Should you Travel in the Rainy Season in Southeast Asia?
Southeast Asia is one of the most exciting regions to travel in the world. For many people, traveling in the monsoon or rainy season in Southeast Asia may not seem like the most appealing idea at first thought. When you are dreaming of a sunny skies, warm seas and exotic countries any mention of the rainy season is likely to put a dampener on your ideas of the perfect trip!
But don’t let the rain put you off. Traveling in the rainy season in Southeast Asia is NOT the constant downpour accompanied by cold, dreary skies that you might think and traveling in the off season can actually have many advantages.
When is the rainy season in Southeast Asia?
Southeast Asia has a warm and tropical climate with temperatures generally hovering around 30°C year round. Seasons generally fall into 3 – dry, hot and wet.
November to February is relatively cool and dry season and the high season for tourism.
March – May is the hottest time when the temperatures climb to around a scorching 40°C.
June – October is classed as the rainy season in Southeast Asia as the region cools down and breathes a sigh of relief as the rains start around June.
However, the wet season does not mean all day drizzle or constant rains but usually the mornings are fine and sunny with a short (but torrential) shower in the afternoon.
Advantages of traveling in the rainy season in Southeast Asia
The rainy season puts of many tourists meaning that this period is also the low season. Rainy season in Southeast Asia means less tourists, fewer crowds and lower prices. The atmosphere at famous attractions, for example the spectacluar Angkor Wat, is not ruined by being over run with tourists, it’s easier to just turn up and find accommodation and because there are less tourists there is more opportunity for haggling for a bargain
And traveling in the rainy season in Southeast Asia needn’t stop your sight seeing plans as it rarely rains all day non-stop. Most of the time it’s dry in the mornings with a quick downpour in the afternoon that lasts for an hour or so. Then, as quickly as the rain came, the sun is back out and it’s dry again in no time. It’s hot and humid in South East Asia and often a quick, refreshing downpour of warm rain is a welcome respite.
Another one of the advantages of traveling in the rainy season in Southeast Asia is that the landscapes are beautifully lush and green. Waterfalls gush, flowers bloom and jungles are luscious. Rice fields come alive in a patchwork of colours from bright, emerald green to glowing yellows. Rainy season in Southeast Asia is also the best time to witness farmers working, cultivating rice in the green fields and to see the spectacular, verdant green rice terraces.
Tips for making the most of traveling Southeast Asia in the rainy season
Plan your day around the rains – The rains usually occur in the afternoon, which allows you to plan your day around them. Do sightseeing in the cool, dry of the morning and then when it is raining it is also a good time to rest, have a nap or do something indoors like visiting a museum or restaurant.
Come prepared for wet weather – Accept that you will get wet from time to time and come prepared with waterproofs. Invest in a waterproof cover for your backpack and make sure you take care of electronics, gadgets or anything that may get ruined in a sudden downpour. An umbrella is used by many locals in South East Asia as a shade from the sun and also protection against the rain.
Bring plenty of mosquito repellent – Rainy season in Southeast Asia also means mosquito season, so take mosquito repellent, anti-itch cream and use a portable mosquito net to reduce the chance of contracting malaria or dengue and irritating bites
Wear lightweight clothing – Wear light, loose clothing to keep you cool in the hot and humid weather between storms and to help you dry off quickly after a downpour. Also wear good soled shoes too as the rains can leave slippery surfaces and often flooded streets.
Be extra careful on the roads – Be careful on the roads – rain can lead to treacherous conditions, flooding or turn dirt roads into mud baths so take extra care, preferably stop and wait out the downpour and then continue with caution. Try not to walk in flood water as it could carry dirt and disease or be hiding uneven surfaces or open holes .
Keep up to date with the latest conditions – Be careful and pay attention to the news to make sure the area you are heading too is not hit too hard by flooding or cyclones. Be flexible enough to change your plans so you can avoid anywhere where the weather may have taken a dangerous turn.
Allow extra time to get around or travel by boat – If taking local buses allow for your journey to take extra time as the state of the roads deteriorate in heavy rain. The advantage is that river routes will be fuller and boats will operate more frequently so it is a great time to take the slow boat in Laos or witness the bird life up Cambodia’s Tonle Sap.
Is it a good time to visit the islands during the rainy season?
The rainy season can be a great time to explore South East Asia but sitting on a beach on being stranded on an island in the rain is not much fun and rough seas and fewer tourists mean that many boats to the islands run less frequently in the rainy season.
There are two monsoons that affect the islands of Thailand and Malaysia at opposite times. This means that if the islands on one side are wet the islands on the other side should be dry. On the west coast the southwest monsoon brings rain from April – October , while on the east coast the rainy season is between September – December.
So, if it is raining on your beach don’t despair as it should be easy to find an island where the sun is shining.
Don’t let the rains put you off as there is so much to do and see in South East Asia. If you really want to escape the rain then the further south you go the rainy season reverses. In Indonesia and Bali the seasons are almost opposite to the rest of South East Asia. The rainy season is from December-March, and the dry season in June-September.
My Experience of traveling in the rainy season in Southeast Asia
I traveled Southeast Asia many times and personally I actually much preferred traveling in the rainy season than in the hot season. I found April and May were just too hot to do any sightseeing and spent a lot of money on air conditioned hotel rooms and didn’t like the high season crowds and higher prices.
When traveling in the rainy season I found the landscape was verdant and green rather than brown and parched. Being stuck on an island in the rain is not much fun but apart from a couple of days where rain ruined plans it was easy to work around the showers and I enjoyed the lower prices and less tourists around famous attractions like Angkor Wat and Bangkok’s Grand Palace. – a big advantage of traveling in the off season.
I would happily visit again in the rainy season, so if you are considering traveling to Southeast Asia in the rainy season then don’t be too put off – it’s easy to work around it and still have a great trip and take advantage of lower crowds and prices.
Heading to India in monsoon season? That’s a whole different story. Check out the pros and cons of visiting Goa in monsoon and where you can go in July and August to avoid monsoon in India.