Southeast Asia includes countries that are south of China, east of India and north of Australia. Western travelers may choose to immerse themselves in big cities like Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, or quiet paradises in Bali, Laos and Thailand. The best time to visit countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines largely depends upon dodging the crowds and avoiding the hottest, most humid weather.
The time period from November through February is generally the best one to visit Southeast Asia when drier, cooler weather prevails. Generally speaking, hot, humid weather characterizes Southeast Asia, which lies within the Tropics close to the equator, says Frommer’s. Average temperatures for the region hover around 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The hottest time of year is March to June, with temperatures skyrocketing to 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Wet monsoon rains fall from June to October in most countries, making it difficult to dive, surf, hike or sunbathe. There are exceptions, however; Malaysia and Indonesia experience their dry seasons from April to October.
November to February is the most popular time for tourists who are eager to escape European and North American winters. Expect high hotel rates and large crowds. “Conde Nast Traveler” warns that “55 million travelers descend upon the region annually, from backpackers to jet-setters,” so it’s very important to consider when to go to avoid the crowds. Sandy Ferguson, a travel specialist and Thailand native, told “Conde Nast Traveler” that the best time to travel is April and May, if you can stand the heat; avoid early April, when the New Year is celebrated in Thailand and Laos, he adds.
Southeast Asia inspired Lonely Planet’s first “Shoestring Budget” travel guide with its amazingly affordable prices. The cheapest countries to travel include Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. Despite the affordability of the region, there are certain times to stretch your dollar even further. The summer months may be stiflingly hot, but flight and hotel deals are fairly cheap to places like Vietnam and Thailand. September and October are cheaper times to fly because they precede the busy travel season.
A great spot to see smaller “big” cats, bats, snakes, flying squirrels and slow loris is Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia, but you’ll need to visit between February and September to avoid the leech infestations. March through October is the ideal time to see the endangered orangutans of Borneo as well. Khao Sok National Park in Southern Thailand is an ideal place to see leopards, sunbear, gibbons, tigers and elephants. Recommended tours take place in October, November and May.
Frommer’s recommends planning your travel around Thailand’s Songkran from April 13 to 15th, when Thais celebrate their New Year by flooding the streets wielding water guns, buckets of water and handfuls of talcum powder. The Laos dragon boat races in September are held in every riverside town, featuring colorful costumes and a parade on water. In early November, thousands of Buddhists head to the That Luang temple in Vientiane, which is an amazing sight to behold. Be sure to spend your Chinese New Year in Singapore, home to Southeast Asia’s biggest party.