‘Tis the Season

Deciding where to go for a holiday can be pretty mind-boggling, but the choice is made much easier when you know when the best times are to travel to particular destinations. We give you the lowdown about when to visit those popular Southeast Asian destinations so that you’re not stranded in Koh Samui during the rainy season or in Bali during a monsoon. Here’s the essential I-S guide to when’s the best time to go where.
December to February
• Andaman Coast, Thailand. In January, you’ll get wonderful weather and clear water in a region renowned for its beautiful beaches.
• Bangkok, Thailand. November to March is the best time to drop by, with cool, dry weather. April is a no-no, as it’s super hot, and between July and October, heavy downpours and flooding are common.
• Manila, Philippines. February to April is great, as the humidity dips. Heavy rains start after that and continue through June to November, until the dry season. Give the city a miss on Good Friday, as the whole country practically closes down on that day.
• Penang, Malaysia. December to February are the best months to visit Penang as brief but torrential rains occur between April and May, and August and October.
• Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. The dry season between December and April is the best bet. November through March, and late January or early February are crowded periods, so avoid Ho Chi Minh then.
• Siem Reap, Cambodia. December and January are nice, cool months, while April and May are the hot months. Avoid those. Rain starts in June and continues through August and September—so don’t drop by then either.
March to May
• Bali, Indonesia. Best period is April to September, with less crowds and sunny weather. Avoid the west monsoon from November to March—it’s humid and drizzly.
• Donsol, Philippines. A fabulous time to visit is between February and May, when you can swim with 18-meter whale sharks.
• Koh Samui, Thailand. February to late June is a great time to visit, as it’s drier. Intermittent rain falls during July to October so avoid them, along with between October to January, when strong winds hit.
• Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. If you hate the rain, don’t visit during November to February. June and July (the driest months) are good.
• Phuket, Thailand. From November to March, the sea is calm. During August to October, you get a small surf that’s great for water activities. But from May to November, there can be strong currents, so don’t go swimming.
June to August
• Java, Indonesia. From October to April, it rains and is uncomfortably humid. Avoid like the plague.
• Lombok, Indonesia. Lombok has the wet (October to March) and the dry (May to September) seasons. The dry season is better bet.
• Sumatra, Indonesia. In the north, the wettest months are December and January. In the south, the rains are the heaviest during January and February. Stick to the dry season—from May to September.
September to November
• Chiang Mai, Thailand. October and April are fine—that’s when it’s the driest. The other months are rainy. The mildest temperatures occur in December and January so it’s OK to go then too. But avoid other times of the year (for instance, in April, temperatures can hit 36 degrees centigrade).
• Jakarta, Indonesia. October to February is the torrential rainy season, so avoid it. July through September has the least rain, so it’s a good time; however temperatures are high.
• Hanoi, Vietnam. November to February are the dry months. May to September is unbearably hot. September to November is perfect—expect nice, sunny weather.
Major festivals happening around the region.