Hear me out: I’m in favour of travelling during monsoon season.
Many a hapless traveller has found themselves inadvertently caught amid a sudden downpour at some point along their journey. Soaked through, grumpy, probably muttering something along the lines of ‘if I wanted rain, I would have just stayed in England…’
It’s a pain, but it’s usually over quickly. You can head back to your hostel, dry off, get clean and laugh it off.
Am I mad, then, for putting forward the controversial viewpoint that monsoon season is actually a great time to travel? The season in which the above scenario isn’t just a freak occurrence, but rather a common one?
But I have my reasons. You can decide for yourself whether you agree!
Why you should travel in monsoon season
It doesn’t always rain
I’ll start with an obvious point: just because it’s monsoon season, doesn’t mean you will be faced with rain all day every day. In fact, I spent two months travelling around Indonesia and Malaysia during their monsoon, and very few days fitted that description.
What usually happens is bright sunshine (and maybe some intense humidity) for most of the day, and then a few hours of solid, pounding rain in the afternoon or evening. This is totally manageable.
It’s the best motivation to get up early and get out there
There’s nothing like the thought of looming grey thunderclouds to motivate you to get out of bed and get your sightseeing done before the monsoon rain hits.
Too often backpacking involves a constant cycle of staying out late and sleeping in, so it’s nice to have the thought of torrential rain to give you a boot up the arse to throw back those covers and go explore for a change.
And it’s a great excuse for chilling out in the evening
I find that it’s sometimes hard, when travelling, to allow yourself any time for just chilling out. You always feel like there’s something you should be doing, every minute of the day.
But when it’s tipping it down outside, you’ve just got to accept it and relax. Read a book, sit in a nice café, or chat to people in your hostel. Maybe even go to the cinema…
And you don’t even have to feel guilty, because there’s not much point going out for a hike in the pouring rain.
The crowds thin out to the point of nonexistence
The trouble with travelling well-trodden paths is the fact that there is almost always a hundred other people to compete with for the perfect photo, a seat in the famous restaurant, or the best spot on the beach.
But if you’re travelling in monsoon, you probably won’t have to worry about it. Only the most determined travellers (or maybe the least organised and most unaware of weather patterns) will be beating the trail at this time of year. You won’t have to book ahead, you’ll get whole dorms to yourself, and you won’t have to stand on tiptoes to see over people’s heads for the best view.
It makes some of the natural attractions way more impressive
I admit that it’s not necessarily what you want to hear when the weather forecast is for like, several metres of rain over the next few days, but waterfalls are way better after a bit of precipitation. It may not be a deciding factor in your trip, but it might at least be a source of optimism when you’re shivering in a tent with news of a shitty weather front for the next few days.
Low season means low prices
Tourism is a very seasonal industry, and this is reflected in the prices you pay. High season can see them soar, but in low season people want to incentivise visitors – and one way they do this is by reducing their prices.
If that’s not enough to persuade a budget backpacker that this is a good idea, then I don’t know what is.
It teaches you an important life lesson: screw the weather
If there’s one thing that travelling in monsoon season teaches you, it’s that you have to take what life throws at you, and do things anyway. And also that you should buy a poncho, because there ain’t nothing else that will do a good job of keeping you and your stuff dry. And also that you should always take said poncho with you, because even the sunniest of skies can swiftly turn nasty.
But seriously, too often in life we make up excuses for why we can’t do things. But I think it’s important, once in a while, to stop relying on perfect conditions. To get outside in spite of the potential discomfort. To dance in the rain, instead of shying away from it.
I get it, rain isn’t always fun. Especially when it’s the kind of rain that can cause devastating floods and wash houses away (I don’t want to diminish the seriousness of these possibilities).
But as long as you keep an eye on the news, and the weather patterns of the places that you’re visiting, travelling in monsoon can be pretty awesome. The last two months of my trip – through Java, Sumatra and Borneo – were some of the best months of travel I’ve ever had.
The rain affected me little, partly because we got lucky and avoided it, but partly because we just carried on regardless. And the returns you can get for travelling off-season are fantastic. Guesthouses to yourself, no wading through tourist masses, and having people be genuinely happy to have your custom, in an otherwise quiet time of year.
Travel in monsoon. You should really try it sometime.