Desperately I clutch my phone to my body. While my hair sticks in my face, my backpacking clothes have completely soaked with water. They make a slurping noise every time I take a step. My shoes are invisible in the muddy river that once was the road. Casually, a snake swims past me. Above me, the sky sounds as if it is ripping in two.
Just fifteen minutes ago I was taking a walk in the sunshine when a drizzle presaged the change in weather. What followed was a taste of apocalypse. Within an hour the water had crept up our porch and was threatening to get to our door. But then, within another hour, the sun was shining, and the streets were clear again. A typical event during the rainy season in Thai September.
Why should you travel in wet season?
Depending on your kind of holiday, the rainy season has a lot to offer. The main tourism happens in the high seasons, when Phuket, Goa, and Lake Atitlan are packed with travelers. And the general misconception that rainy season sees storms, flooding, and endless rain keep them away in low season. That leads to a fantastic way to experience the local culture. Here are the advantages to traveling in low season:
The prices often drop dramatically out of high season. It starts with flights that can vary up to hundreds of dollars and goes all the way to shopping. Many hotels, resorts, and hostels have the urgent need to fill their beds at that time. That’s why they offer very cheap rates. Many restaurants that cater specifically to tourists are closed during the low season, leaving you with the much cheaper local options. And even when shopping one can take a break from getting harassed and bargaining because there are fewer rip-offs around.
There will be few tourists. When visiting Koh Lanta earlier this year, I found it nearly deserted by Westerners. There were times when I had the beach all to myself. It was incredibly relaxing not to have to compete for restaurant seats. And it also meant getting treated differently by the locals. In low season, they often go by their business without tourists. You are not treated as a walking goldmine for a change!
If you’re considering to travel in the rainy season, be clear on what you need to see. Certain places close for maintenance during the wet season, like the Inca Trail in February. In case you do decide to go consider taking the right gear.
A raincoat is great to take with you, but can also be obtained anywhere it rains. Remember that most areas that experience monsoon are also very hot, and the coat should be very light. What is not so easily found is a cover for your backpack or luggage. Get that ahead of time. As for shoes, the pain of lugging around a waterproof pair wouldn’t be worth it – flip-flops are fine. If you have no choice but to wear boots or sneakers, put plastic bags on your socks and secure them with an elastic. It looks ridiculous but is very efficient.
As for activities, make sure you plan most sightseeing and trips during the morning and daytime. Most places experience downpour in the afternoon. The same goes for scheduling flights – if you want to avoid turbulence, go for the mornings.
Also, beware that mosquitoes love the humid weather. During the rainy season, they can be a real pain! Make sure to apply a sufficient mosquito repellent. While they are the most aggressive at dawn, the Aedes mosquito bites during the daytime. This is the mosquito spreading Dengue and Yellow fever.
A personal note is to watch out for slippery roads! After months of rain and humidity, moss and dirt can turn a regular street into a dangerous slope. Even the sidewalks can be dodgy during rain.
What is a rainy season like?
Despite what many people think, rainy season doesn’t mean constant rain. In fact, rainy season in Southeast Asia as well as South- and Central America stands out, especially through the hot and humid weather. The rain itself is often restricted to only a few (intense) hours daily.
And just so you’re prepared, here’s a little overview over the different rainy and monsoon seasons in various areas:
1. In Asia
South Asia, especially India but also Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are affected by a yearly monsoon. This is Asia’s wettest region during their rainy season. By the end of June, the monsoon has reached the entire country of India. It lasts until November. The first weeks of rain are very intense, and it can rain for hours on end, but in July and August it mostly calms down. At that time, it usually rains only a couple hours a day.
In Southeast Asia, there are many regional differences during the rainy season. But in general, after the crazy hot month of April, the weather cools down slightly for the wet season. Temperatures are still around 25-30°C (75-85°F), but it rains around two hours a day. This usually happens in the morning or late afternoon, leaving a large portion of the day for sightseeing.
In parts of China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan there is a short rainy period around June-July.
2. In South- and Central America
In Central America rainy season lasts from May to November. At this time, morning and midday are usually clear, while the afternoon sees a lot of heavy rain.
South America’s climate varies wildly by country and altitude. Parts of Peru have a distinct rainy season in November to February, while Brazil experiences rainy season between January and May. In Ecuador, there’s wet season from October to May, but the wet season isn’t all that wet. Colombia has heavy rainfall from October to November, and some parts have a secondary rain season around April and May.
As you can see, there are many micro-climates within a country and large variances within the continent.
Alright, that is all you need to know about rainy season