It arrives in Vietnam with a vengeance; the rainy season. No rain for months and then it just starts; daily downpours that relieve you from the heat and make you run for cover. Most people hear the words “Vietnam rainy season” and immediately start looking at other vacation alternatives. But I say embrace the rainy season, traveling in rainy season is one of my best kept travel secrets and I always wonder if I should tell people what they are missing when they skip countries or locations due to a less than desirable weather season, or keep the secret to myself.
I’ve decided to share the joys of traveling in rainy season and because honestly most of you won’t listen anyway. Most people are scared of rain and think it will ruin their vacation. But for those of you who are after an authentic travel experience and exposure to local culture, then going to Vietnam in rainy season will be a delight! I lived as an expat in Vietnam for a year and was exposed to the whole array of weather it dished out.
Years ago as I watched the movie Forest Gump, but I really had no idea I would actually be living there in my future experiencing the big ol’ fat rain first hand.
When is Vietnam Rainy Season?
In southern Vietnam rainy season runs roughly from April to September/October with June, July, and August being the rainiest months typically. And when I say rainy I’m talking 11 inches of rain a month on average – more than some places get in an entire year!
From November to April, the north is cool and dry, while May to October is hot and rainy. The biggest difference between the north ad south is that the temperature varies more in the north and actually gets cool in Dec/Jan/Feb down into the 60’s F. Where southern Vietnam is always hot and humid year around.
But here’s the important thing to keep in mind – rainy season doesn’t mean a constant deluge of rain all the time every day. In fact I actually like rainy season when I lived there because it simply meant that it rained every day for an hour or so in the afternoon (sometimes really heavy downpours that caused street flooding), and then it stopped and the rest of the afternoon/evening was lovely. Everything was sort of cleaned up and cooled down.
Graphic by http://www.vietnamtravelguide.com/weather.html
Why Travel in Rainy Season?
From a cultural experience and photography standpoint, inclement weather seasons are wonderful opportunity to see how the locals really live in situations that we would deem less desirable. You get a true feel for the country and local culture and traditions through the ‘tough’ times.
Not only will you be in in awe of how they get around in the rain, but you’ll also be amused by the various forms of ponchos people use in the rain. You think a poncho is just a poncho, not in Vietnam. You’ve got your regular poncho, a poncho with a plastic ‘window’ for your motorbike light, and my personal favorite – the two headed poncho. You’ll also be amazed at just how many people can fit under a poncho while on a motorbike.
After observing Vietnamese people and culture I’ve come to the conclusion that the people there are resilient beyond belief. Granted, we learned this during the war. However, many of us (including myself) have little knowledge of the Vietnam War beyond movies like Forest Gump. Therefore actually being here observing the Vietnamese and how they carry on their day to day lives is absolutely fascinating. Quite honestly they make every other culture I’ve been in look like complete wimps.
When I lived in Minnesota I used to think that Minnesotans were tough because they had to deal with such a long, cold winter. Then when I moved to NYC I realized the tougher people were New Yorkers. Unlike Minnesotans, New Yorkers don’t have cars, so we were forced to be exposed to the elements every day on our walk to the subway or to simply get groceries. Minnesotans could stay in their cars and have some protection, but New Yorkers had to walk in the rain/snow/sleet to get to their destination. In fact, I’m not ashamed to admit there was at least two times I simply gave up trying to get to work amidst a HUGE downpour in Manhattan. The subways were flooded and I was left dripping wet. I actually called in sick instead of going to work as a drown rat – the rain had won and I went home in tears (ok, maybe the tears were a combination of the rain, pms, and me not liking my job…but the rain was definitely a factor!)
In Vietnam when it starts to rain, they pull over on their motorbike, put on their cool rain poncho, and get back on and keep going. No one complains, no tears, no one stops what they are doing and changes their plans; they just keep going. They appear to have no reaction to the discomfort. Eighty-five percent of the Vietnamese don’t have a car, so there is no protection from the rain. There’s no escaping it, no calling in sick, and no working from home. They often commute in some of the worst traffic I’ve seen, for 45 min to an hour to get to their work, yet no one complains. Sure, maybe I just don’t hear them complain because they are speaking Vietnamese; however, the business people who I knew that spoke English never complained about their long commute or the rain. It’s just not in their culture to complain about such silly things they can do nothing about.
Rain doesn’t stop them – and it shouldn’t stop you.
Still intimidated by rain? Then bring this Rainy Season Travel Gear and you’ll stay dry!
Once after a particularly large downpour in Ho Chi Minh City, I was greeted by one person who was happy the rainy season had begun. At my front door was a huge frog the size of a garden gnome. He seemed at peace with the wet conditions – so much so he didn’t want to move. I had to try to ‘shoo’ him away with my motorbike ramp hoping that he didn’t hop into my apartment. I’m sure my Vietnamese neighbors were watching me wondering what on earth the crazy western girl was doing again. They were probably wondering why I didn’t capture it, and fry it up for dinner.
Don’t let a frog or a rainy season stop you, go and experience the culture in any season in Vietnam!
After living in Vietnam, I learned that “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get (on your doorstep).”
By marina k. villatoro June 16, 2009 - 8:04 am
It sounds like Costa Rica. we get a ton of rain, not like in Vietnam, but the roads are f’ing bad. And they say it the same, actually, they go as far as saying oh it’s charming!
When all you do is hit one hole after another!!!!
Then you take it to the mechanic at least once a week, and the moron is like, ‘did you hit a hole?’ 🙂
By admin June 19, 2009 - 12:45 am
Yeah! The worst is when the road is flooded – and you know it’s full of potholes and you have to drive your motorbike through the unknown…it’s like trying to avoid landmines…you just go and hope for the best!
By Peter Mcilrath November 8, 2009 - 7:01 pm
I am thinking of travelling to Vietnam from roughly mid August to mid September. I realsie that this falls into the rainy season but would like to know whether or not it is still possible to travel through the country? does the rain last all day or is it simply heavy downpours in an otherwise clear day? any enlightenment on this issue would be much appreciated.
By admin November 9, 2009 - 9:16 am
@Peter – Aug to mid September is fine. Sure, it will rain each day for a bit (an hour or so downpour), but it rarely rains all day unless there is a typhon nearby. I actually recommend people to travel to VN during rainy season (or at least not shy away due to rainy season); after all, you will get to see the real unique culture of VN in rainy season. I am constantly amazed at how people deal with the discomfort of the rainy season on a daily basis fascinating – especially when you see all the motorbikes! Your plans sound great – just bring a poncho and be like the locals!
By zee May 16, 2011 - 2:30 am
hi, I was hoping to check out Pho Quoc Island in August for a beach holiday. Should I be looking elsewhere for August?
By Sherry May 17, 2011 - 2:03 am
My experience with rainy season in Vietnam is to embrace it. Plus – know that generally it does rain daily – but only for an hour in the afternoon. It seldom rains ALL day or is gray all day. In fact – even though it is rainy season – I was always amazed how sunny the country was. It’s sunny and warm in the mornings and then it would let loose and downpour in the mid afternoon and then clear up again and it would be nice as it would cool everything off! So honestly – I didn’t find it to be much of a factor. If you go – just make sure you have a poncho and a good attitude and you’ll be fine!
By zee May 17, 2011 - 6:22 am
Thank you Sherry. I live in south korea right now so im trying to see as much of asia as i can.
By Peter Mcilrath November 12, 2009 - 9:31 pm
Good to hear. Many thanks.
By Vietnam travel January 16, 2013 - 3:46 am
Vietnamese people always have to face with strict weather.
By Rick July 19, 2013 - 8:21 pm
I have lived in Viet Nam now for 5 years, I hate the rainy season. I to can not understand how the people here just go about their lives like it wasn’t even raining. One time i was looking out my window watching people out there in the rain across the street was a small place to eat, a motor bike stopped and it was covered with a poncho, the driver pulled it off and there was 6 people under there, your right the people over here just take it day by day and keep smiling. when i’m feeling low and sad i just think about my life as compared to their’s and it makes feel like what am i crying about. This is a wonderfully strange country i think everyone should get to know.
By John Silvey June 28, 2016 - 4:12 pm
I had the luck to experience the Vietnam Monsoons first had as an Marine grunt in Vietnam in 1970. In October of that year we got sicked in up on Charlie Ridge and could not get extracted or resupplied for several days. On top of the normal Monsoon rains Vietnam was hit by four Typhoons during the month of October.
Talk about being resilent. The marines of 3/5 became a custom to just lying down in the mud and covering up with a nylon fabric panho linner and going to sleep. Can you say Dog Tired. But what I remember most is the constant wet.
By Sherry July 8, 2016 - 8:32 am
John – first of all – thanks for serving our country. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be there during that time. Constant wet seems like just one of many horrible hardships. I’m curious if you’ve ever had the desire to go back and visit now.
By Claudia July 8, 2016 - 7:13 am
Hahahaha I love this post Sherry! I am one of the few people I know that actually loves rain, especially huge downpours. People look at me like I am crazy for this, but I don’t care. In fact, I miss rain in the summer months.
Sure enough, rain didn’t bother me when I arrived in South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru) and it was the peak of the rain season. Every single day, at 1:00 pm sharp, a thunderstorm would start. I’d just go to a coffee shop, or back to the hostel and do some work, or nap. And I watched life go on as usual.
By Sherry July 8, 2016 - 8:30 am
Yes – when we hear the words rainy season we think that it means a constant downpour…and it doesn’t! It’s really not that bad!
By Ivan July 28, 2016 - 6:03 pm
I’m planning to bike (as in bicycle) from Saigon to Hanoi, then back to Saigon. Start around 3rd week of August. Am I crazy? 😉
Your chart shows it will be a lot of rain in the middle around Da Nang by the time I get up there.
By Sherry July 29, 2016 - 9:58 am
Of course you are crazy – anyone who is biking in Vietnam is crazy! 🙂 But I think crazy is wonderful – so I’m probably not the right person to ask! Regarding the rain – yes – you will get rain in August…but you aren’t going to avoid it at that time of year – it’s impossible. It normally happens as afternoon storms – not all day rains – unless there is a big monsoon. Be prepared to get wet. Get out on the road early in the day. That’s my best advice and have a great time!!
By ma giam gia August 3, 2016 - 10:11 am
From May to November, tropical storms are considerably more frequent, it’s a good time to visit Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city) because the rain isn’t non-stop all day, it usually falls in heavy showers, with the sun in between.
P.S: On the 15th night of the seventh month (Lunar Year), this year it’s 17 August 2016, The Ghost Festival will be held in Vietnam. It will be more rains.
By Sherry August 3, 2016 - 10:42 am
Thanks for the information on the ghost festival. I don’t think I ever attended it when I lived there. Sounds like a great event!
By ma giam gia August 3, 2016 - 10:52 am
Hope you can come to Vietnam in that time. How about Mid-Autumn Festival? Have you ever joined in it?
By Tonkin Travel Vietnam December 20, 2016 - 4:04 am
Rain might not bother you but flooding does. Rainy season in Vietnam is extreme time with heavy showers and thunder storms. You would cry if if water blocks all the roads and you could only stay in your room to look out. So, don’t wish rain for your whole journey.
By Meghan January 1, 2017 - 4:50 pm
Wow it looks like the rainy season is actually a great time for photos! I’ve been to the Amazon during the dry season and it rained everyday – can’t let rain stop your travels!
By Timothy phillips March 30, 2017 - 12:32 am
Hi i read ur blog and have to ask a few questions Q1.we are there about 7th oct in hanoi and it dosnt rain all day but has large rain falls in short time….Q2 we want to travel to the coatal town halfway down and then to ho chi min what is the best way to do this as we know nothing about travel iin the country is bus or car and how long would it take ir is flying better … and last question where in hanoi and ho chi min city are best districts to look to stay as we are not young but like to be in middle of shops and resturants … thanks tim
By Sherry March 30, 2017 - 11:29 am
Timothy – I”m not a travel agent – so these are just my opinions based on my time in Vietnam. I no longer live there though – so my info may be a bit outdated! I lived in HCMC – so I’m not really as familiar with Hanoi. I don’t know what the rainfall is like in Hanoi in Oct – but in HCMC yes it typically was just one big downpour a day and then it was nice again…and a little cooler after the rain. :). I think I have a link in the article to some more info about average rainfall in Vietnam – check that out. Make sure you take a cheap poncho with you, I had some suggestions on my rain travel gear link also found in the article. To move down the coast you will have to research what is cheapest. Unless you like adventure travel, I don’t suggest renting a car yourself and driving unless you are comfortable with traffic in Asia. To go south from Hanoi – I’ve taken the overnight train which is slow and basic – but it gets you there. However I do suggest that you check airfare – if you want to go to Hoi An you can normally find budget airfare that is quite reasonable. Jetstar and the Vietnam carriers are both good. There is also public bus that will go that way – but that is going to be slow, rough, and hot. I”m not sure what the district is in Hanoi – but it’s the area around the lake. In HMCM pick a place in Disctrict 1 and you’ll be fine – there are tons of places to stay there and you can walk everywhere to markets. Hope that helps!
By Ron July 1, 2017 - 1:05 pm
Should we bring a rain poncho we will be there for a month Aug
By Sherry July 1, 2017 - 6:17 pm
Yes they are small to pack and you’ll be happy you have one. Or you can buy a cheap on in Vietnam too if you’d like.
By Shelley July 12, 2017 - 12:11 am
I love your post, and my partner and I are due to fly to Ho Chi Minh on the 15th of July for two weeks.
My question is… I am a really bad flyer, I get so nervous and anxious, but I am stubborn and don’t let that limit me to experiencing new places and cultures, is the rainy season ok for flying… although there is a lot of rain is there terrible storms and wind?
We are flying domestically too from HCMC to Denang and then on the Hanoi, so I was just wondering 🙂
By Sherry July 12, 2017 - 1:29 pm
I did a lot of flying in and out of HCMC when I lived there and I honestly never experienced any bad weather turbulence. The storms do come through with heavy winds – but they also move through pretty fast. For me personally I don’t recall any bad flights. Sure, it could happen – but the airports you are talking about are big airports and the planes are normal size. I would guess you’ll be fine.
Let me know how it goes! It’s a great time of year to go! It’s be hot so the rains will be welcome!
By Tonkin - Travel Vietnam October 30, 2017 - 12:46 am
Thanks for your sharing! Oh you have an unique look at Vietnamese life. In Southern Vietnam, people always have to live with flood and in Sai Gon particularly inundating situation happens frequently. It seems that you have a long stay in Vietnam to give these deep insights.
By Sherry October 31, 2017 - 4:25 pm
I lived in HCMC for a year from 2008 to 2009 – so I did have a lot of time there!
By Mike November 6, 2017 - 1:23 am
What I remember from 1969 was an afternoon deluge and the street turned into a river of gold from the color of the dirt. All jumped into the nearest structure for cover and had wonderful conversations until the rain stopped and the sun returned. A half hour or so of magic.
By Brenda January 29, 2018 - 7:14 pm
Hi! We are considering taking a tour to Viet Nam starting in the middle of Novermber: Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An, Hue, Halong Bay and Hanoi. Are we likely to experience monsoons while there? We don’t mind rain as we traveled in China in Nov & the rain didn’t affect our amazing trip.
By Sherry January 30, 2018 - 2:58 am
I’m not a weathercaster – but it’s not really monsoon season in November. In fact I found Dec/Feb to be the nicest time there and least amount of rain – so November shouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary. In the south you’ll likely get a rain storm that passes through each afternoon or night – and then it clears up. It will be chilly in Hanoi though! So bring some layers!
By Brenda January 30, 2018 - 1:00 pm
By Daniel Massey April 10, 2018 - 2:17 pm
Hi sherry, what a fab post – we’ve just changed the family holiday plans this year from a tour of europe to a tour of vietnam. Starting in Hanoi finishing in HCM, diy tour on boats and trains and buses. Were going middle two weeks in July – I was begining to question the wisdom of this when I read your post. A few questions 1) do you still get the rains on the East Coast and 2) are the rain patterns (i hr deluge in the afternoons) the same in Hanoi as they are in HCM
By Sherry April 17, 2018 - 12:27 am
Hey Daniel – it’s great to hear that you are not letting the rainy season stop you – I think you will love it there! I believe on the East Coast you still get rains there . As for the rainfall in Hanoi -I’m not really sure. I lived in HCMC – but didn’t spend a ton of time in Hanoi. Sorry! But regardless – going in July will be great!!
By Stephen Peel May 13, 2018 - 4:24 am
Brilliant. I love this.
I am cycling around the world and will be in Mumbai in a few weeks – 1st June – for the start of the rainy season. I will be cycling 2000 km’s down the west coast to Trivandrum, before flying out to Thailand for late July early August.
People are telling me I’m crazy for cycling India in the monsoon season, but having been to India before in the dry season and loving it, I’m curious. I’m hoping for a great adventure and at least some dry spells throughout each day with luck.
By Sherry May 15, 2018 - 4:10 am
Good luck on your adventure! It sounds super and so what if you get a little wet! I’m also traveling there during monsoon season…that’s part of the fun!
By Emanuelle May 15, 2018 - 4:48 am
Hi Sherry, Thanks for such a informative post, i am planning a a mid august trip to Vietnam.
I love rainy season, but was worried if there will be trash/filth/dirty sewer etc flowing along with rain water on roads? Especially in Hanoi and Saigon?
By Sherry May 21, 2018 - 4:54 am
The roads often flood during the downpours and it is likely not the cleanest water. After a while it subsides.
By Helena Pivarnik May 27, 2018 - 10:16 pm
Hi Sherry, Found your site and really enjoyed. Am planning to go to Vietnam in August. Live in hot and humid Miami with thunderstorms often in PM for a while. Sounds like I won’t have a problem. I love rain. How hot does it get in Farenheit? Am solo 66 year energetic world traveller and also would love to take some boat down river which lets you sleep onboard? Any ideas? Could be anywhere. Also any ideas of train or plane to Cambodia? Would really appreciate if you can help me out. Thanks.
By Sherry June 1, 2018 - 6:13 am
Miami humidity is very similar to HCMC humidity – so you should be fine. I’m not sure of exact temperatures – but as I recall it was always around low 90’s in the heat of summer.
I often use Intrepid Travel for trips to Mekong – but I don’t think they offer overnight boat trips. You can search on their mekong offerings here – http://www.kqzyfj.com/click-3128954-12239281
Trains or buses or flights are all good to get around Vietnam. If you buy tickets early enough flights can be reasonable to Cambodia and other parts of Vietnam normally. At least they were a few years ago. I’ve taken trains from Hanoi to Hue. There are a lot of buses that run to Cambodia too from HCMC. I don’t know the company names though – I would just do some searches on it. I lived there 11 years ago – so I’m assuming things have changed since then! 🙂 Best of luck – I think you will love it – and definitely do some food tours and motorbike tours while there! https://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/saigon-street-food-tour/
By Mitch June 4, 2018 - 11:55 am
Thank you for all the information. My gf and I are motorbiking from HCMC to Hanoi for a month at the end of June. She was worried about it always raining but this made her feel much better 🙂
By Ventori Nguyen October 16, 2018 - 3:31 am
Rainy season in Hoi An, it’s a very romantic scenery! It’s the colorful lanterns are dancing in the rain, it’s a line of pedicabs queued up run along the street, it’s the colorful raincoats in the rain like the butterflies, it’s the romantic scenes in the rain: someone who being dating strolling in the roads, the pensive faces of somebody in the rain.
By Forest destine April 19, 2019 - 2:03 am
Awesomeness. Nice I love Vietnam. I have been traveling for 3 years and one year spent in Vietnam. Check out my blog.
By Jennifer Kav June 16, 2019 - 5:02 am
Me and my partner are travelling Vietnam in July for just over two weeks. Do you have any advice? We’re starting in Ho Chi Minh > Hoi An > Sapa > Hanoi and then we’re off to Hong Kong. Is it likely to rain for the entire trip? Thanks and great post!
By Sherry June 16, 2019 - 8:07 pm
It normally rains once a day – but not for all day. In fact the rain is a welcome site as it cools it down a bit at the end of the day! Have a great trip – you have some super stops!!
By Belka Truong July 2, 2019 - 6:14 pm
Thank you very much for your positive and lovely article. I love your way of thinking of, watching and enjoying life. I have been working in the travel industry for almost three decades and served a lot of foreign tourists and expats, but you amaze me. You are greatly encouraging and inspiring people with very simple things and even help to heal.
I wish you all the success and happiness in life.
By chandni September 5, 2019 - 7:55 am
Hi, my husband and i are travelling to vietnam in september for our honeymoon and we didnt realise just how bad the weather is at the moment. We are staying in da nang towards the end of sep and treating ourselves to a nice hotel but now i am worried that i wont get to enjoy it fully – from your experience do you think we will still get a chance to enjoy the beach and pool facilities? thanks
By Sherry September 6, 2019 - 9:18 am
Well – I can’t really predict the weather – but in a normal monsoon season it just rains once a day or so and the rest of the day is sunny and humid. So I would guess that you’ll be able to enjoy the beach and pool – and I would plan that there will be a few downpours too. But I doubt it will rain all day every day – that would be rare from my experience living there. Hope you have a great honeymoon!!
By Kim March 3, 2020 - 2:08 pm
Wow! Great post and amazing photos. Thanks for sharing. I love it.
By thác nước phòng thuỷ December 18, 2022 - 11:28 pm
Thanks for your article, Vietnam has now changed a lot in terms of conditions