Vietnam’s climate is in the tropical zone. However, because of the monsoon influences and the country’s geographical features, the weather of each region varies from north to south and from east to west according to the topography. This country has the largest horizontal width of only about 310.7 miles (500 km) but its north-south distance is up to 1,025 miles (1,650 km) and the coastline measures 2,140 miles (3,444 km) in length.
The Northeast (Winter) Monsoon and Southwest (Summer) Monsoon
For easier understanding, we can divide Vietnam into three regions: the North, the Central, and the South, based on their weather characteristics. The temperature of the whole country is relatively constant: hot and humid all year round. It is applied for most parts of the country, except for the north with the cold winter in December and January, and the Central Highlands, which is always cooler compared to other places and is said to have a temperate climate.
The monsoon also has a significant impact on the weather. It decides whether that region would rain at that time or not. The Northeast monsoon’s effect is from November to April. It brings rain to regions from the north half of the Central Coast to the North; sometimes it can be the cause of torrential rain and hail in these areas. The Southwest monsoon starts from May to October. The North, Central Highland, and the South would face a lot of downpours in this period, while northern Central Vietnam and southern Northwest Vietnam are much drier and have less rainfall.
With an annual average amount of 1,500-2,000 mm, rain is a crucial factor that you should consider when planning to visit Vietnam. It does not mean that you have to avoid the wet season totally. You just need to pay attention to the match of your intentional arrival time and the suitability of the weather system in your preferable-to-visit destinations. Here are some noteworthy features of the monsoon season in Vietnam, depending on the region, together with our advice for your trips and required clothes.
Effects of Monsoon Season in Vietnam on Three Regions
The North of Vietnam
Most provinces in Northern Vietnam have distinguishable summers and winters. From November to April is a cold, dry winter, and from May to October is a hot, humid, rainy summer. In December and January, several areas can be cold and experience heavy mists, which might lead to bad visibility. In return, the landscape would be picturesque and dreamlike.
The mountainous area in Vietnam northernmost has the coldest weather compared to other parts. At the top of Fansipan, the highest peak of Indochina, snow covers all the paths in winter. One of the most exciting places to visit is Sa Pa, a frontier town and the northwest tourism center. You can meet some Vietnamese ethnicities here and join their local fairs. The average temperature is 15 Celsius (59 Fahrenheit), while the lowest point is 5 Celcius (41 Fahrenheit), so if you have no difficulty handling this cold, add Sa Pa to your traveling checklist.
Since Vietnam is a coastal country, there are many beaches along the borders that are worth visiting. The North region is no exception. There is Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has two iconic seasons of the North: dry winter and wet summer. However, its location in a closed-sea area protects it from hurricanes and tropical cyclones. Beaches in other provinces like Hai Phong and Quang Ninh are also breathtaking and relaxing. Despite that, note that January to March is not ideal for swimming since the weather is cloudy, and the seawater is relatively cold. If your vacation is during these times, exploring the national parks and the local historical sites is recommended.
The Capital of Vietnam
Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is a typical example of the North plains climate. Its summer and winter are no different from other places, but April and October are two transitional months, which makes it a four-season city. The winter monsoon comes from the Asian continent with the property of dryness, bringing light but frequent rain to Hanoi. Although the rain does not continue day after day, the sunlight is wintry and pale these days.
The dry peaks are in December and January, while the wettest times are July and August. In the rainy season, scattered showers usually occur in the afternoon and evening. Therefore, if possible, arrange all your outdoor activities in the morning. The rest of the day can be spent with a cup of hot tea or coffee in your warm room or at a cozy coffee house. Even though the average temperature is about 24 Celsius (75.2 Fahrenheit), it can reach 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on some days, so check the forecast to prepare appropriate clothes.
The hot and cold weather in the North is usually more intense than other parts
With the above information, the most enjoyable time to travel to the North of Vietnam is in the spring or autumn, particularly April and October-November, right after the winter. The weather in these months would not be too severely cold or skin-burning hot.
The Centre (Northern Central Coast, Southern Central Coast, and Central Highland)
This is the transitional part of the North and South weather conditions. To the west of Central Vietnam, the Truong Son mountain range dries the southwest monsoon, or the summer monsoon, and prevents it from bringing its pure characteristics to the coast. Since the impact of the monsoon is weakened, in the rainy season, April to September in particular, the area receives less precipitation than the rest of the country.
Vietnam’s Ancient Cities
The northern half of Central Vietnam is in the exposed zone to the northeast monsoon, which leads to a considerable amount of rainfall and vulnerability to typhoon season, especially in the last months of the year. In this period, Hoi An, which is near this area, was often flooded. In 2017, the residents and the provincial authority had to spend a lot of effort to clean up after the flood in Hoi An so that the city was well-prepared to welcome the delegates of the APEC.
While the rain seems to be harsher, the temperature here is higher, and it also gets more sunshine than in the North. Hue (Thua Thien Hue Province) has an average temperature of around 26 Celsius (78.8 Fahrenheit). Quang Nam Province (the land of the modern beach city of Da Nang and Hoi An ancient town) also has similar weather. However, Quang Nam is a bit warmer since the two provinces are on opposite sides of the Bach Ma Range, which is also the borderline for Central Vietnam’s northern and southern half. The coolest month is January, but the temperature varies from just 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) in Hue to 24 Celsius (75.2 Fahrenheit) in Nha Trang.
The Centre has many coastal provinces
The Central Coast
Those provinces near the south of Vietnam experience a longer dry season, from January to September, since the cold air from the north hardly reaches this area. Rain is concentrated in only a few months with a less abundant amount. Therefore, places like Phan Thiet become semi-arid, and dunes are found in Mui Ne and Quy Nhon. However, intense storms usually occur from August to November, bringing terrible damages and inconveniences to the lives of the locals along the coast in the southern half of Central Vietnam.
The Central Highlands is cooler than many parts of the country all year round. A popular destination is Da Lat – the romantic city. Its annual average temperature is 18 Celsius (64.4 Fahrenheit). The lowest temperature of the day is 15 Celsius (59 Fahrenheit), while the highest is 24 Celsius (75.2 Fahrenheit). Because of this, Da Lat is said to have four seasons in just one day. There is considerable precipitation in the wet season, from June to October. Other months are much drier.
The best time to visit Central Vietnam is February to March for the northern region and January to March for the south. It is recommended that you come no later than April. If you happen to arrive from May to August, read our suggested belongings, which are mentioned below, to cope with the monsoon season in Vietnam.
The South region has constant hot weather with two distinct seasons: the wet season and the dry season. The temperature does not change significantly during the year, with an average of 25-35 Celsius (77-95 Fahrenheit).
The dry season is from November to April. The temperature is about 27 Celsius (80.6 Fahrenheit) from November till mid-February. It gradually increases to 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) in March and April before reaching the peak of 36 Celsius (96.8 Fahrenheit) as the southwest monsoon is about to arrive. The hot and humid summer starts in May and ends in October. Abundant rain is the result of the southwest monsoon’s effect. June and July are the peaks of this wet season when it rains almost every day.
The Southern provinces are hot all year round
Ho Chi Minh City
During these months, many roads in Ho Chi Minh City would be flooded, which makes it difficult for vehicles to move around. This city is a little bit later than other provinces in the rainy peak, September. Going through the summer, when hardly a day goes by without gentle to drenching rain, the city would still receive adequate sunshine. It is a good time to visit Ho Chi Minh City from December to mid-February. Not only would the weather welcome you, but you also have a chance to witness and learn more about the biggest holiday of Vietnamese people, the Tet holiday. March and April are also in the dry season, but sometimes it can be inconveniently hot since it is getting close to the summer monsoon, so keep that in mind while packing for the trip.
A trip to Ho Chi Minh City in the dry season
The Mekong Delta
The Southwest provinces, also known as the Mekong Delta, are some destinations that would make you want to travel during the monsoon season in Vietnam. Complex canals have been built for many years to provide water for local agriculture. If you are eager to discover and try the exotic yet fresh, delicious fruit of Vietnam, June and July should be considered. From September to December is the floating season, with many activities that you rarely find anywhere else, like floating markets or listening to Southern Vietnamese folk music on river cruises.
Stream down a river in the Mekong Delta when it’s sunny
The Southern Islands
The Southern islands, like Phu Quoc or Con Dao have less intense weather than the land. Most of the time, the sea here is warm and calm. Although it is apparently in the tropical zone, Phu Quoc is still comfortably cool all year round. October to March is the most suitable period for you to enjoy your swimming and tasting varied types of seafood. Some days in the wet season, the weather is persistently poor, the sunlight is pale, and the sea is too rough for ships to sail and go fishing, so the seafood dishes on your table can be less diverse. Swimming is still acceptably safe, but do not forget to avoid rocky beaches.
What to Bring on Your Trip to Deal with the Monsoon Season in Vietnam
No matter what part of Vietnam you visit, prepare to experience the hot and humid weather. If possible, bring your bottle from home and drink the boiled water, not tap water in Vietnam (yes, you can easily buy water from supermarkets and convenience stores, but the package is made from single-use plastic, which is not good for the world environment). You can be dehydrated and have sunstroke without drinking enough water.
Light cotton clothes would be much more comfortable in the summer here. A small bucket hat or a cap is helpful for your daily sightseeing, while a wide-brimmed hat would be more suitable for your beach trip. Don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen to protect yourself from the intense sunlight. You might also need a pair of flip-flops, but don’t worry if you have not bought one yet. You can find it in your hotel room or get it cheaply in Vietnam’s local markets.
Non la is a traditional hat of Vietnam. You can buy one if you forget your hat at home and then keep it as a souvenir
Mosquito spray is necessary, especially when traveling to the Southwest region.
However, if you are traveling to North Vietnam in the winter, remember to bring some jackets, sweaters, and gloves to keep yourself warm. And if you are thinking about visiting the mountainous area, hiking sticks and sneakers can be useful.
Check out recommended hiking shoes for traveling to Vietnam
Pagodas and temples are a part of the cultural specificity of Vietnam, so many tourists are enthusiastic about going there. Polite clothes are a must, so prepare some trousers, pants, jeans and long dresses. No above-knee skirts or tank tops are allowed.
Summary of Monsoon Season in Vietnam
The monsoon season in Vietnam affects your travel plan a lot. However, there is no bad time in the year to visit this tropical country. If you are going on a long trip across the whole country of Vietnam, November or February would be suitable since the weather is warm with a bit of heavy rain and the sun is not burning. The Northside can be much more relaxed but still not freezing. March to mid-April is also a great time. Although it is the transitional time between two types of monsoon, it is still in the dry season and not uncomfortably hot or humid.