The question that is often asked is: how can one enjoy Ho Chi Minh City when they know they will have to deal with rain?
Well, there is good news. The rain in Ho Chi Minh City is quite predictable during about 80 percent of the wet season. Different regions in Vietnam have different wet seasons, but in Ho Chi Minh City, you can expect an afternoon storm to roll in anytime after 2:00 pm. These storms, especially the heavy ones, usually only last for an hour or so before the skies clear up and everything returns to normal.
Many locals simply plan their day around the rain. In fact, when the rain is most predictable, locals rarely take out their raincoats because they are able to stay indoors during the short periods of precipitation. However, this can also lead to major traffic congestion when everyone leaves work at the same time after the rain has passed.
|Commuters ride in the rain in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, May 25, 2020. Photo: Chau Tuan / Tuoi Tre
As a tourist in Ho Chi Minh City during the rainy season, there are a few things you can do to still have fun in the city. Here are some tips for first-time travelers:
Rain in Ho Chi Minh City mostly occurs in the afternoon, while mornings are usually clear. If you want to do something outdoors, it’s best to choose the morning to venture out and have fun. By 11:00 am, the heat usually becomes uncomfortable, and people tend to go inside for lunch and rest.
Change your clothes
One of the biggest lifestyle changes I made when I moved from Australia to Ho Chi Minh City was in the clothes I wore. Heavy long or short pants and jeans were out. Now, I wear lighter and more versatile pants or shorts.
Shoes are also not preferred. They tend to get wet and become smelly and heavy in wet weather. I now wear sandals with comfortable socks, allowing me to walk reasonable distances. I also carry spare socks in case my socks get wet, which happens weekly. One tip is to keep wearing wet socks until the rain stops and any floodwater subsides, giving your sandals time to dry.
Carry a raincoat at all times
It may seem obvious, but you should always have a raincoat in your backpack. Poncho-style raincoats are available on almost every corner in town. They range in price from VND10,000 to VND100,000 depending on their quality (US$1=VND24,445). For tourists, I recommend a cheap, lightweight raincoat to get through any unexpected storms.
Carry a light jacket
While Ho Chi Minh City is known for its hot weather, it’s important to remember that a heavy shower can cause the air temperature to drop, making wet skin feel cold. Carrying a light jacket can be a lifesaver when you find yourself in a cool shopping mall or café after getting wet.
|Commuters wear raincoats along a street in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre
Be grateful for the rain
One of the strangest things about the climate in Ho Chi Minh City is that the summer is not the hottest time of the year.
The dry season typically arrives in early November and lasts until mid-May. During the wet season, there are some hot days, but the rain usually keeps the temperature at a moderate level.
By far, the most uncomfortable time of the year in Ho Chi Minh City is towards the end of the dry season. The end of March, all of April, and into May are unbearable with hot dry days that offer only a little relief after sunset.
While the wet season comes with storms, floods, and periods of monsoonal rains, it is actually the best time of the year to experience Vietnam’s southern region. Average temperatures range from low-to-mid 30’s (degrees Celsius), but it is the cloud cover that brings the most comfort to riders, walkers, and anyone venturing outside during the rainy season.
There is one other season that doesn’t really exist in Ho Chi Minh City, but people still welcome it with open arms. Winter is a bit of a fallacy in this region, but it does happen. The days are dry in December and January, and in the weeks surrounding the winter equinox, the overnight temperature can dip just below 20 degrees Celsius. While this is considered hot for most people, locals in Ho Chi Minh City consider it to be “winter chills.”
One of the amazing and unique experiences is visiting the city around New Year’s and seeing families out looking at the lights with hoods and jackets on, which are more commonly seen in cities like Montreal or Moscow. They bundle up with scarves, gloves, and winter hoods as they venture out in the “chilly” 19-degree Celsius nights.
Ho Chi Minh City rarely experiences weather extremes like Sydney or Melbourne, where it can be 35 degrees Celsius one day and 15 the next, or the blistering cold of North America and Scotland, where winter chills can keep you indoors for weeks. Southern Vietnam is tropical and rather consistent, and of course, it is also predictable. Enjoying the weather is one of the secrets to having the best experience in the city for travelers.
Another secret to having a fantastic time in Ho Chi Minh City is to embrace the weather and not fight it. If you wait for the perfect weather to visit this amazing city, you will be waiting forever. It is much better to understand the weather when you plan your visit, prepare accordingly, adjust your attire, and plan around the patterns. You might get a little wet at times, and other times you might feel a bit hot, but that is the beauty of the region and one of the experiences of traveling in this city.
Ho Chi Minh City has a population of over 10 million people. It is a city that never sleeps and offers a unique experience for any first-time foreign visitor. Embracing the imperfections and adjusting your plans a little will give you a great experience and help you understand the local culture better.