The Pros and Cons of Backpacking in the Low Season in Asia

by Amanda/Backpacking Tips Asia
(Oslo, Norway)

Low season and rain in India

Low season and rain in India

So, you're considering backpacking in the low season?

Before you decide to book those flight tickets, here are some things you should read and consider.

First of all, when is the low season?

I've roughly divided the countries into:

Group A: In Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines and India, the low season is from May to October (with regional differences).

Group B: For most parts of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, the low season is from October to April with regional differences.

Infographic: Low season in Asia

Low season often means wet season, monsoon season or "off-season."

Even though it's the wet/low season, it doesn't necessarily mean that it rains all the time. Usually, we're talking about rain showers that last for a couple of hours, and in the worst wet season there's flood in the streets. India is a good example of how floods can devastate lives and infrastructure. Floods in India has occurred as early as August, even in June (news 2012).

With global climate changes, the weather in Asia has become unpredictable. Now, it can rain during the "dry season" and the rainy season lasts longer than usual.

So, there are really no black-and-white answers here on how long the rain season lasts and how much it's going to rain.

It's better to ask people who actually live there, before you head out. Local information is the best information. Don't get blinded by general weather reports.

You can post on Tripadvisor or Yahoo Answers for information. You can also post at this site: Forum

The Pros of travel in the low season:

  1. Less tourists and travelers on the road, meaning that you can find really cheap accommodation (usually half the price, compared to peak season prices) and it's a lot easier to bargain tuk-tuk and rickshaw rides, rooms, market items and tours (since there's not much tourists around, they become more willingly to accept your offer).

    If you're on a tight budget, backpacking in the low season might be a good idea.

  2. Since there are far less travelers on the road during the low season, you don't need to pre-book anything; room, bus and tours. An exception is during holidays and festivals.

    Storm clouds on Bohol island, Philippines

    Traveling in the high and peak season is nevertheless amazing, but it's the amount of people concentrated in one place that might affect the travel experience. Some people will find it annoying and even disturbing, and some people don't even flinch.

    I've traveled in Asia during all seasons, and I really got to say that less people is far more pleasing. You have a place "to yourself" and one thing that I don't like is too many people getting in the way when I'm trying to take a picture of a scenic and "quiet" place. Or if I have to stand in a long queue to get my favorite Pad Thai in Bangkok.

  3. If you're planning on trekking or hiking, visiting national parks and waterfalls is so much more pleasing to the eyes because there's actually a waterfall there (and not a dried up one) and the jungle will become greener than ever.

Storm closing in on Flores island, Indonesia

The Cons of travel in the low season:

  1. Because of tropical storms and incredibly powerful waves, the ferries and boats to island destinations normally don't operate, typically starting from May for group A (see countries above). Most of them close because of the rough weather conditions and lack of customers, but mostly because of the weather.

    Raining in Bali island, Indonesia

    But not all boats stop operating. Whether the boats do actually run or not during the low season depends on the weather conditions. So, if you want to visit an island, check if the boats are running while you're there. The weather is unpredictable and your best shot for accurate information is when you're actually there ;-)

  2. Infrastructure might get flooded. When it rains a lot in SE Asia, the Mekong river (which runs through Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) floods villages and roads making it hard or impossible for buses to come through.

    Traveling by bus in the rainy season

    Some countries have flood prevention measures that divert the water to other areas, but whether they're actually implementing it and if it's working is another story.

    Flooded road in Cambodia

    To paint you the picture; during the rainy season in 2011, Ayutthaya in Thailand was 3 meters below water.

    Thailand's flood defences under strain again

    South of Thailand welcomes 2012 with massive floods, landslides and mudslides

    India Floods 2012: Raging Waters Swamp Thousands Of Indian Villages, Killing 27

    Flood cuts off road between Luang Prabang and Vientiane

    14,000 flee Malaysia floods, Paya Peda dam wall broken


Before you set out for travel in the low/rainy season, stay updated on rainfall, typhoon and flood news.

I'm not meteorologist, but if we take a look at past flood events, many of them seem to occur from August to November. This coincide with the typhoon season in Southeast Asia, when tropical cyclones are forming between May and November.

Even if you want to save money and have the place to yourself, you should weigh this against best possible travel experiences. You've paid a great deal for your flight ticket, so it would be nice if you could actually get something out of your trip. And not explore various attractions in rainfall, mist and floods.

Is that worth the money saved?

Backpacking in flooded Asia is obviously not a good idea, so do some research before you decide.

A kid in Indonesia

Read more about:

Weather in Thailand

Indian Weather

Weather in Cambodia

Weather in Malaysia

Weather in Laos


Posted: Jan 28, 2013

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