There’s a storm out there: Avoiding inclement weather during your travels

“I advise you go to Halong Bay now before the next typhoon. There was one last week and there may be another again soon.” 

This isn’t the kind of travel advice you expect in a travel agency in Hanoi when all you really know about beautiful Ha Long Bay on Vietnam’s north east coast are the idyllic blue skies and limestone islets featured in magazine pictures. But this part of Vietnam can experience several typhoons a year – time it wrong and you may find your holiday blown away in water and wind.

It’s not the only part of the Asia-Pacific that suffers inclement weather. While some storms, floods, avalanches and other weather related phenomena is unpredictable, there are also times of year when they are more expected, and perhaps travel during this time should be rescheduled or handled with care. It’s also good to remember locals will still be there trying to pick up the pieces long after you’ve jetted home. Here’s a look at a few areas in the Asia-Pacific where you can expect inclement weather at certain times of year.

Australia – cyclones, flooding and bushfires

During Australia’s wet season some roads turn to mud and sludge, or may be closed altogether. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

In Australia if there isn’t an ant biting you, a snake wriggling by or a crocodile lurking in the river, then there’s bound to be some bad weather somewhere. This is a country of extremes, and some dangers, and you will experience cyclones, monsoonal storms, flooding or bushfires should you hang around long enough. Dust storms also occur in desert areas. The summer season is the most likely time for all of these weather events, with flooding and cyclones more prevalent in the north, when it is not uncommon for roads to be cut for weeks at a time, while bushfires tend to be more severe in the drier forests and woodlands of southern states. All states have websites that list weather conditions and any warnings or closures on roads (driving on closed roads can attract heavy fines); www.dpti.sa.gov.au and www.rms.nsw.gov.au are just two examples of these. The good thing about travel in Australia is that it’s big and you can avoid seasonal inclement weather if you research and plan ahead – for example don’t plan a big road trip during the wet summer season up north as there is a high chance you may find yourself stranded somewhere. Australian media and authorities also do a good job of keeping people informed – so tune in to bulletins to keep up to date.

Vietnam – typhoons and flooding

Cycling on Hoi An’s flooded streets. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

Vietnam experiences two monsoons – the southwest from April to September and the northeast from October to March/April. That doesn’t mean it rains all the time though, but you may like to plan accordingly. Weather isn’t the same across the country so if you divide the country into three regions – north, centre, and south – you’ll always find one that suits your plans. The north can be very cold from November to March and hot and humid from April to October. The wettest months up here are generally July and August (trekking isn’t fun in this kind of rain) and the driest December and January when it is rather frosty. The central region is more shielded from the rains and drier than most areas from April to September. But from September to December it does get a lot of rain. Storms and typhoons can lash areas such as Ha Long Bay (normally August-September and sometimes into October), Hoi An and Hue. Hoi An floods regularly, usually in October and November, and you may find boats replace bicycles and cars as the preferred means for getting around in town. But further south in coastal regions such as Nha Trang and Mui Ne this season is relatively calm and pleasant. In the south June and July are very wet and flooding is common in Ho Chi Minh City with rough seas and generally poor weather. April to September is hot and humid in this region, particularly in the Mekong Delta.

Nepal – avalanches and snowstorms

Trekkers heading up to Annapurna Base Camp. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

The snowstorms and avalanches that occurred in the Annapurna region in October 2014 that left at least 41 people dead were the worst storms in a decade, dumping 1.8 metres of snow in 12 hours. While storms do occur in this region, October is still peak trekking season well before the onset of winter when such storms may be more common. September through to November and March to June are normally the best months to trek in the high Himalayan country, with trails still clear, the weather more bearable (i.e not freezing) and the skies clear. After June it is very wet with leeches on the trail, while the peak of winter is very cold and the passes can be closed. However for anyone climbing into high altitudes or near snow mountains, the dangers of walking are real and should be planned for. Going with a guide may be the best option for those inexperienced in this kind of terrain.

India – monsoons and flooding

Scenes like this in Goa are not possible during the monsoon season when the coast is lashed by wind and rain. This photo was taken during the pleasant winter months. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

The monsoonal rains have a huge impact on India and are enormously important for agriculture. Remember that when they are playing havoc with your travel itinerary! Most visitors to India choose to avoid the monsoon period (June-October) as not only does it bring very wet weather, but the chance of flooding is very high and streets in the cities can become awash with all manner of rubbish and other unsanitary items. In beach areas like Goa and Kerala most businesses pack up altogether during monsoon and you will not only find unpleasant beaches but far fewer services. The build up to the monsoon can be equally unpleasant with intense heat affecting much of the country, particularly the plains, in the leadup to the rains. However the far and isolated northern region of Ladakh does not experience monsoon, making it a fantastic destination at this time of year. Summer temperatures make the high altitude region more bearable and indeed some of the mountain passes are only open in these months.

 There are many other regions in the Asia-Pacific that experience inclement weather. Feel free to add these in the comments box below.