Now that you’ve decided to travel to the biggest city of Vietnam, Saigon, I’m sure there are a few questions in your mind just as you would if you decide to visit any other country in Southeast Asia. Some of these, I’m sure, are: “When is the best time to visit the city?”, “When is the dry season and the monsoon season?”, and “Will I be able to experience just as much in the wet season as with the dry season?” My aim in this article is to provide you some helpful information to answer those questions so you can design an ideal itinerary for one of the most appealing cities in Asia.
The Weather in Saigon
The local Saigonese often dub the weather as “a teenager with mood swings” because of how unpredictable it is. Let’s imagine on a sunny Sunday, you dress fancy and put on some nice make-up to go out with your friends. Suddenly while you’re out, it starts raining heavily even if the sun is still shining brightly. Then after a moment of thinking “WHY ME?”, you put on your ugly raincoat, and then the rain stops. Then all you can do is shake your fist at the laughing sky. This is how Saigon weather is.
Geographically, Saigon has what you would call a tropical climate which consists of a dry season (November to April) and a wet season (May – October). But the humorous youth of Saigon usually joke that just like many Western countries, you can break down Saigon’s weather into 4 seasons as well! But don’t expect your standard spring, summer, fall and winter. Over here, it is the hot season, the very hot season, the extremely hot season and yes you guessed it, the wet season.
Then after a moment of thinking “WHY ME?”, you put on your ugly raincoat, and then the rain stops.
So… what is the best time to visit Saigon?
Many people claim that any time of the year is the best time to visit Saigon and I agree with this statement. If the heat is not a problem, I would recommend you to visit the city during the dry season. But if you want to see how Saigon looks like on a rainy day with flooded streets and willing to sacrifice all those beautiful photos you can take for your Flickr account, then go for the wet season. Don’t get me wrong, the wet season will provide you with beautiful photo ops too!
Saigon in the Dry Season
Most of the tourists prefer to visit Saigon in December and January so this influx of tourists makes those the busiest months of the year. Those are the time when the heat is no longer a reason to stop you from walking around and enjoy the atmosphere of Saigon. In the mornings, the temperature can be as cool as 17°C (62°F) , and as the day progresses, it will normally increase to around 24- 26°C (75 – 78°F) in the afternoons and evenings.
December, January and February are also the months of festivals. During this time, the buzzing city will become more beautiful with lots of twinkling lights and festive decorations everywhere. Although Vietnam is predominantly Buddhist, the Christmas spirit is not non-existent in Saigon. In fact, it is quite popular. You will be surprised to see many huge Christmas trees and Christmas decorations in every corner of this wonderful place. And don’t forget store discounts too!
December, January and February are also the months of festivals.
The streets and traffic will be crazier since many people go out during this time and enjoy the atmosphere. January and February are when the Vietnamese celebrate New Year and Lunar New Year (A.K.A Tet Holiday). Many activities will be held during these two months. Saigon will be livelier with ornamental flowers and Tet-related music playing everywhere. But the city gets quite empty during the actual days of the Lunar New Year as locals will go to their home provinces in the country and the city will look quite deserted. Try not to miss out on this almost-Armageddon-like experience.
As the dry season goes on, March and April get hotter and dryer. The heat peak occurs in summer as the highs can hit around 36 – 40°C (97 – 104°F) in most days. Don’t freak out, my friend. You can easily find ACs in many hotels/hostel, shopping centers and coffee venues all over Saigon. Cooling down with a “ca phe sua da” (Vietnamese iced-milk coffee) is one of the most local experiences you can have. Click here for a list of awesome café’s in Saigon!
Highlights of Visiting in the Dry Season:
- On tourist season (December to February) accommodation price can be increased up to 30% so be prepared.
- During Tet holidays, most shops, local restaurant and shopping malls will close down. However, you can still visit some tourist destinations such as some museums, Independence Palace and some.
- The shopaholic travelers will definitely love November and December as it is sale time. On fashion streets such as Nguyen Trai and Le Van Si, you will see many sale signs up to 50% or 70% off everywhere.
- Many tourists that travel to Saigon in the dry season usually pay a visit to the Mekong Delta for a few days. If you don’t mind the heat and butt pain, I suggest you to take a road trip by motorcycle to visit the floating market in Can Tho. The crystal clear sky and the rural life of the Mekong Delta, which is completely different than what you normally see in the west, will amaze you. Also, from April to May is fruit season (yum!). Therefore, you can enjoy living your tropical dream eating a lot of delicious fruits like rambutans and longan berries while drinking fresh coconut juice. C’EST LA VIE! You can check out Onetrip for more information about the tour options and click here for an interesting itinerary for the Mekong
Keywords to Deal with Saigon’s Heat:
- #Sunscreen and #sunglasses are essentials to protect your skin and eyes from the UV rays;
- #Hats and #caps are necessary items to show some love to your hair by keeping it away from direct sunlight;
- #Summer_clothes such as tank tops and shorts in light colors are recommended but wear these appropriately as you still want to respect the culture and the people;
- #Battery-powered_fans or #hand_fans are a great way to cool off in the heat if there are no A/C cafes around you;
- #Water! You will need a lot of water to stay hydrated. Please make sure you stay hydrated!
- #Umbrella is also a great option to shade yourself from the sun. Not to mention, it’s great in the case of unexpected rain.
Saigon in the Wet Season
After so many crazy hot days, the rain starts pouring down in intervals to cool off Saigon and help the crops and the people. This is a sign that the monsoon season is about to begin. From May to the beginning of November, the humidity is higher than average and heavy showers happen frequently. Beware that the water might drop non-stop for some days in a row – especially when the storms hit the city in August, September and October. An interesting (yet annoying) fact about the rainy season in Saigon is that some streets will be flooded regardless big rain or small because of bad drainage.
Highlights of Visiting in the Wet Season:
- If you decide to go around the city (or Vietnam) by motorbike, you should make sure that you know how to prevent water from entering your motorbike’s muffler. Otherwise, you will have to walk with your bike if it dies on the flooded streets.
- The tourist attractions in town will still be open as a sign showing that everyday is a good day to visit Saigon.
- Cheap accommodation is the biggest benefit brought by the wet season. If you are on a budget then bingo! You know when to go 😉
- Lightning will occur sometimes. My advice is to unplug your laptop and earphone when there is a thunder storm.
- “Saigon in the rain” is such an inspiration for anyone who loves photography
Keywords to Deal with Saigon’s Rain:
- #Rain_poncho is going to be your best friend when it pours (or at least it will protect your backpack or handbag from being wet!) That is why you should invest in a high-quality rain poncho and always carry it with you no matter how strong the sun is! Remember, Saigon weather is a moody teenager.
- #Disposable_raincoats are quite cheap and you can find them everywhere – around 5,000 VND to 10,000 VND in case you forget to bring one. But they are not so fancy. You will probably look like a trash bag walking around the streets.
- #Insect_repellent is something you will need to get rid of mosquitos and other bugs during the wet season.
My point is, don’t be put off if you have to fly during wet season. It will not take away from your experience. Have a good time exploring this unique city and do not hesitate to let me know your opinion about your experiences in the city, with or without the sun!
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