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Traveling to India in the monsoons
Traveling to India in the monsoons

WHAT WEATHER CAN I EXPECT DURING THE MONSOON?

India has three climate seasons: Winter with pleasant temperatures and almost no precipitation from end of November to March, Summer months with a dry or humid heat depending on the region in April, May and October and November as well as the Monsoon, the rain season, from June to September.

Monsoon is a very exotic concept to those travelers coming from more moderate climate zones and arouse different associations – from constant drizzle to short but heavy rainfalls to tropical storms and gales. But India is a big country with multiple climate zones and therefore the monsoon can develop differently in various areas of India.

However, and we don’t want to butter it up, it does rain a lot…like A LOT. Not like British drizzle or the one shower for a couple of minutes you get in South-East Asia. It often rains for days and it rains heavily in the tropical areas of the west coast and in the north of India. The cities have an almost non-existent drainage system and the streets flood quickly. And on top of it there is the humidity, your constant travel companion. Clothes don’t dry for hours to days and the heat feels more discomforting.

In the mountains landslides aren’t uncommon. Transport, especially buses and trains can be delayed (but there are also late for the rest of the year!) and due to heavy fog and rains even air traffic can be disturbed. Almost all national parks in India are shut from June to beginning of October and tiger and other safaris won’t be possible.

WHY SHOULD I STILL TRAVEL IN INDIA IN THE RAIN SEASON?

But even though the weather can be sometimes quite unpleasant from June to September, there are benefits to this season. The nature comes to life, dry brown grasslands and forests become lush and green, the farmers welcome the season with full productivity and lakes and rivers as well as waterfalls fill up and become stronger than ever. This all is a pleasant sight in a country often struck by droughts in the recent past.

Many tourists avoid India in the monsoon which means that you have a lot of sights to yourself. That makes it easier to connect to locals and experience more authenticity. The typical tourist scams appear at a minimum and all together you just don’t feel like one in a thousand travelers while you stroll the lanes and monuments of ancient India.

Furthermore, it is the best time for budget-conscious backpackers who like to keep their expenses to a minimum but don’t want to miss out on some comfort. Many hotels offer their rooms for much less, often even for half the costs than in the main season. You can stay at boutique hotels or luxury resorts for low prices. A good accommodation is a must in the monsoon time as you might spend some time indoors when a particular strong downpour hits the city.

WHERE TO TRAVEL TO IN INDIA DURING THE MONSOON?

Technically you can travel anywhere as long as you are mentally prepared and pack the right clothes. However, some areas might be more enjoyable than others.

The monsoon hits the west coast of India the most. Therefore, Goa and Kerala face a lot of rain and humidity. We would recommend to avoid the coastlines. The beaches lose their charm and the strong currents make swimming even dangerous. The beach resorts and shacks close already in April and don’t open again until September or even October.

So it is the best time to hit the countryside and hill stations. As the nature and greenery is at full swing, it’s a great pleasure to walk through the lush hills and pass the freshly filled lakes and rivers and enjoy what makes the tropics to interesting and unique. Wayanad, Munnar and Thekkady are such places but also the Dudhsagar Waterfall Hike in Goa. Ooty in Tamil Nadu is very popular amongst domestic tourists to flee the heat of the cities.

If you want to escape the monsoon all together and enjoy stunning landscapes in the mountains, Ladakh might be the best destination for you. The state in the most northern part on India is flanked by the high mountain ranges of the Himalayas and the Karkokram mountain range.  The state offers breathtaking views and great opportunities for hikes. It’s also called the cold dessert for a reason as the precipitation is very low up here.  It’s ideal to go there between June and August, when the days are moderately warm and the night pleasantly cool.

Even though it can rain a lot in central India, i.e. in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and also Bihar and West Bengal, it might be a better time to visit than in April, May or October since the temperatures are lower, especially during overcast and cloudy weather.

The rocky surroundings of Hampi where you can explore ancient temple and palace ruins of an empire long gone, might be worth a visit as it can get very hot and dry in central India during the rest of the year. Combine it with a visit to Mysore and Wayanad. Find out more here.

Rajasthan faces less rain rainfalls every year and some rural parts don’t even get any rain at all, especially in the Thar desert. There are very unique and beautiful boutique and heritage hotels that lower their prices a lot during the rainy season. The south and east of Rajasthan becomes very green and lively. Hiking is definitely an attractive option.

From June to August you should avoid travelling to the footsteps of the Himalayas. Rishikesh, Dharamsala, Manali, Shimla and Kasol as well as Sikkim and Darjeeling face a lot of heavy rainfall and therefore even many landslides. Trekking is impossible and you would need to stay indoors most of the time – not how you would like to spend your time in India

In a nutshell in the south avoid the beaches and big cities and rather enjoy the countryside and hill stations, in the north travel to the high mountain ranges of the Himalayas in Ladakh or enjoy the lower temperatures in Rajasthan.

WHAT TO WEAR DURING THE MONSOON?

The most important thing to take care of in India in the rain season is the right footwear. Flip Flops aren’t the best option as you just flip the dirt against your legs while walking. But any sandals made of lasting rubber and with a back strap to hold the shoes to your feet are a good idea.

Some people enjoy gum boots but for others it might be too warm, not to mention the space they occupy in your luggage. So do invest some money in good quality rubber sandals or check the markets after arrival as the locals know best how to cope with the flooded streets.

A thin rain jacket with breathable material is essential as well as thin light clothes that dry quickly. Pack clothes that cover your skin entirely as the sun can be quite harsh when she shines through the clouds. Sometimes a rain jacket might feel to warm so also pack an umbrella.

Also important is a good mosquito protection spray because with the rain comes the higher chance to be infected with malaria or dengue. Also pack rain covers for your luggage as it can take hours to days to dry your stuff once it got wet in the rain.

SUMMARY

My PE teacher used to say ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only a bad choice of clothing and attitude’. Of course I didn’t agree with her while running 1000m in cold rains and heavy winds but she had a good point. It’s all about setting the right expectations and making the best of the situation.

The monsoon has disadvantages but also many benefits: the lush greenery, less tourist crowds and much lower accommodation and other service prices.

However, we can’t predict the weather and every monsoon is different. One year it could rain cats and dogs and in the next year India suffers from droughts. So do embrace whatever may come and make the best of it in India…someday!


Travelling to India during the off-season
Travelling to India during the off-season

Which months are off-season months in India?

The beginning of May until the end of September is considered off-season for tourism in India. The period is divided into two seasons weather-wise i.e. May to June—summer months and July to September—monsoon season.

May and June are relatively busy months for tourism in the Himalayas as schools are out for summer in India and a lot of families plan trips to hills to escape the heat.

What is travelling during off-season like?

If differs a little from region to region and depends on whether you plan to visit during the summer or the monsoon months.  Other than in the Himalayas, you can expect to see a lot less crowd and enjoy great discounts on accommodation.

Summer off-season months – Expect really hot weather. You must prepare yourself for the heat, travel slow and pick accommodation with air-conditioning.

Monsoon off-season months – July onward the heat gets more bearable, often the weather can be in the mid 20’s. However, depending on which region you plan to visit you will encounter at least a little rain, with heavy showers in several areas.

At India Someday, we strongly recommend tours to North India during the monsoons as the rains are light and the region does not receive prolonged spells of showers. All in all, you end up enjoying pleasant weather, light rains, green countryside, off-season discounts and see very few tourists.

Tips for travelling during off-season

  • May and June are the hot months. They’re better avoided unless you plan to spend time in the Himalayas. Despite the fact that it is holiday season for Indians and the Himalayas are popular you can still enjoy a great holiday in there during these months
  • July to September are the monsoon months. They are still considered off-season months for travelling in India. Kerala receives a lot of rain during these months  However, we believe it is a great time to tour North
  • Across India you will enjoy fabulous hotel deals. Expect budget hotels to be 30% cheaper and upper end hotels to be up to 50% cheaper.  India has an amazing collection of palace and boutique hotels, that suddenly become affordable during this
  • September marks the end of the off-season in India. It is increasingly considered as low-season, rather than off-season. While you might see a few more tourists, the monsoon showers have usually receded by then. The countryside is gorgeously green. We believe September is probably the best off-season month to visit India.