Although Mother Nature doesn't always follow the rules, Southeast Asia weather is somewhat predictable with two distinct seasons: wet and dry. Even still, the world's weather has changed. The 2011 flooding in Thailand, droughts during rainy months, and unseasonal showers have thrown rice growers and tour agencies for a loop. Knowing what to expect when traveling can be tricky at best.
Traveling during the monsoon seasons can be a mixed blessing. While rain and mud may affect outdoor plans such as trekking or scuba diving, you will also encounter less tourists and can negotiate better prices for accommodation.
The Southwest Monsoon
The same weather system that delivers rain during India's monsoon season also affects Southeast Asia weather. Although timing can differ by a month or so based on where you are in Southeast Asia, the southwest monsoon typically begins around June and finishes in September.
Although no one appreciates rain on a big trip to Asia, the annual monsoons replenish fresh water, keep scenery green, and are crucial for the rice farmers. A minuscule delay of the arrival of the monsoon rains can cause crops to fail.
Traveling During the Monsoon Season
Depending on your location and itinerary, traveling during the monsoon season can have little or great impact on your plans. Blue skies can often be enjoyed throughout the day, until an afternoon downpour sends everyone running for cover.
Here are some tips for travel during the wet season:
- Always be prepared when traveling during the monsoon season; weather can change with little warning. Carry rain gear, keep flexible travel plans, and consider purchasing a waterproof backpack to protect valuables.
- Wet conditions often lead to an increase in the mosquito population. Learn some ways to avoid mosquitoes while traveling.
- Stay patient: Heavy rain can affect road conditions and cause delays in public transportation.
- Unexpected downpours could make some outdoor activities such as trekking exponentially more dangerous. Read about how to stay safe while trekking in Asia.
Weather in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia
Just as temperatures and humidity reach unbearable levels around late April, Thailand's wet season begins in May.
The monsoon season in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia runs roughly between June and October, however, the rain can begin a month earlier or linger a month longer than expected. September is typically the wettest month in Thailand. Cooler places in the north, such as Chiang Mai and Pai, typically receive less rainfall than southern destinations.
Rain begins a little earlier -- around April -- on the Andaman side of Thailand (e.g., Phuket and Koh Phi Phi) than it does in the east (e.g., Koh Tao and Koh Samui).
- Read more about the weather in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.
- See the best time of year to visit Thailand.
- See the best time to visit Vietnam.
Weather in Indonesia
Indonesia is a good choice for destination when Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and other northern destinations are inundated with rain. The Indonesian archipelago is wide, and geological features can influence weather, however, you'll nearly always find someplace relatively dry to enjoy during the monsoon season.
The dry season in Indonesia is roughly opposite that of Thailand; from June to September are the driest, coolest months to visit; July is one of the busiest months. Expect rain between November and April.
- Read about Pulau Samosir and the interesting things to do near Lake Toba.
- See the best time of year to visit Bali.
Weather in the Philippines
Like Indonesia, the Philippines is spread across a wide area with many islands and geographical features that affect weather. Although farther east than much of Southeast Asia, the Philippines is still subject to the southwest monsoon.
Expect heavy rains in the Philippines from June to September. Some island destinations are difficult to reach when the seas become rough.
Typhoon season in the Philippines runs between May and October, with August being the worst month for cyclones.
- Read more about the weather in the Philippines.
Weather in Singapore
Tiny Singapore is only 1.5 degrees north of the Equator, and weather remains fairly consistent throughout the year. Showers can pop up at relatively any time to cool down the scorching afternoon average of 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Expect a little more rain in Singapore between the months of November and January.
Read about money saving tips and how to travel Singapore on a budget.