Situated just 10 degrees north of the equator, Saigon is firmly in the tropics and as such the weather is hot and humid. Unlike Hanoi over 1,700kms further north, it does not experience four seasons – just a rainy season (from about May to November) and a dry season (from around December to April).
The temperature hardly varies throughout the year, with maximum figures of around 32°C and minimums of around 22°C. December is usually the coolest month, while May is the hottest and best avoided unless you are comfortable with the tropics at their most brutal.
Because of the slightly cooler weather and lack of rain, the months of December and January constitute the high season for tourism in Saigon. At this time of year it can be difficult to find a room and many hotels and guesthouses hike their rates by 30-50 per cent.
However, since there is so little variation in temperatures throughout the year, and tropical rain is often limited to a short, sharp downpour each day, there’s no real problem about visiting at any time of year, and when occupancy rates are down, most lodgings will drop their rates.
Relative humidity in Saigon hovers around 80 per cent for most of the year, and while not as extreme as some places, when combined with the heat it can drain your energy very quickly, especially if you are not used to the tropics.
The implications for spending your time in Saigon should be evident – don’t try to fit too much into one day. Some of the city’s sights are far from the centre and can take a long time to reach, especially given the clogged-up nature of the city’s streets.
Other precautions for Saigon’s climate include wearing a hat to protect your head and neck from the fierce midday sun, and applying sunscreen to exposed parts of your body. An umbrella is essential in the rainy season, as you never know when you might get drenched.