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Contrary to popular belief, travel to Indochina (by which we mean Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) can be a pleasure at any time of year. It all depends on what you want from your holiday and what your priorities are. If you despise crowds but don’t mind a bit of rain, travelling in the wet season may be for you – but if you’re a sun worshipper with a beach holiday in mind, you may feel the opposite.
Since there are upsides and downsides to travel in each season, in this post we’ll try to cover the basic need-to-know information for each region. For a quick overview, however, have a look at our climate graphic – designed to let you see at a glance which regions are experiencing the best weather, and when.
If you would like more advice on when to travel in Indochina, don’t hesitate to ask us in the comments below, connect with us via Twitter or Facebook, or contact us directly via our website! We’ll also be following up this post with some more advice on how to have a great holiday during the green season (AKA wet season!) – so watch this space.
With its long, thin geography and over 2,000 miles of coastline, Vietnam spans a very wide range of latitudes for its size, meaning that the climate varies quite dramatically between its northern and southern regions. In fact, for the purpose of discussing climate, most people find it helps to divide the country into three separate regions, each with its own weather system. These are: north, central and south.
North Vietnam experiences two distinct seasons: a cool, dry winter (November – March) and a hot, wet summer (April – October). The lowest temperatures of the year occur in Dec-Feb, when Hanoi sees average daily highs of around 20°C, while the highest temperatures are to be found in May-Aug, with average highs of up to 32°C.
In the mountainous far north of the country, the climate differs again. December and January can be very cold (you might even see snow!), and the rainy season from May to September can make travel quite difficult. The best times of year for trekking in this area are September to November and March to May.
Central Vietnam has hot, dry weather from around mid-January until late August, with the temperature remaining relatively warm throughout the rest of the year. In this region the rainy season falls in the months of September through December, with occasional typhoons in October and November.
South Vietnam sees very little variation in temperature throughout the year, with average daily highs sticking to a narrow range of about 30-35°C all year round. The hottest months are usually March and April, and the coolest around December. Rainfall is almost non-existent from December to April, while the rainy season sweeps in from May until October, dropping off in November. Downpours are usually short and heavy, and typhoons are rare.
Of course, for Vietnam, InsideVietnam have an amazing interactive graphic that tells you when is good/bad and what is happening. Take a look here.
With no coastline, Laos has a much simpler climate than Vietnam. There are just two distinct seasons which are experienced at roughly the same time throughout the country: wet (May to September) and dry (October to April). Temperatures tend to be at their hottest from March to May, when the mercury soars over 35°C, while December sees the coolest temperatures with average highs of no less that 25°C. At all times of year, highland areas are noticeably cooler than lowland – and you will probably need something warm to wear in the evenings.
Cambodia has one of the simplest weather systems in Southeast Asia, with just two seasons and very little altitudinal variation from region to region. The dry season extends from October to late April, while the wet season is from May to late September. The hottest months of the year are usually from February until June, with average highs from around 32-35°C, while October to December are the coolest months – with average highs of a very balmy 28°C.