When to go to Vietnam
Vietnam is a long (1,600 km/990 miles), narrow, climatically diverse country so the weather is correspondingly changeable and varied.
Vietnam has a monsoonal climate. That means there is a dry season and a wet season. In addition, there are hot and cool portions in each dry season. In a country as long as Vietnam, with its extended coastline, there are different monsoons in different parts of the country, so planning is essential if you don’t like mosquitoes and mud.
There is no one good time to go if you want to sample much of the country. However, with a bit of planning you can travel in a direction that minimizes the most likely hot, steamy, or rainy times. While the worst of the seasonal monsoons hit different parts of the country at different times of the year, you will often encounter hot, humid weather, except in the far north and the highlands of the central areas. Even in the coolest of times, humidity rarely goes below 75-80% during the day and usually hovers in the 80-90% range.
If you want to stay in the North and perhaps the central coastal areas, October to December is probably the best time.
If you stay in the central highlands and south, December to early May is probably your best bet.
If you want to combine both monsoonal areas, November to January might work, but September, October, March, and April also offer decent chances of good weather. If you go in the winter, you might want to avoid the far north in November and December.
The climate in the southern part of Vietnam is ideal for growing coffee and two rice crops a year. In the north the climate supports only one rice crop annually, but the cooler temperatures are conducive to growing many types of fruits and vegetables.
Weather patterns in the South (and the Central Highlands) are controlled by the south/southwesterly monsoon. As with most of the country, when it rains, it rarely pours all day, but it can be misty and overcast for several days at a time. The seasons are:
-- Monsoon: May to September.
Hot and steamy. The rains actually ease a bit but continue through November. This is when temperatures are often at their lowest, but “low” is a relative term!
-- Dry season : December to late April/early May.
Temperatures rise steadily during this time. This is when it is likely to be really hot. Temperatures in the day are in the 30-40°C/86-105°F range, dropping to the 20s°C/70s°F at night. March, April, and May are the hottest months – expect 40°C/100°F+ temperatures on an occasional basis. The humidity can present a real problem, making temperatures feel much warmer than the thermometer indicates. Heat stroke and dehydration can be serious problems. If either or both conditions persist they can even be life-threatening.
Ho Chi Minh City.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
°C 25.8 26.6 27.7 28.7 28.2 27.4 27.1 27.3 26.9 26.6 26.2 25.7
°F 78.4 79.9 81.9 83.7 82.8 81.3 80.8 81.1 80.4 79.9 79.2 78.3
mm 14 3.8 9.4 51.4 212.9 308.7 294.9 27.3 271.2 341.8 260.5 118.8
inches .6 .1 .4 2 8.5 12.2 11.8 1.1 10.8 13.7 10.4 4.7
% 61 56 58 60 71 78 80 78 80 80 75 68
The Mekong Delta has similar monsoonal and dry season patterns as in Ho Chi Minh City, but overall temperatures are usually warmer. Flooding can be a problem at any time of the year, but is worst in the monsoon season. Floods can cut off entire towns, and wash out roads and bridges, making road travel difficult. Of course, the Delta is well covered by rivers and boats!
The Central Highlands
The climate is similar to that of the South in terms of the monsoonal and dry seasons, but higher elevations help moderate temperatures. Keep in mind the sun is far more intense at higher elevations, and Dalat is about 1,500 meters/4,900 feet high.
The Central Coast
Continuing north the weather patterns follow the northeast monsoon, essentially reversing the pattern found in the South.
The seasons are:
-- Monsoon : late fall into winter. Misty and overcast, with very heavy rains at times.
-- Dry season : March-August. It still rains quite a bit at this time of year.
The rainy season in Nha Trang and nearby areas begins fairly abruptly in November and runs through December. As you head north to Hué, Danang, and Hoi An, it lasts longer – from September into February.
Spring (March to May) or before the fall monsoon (early September) or near the end of the rains (late November to December) are the bet times for these cities.
Summer brings the highest temperatures, generally with highs in the 30s°C/high 80s°F. Dalat can be very appealing at this time of year. At 1,500 meters (about a mile high) the daytime temperatures are much cooler – into the 20s and low 30s°C/60s-70s°F.
As you head farther north the climate becomes more extreme. The rainy season shortens, with the worst part coming in September and October. Winter follows the rains, bringing cooler, drier, pleasant weather. The northern stretches of the central coast experience a weather phenomenon familiar to people from the coastal regions of North America and other parts of the world – hurricanes, known as typhoons in this part of the world. Typhoon season generally runs from August to November. Summers along the north central coast are very hot and dry.
Hanoi & The North
The sunniest time of year is the last three months, although rains can come at any time, and December can be cool (even cold), drizzly, and misty. January into March is the cool or even cold season, and the mist and drizzle can last for days. From the later part of March the weather begins to improve and temperatures start rising. By summer, day time highs can approach 40°/105°F.
Hanoi is not as consistently warm as the South, but it can get quite warm in July and August. The weather is driven by the northeast monsoon, bringing the rainy weather in the summer, but the likelihood of mist and overcast conditions lasts much of the year, until spring.
While summer temperatures tend to be in the 30s°C/high 80s°F, it is not unusual to hit 40°C/100°F+ for several days running. When you combine these temperatures with the summer monsoon, it can get pretty steamy and uncomfortable.
It is cool enough from November to March that a jacket is a good idea, and a sweater is useful in the coldest months – December to February.
-- Monsoon : May to September. Hot, humid, sticky, and generally nasty.
-- Dry season : October to December. Even then it can be misty and overcast, with rain more often than not as winter approaches.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
°C 17 18 20 24 28 30 30 29 28 26 22 19
°F 62 64 68 75 83 86 86 84 83 79 72 66
mm 18 28 38 81 196 239 323 342 254 99 43 20
inches .7 1.1 1.5 3.2 7.8 9.5 12.9 13.7 10.1 4 1.7 .8
% 68 70 76 75 69 71 72 75 73 69 69 66
The Red River Delta has the added dimension of floods when the summer rains hit. The weather patterns are very similar to those of Hanoi. However, increasing elevation has a moderating effect on temperatures. It has been known to be frosty and even to snow in the winter months around Sapa. A jacket and sweater can be welcome almost any time of year in the mountains.
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