Southeast Asia is a popular destination for travelers from all over the world. However, the monsoon season might play havoc with the best laid plans. The truth is that if you plan well, you can still have a safe and enjoyable vacation during the rainy season.
In this article, we've rounded up all the information you need to know when traveling to Southeast Asia during the monsoon season — from the best destinations and things to do to useful travel tips.
When Is the Monsoon Season in Southeast Asia?
In Southeast Asia, the monsoon season generally begins in mid-May and ends in late October/early November, although the start and end times vary based on location. The months that typically get the most rainfall are August and September.
During this period, expect it to be very warm and humid, with bursts of rainfall and overcast skies.
In general, Southeast Asia has three seasons: dry, hot, and wet.
November to February is a relatively cool and dry season. It is the peak time for travelers. March to May are the hottest months of the year when temperatures can rise above 40°C (104°F).
June to October is considered the rainy season, when one can expect a warm and humid tropical climate with short, heavy bursts of rain.
See the best time to visit Southeast Asia.
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Does It Rain All Day During the Rainy Season?
Don't worry. Rainfall during the monsoon is not continuous. Certain countries can have consecutive days of sunshine with little to no rainfall.
While it may rain very frequently during the rainy season, it rarely rains all day. Mornings are usually bright and clear with a short (but torrential) shower in the afternoon.
So, you can plan your schedule around these downpours and make the most out of your time in Southeast Asia.
What Is a Monsoon?
You may be confused about the difference between the rainy season and the monsoon season.
Monsoon season is when the winds bring humidity from the Indian Ocean to the Southeast Asian subcontinent. The seasonal winds commonly bring heavy rains and thunderstorms, which constitutes the rainy season.
What to Expect in Southeast Asia During the Monsoon Season?
Most countries in Southeast Asia are affected by monsoons including Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, and Malaysia. Here's a country-by-country guide on what to expect during the monsoon season.
- Monsoon season: Thailand's monsoon season typically runs from June to October. The most rainfall in Thailand occurs from August to October. In Bangkok, the rainy season starts in late June or July, in Chiang Mai it's from May to October, in Koh Samui it's October to December, and in Phuket it's May to October.
- What to expect: It rains very frequently (almost every day), but typically in the late afternoon or early evening. Some of the islands may be closed due to rip currents and typhoons. You will see fewer travelers and can save as much as 50% on the cool-season hotel prices.
- Best destinations to visit: Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, or Koh Tao. They get less rain than the rest of Thailand during the monsoon season.
- Monsoon season: In the north, around Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, it starts in May and ends in October, with the wettest months of the year being July and August. In central Vietnam (Hoi An, Hue, and Danang), rainfall increases in October and November. In the south, around Ho Chi Minh City, the monsoon season runs from May till November.
- What to expect: The rainy season in Vietnam is not quite as severe as it is in other Southeast Asian countries. Rainstorms rarely last more than one hour and often occur at night. Floods are rarely seen. The tour boats in Ha Long Bay may get canceled sometimes.
- Best destinations to visit: In October, November, and December, places in the north such as Hanoi and Sapa can be great destinations. From January through July, the coastal stretch from Hue down to Nha Trang are wonderful spots. From November through to February, Saigon and the Mekong Delta are perfect to holiday in. See more about the Vietnam weather.
- Monsoon season: The wet season in Cambodia runs from June to November, with particularly heavy rains in September and October.
- What to expect: It rains just for a couple of hours during the day in the monsoon season. The roads will be dirty. The rainy season is known as the green season, when you can see the countryside erupt with beauty with lush rice paddy fields and flourishing tropical jungles. There are fewer tourists and prices are lower.
- Best destinations to visit: Any place, as long as you plan well. See more about the best time to visit Cambodia.
- Monsoon season: The rainy period is generally between the end of May or June to October.
- What to expect: You may encounter rainstorms and perhaps some flooded streets in Yangon. During the wettest months, some regions become inaccessible and some, such as Ngapali Beach, close altogether. You can enjoy sightseeing without any crowds.
- Best destinations to visit: Bagan and Mandalay. See more about the best time to visit Myanmar.
- Monsoon season: The wet season in Laos runs from May to September, with the wettest time starting around July and lasting till the end of August.
- What to expect: It rains for a few hours each day. It is common to see landslides and rutted roads. You will experience lower temperatures, cleaner air, and smaller crowds.
- Best destinations to visit: The towns along the Mekong River south of Vientiane get the least rain.
- Monsoon season: The rainy season lasts from June to October, with typhoons being likely from September through October.
- What to expect: Rains dampen the beaches and some roads may become impassable. Floods, mudslides, and typhoons occur regularly. You can enjoy fewer crowds and lush, green scenery.
- Best destinations to visit: The areas around Cebu stay dry for most of the days in June and July. The Banaue rice terraces are at their greenest between April and July.
The Best Choice for the First-Timers to Thailand and Cambodia
Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore
While June to October is the wet season in the above countries, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore mostly experience a dry season. If you want to escape from rainy weather, you can visit some places in these three countries.
The Pros of Traveling in Southeast Asia During the Monsoon Season
- Less travelers: Monsoon season is often the low tourist season in Southeast Asian countries. Popular sights and attractions are less crowded. You may have famous landmarks all to yourself.
- Cheaper price: The price of accommodation is often cheaper. You probably don't need to book in advance.
- Green and lush scenery: The rainy season is also the green season in Southeast Asia. If you are looking for lush green rice fields, colorful flowers, and bright green jungles, the rainy season is the time to go.
- Fun local festivals: This season is a festive and joyous time in Southeast Asia! There are many festivals you can experience, such as the Rocket Festival in Laos and Buddhist Lent in Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand.
- Cooler weather and cleaner air: The rain brings relief from the heat of the day and helps clean the air of dust particles and pollution.
The Cons of Traveling in Southeast Asia During the Monsoon Season
- More cancelations and delays: Heavy rains can cause roads to be flooded and flights and ferries to get canceled.
- Less choices for hotels and restaurants: Some hotels and restaurants are seasonal, particularly in the islands. You may have less options in terms of food and stay.
- Inconvenient or unsafe for some outdoor activities: Some outdoor activities such as hiking become difficult or dangerous.
- More mosquitoes and more diseases: More standing water on the ground means more places for mosquitoes to breed. There is a higher risk of catching illnesses such as dengue fever.
Tips for Traveling in the Rainy Season in Southeast Asia
1. Be ready for travel delays
Planes and ferries are more likely to be cancelled. Before you travel, verify that your comprehensive travel insurance plan has the coverage you may need for possible delays and interruptions.
2. Arrange a relaxed schedule and flexible itinerary
As your itinerary might be affected by heavy rains and cancellations of transportation, you should allow plenty of waiting time in your travel itinerary.
3. Keep an eye on the local weather forecast
To ensure your safety, check the local weather, especially if you are going to hilly regions. There may be mudslides and landslides during heavy rainfall.
4. Try alternative indoor activities
When you plan your travel, add some indoor activities to your itinerary, such as a cooking class, an arts and craft workshop, a Thai massage, or a yoga class. This way, you will still have ample things to do when it rains.
5. Pack waterproof and quick-drying items
The weather in the monsoon season can be hot and humid, so wear light and loose clothing to keep you cool. Here are some things you should consider packing:
- A waterproof jacket, an umbrella, or a raincoat
- A waterproof bag
- Quick-dry clothing
- Flip flops or plastic sandals
- Some medicines and insect repellants
Touring Southeast Asia with Us
It is advisable to travel with a travel expert like us if you are going to visit Southeast Asia during the monsoon season. We can help you arrange a flexible trip and monitor the weather condition in each place. Contact us if you would like to have an enjoyable monsoon trip in Southeast Asia.