July is almost mid-way into the summer monsoon and typhoon season, but there are still significant regional variations.
Northern Vietnam receives its bulk of heavy rains in July and August, and hiking is off the cards as rain soaks the mountains. Temperatures in Northern Vietnam remain at their peak this month at a sultry and very humid 85°F (29°C) average in Hanoi, and Halong Bay is prone to receive storms. Mosquitoes are also at their peak—bring plenty of insect repellent, plus rain-gear.
The beaches and coastal lowlands of Central Vietnam are still in a rain shadow that will last through August, promising plenty of dry weather and sunshine. Temperatures peak this month (averaging about 88°F/31°C in Hue—the warmest part of the country), and rains are usually limited to intermittent showers.
If you’re chasing the sun, bring lots of sunscreen and be prepared for crowded beaches, particularly on the weekends, as July is in the heart of domestic high season travel, when Vietnamese families take their summer vacations. The summer monsoons drop plenty of rain on the Central Highlands, however, so July is not a good month for trekking.
In the south, July is one of the wettest months in Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, with daily downpours. These are typically in the afternoon, and you can still expect plenty of sunny and dry daylight hours. After really heavy downpours and prolonged week-long rains, you'll probably experience some flooding in Ho Chi Minh City, while the South China Sea can be rough, and transportation delays are likely (it’s wise to have a backup plan in mind in the event that “rain stops play”).
However, the clouds and monsoon rains help cool things off, with the average temperature dipping in July to around 80°F (27°C), but highs can still regularly climb into the 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Crowds & Costs
July sees an uptick in international visitors, although overall numbers are still relatively low. However, prices for accommodations and tourist services remain high due to domestic demand—this is the summer high season, when families flock to the beaches and most popular tourist sites. If you’re planning a beach vacation, note that popular beach resorts such as Nha Trang and Phu Quoc, plus the most popular tourist destinations such as Halong Bay, get crowded. You’ll need to book your accommodations early. And don’t expect any bargains—prices are at a premium in summer at the main tourist venues. The exception is the major cities, where prices can be among the lowest of the year (for example, July is the cheapest month of the year in Ho Chi Minh City).
Where to Go
Summer spells beach time. And with more than 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of coastline, Vietnam offers a potpourri of sensational beaches. Unless you’re unfazed by heavy rainfall, focus your beach vacation on Central Vietnam: the only part of the country with more-or-less guaranteed sunny days and blue skies in July. So, pack your towel and sunscreen and head to the beaches of Hoi An, Danang, Nha Trang, or Phu Quoc.
Since nearby Hue and Hoi An also enjoy good weather at this time of year, throw a little cultural exploration into the mix. Each is a UNESCO World Heritage Site city full of antiquities and fabulous architecture. Don’t fail to visit Hoi An’s Lantern Market.
For a fascinating insight into what the “American War” (what locals call the Vietnam War) meant for Vietnamese families, head to the former DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) to explore the Vinh Moc underground tunnels, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Hue. This vast labyrinthine is the remains of a coastal village whose 50 or so families went underground to survive prolonged U.S. bombing. Visit the museum, then hire a guide to lead you through the civilian complex, which is kept in its original form.
Ride the “Reunification Express” and discover the very beauty of Vietnam on a uniquely evocative and memorable journey. You can as short or as long a journey as you desire along a 1,000-mile (1,700 km) rail system that follows the coast from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and the Chinese border. Started by the French in 1899, it took four decades to complete; was out of service during Vietnam’s war years; and was thereafter restored. Savor quintessential Vietnamese landscapes, and the chance for hop-on/hop-off exploration at such popular sites as Hue, Da Nang, and the beach resort of Nha Trang. Best yet, it’s a great way to immerse yourself with locals and learn the local language, especially on the overnight sleeper compartments.
What to Do
Take advantage of coastal Central Vietnam’s uniquely sunny summer days by bicycling along the stunning shoreline from Hue to Nha Trang. The region offers a wealth of sights, from its iconic coconut-palm framed white-sand beaches and the emerald South China Sea dotted with sampans and junks, to Buddhist temples, gothic-style Catholic churches, tribal villages, and mountains tiered with rice paddies.
If cycling seems too tame (or too much effort in the summer heat), zip around Hue or Hoi An and the surrounding countryside on a Vespa. There’s no better way to interact with locals as you explore tribal villages, gasp at the stunning landscapes, and discover the vibrant markets and mesmerizing antiquity of pagodas and Imperial palaces.
Karst limestone formations offer terrific options for active adventure. So, head to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park to pick from a smorgasbord that includes caving, climbing, forest hiking, mountain–biking, or even kayaking the underground rivers. Three or four days is not too much to exhaust the possibilities of this geologists’ and speleologists’ Nirvana.
Tra Co Festival. Held in late July in the seaside city of Mong Cai, this week-long feudal-era festival commemorates the spiritual guardian of the community. A colorful procession to the beach is followed by traditional games and celebrations.
Traveling to Vietnam in July? Check out these great itineraries
Cycling Vietnam’s Highlands & Coast – 6 days. Take advantage of July’s dry sunny weather as you wheel through pine forests and past coffee plantations then head along the picturesque coast to Hoi An.
Head Off the Beaten Path in Vietnam - 7 Days. The Vinh Moc Tunnels are a highlight of this week-long exploration of lesser-known, yet fascinating, sights.