This post is also available in: French
Sometimes, you don’t have a choice. You can’t choose your vacation time. That’s the case for me. Like most French companies, the company I work for closes for three weeks during August and all employees are required to take their vacation time during this period. No exceptions.
That’s not a reason to waste your hard-earned vacation days and stay at your apartment. So every year I travel during 3 to 4 weeks during August and in 2014, I made it to India.
But wait, isn’t August the monsoon season in all Asia ? Yes indeed, it is. But that shouldn’t stop you from travelling to your dream destination. Below are the pros and cons of travelling to India during monsoon season. Let’s see if you change your mind after that !
Pros of visiting India during monsoon
1. Less Crowded
India is a
big huge country and its population reaches 1.2 billion people (2013). So it’s a very crowded country. Add to that 6.5 million foreign tourists from all around the world who visit India each year (source) and that’s a hella a lot of people.
Visiting India during the monsoon season, June to September, offers quite an advantage: there are less tourists, main attractions are less crowded. During my month in India, I have never ever queued for an attraction except for the security check at the Taj Mahal, even at 6 am. Otherwise, anywhere else in India, I can assure you, you will not queue anywhere, not even in Delhi, the capital city. Once on the attraction site, you will be able to walk freely without stepping foot on other people and be able to stay as long as you want.
2. Cheaper accommodation, no booking required
Monsoon being the low season in India, you will be able to have cheaper accommodation than during the high tourist season (December to March). Even better, there is no need to book your hotels in advance, which give you the freedom to change your itinerary at the last minute or stay longer at a place if you wish.
At this period of the year, you are in a position of power, you have the choice. Hotel owners will do anything for you to choose their hotel over the neighbor’s one. So take your time and visit several hotels before making your final choice, visit the rooms. To make sure you don’t get cheated, ask to see a standard room and a deluxe room and then see for yourself if the price difference between the two rooms are worth it or not.
3. It doesn’t rain that often actually
Do not be put off by the monsoon season and do not cancel your trip just because of that. To be honest, during the month I stayed in North India, in August 2014, it rained only twice. When I was in Amritsar, the word “monsoon” took all its sense. Read point 2 of the cons of visiting India during monsoon to see what I mean. The second time we had rain was in Khajuraho. It was pretty light and lasted only 20 minutes. By the time we visited the free Adivart Tribal & Folk Art Museum, it was all over and we were able to visit the famous erotic temples under a bright sky.
So yes, during monsoon, you may witness heavy rains and you may be stuck for several hours in a place before being able to move to the next. However, it doesn’t happen every day and you should know the heavy downpours last at the maximum 2 hours.
4. It’s actually the perfect season in some regions
Yes Monsoon can be the perfect season for you, depending on what you are looking for and what activity you wish to do.
For example, it is highly recommended to choose August for a Trek to Ladakh. From July to September, roads are accessible and you will enjoy great temperatures while hiking the famous Himalayas.
Another great region during summer is Rajasthan. Most of Rajasthan is composed of arid areas. Therefore, you will rarely have any rain during your stay in Rajasthan. At least, we didn’t while we were in Rajasthan.
Finally, for all nature lovers and breath-taking landscape seekers, monsoon is the best season to go as you will see stunning waterfalls with a powerful flow and the vibrant green jungles will show you their best colors at this time of the year.
Surely, you do not want to see the Raneh Falls near Khajuraho like this on the left (source). Instead, come during monsoon. Witness the power of the elements and take in this stunning view.
Cons of visiting India during monsoon
1. Not the cheapest airfares
I paid around 600€ for a round trip ticket from France to India. I think you can get plane tickets for 450-500€ if you travel during the high season as there are more connections to your destination. But still, if you can’t choose your vacation date (because of your company policy), start checking ticket prices three months before departure and you should be able to get an affordable price.
For the month of August, I found Swiss Air was the cheapest for the way in and Lufthansa for the way back. But prices vary a lot depending on the date.
2. When it rains, it rains A LOT
Once in Amritsar, I was visiting the very peaceful Golden Temple. It was a bright and sunny day and we were walking barefoot around the Temple on the hot marble floor. We enjoyed it to its maximum until the blue sky started to turn grey and it suddenly started raining heavily. I mean really heavy. It lasted non-stop for around one hour. We took refuge with other people under some sheltered stairs and waited and waited… Puddles were formed at some places due to the floor not being perfectly straight. Kids were running and sliding all the way down to the water puddles. They were completely wet, from head to toe, but they were having so much fun.
Once the rain shower stopped, we ran to the bus station to go back to our hotel. By the bus window, I could see the damage the rain had done to the town. Scooters and motorbikes were literally floating and local shops were completely flooded. People were emptying their shops with a bucket or at the very least a bowl.
In the picture below, the entrance of our hotel in Amritsar. We had water up to mid-calves and had to walk back barefooted.
This rain shower cost us the Wagah border ceremony (Pakistan/India border). The unpredictable weather made us decide not to go but we do not regret going all the way to Amritsar to see the splendors of this city and feel the incredible Sikh atmosphere.
3. National Parks are closed
National Parks and Nature reserves are open from October to June in India. They all close during monsoon season, even if it is a pretty dry year, like when I was there. This means, no tiger safari for you. This would be my only regret of my trip to India. Even if there is no guaranty to spot a tiger during a 3-day safari, I would have loved to take my chances. Maybe another time.
So you see, travelling in India during monsoon season isn’t so bad. It gives you maximum flexibility on your itinerary but also the best prices with minimum inconvenience. It will not rain every day, I promise.
What about you ? Would you travel to India during monsoon or would you postpone your trip ? Have you ever travelled in a country during monsoon ? If yes, do you have a different experience than mine ? Please share your monsoon experiences in the comments section for other travelers to make up their minds.