How many of us create their travel itineraries to avoid the off-seasons? I know I’m guilty of it and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
While the idea of a raincoat and umbrella over a sun bed and Pina Colada might not seem too enticing, it seems we may be too quick to paint a picture of what we perceive the off-season to be rather than acknowledge what benefits the off-season might actually provide us.
Travellers share their experiences on why the off-season can reap more benefits than you may think.
Nepal during the cold winter months
I am a passionate off-season traveller. In Nepal, the so-called “off-season” starts in November and ends in February. It is off-season not because it is rainy or hot, but because it is cold. While I was there in November/December other travellers were leaving the country, like running for their lives. They went to warm and moderate tempered countries like Thailand, Indonesia or the Philippines. Only a small group of tough long-term travellers stayed, which immediately created a deep insightfully connection between them. Still, one and a half years later I am in contact with those people on a regular basis – although we meet only for a few days.
In off-season it is still possible to do most of the famous treks, although you have to pay careful attention to the weather situation and the environmental circumstances (something a responsible hiker always takes into consideration when planning his trek.) Of course you need good equipment such as high quality clothes for cold temperatures, a good sleeping bag and walking shoes. Hostels on your way will welcome you warmly without any reservation in advance. You easily get in touch with the locals and, beyond that, even benefit from discounts for your accommodation (30-50% less than in high season). During my treks in off-season I have been many times the only traveller around. I sat with the families and friends around a fire in their home, eating and talking about anything. I experienced a lot of “once in a lifetime” experiences, which would not have happened if I was there in high season.
– Teresa from Travel Woman
Indonesia during the rainy season
Rainy season in Indonesia usually lasts up to 6 months (from November to April with most of the rain falling during December to February), but in each island the rainy season duration or rain amount can be different. For example, from my experience, in Yogyakarta (Java island) there are weeks when it rains non-stop but in Bali island only a couple of hours per day, mainly at night. However rainy season shouldn’t stop you from exploring amazing Indonesia, because during this period there will be less people and you can save some money.
If you prepare yourself before traveling during the rainy season you can enjoy the trip the same as you would during the dry season. Take with you plastic bags to protect your clothes, electronic devices from humidity. Take or, even better buy in Indonesia, strong repellents from mosquitos and, if you can, drink more guava juice (“Jambu” in Indonesian language) – it will make your immunity to mosquitos stronger. Also buy a raincoat in Indonesia and remember to bring shoes that won’t moisten. If you do plan to stay longer in Indonesia during rainy season, here are some tips on how to prepare yourself.
– Ria from Life in Big Tent
Santorini, Greece in early Spring
Santorini is one of the most touristy places in the world. Every day during the summer months, thousands of visitors flock to this small island in the Aegean Sea, vastly swelling its population and filling the small streets with tourists. Indeed, during the peak season, it can be difficult to walk around in Fira or Oia without bumping into someone. That’s why I always recommend visiting Santorini during the off-season.
I went there in early spring, and there was almost nobody. I could take pictures after pictures without worrying about photobombers. I could stay as long as I wanted on the trail to Skaros Rock without being told I was blocking the view. Of course, it also meant that most of the stores were closed, and buses between towns were not as frequent, but I would take those disadvantages any day. If you want the view without the crowd, definitely visit Santorini during the off-season.
– Aleah from Solitary Wanderer
Koh Lipe, Thailand post the high season rush
Koh Lipe, Thailand’s high season starts as soon as Thai Immigrations post officers at the island’s check in point. This coincides with marine conditions being favorable for ferry services to run safely from Phuket as well as Langkawi, Malaysia. But post high season, it may appear as if everyone has closed up shop and left (including immigrations). Most ferry services stop and many island businesses do shut their doors.
But unbeknown to many travelers, Koh Lipe is actually open for business year round. Many businesses will indeed close their shops and take a post high season hiatus but for some it is just a month or two and for others it may be until the next ‘high season’ begins. But ferry services from Pak Bara, in Satun province, are year round and I have found not only excellent hotel rates during Koh Lipe’s off-season, but also enough shops, eateries and services to cover my needs. Without the high season tourist traffic, I have also found the pristine white sand beaches almost all to myself. And even during the monsoon ‘off season’ gorgeous sunny days can still prevail.
– Vanessa from The Island Drum
Kalahari region, Botswana in rainy February
I was doing some research in Namibia this past spring, and even though February is the off-season for safari in southern Africa I couldn’t bear to fly all the way to Africa without trying to see some wildlife. So I took a safari in the Kalahari region (Nxai Pan and Central Kalahari Reserve) of Botswana with low expectations, as everything I read said wildlife was scarce at this time.
If for no other reason, I’m glad I went because I would never have realized otherwise how amazingly green, lush and beautiful the Kalahari desert is during the rainy season! Another great benefit, the pleasure of which really can’t be overstated, was so few tourists … most of the time when we did see wildlife, we were the single vehicle to be stopped watching it — just me and my guide and the animals. But even better, I had some amazing close-encounters with a variety of wildlife. This was my fourth African safari and it was the closest I’d ever gotten to lions, cheetahs and elephants. Exhilarating! I’m so glad I didn’t let everyone who said February was a terrible time to go persuade me not to.
– Shara from SKJ Travel
Tokyo, Japan before the cherry blossoms
I went to Japan (just Tokyo) during the off-season in March. In Japan viewing the cherry blossoms is a big thing to do (they have forecasts about it and everything). Prime cherry blossom season wasn’t scheduled to get underway in Tokyo until late March/early April , and since I was there in early March it was still the off-season. I did luck out and got to see a few cherry blossoms when I was in Ueno Park though.
The biggest benefit to traveling in the off-season is lower prices. I stayed at guesthouse (private room) in Asakusa for about $28US/night. There are crowds in Tokyo depending on where you go, but there are also enough spots in the city that are pretty quiet during March. The weather was rather cool and rainy while I was there, but that was just my random luck (it got nice and sunny right after I left). There are however, enough indoor attractions to enjoy in Tokyo if it gets cold, and even going to a store or checking out a pachinko parlour became a fun adventure. The rain was also a good excuse to go to a restaurant and find a delicious bowl of ramen to help me warm up. While I’d love to see Tokyo in the summer I wouldn’t hesitate to go back in the off-season again.
– Alouise from Take Me to the World
Thailand all-round during the “rainy” season
Thailand’s off-season really isn’t that bad. You get the discounts and lower prices at hotels (though not restaurants or attractions), and the weather’s typically pretty good all year-round. The shoulder season runs from April to June and September to October, and the country is easy to visit almost any time of the year. Do note that while Bangkok remains the hottest city in the world when you average the high and low temperatures year-round, it can get chilly in a northern Thailand evening from December to mid-March.
Yes, you may get some rain during the rainy season, which officially lasts from July to October. It’s almost never a full day of rain that keeps you indoors at all times – more likely, it might look cloudy and grey for part of the day or actually rain for an hour or two. Stay flexible and have some ideas for indoorsy stuff to do. While they’re not the first place I’d go, the malls are fair places to escape the rain (or heat), while the ubiquitous 7-11’s are great for a short break.
– Chris from One Weird Globe
Tiger Leaping Gorge, China in frosty March
We crossed into the Yunnan province at the beginning of March, with winter still raging in many of the mountains. Our goal was to trek the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge over the course of three days. When we arrived the weather was freezing and ice was on the ground, but that meant most of the usual tourists were nowhere to be found.
Over the next few days we hiked along the gorgeous cliffs next to the Yangtze River. We saw hardly anyone, which we realised was really hard on the locals who live in the gorge. We made it a priority to buy something from as many of the guesthouses and restaurants as possible, as a lot of the residents struggle during the winter. Besides the sensational views it was incredibly rewarding to be able to help those people who don’t have much of an income when many of the tourists stay away.
– Alesha and Jarryd from NOMADasaurus
Travelling in the off-season can surely be rewarding, if not only for ourselves but for the local people who are affected the most when tourism dies down and they are left to wait until it peaks again. Next time you plan your travels perhaps the off-season is the way to go. We think Botswana is looking very enticing….
Do you have an off-season story to share? If so please send through to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will feature you in the series.