Cambodia Weather & Climate

Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia in the tropical zone, just 10-13 degrees north off the equator. Like most of Southeast Asia, Cambodia is warm to hot year round and the climate is dominated by the annual monsoon cycle with its alternating wet and dry seasons. The monsoon cycle is driven by cyclic air pressure changes over central Asia. As the pressure drops during the summer months (June through October), moist air is drawn landward from the ocean bringing the southwest monsoon rains to Cambodia and much of Southeast Asia. Come the winter months (November through May), the air pressure over central Asia rises, driving cool dry air back across Southeast Asia and bringing on a largely rainless dry season to Cambodia. The mean daily temperature also rises and falls with the winter and summer months, but not exactly in time with the wet and dry season, effectively creating four annual seasons in Cambodia.

 

West season in Cambodia (May to October)

The hot and west season of Cambodia usually comes courtesy of the southwest monsoon, which blows from May to October, bringing with it some three-quarters of Cambodia's annual rainfall. Not surprisingly, wet season is characterized by rain, and during the peak of wet season from July to September it can rain every day. Rainy days however tend to have a few hours of heavy rain rather than being all-day downpours, though the latter do sometimes occur -- you will get wet travelling in a Cambodian wet season.

Aside from getting drenched, the main disadvantage of travelling in wet season in Cambodia relates to flooding and degraded road conditions. The bulk of roads in Cambodia are dirt and in wet season they turn to heavily rutted and pot-holed mud pits. Travelling in rural areas, particularly the north and northeast of the country can be slowed considerably. You will still be able to go just about anywhere, it will just take longer.

A secondary problem is bridges being out, but this is becoming less of an issue as the quality of bridgework is improving. Cambodia's arterial routes -- namely Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh to Battambang and Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville -- are all-weather, sealed affairs and far less of a problem than the unsealed roads.

 

Dry season in Cambodia (November to April)

The dry and cool season in Cambodia starts from mid-October to April, when the dusty northeast monsoon arrives. Blowing like a hair-dryer set to high, the northeast monsoon dries out the country fast. While November and January are quite cool (high C20s) by April, the weather is scorching and oh-so-dry it will take your breath away. Characterized by heat and dust, this season coincides with Cambodia's peak tourist season -- travelers arrive in their droves between November and January to take advantage of the lack of rain and relative cool. By March, travelling can be uncomfortable and hot, while April can be excruciating.

As the country dries out, badly rutted roads get graded and trip times improve dramatically, though they get incredibly dusty. Cambodia's beach strips at Kep, Sihanoukville and Ko Kong bask in brilliant sunshine with clear calm waters -- if you're a beach bum, dry season is the season for you.

 

Rainy time in Cambodia

During the rainy season the temples of Angkor are at their most beautiful and most photogenic. The reflecting pools and moats are full, the vegetation is deep green and the wet stone of the temples is at its most colorful. Also of photographic note, the rain-washed air of the wet season is particularly clear as compared to the hazy, smoky skies of the dry season, making those long shots of the temples and rice paddies that much clearer. (If you always wanted that shot of from the top of Phnom Bakheng of the distant Angkor Wat in the jungle illuminated the light of sunset, this is the best time of year to bring your 400mm lens and give it a try.) Outside the cities, the rice paddies are full of water and green with new rice, the jungle is lush and the countryside is picturesque and alive with growing season activity. The river and lake levels are high making boat travel easy. (It's the best time of year to take the boat from Siem Reap to Battambang, reputedly one of the most picturesque boat trips in Cambodia.)

The temples are less crowded, prices are lower and the bars and restaurants are all happy to see you. And, practically speaking, it does not rain all of the time or even every day during the rainy season. When it does rain it usually starts around 2:00PM or 3:00PM and lasts a couple of hours, making it easy to plan around in most cases. Toward the beginning and the end of the season the rains occur with far less frequency.

 

Best time to visit Cambodia

The best time to visit Cambodia depends on the heat, rainfall and number of tourists. Most travelers visit Cambodia from November to March. If you prefer to dodge the crowds and go when prices are lower, the best time to visit Cambodia is from May to early October.

Cambodia is warm year-round with temperatures rarely dipping below 68°F (20°C), wherever you go. Seasons are broken into wet and dry season. Wet season, from May to October, is usually marked by a brief downpour in the afternoon. This rarely affects travel plans and still includes many hours of bright sunshine. It is known locally as green season as the countryside springs to life. Travel in the dry season, from November to March, is marked by hot dry days. Here is our detailed guide on what to expect, where and when.

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