Weather in Southeast Asia
The weather in Southeast Asia is made up of three distinct seasons plus some variable monsoons that also come into play. The good thing about Southeast Asia is it is such a large region that there are always places you can go to escape the heat or the rainfall if it gets too much. As a general rule, most places experience a cool season between December and February where temperatures can be as low as 15 degrees at night, and up to 25-30 degrees in the day times. They also have a hot and dry season between March and June and a rainy season between July and October where the temperature can fluctuate between 30-40 degrees.
Cool season vs hot season
Typically, cool season is considered a good time to visit but will also be busier and more expensive. If you can stand the heat, hot season is arguably one of the best times to visit without the crowds and there is little to no rainfall. Rainy season can be equally hot, but also break out into hours or days of heavy rain at times. During the hot season, the hotels, sites and restaurants are quietest and many businesses have special rates and deals to travel during this time. There is also the benefit of seeing famous sites with fewer fellow travellers.
Inland and Coastal
As a general rule, the further north/inland you go in Southeast Asia the cooler it will be in cool and hot season. Chiang Mai is a good place to escape the south’s heat and Hanoi can get even cool enough to bring layers, December to February. During rainy season the coastal regions, particularly off the coast of Cambodia and south Vietnam have no shelter from the storms. This means they can not only can be pretty washed out, but also quite cool during and after showers. As you can imagine, sitting on a beach in the rain isn’t ideal, but it can be a welcome relief from the humidity in Siem Reap or Chiang Mai. Higher altitude locations can also cool off considerably during rainy and cool season. If adding Da Lat or Sa Pa to your itinerary, make sure to bring a few extra layers of clothing.
Related article: The best itineraries and routes for Southeast Asia
Weather in Thailand
The best time to visit most of Thailand is between November and February for reasonable temperatures and dry skies. March to June is hot and dry and July to October is the rainy season.
The islands off the coast of Thailand have two alternating monsoons, so the time of year should help you to decide which islands to visit. The islands off the Andaman coast (Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe, etc) experience their monsoon from May to October. The best time to visit these islands is between November and April. The islands on the opposite side of the mainland, in the Gulf of Thailand, are often sheltered from the country’s rainy season and are a good option to visit if you are in the country between July and October. In particular Koh Tao and Koh Phangan are somewhat sheltered by the larger Koh Samui. The Gulf islands actually receives the majority of their rainfall between October and December so the best months to visit them are between January and September.
Weather in Cambodia, Laos & Myanmar
All three countries are defined by three distinct seasons, cool season from December to February, hot season from March to June and rainy season from July to November. The coastal regions of Sihanoukville, Kampot and Kep and the nearby coastal islands of Koh Rong and Koh Tonsai can be particularly stormy and will frequently see several hours of rainfall each day. Similarly, the coastal Ngapali in Myanmar can be inaccessible so it is inadvisable to plan a visit during these months.
Locations inland like Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are more sheltered from the rains and can be visited in reasonable comfort at any time of the year.
Related article: Why you should move to Cambodia
Weather in Vietnam
Vietnam is a long expanse of land, and the weather varies depending on the longitude. In the north, December to February can be chilly and will require a light jacket at least. March to June is hot but not unbearable and the rain begins in June and ends in December. At high altitudes in places like Sa Pa or Da Lat it can be cooler in rainy season, as low as 18-20 degrees celsius at times.
The mid section is generally driest and best visited January to May and the South is best visited during the cool period of December to February. South Vietnam is still explorable in other months but it can get increasingly sticky and hot. The best thing about Vietnam’s variable weather and the size of the country is that generally if the weather is bad where you are you can just move onwards.
Related article: How to get around Southeast Asia: Transport guide
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