Mention the words ‘wet season’ to most people and visions of great sheets of water endlessly pouring from the sky spring to mind. Not only is that a big misconception when it comes to South East Asia’s wet season, but it deters travellers from even considering the major benefits of travelling during the off-peak time of year. Rather than avoiding the wet season that falls between June and September, you’re better off embracing the low season when the positives far outweigh the negatives.
What are the seasons in South East Asia?
- November - February (Peak Season): Widely considered the most popular season and the coolest and driest time of the year. (In no way does this mean cold, rather more comfortable temperatures!) As it coincides with winter in Europe, you'll find lots of travellers heading to Asia to escape cold temperatures.
- March - May (Shoulder Season): This is the hottest and most humid time of the year in SE Asia, with temperatures consistently around 100 degrees. Travel during this time if you love the heat!
- June - October (Low Season): Wet season, meaning that the monsoon rains are common during this time. Usually, it only rains for a few hours a day, so it is no reason to cancel your trip and storms can be fun to watch!
Here are five of the perks for travelling South East Asia in low season:
1. First and foremost, there are fewer people travelling
South East Asia seems to become a more popular destination with each passing year – it’s now considered a must visit destination, with iconic locations like the magnificent Angkor Wat and the pristine Thai beaches high on people’s radars. The pitfall of this popularity is that these exact spots that you want to experience as intimately as possible are now swarmed with crowds of tourists, all jockeying for the same epic photos and fighting for the perfect spot on the sand. That does not mean you shouldn’t visit, but seriously consider going in the low season when fewer tourists means more space and time for you to have these incredibly unique experiences without a crowd milling around.
2. As the crowds drop, so do the prices
Perhaps it goes without saying, but when a destination enters the off-season and local businesses need to continue drawing people to their doors, they will reduce their prices and offer special deals to entice the people who are visiting. For anyone on a budget, the low season is the best time to travel because you will see your money stretch further than it would during peak season when demand exceeds supply. Airlines and tour operators offering ‘low bird’ prices will most likely yield the biggest savings, but don’t be surprised to find accommodations also lowering their rates. You may even find local restaurants and activity providers offering special deals to beat their competition in the quest for your business.
3. Smaller tour groups
Directly related to fewer people travelling overall is the guarantee that tour operators in the region will have smaller group numbers on their tours. Take advantage of those potential special deals to join a small group tour and you will probably find yourself having a much more personal and authentic local experience than if you travelled during the peak time. Guides often find it easier to accommodate smaller groups at guesthouses and restaurants that would otherwise turn away a large group. Not to mention that you’re more likely to be welcomed into a local village or home when visiting in fewer numbers.
4. A better chance to celebrate local festivals
You might be surprised to learn that the people of South East Asia actually mark the rainy season with several important celebrations on their calendar. After the long, hot dry season, the rainy season is welcomed, especially by those in the rural areas where the wet season is an important phase in the rice cultivation cycle. From the Rocket Festival in Laos and Northern Thailand that marks the start of the rainy season, to Buddhist Lent that lasts for three months in Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, to the boat races that mark the end of the rainy season in September, these are all exceptional times to immerse yourself in first-hand experiences with the local culture and make some truly special travel memories.
5. The weather isn’t a total drag
There’s no way around it: it’s called the wet season for a reason and it is guaranteed to rain at some point. Lucky for you, the rain is usually not a constant event. It is far more likely to happen in brief cloud bursts in the afternoon that will finish almost as quickly as they began. There are still plenty of opportunities to work on your tan in the mornings and after the rain, and you can plan your excursions around these cloud bursts. Don’t forget to notice that the rain dramatically changes the formerly dry, brown landscape to a beautiful array of greens – something you definitely won’t see during peak season.
How best to survive the rain...
As is the case when you travel anywhere, being prepared to adapt to the changing weather and having the right attitude will make a big difference in how much you enjoy your trip. Remember to pack a quality weatherproof layer, plenty of light, breathable clothing and a decent mosquito repellent to cope with the wet season conditions. If you want more coverage, cheap umbrellas will be available everywhere so you don’t need to give up precious space in your backpack packing one. Many people find the rain brings a cool relief from the heat of the day, but why not take advantage of it by finding a local bar or café to relax and wait out the weather over a cold beer or coffee?
If you can’t wait to visit South East Asia, check out Stray, which offers awesome deals on its hop-on, hop-off travel network for those who want to travel during the low season (before September).