We want to go to Vietnam around July but have been told it's silly to go in the monsoon season. What's the temperature like in the various areas that time of year and how wet does it get? Is it really a bad idea?
Having been to 'Nam with Contiki for the first time last May, I found the weather to be very different depending on where you went in the country. Ho Chi Minh City was hot and humid - walking around for half an hour would leave you drenched in sweat. By the time our group arrived in Hanoi, the cooler weather was a real relief. When I was doing some research before my trip, most advice said the climates are so varied from the north to the south that there's no way to be assured of perfect weather the whole time.
Contiki actually have nine departures during July, so it obviously can't be too bad! I asked my contacts at Adventure World for a few more tips - here's what they had to say:
"Travelling during the 'low' season can offer one of the best experiences for a visit to Vietnam. Water levels are high, there are far fewer crowds at the temples and sights, and the countryside outside the main cities is lush and green. Central Vietnam has plenty of sunshine and little rain in July, so places such as Dalat, Nha Trang, Quy Nhon, Hoi An and Hue are great to visit during this season; the central beaches still promise sunshine.
"There may be occasional heavy rains in the north and south of the country but they shouldn't last too long nor impact your enjoyment of Vietnam. In fact, the bursts of rain are often a welcome break from the heat. Adventure World offers reduced prices on travel during the low season, offering you far better value for money, and they can customise your trip to make the most of the 'green season'."
The central part of the country was actually my favourite part of the trip - much more so than the big cities, which were pretty hectic. Nha Trang is a great little beach resort town with a surreal twist - it's extremely popular with Russians. You'll almost see more Russians than Vietnamese people and a lot of the signage includes Russian translations.
Plus there's a very kitschy and cool gondola, held together by miniature Eiffel Towers - it wasn't something I got a chance to try, but I definitely would if I went back.
Hoi An, was another of my favourites - in fact it seems like everyone's favourite. There are all sorts of beautiful fabrics on display and you can get practically anything tailored for extremely reasonable prices. And be sure to try their local noodle speciality, Cao Lau.
Hue is also a very interesting, historic city, once the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802-1945. The Forbidden City is a fascinating place to walk around. The Thien Mu Pagoda, or the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady, is also a must-see. It's the tallest religious building in the country and an icon of Hue. Back in 1963 it was also a hotbed of anti-government protest, due to discrimination against Buddhists at the time by President Ngo Dinh Diem. Also on display in the area is an Austin Westminster car, driven by Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc from Hue to Saigon, where he set himself on fire in protest.
Vietnam is a rewarding place to visit, but the darker elements of the history can be challenging at times, so it's best to be prepared for it.
Overall, it sounds like a low season trip is well worth it - don't let a bit of rain bother you.