Called the “rice bowl” of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is an evergreen region of endless rice paddies, fruit gardens, and fish-flocked rivers. There are uncountable places to explore and discover when you decide to plan a trip to visit this paradise. But halt! There are things that you should know before your visit. Give this article a read to equip yourself with everything there is know before you embark.
The Mekong Delta is famous for its paradisal setting of water living and greenery: floating markets with tropical fruit bonanza, storks flying over endless rice paddies, and mouth-watering cuisine from freshly caught and harvested ingredients. It is a harmonized world of beautiful climate, picturesque sights and the hospitable locals, for which the Mekong Delta should always be on the top of your bucket list if you travel to Vietnam for the first time.
But before anything else, good preparation is the key to a successful and unforgettable traveling experience. Therefore, I am happy to share with you some tips that everybody wishes to know before traveling to the Mekong Delta.
Mekong Delta Debrief
The Mekong Delta is Ho Chi Minh City’s (or Saigon)’s backyard, literally, it is right next to the city to the south-west. The Mekong Delta is so huge that it takes up two thirds of the whole southern region of Vietnam, so you cannot fully explore the delta in just a day. Worry not, Eleanor will show you how to ride to and around the Mekong Delta with her comprehensive guide. And not to mention the amazing five-star Onetrip’s Mekong Delta Adventure that will get you the most out of your dispensable time in the area, either just a day or two.
The area consists of one municipality (first class city) – Can Tho – and 12 provinces: Long An, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Vinh Long, Tra Vinh, Dong Thap, Hau Giang, Soc Trang, An Giang, Kien Giang, Bac Lieu, and Ca Mau. Each of these cities boasts its own unique experiences that will make you wish that you can visit them all, especially the diversified cuisine. Our writers have yet to cover every aspect of the Mekong Delta, but we have plenty of articles that will give you a good grasp on the area:
Your Guide to the Mekong Delta: What to do, see & eat – Itinerary included!
Where to Stay in the Mekong Delta – A Guide to Hotels, Hostels, and Homestays
A Mekong Delta Food Adventure – Dishes That Will Blow Your Mind!
Guide to Visiting Cai Rang Floating Market in the Mekong Delta
Mekong Delta – A Trip to Dong Thap
The Beautiful Climate of the Mekong Delta
With its lush evergreen climate year-round, the Mekong Delta has the most potential in tourism compared to every other destination in the country. The area has a pleasant tropical monsoon climate with two seasons: dry season and rainy season. There is just a marginal difference in the temperature between the two seasons and almost no storms or typhoons during the year. We have an entire article dedicated to the weather in the delta here.
Rainy season is from May to November, causing occasional floods in Dong Thap Muoi, An Giang, Kien Giang, and Can Tho. Other areas should be fine with daily showers that last around two hours in this season. Dry season spans from December until the next April or May, and there is no rain at all. Therefore, it is possible to visit the most famous provinces of the delta – Tien Giang and Ben Tre without any problem, and it is preferable to explore the whole area in the dry season from November untill May.
Best Months to Get the Most out of the Mekong Delta
Even though the weather is easy-going throughout the year, which makes traveling to the Mekong Delta hassle-free at all times, you still need to pay attention to the optimal time to visit.
At the start of the rainy season, from April to the beginning of June, the weather is the most comfortable with light rain to make up for the heat. You will surely have a good time exploring corners of the rivers and wandering through fruit gardens. In addition, traveling during this time will bring you interesting festivals such as the Cholchonam Thomay (Khmer’s New Year) and the Crop Season Opening Festival.
From June to September, at the peak of the rainy season, it will be truly hot and humid (summer plus rain). But only then will you get the most variety of tropical fruits that the delta has to offer.
October and November are the flooding months of the Mekong Delta. Everything is almost wiped away in less popular destinations of Dong Thap, An Giang, and Kien Giang. The city of Can Tho is also flowing with water. So, it is best to stay informed of the weather forecast before making your move to these areas. But it is not the end of the world yet, as nature gifts the locals with an endless supply of fish and water vegetables, from which they concoct unrivaled delicacies. And these are also the best months for budget traveling.
After the rain comes the sun, the dry months from December up to May is when the Mekong Delta unveils its gorgeous beauty: sunny clear blue sky, lush green lands, fresh air, and calm water.
To sum up the weather, a trip to the Mekong Delta is possible all year round with four-season fruits and a pleasant environment. In addition, the delta is most vibrant with flower season during the springtime from January to March and tastiest during the fruit season in the summer months starting with May. It is also the best time to visit Saigon and Vietnam in general.
Tips for Visiting the Mekong Delta
Clothing and Packing Recommendations
Overall, you should pack lightly, wear breathable and comfortable clothes to take on the heat and the humidity of the Mekong Delta. Sunscreen is also needed to combat the extreme sunlight during the day time.
A raincoat always comes in handy for sudden rains and splashes when traversing the rivers, with disposable options for less than 20,000 VND (almost 1 USD) available anywhere.
You must bring extra water, just to keep yourself hydrated when going on long trips. The heat is more tolerable than the central region during the summer, and the Mekong Delta will surely not let you starve, but a small bottle of water on your side is a great idea.
Avoid drinking, swimming or exposing an open wound to the river water. This way you can prevent parasites, from big (fat leeches) to small (tiny little worms), from entering your body. Only drink bottled water or boiled tap water.
Mosquitos carrying malaria is rare in the Mekong Delta, but Dengue fever does have occasional outbreaks. It is advisable to avoid mosquitos at all costs. Here are some tips for keeping away the mosquitos:
- You should bring a couple of good insect repellents with 20% – 30% DEET for a trip to anywhere in the country, and apply the spray before taking trips to the rivers, jungles, and swamps. Read the instructions carefully, as you may need to spray again after a certain period of time.
- Wear neutral-colored clothes (e.g. beige, light grey), as bright and hot colors attract mosquitoes. Breathable long-sleeves are recommended also.
- Stay away from dodgy local water sources (wells and pots), always keep your water in a closed container.
- Make sure the windows and doors are completely closed during your night stay, and check to see the insect screens of the accommodation are intact.
- Please do not take any malaria or dengue preventing drugs without a detailed doctor’s note. Taking medications on your own can lead to masking the symptoms and misdiagnosis later-on due to possible wrong specification and drug resistant strains in Vietnam.
Dry season is the high season, as the Mekong Delta showcases its beauty. Getting everything booked and confirmed beforehand is a must for a flawless trip.
Accommodation occupancy fluctuates during the rainy season, so it is best to have your stay booked in advance also. October and November are the lowest months and everything is cheap.
Always check the weather and tide forecast, to plan and modify your day (and your stay) accordingly. You should not travel on the ground in the flood or on a boat during low tide. In addition to that, you should have a plan B, as the weather and the tides are not the same all the time.
The easiest way to explore the Mekong Delta is taking an organized tour, either a private adventure (e.g. Onetrip) or a group excursion. Options range from one day up to four days. In general, you will get the chance to visit local villages by boat and observe how they make the local specialties such as rice paper and coconut candy. The floating market is only included in tours with two days or more, or day tours that start early in the morning (4 – 5 AM).
The prices for tours to the Mekong vary wildly, despite similar itineraries. It is recommended to check online reviews and shop around a bit to find a trustworthy travel company with a good price for their tour experiences.
A bus ride to the Mekong Delta is going to be extremely long. It may take from four to six hours back and forth depending on the location, and sometimes you spend more time in the bus than you do sightseeing. If sitting still and watching the scenery is not your thing, I suggest bringing things with you such as cards or a book to entertain you during the ride.
The significant or must-see attractions of the Mekong Delta are spread out, somewhat far away from each other. Taking a bus tour will let you rest and you can spend a few minutes here and there. However, taking a short ride on the river and watching a predetermined set of touristy places showing you how locals make their specialties, no more than just a glimpse of the authentic Vietnamese culture, may not entrance you. If you truly wish to fully explore the area and listen to interesting stories, take a private tour on the back of a bike or in a private car. This makes for shorter traveling time (better mobility and maneuverability) and the attentive guides will keep you occupied the whole time.
Or just get your own motorbike in Saigon and ride away at your own pace. You will have a 360-degree view of the surroundings, and feel everything that the Mekong Delta has to offer through all your senses. But keep in mind that this area is rural, and locals don’t speak that much English if you decide to avoid the main touristy sites.
In sum, exploring the Mekong Delta requires a lot of homework to know what you’re looking for. Is it going to be worth a long ride, or do you want to go with the flow and experience everything with an open mind?
If you just want to rest, watch the scenery flash by, observe people making local goods, and explore the authentic Vietnamese (agricultural) culture then choose the Mekong Delta. If this doesn’t sound like you then you should skip the Mekong Delta and look for more exciting festive cities like Nha Trang and Da Nang.
What Will You Get at the End of the Day?
The Mekong Delta is an absolute contrast to the bustling metropolitan scene of Ho Chi Minh City, and it’s just a little more than an hour away. Here you will capture one of the most charming Vietnamese moments that color your soul and travel experience.
Let them be infamous sights of a buffalo wallowing in a muddy swamp, boats full of fruit and goods, rowing on the rivers. The heart-warming locals’ smiles emerge with a true taste of authentic hospitality (in delicious fresh dishes). These are the moments you will bring back with you.
Have a closer look, and the Mekong Delta opens up many more memorable paintings. Children play under a century-year-old tree. High school girls with pearl-white Ao Dai are riding bicycles in the lanes between emerald rice fields. Flocks of storks glide over the heavenly horizon at dusk. Monks walk mindfully along the trails shadowed by distant temples. And those young lovebirds are riding on the back of a bike along the dusty roads to explore every inch of their motherland. All this can appear in just a singular picture, or a day-long film as you wander around this charming land.
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