May is the first month of Cambodia’s southwest monsoon. During this season, there is often high humidity and an increase in rain, with a chance of thunderstorms. Days may also vary between dry, hot, and cool, with a few showers.
Compared to April, early May is slightly cooler and fairly dry. However, irregular, light rains may occur in the latter half of the month.
Note: the rains in May usually do not hinder travel.
May Weather in Cambodia’s Tourist Cities
In May, the temperature in Cambodia remains high. The average minimum temperature hovers at around25°C (77°F), and the average maximum temperature is 35°C (95°F). The brief rains ease the hot and dry weather, and make tours through Cambodia comfortable.
In early May, there is not much rain. The total rainfall is 144mm (6 in), and there is an average of 7 hours of sunshine per day. The showers and bright mornings become more common towards the middle of the month.
Angkor Wat, located to the north of Siem Reap, was once the capital of the Khmer Empire (Cambodia) and is a significant archaeological site today. The average temperature in Angkor Wat in May is 32°C (89°F); the average minimum temperatureis28°C (83°F)and the average maximum temperature is36°C (97°F). The average precipitation during May is 220mm (9 in); it rains on 23 days on average this month.
In Phnom Penh, the average maximum temperature is around 35°C (94°F); it rarely exceeds 38°C (101°F) or falls below 31°C (88°F). The average minimum temperature is around 27°C (80°F); it rarely exceeds 28°C (83°F) or falls below 25°C (78°F). The average precipitation observed in May is 183mm(7 in); it is expected to rain at least on 23 days this month.
In Sihanoukville, the average maximum temperature is around 30°C (87°F); it rarely exceeds 32°C (90°F) or falls below 29°C (84°F). The average minimum temperature is around 28°C (83°F); it rarely exceeds 29°C (84°F) or falls below 26°C (79°F). The average precipitation observed in May is 269mm (11 in); the number of rainy days typically exceeds 22.
Tips for Visiting Cambodia in May
Clothing: The weather is typically wet, hot, and humid. Therefore, light and breathable summer clothes such as cotton shirts, t-shirts, and skirts, are recommended.
For nights, long-sleeved shirts, light pants, and a light coat are recommended. Since Cambodia has mainly red soil, we suggest wearing shoes that are easy to walk around in and to clean, rather than high heels or shoes made from delicate materials. A raincoat may also come in handy.
Tourism in May: As it is the beginning of the wet season, there are fewer visitors. Several 3- and 4-star hotels offer great deals during this time because many outdoor activities will be unavailable at this time across the major tourist cities. For this reason, advance hotel and transportation bookings are unnecessary. May is a good month for traveling, particularly if you want to avoid the high season crowds.
Angkor Wat tends to get busier than usual during this summer month because there are several festivals in May.
Four Things to do in Cambodia in May
May is one of Cambodia’s busiest months because of the important festivals celebrated during this time.
Here are four special things to do in May (apart from the usual attractions):
1) Diving in Sihanoukville
Cambodia offers much more than what meets the eye. At Sihanoukville, you can go diving to see a wide range of marine life, such as nudibranch, triggerfish, starfish, whale sharks, eels, and stingrays. As the weather in May tends to get quite hot, you can also cool down by swimming at Sihanoukville's many beaches.
2) Apsara Dance Performances
The traditional Apsara dance performances can be traced back to the Khmer Empire. This ethnic dance comes from the mythical gods and kings from the 9th–15th centuries. The performances often leave visitors in awe.
3) TheTonlé Sap Lake Floating Villages and Flooded Forests
As the wet season in Cambodia begins, the country’s greenery returns to its normal, flourishing state, making Angkor Wat a sight for sore eyes. This is the best time to visit Tonlé Sap Lake’s floating villages by boat, as there are fewer tourists than normal. Meandering through the flooded forests during the wet season is a great experience, especially because the lake fills up. May is the best time to visit this area.
4) Royal Ploughing Ceremony: May 10
This festival, also known as the Pithi Chrat Preah Neanng Korl, is traditionally celebrated on the fourth day of the sixth lunar month of the Cambodian calendar. This religious festival marks the beginning of Cambodia’s planting season. On this day, representatives of the king cultivate a field in Phnom Penh and bring sacred cows to it. The ceremony is meant to divinely usher in the next season; what the sacred cows eat after the ceremony is of utmost importance.
Tourists attending the ceremony can simply observe or even pick up some of the dispersed grains of rice to manifest good fortune for themselves or their own harvests.
The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is quite old; it dates back to 12th century. It derives its roots from a primordial Indian ritual done to ensure a good harvest. Cambodians take this festival seriously — they believe that it can influence famines, floods, illnesses, and bumper crops.
Visit Cambodia with Asia Highlights
May marks the beginning of the wet season in Cambodia. During this time, the number of tourists is relatively low. As such, there are numerous special offers available. We can help you plan a successful trip. We can customize these three tours for you: