Travelling in Vietnam During the Rainy Season
When we start to plan a trip, we usually search: “When it is the best time to visit?” Obviously, the weather plays a very important role in the travel experience.
However, visiting during the best months also means higher costs and bigger crowds. What if your vacation dates are not flexible? Planning a fun trip during the monsoons can get time-consuming. Here is a travel guide to plan a fulfilling trip to Vietnam in a rainy season.
When is the Rainy Season in Vietnam?
Normally, Vietnam can be divided into three regions: north, central, and south. The interesting thing is, there are two distinguishable seasons in the southern areas. The cold (and dry) season occurs from November to April and the hot (and wet) season from May to October. As the northern parts of Vietnam have essentially four distinct seasons, it can be quite cool in the winter there, but still very hot in the summer.
We often assume monsoons to mean rain, but that is not exactly the case in Vietnam. During the winter or dry season, monsoon winds usually blow from the northeast along the coast of China and across the Gulf of Tonkin, driving away much of the moisture. As a result, the winters in most parts of Vietnam are relatively dry (as compared to the rainy season or summer).
The summer monsoon, which occurs from May to October, blows moist air inland from the southwestern Indian Ocean, bringing a lot of rainfall. The average annual rainfall in Vietnam is 1,500 to 2,000 mm (60 to 79 inches), 90% of which falls in the summer.
Monsoons Season in Three Regions in Vietnam
Vietnam is located south of the Tropic of Cancer and has a tropical monsoon climate with an annual average humidity of 84%. However, due to differences in latitude as well as significant differences in topography, the climate varies considerably from place to place across the country.
North Vietnam (Hanoi and Ha Long Bay)
It is hot and humid from mid-May to mid-September in the northern part of Vietnam (apart from Sapa which has its own unique climate), with the highest rainfall in July and August.
During the rainy season, there are usually showers in the afternoon and evening. If possible, it is recommended that you go for outdoor activities in the morning and for the rest of the day, you can have a cup of coffee in a bar or visit indoor places like museums, galleries, and exhibition halls.
Central Vietnam (Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An)
Since the high mountains in the western part of this region prevent the southwest monsoons from bringing rain to the area, the influence of the monsoons is weaker. During the rainy season, especially from April to early September, the region receives less rainfall than the rest of the country.
From September to November, rainfall in this region goes up to its highest point. During this period, Hoi An and some nearby towns are often flooded. The sight of tourists exploring the ancient town by boat and photos of local residents calmly dealing with the flood regularly makes the news and is a hot topic of discussion.
South Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta)
The hot and humid summer is from May to October; June and July are the highest point of the rainy season. The southwest monsoon brings abundant rain and it rains almost every day. However, this rain is different from that in the north, especially the sprinkling and drizzle in Hanoi. Rain in the south is heavy but not long-lasting.
During the rainy season, roads are flooded in Ho Chi Minh City. It is difficult and unsafe to ride in the city. Though it receives rain every day, the city also gets an adequate amount of sunshine.
What to do to Minimize the Impact on Travel in the Rainy Season
It is not practical to ignore the adverse effects of rain on travel. However, we can find ways to make it better. There is a popular saying that goes like this: “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” It means that we must make full preparations and keep expectations to a minimum. It is impossible to prepare too much, and maybe you will be surprised by a much better result.
Below, we list some things we think you should consider when you plan your trip to Vietnam in the rainy season.
- Buy insurance. Make sure your travel insurance covers your belongings, flight cancelations, being stranded, and provides comprehensive medical cover. Your flights are likely to be delayed or cancelled due to heavy rain during the monsoon season.
- Be smart. If you pay attention, you will notice a pattern. Usually, the rain will start when lunch time is over or in the early afternoon, so it is better to finish outdoor activities in the morning, and visit museums, galleries, pagodas, temples, shopping markets, and cafés in the afternoon.
- Check the weather forecast. When you start planning your trip, do remember to check the weather forecast. At least avoid traveling during typhoons, rainstorms, or other natural disasters when clear indications are given.
- Dress appropriately. It is better to wear quick drying shirts and dark colors (otherwise if you get wet, your clothes will be see-through).
- Make a reasonable travel itinerary. Don’t cram too many things in one day; set a leisurely schedule and enjoy the tour at your own pace.
- Download the Grab app. Make sure you can call a vehicle at any time.
- Buy a local SIM card. You can call your hotel/agent in case of any emergency.
- Embrace reality and relax. Maintain a good mood!
Benefits of Visiting Vietnam During the Monsoons Season
It may be that almost everyone thinks it is not a wise idea to travel in the monsoon season, but you can actually get some benefits, believe it or not! See what you will get below.
- Incredibly cheap prices for accommodation, transportation, and entertainment activities
- There will be less tourists, so you can skip the long lines at every scenic spot, save time, and enjoy your visit
- With less customers, you will get better service from tour companies, hotels, and restaurants
- Visiting this amazing tropical country in a cool season is a gift for those who can’t bear hot weather
- Experiencing the country's poetic and picturesque scenery during the rains will help you see everything in a different light
Best Places to see in the Rainy Season
Vietnam is a country rich in historical sites, though it also has many outdoor activities. The monsoon season will affect your travel experience to some extent, but the travel plan can be adjusted as there are many places that are good to see during the rains.
Here are some indoor sites that we recommend you visit when it rains:
- Hanoi: cafés in the Hanoi old quarter, Temple of Confucius, National Museum of Vietnamese History, Vietnam Military History Museum, Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, Hoa Lo Prison, Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, different kinds of markets
- Hoi An: cooking class, Hoi An Ancient Town
- Hue: Dong Ba Market, the Imperial City, Royal Palace
- Ho Chi Minh City: Saigon Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, War Remnants Museum, Saigon Opera House, observation deck at BITEXCO, Ben Thanh Market, Reunification Palace
In Vietnam, since the rainy season is a little different in the north and south, wet weather comes earliest to the northern part of the country. For example, if you travel in May, you can stay for lesser days in the north and spend a longer time in central and south Vietnam to avoid the typical monsoon season.
There are some other places that have their own climatic features; for example, Sapa, which differs from the rest of the country. Sapa has a temperate climate and is suitable to visit all year around.
Things to Avoid While Travelling in Vietnam During the Monsoons
When traveling abroad, safety is always the top priority. There are some things you can do to make things more comfortable, and there are also things you should avoid doing when you are touring another country, especially during rainy days. Here are some tips for you:
- Do Not Wear Thick Shoes. You will be uncomfortable if you get wet, and the shoes will not dry easily in the subsequent days. Vietnam is famous for its slippers (dép lốp); you can buy a pair of dép lốp at a cheap price. It is good for rainy days.
- Do Not Take Shelter from the Rain Under a Tree. Especially when there are thunderstorms, stay at least 5 meters (16 feet) away from trees with wires. Be careful about log piles along the road; don’t use digital devices when you are outside.
- Do Not Ride Motorbikes in the Rain. Tourists are not familiar with local road conditions like locals. Riding on unknown roads is very dangerous; there may be potholes.
- Do Not Cross the Street When It Is Raining Heavily. “It is a nightmare when crossing the street in Vietnam; they never slow down and I always think this will be my last day alive on earth.” Though this is a bit of an exaggeration, many people have similar feelings about crossing the street in Vietnam. When it is raining, visibility is poor and it is dangerous. Do not across the street frequently.
- Do Not Complain. Travel is a kind of exploring. We should be ready to embrace all the things we encounter on the trip. Complaints can’t bring any change but only ruin the experience; they are even worse than the rainstorm.
What to Pack for Your Trip
As a trip approaches, it is both exciting and tiring to pack. It is suggested to make an item list that can be marked once you pack; then nothing necessary will be forgotten. Here, we list some items you may need when you travel to Vietnam during the wet season.
- Quick-drying and dark colored shirts
- A quick-drying towel
- Sun-protective clothing
- Rain jacket
- Hat to shield your face from the sun
- Cotton leggings — they dry easily
- Underwear and socks
- Hiking shoes
- Long dress to take nice photos on the beach (do not wear sleeveless dresses to religious monuments like temples)
- Lightweight hoodie
- Bikini if you go to a beach
- Passport (remember to take photos for it and the visa; keep it as digital documents, just in case)
- Clean plastic bags to separate your wet clothes from dry ones
- Travel pillow — it will be helpful on long air journeys and bus journeys in Vietnam
- Clothesline (you can hang wet clothes in the hotel room)
- Light umbrella that is easy to carry
- Waterproof sunscreen
- Waterproof bag to keep your belongings dry when it rains
- Portable charger
- Small pack of tissues; they will be useful anytime
- Adapter (Vietnam uses type A, C, and F)
- Credit card — do remember to call your credit card company to release your card for use in Vietnam
- Insect repellent (wet weather brings more mosquitoes and malaria and dengue are significant risks in Vietnam)
- Medicines for personal prescriptions
- First-aid kit
- Laxatives and antidiarrheal medicines, in case you are not familiar with the food.
Visit Vietnam with Asia Highlights
Asia Highlights welcomes the chance to help you design your perfect trip to Vietnam. Our knowledgeable staff will assist you in selecting destinations, accommodations and activities that best suit your requirements. Check out the following links to learn more about our tours and get a head start on planning your hassle-free vacation today!