withdraw more than VND 5,000,000. When using this cash advance method, you can minimise interest by setting the repayment setting to a single payment in advance. Another recommended method is to use the debit function to withdraw local currency at ATMs abroad. In Vietnam, it is often impossible to withdraw money from ATMs, so it is better to have some 10,000 JPY or USD100 notes with you to avoid this risk. If you spend a lot of money, bring cash with you to the jewellers. It is easy to bring cash into Vietnam, but there are restrictions in taking cash out of the country.

Accommodation

Select a location near to the surf spot

For a short stay, a hotel within walking distance to a surf spot that seems to be in good condition at the time of year is good. For medium to long term stays, serviced apartments with furniture and appliances are a good choice. If you are a frequent traveller, apartment-type accommodation is often more comfortable, as you can live more comfortably in it even for a short period of time.

Searching through the internet

You can find accommodation by searching on Google Maps or using accommodation booking websites such as Airbnb or Booking.com. It is sometimes cheaper to use accommodation booking websites than to book directly with a hotel by phone. If you are already in the country, you may be able to get the best price by negotiating face-to-face at the reception of the relevant hotel. If you are staying in Vietnam for a long time, bear in mind that choosing accommodation is equivalent to choosing the owner of the accommodation, which will reduce problems during the contract and at the time of cancellation.

Souvenirs

Souvenirs are a local experience

Our recommendations are to experience the country, get to know the people and culture of a foreign country and feel the differences with your own country. Also, Vietnam has a thriving manufacturing industry and factory-direct outlets are very cheap. This may be good for those who like it, but there is a mixture of copied, fake and inferior goods.

Surfing Overview

Vietnam’s waves are generated by the monsoon

The surfing season in Vietnam is divided into 2; the winter monsoon and swell from October to April, and the summer monsoon and swell from May to September. In winter, the monsoon blows from the north-east, while in summer it blows from the south-west.

Winter monsoon and wave

In winter, powerful wind waves caused by the monsoon arrive from the north in cycles of several days to a week. The waves improve when the monsoon winds weaken. As early as October, the northeast winds change and the winter surfing season begins. Winter swell can last as long as the end of May. During the winter season, long-wavelength groundswell-like waves also arrive from time to time. However, the waves are generally head or higher in size, but with short periods and wavelengths, it produces narrow and packed waves. Winter waves can also deliver long-riding, good waves to unmanned point breaks throughout Vietnam, with shoulder-head size waves that can be ridden for 200 to 800m or more. These unmanned point breaks are one of the attractions of surfing in Vietnam.

Summer monsoon and wave

In summer, the monsoon from the nearby seas brings waves from the south with short wavelengths and no power, only short rides. The summer swell from the south is about knee to waist to chest set at most. The most susceptible areas to this summer swell are mainly in Phan Thiet, the southern part of Binh Thuan province where Mui Ne is located, or the outlying islands.

In the north of Ninh Thuan Province, where Nui Chua National Park and Phan Rang are located, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Da Nang and Hue remained flat with no waves. However, occasionally, weak summer wind waves from the southeast can be picked up, which can be rideable with mid-length or longboards. Summer waves are mainly good for short rides of less than 50 metres, but there are also empty point breaks that can be ridden for longer.

Typhoon swell

The best typhoon swell season in Vietnam is autumn. However, typhoons can also make landfall in Vietnam and cause typhoon disasters. There are five to ten typhoon swell opportunities per year in Vietnam. Then there are hit and miss seasons for typhoon swell from year to year. Typhoon swell delivers the best waves to the uninhabited point breaks across Vietnam. For Vietnam’s typhoon swell forecasts, the monthly typhoon path maps on the South China Sea for the years between 2020 – 2007 page can be helpful.

The best time of the year for waves

Vietnam Surf Spot: Da Nang

The best chance of catching a good wave in Vietnam is during the twice-yearly seasonal transition period. This seasonal transition period varies in time each year, but is usually in autumn around October to mid-November and in spring around mid-January to April. The seasonal transition line comes down from the north in autumn and pushes up from the south in spring. The seasonal difference between the sea and land during this transition period creates good surfing conditions.

The transition period from autumn to winter is when the sea starts to swell from the north into winter and deliver swell to the Vietnam coastline, but the winds on land in Vietnam are still light and a little autumn-like. The climate and wave quality are very good at this time. The probability of typhoon swell is also high, so this is the best time of year for the best waves in Vietnam.

The transition period from winter to spring is when it is still winter in the ocean, the swell arrives from the north and the sea water temperature is slightly cooler, but on land in Vietnam, spring is approaching and the winds are light. This transition to spring is a good time for surfing as it lasts for several months, moving back and forth between winter and spring. So, as with the autumn transition period, it is the time when the probability of good waves is the highest.

Sea temperature and wetsuits

The coast of Vietnam is bordered by the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. The sea water temperature in those areas is warm all year round. However, on the South China Sea side, the sea water temperature differs around Nha Trang. The northern part of the country is Zone A and the southern part Zone B. Details are given in the ‘Wetsuit index and sea water temperature in Vietnam’ section at the bottom.

Overview of Waves and Winds

The height of Vietnam’s waves

Vietnam’s wave heights are small and weak with southerly swell in summer from June to August, and continue to be flat to waist size. In November, the winter surf season starts to arrive in earnest, with more days of chest to shoulder sets and head high waves. The winter swell is at its strongest in December and January, with head to overhead waves. February and March are also characterized by periodic winter swell, delivering chest to shoulder high waves; around April, the summer swell starts to mix in a little more and the size begins to drop to waist to chest set of waves.

May also brings occasional set chest high waves, but they are less frequent. The frequency of these waves decreases, although there are occasional chest waves. Also, as we approach the summer sea, the power of the waves and the currents are reduced. Then, from June to August, it’s back to summer again, and with the exception of typhoons, the small summer waves continue.

Wave quality in Vietnam

Wave quality ratings are higher when there are swells from distant seas and light onshore winds, so the probability of good quality waves is highest during the biannual seasonal transition periods in autumn and spring. Fewer days are better than the transitional period, but waves of good size and quality can still be found in December and January. Typhoons can also bring the strongest and longest swells with the highest wave quality.

Wind strength in Vietnam

Wind strength in Vietnam is often weak and the conditions are best first thing in the morning. However, the stronger the summer monsoon or the winter monsoon, i.e. the more summery and wintery the season, the more the monsoon onshore is blowing in the morning. So it is not always best in the morning. However, it is better to check the waves in the morning to avoid missing the timing when the winds weaken. If you check the waves three times in the morning, noon and evening, or twice in the afternoon and twice in the evening, it is a matter of probability which will give you the best waves. Ideally, you should check the waves frequently, as conditions can change dramatically in a matter of hours, depending on the timing of the swell, wind and tide.

The best time to surf according to skill level

Beginner: For those who are just starting to surf or for beginner surfers, the good time to surf is from the late transitional period of the spring season, when the currents start to subside, through the summer and into the early transitional period of the autumn season. Winter can be dangerous due to strong ocean currents and larger waves. Many of the surf cities in Vietnam offer surfing experiences and lessons. If you are new to surfing, Da Nang is the best place to go as the city and tourism are excellent. Phan Thiet may also be a good choice for Ho Chi Minh City residents.

Intermediate: For surfers who can catch waves on their own and ride sideways, the best time to surf is during the autumn transition period, when winter winds and currents are light, the spring transition period and until early summer, around mid-May. Vietnam is ideal for this level of surfer.

Advanced: For independent surfers who have surfed abroad, the autumn, winter and spring transitions are good surfing seasons, with good size waves from late November to mid-February, when the northeast onshore winds can be blowing and the surf can be big. However, there are places where you can surf during these times. It is also interesting to chase typhoon swells. There are still undeveloped and unnamed points in the region.

Expert surfers: 4 – 6 ft. = Vietnam is not for surfers seeking head or overhead size waves, surfers seeking tube waves or surfers who only surf in offshore or no-wind conditions. Good conditions are rare in Vietnam when the waves are over a head and a half in size. Most good waves in Vietnam are 3 – 4 ft. = chest to shoulder to head high waves. There are some tube waves in Vietnam, but very few compared to Indonesia. Vietnam is often surfed when the monsoon onshore winds weaken, so it is difficult to get clean conditions with evenly spaced swell. Experts should therefore consider other countries.

Wetsuits and Seawater Temperature

Sea water temperatures in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand, where Vietnam’s coastline meets, are warm all year round, but wetsuits are required on the South China Sea side, depending on the time of year and location. The boundary is around Dai Lan and Ninh Hoa, and wetsuits are necessary in winter north of that area. This is shown as Zone A in the image. The areas around Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An are in Zone A in the north, so you can safely use a Seagull or 3 mm full suit in mid-winter. This table assumes average sea water temperatures. It is also advisable to take UV and sun protection all year round throughout Vietnam.

Zone A – Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An etc.

Areas where wetsuits are required in winter, including spring, seagull and 3 mm full suits. The wet and dry seasons vary from area to area.

From north to south

Quang Ninh, Nam Dinh, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, other remote northern islands, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Tam Ky, Quang Ngai, Ly Son Island, Binh Dinh, Qui Nhon, Song Cau, Tuy Hoa, Dai Lanh, Ninh Hoa.

January and February are the coldest months in Zone A. In January and February, you will need a wetsuit to cope with the water temperature, air temperature and wind. However, when the wind is light and the temperature is high, a spring may be all you need.

In March, water temperatures start to rise. When it is windy and cold, seagulls or springs can be used. When the wind is light and warm, long-sleeved tops can be used to enter the sea.

The sea water temperature is even warmer in April. Depending on the climate, you can surf in springsuit, top, bikinis and trunks.

From May to October, you don’t need a wetsuit. Water temperatures and air temperatures are high enough that you will never want a wetsuit, even if you are cold.

Wetsuits are needed from the second half of November. If you surf in a strong northerly wind in a year that has completely moved into winter, you may need a Seagull or 3mm full suit for wind protection, even in November.

In December, the sea water temperature drops and the average surfer needs a spring or seagull wetsuit. On warmer days with light winds, you can sometimes surf in a long-sleeved top, but when the wind is strong and the temperature is low, you may want a 3mm full suit.

Zone B – Nha Trang Mui Ne, Vung Tau etc.

During winter, there’s a possibility for a need to wear long sleeved tops or seagull wetsuits in this area. In winter, the temperature can drop to around 20°C. However, it’s good to have a pair of seagull when you’re feeling cold.

From north to south

Nha Trang, Cam Ranh, Nui Chua National Park, Phan Rang, Phan Thiet, Mui Ne, Ke Ga, La Gi, Vung Tau, Phu Quoc Island, Nam Du Island, Tho Chu Island, Tu Island, Mekong and other remote islands in the south.

The area south of Nha Trang, including Nha Trang, is labelled Zone B. Zone B has sea water temperatures of 24°C even in winter. Even in winter, the sea water temperature is the same as in Shonan in late July and mid-September, so the sea water temperature is always in summer. Therefore, if you only look at the sea water temperature in Zone B, you can surf without a wetsuit all year round, except when the wind is strong or the temperature is low. However, the winter swell in Vietnam is caused by the wind waves of the monsoon from the north, which drops the temperature. For this reason, it is a good idea to at least have a long-sleeved top or spring to protect against the cold caused by the temperature and wind.

When it comes to choosing a wetsuit, it is better to make a decision based on the destination information just before going to Vietnam. The reason is that there are regional differences and the length and winteriness of winter varies from year to year. So there are two points to consider when choosing a wetsuit: firstly, is the water temperature and air temperature low enough for winter? The other is whether you surf in windy conditions. If yes, you need to choose a wetsuit for cold weather.

Source of seawater temperature: Surf-forecast

https://www.surf-forecast.com

Surfing Experience

Da Nang for an urban excitement

For many, Da Nang is a great place to start surfing, with surf spots all over the city.

Nha Trang for nature lovers

With clean seawater and sandy beaches, Bai Dai Nha Trang is the perfect place to experience surfing in Vietnam.

For local experience, visit Phan Thiet

Phan Thiet is probably the best place to start surfing, with a mild climate all year round and a high frequency of small waves.

Surfboard Rental

Rental boards for those new to surfing

If you are a first-time surfer, you can rent a board locally. There are rental board services in each region, have a look around.

Experienced riders will try their own board

If you can catch waves on your own, you will surely enjoy surfing on your own board.

Surf guide

Why you need a surf guide in the first place

The main reasons why a surf guide is needed in any country or region is because there are territorial surfers, because they do not know the surf spot situation, and because of mobility issues such as car licences and driving rental cars. The biggest problem is when there is a territorial movement at the surf spot, which is no match for an individual.

Be a part of a small group of surfer

There are no vicious surfers in Vietnam who exercise territoriality, so you can surf any spot you want, any time you want. If you are alone or with two surfers, you will have no problems at any surf spot.

Getting hold of surf spot location information and overcoming language barriers

The question of when and where is the best time to surf for you can be solved if you have information on surf spots and can move freely in the area, overcoming language barriers. You can gather information on the surf spots from our website. For transport, Grab dispatch driver apps are available. Another good way to travel is to find a serious local interpreter to accompany you. If you have a serious driver who speaks the language, you can kill two birds with one stone by having a driver and an interpreter.

Local Surfers

Vietnamese surfers on the rise

According to SayamaMove perception figures, the total number of surfers in the whole of Vietnam is quite small, around 300 in total. The number of surfers who frequently enter the sea and surf all year round is even smaller.

Localism

When there are no surfers, there are no localism

Surfing localism in Vietnam is absent or loosely present in some areas. Looking at Vietnam as a whole, there are no surfers in most areas. To some extent, it can be said that there is no localism in all areas. Incidentally, the only aggregations of surfers we saw on our journey across Vietnam in 2019 were in Da Nang, Nha Trang and Phan Thiet.

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