20 Monsoon Travel Tips for the Budget Traveler

Ah, the monsoon! Downpours, waterfalls and the open road. While many adventure junkies look forward to this season for the myriad activities and trips that are unique to this season, monsoon travel is fast becoming popular. Still considered off-season by popular standards, this season presents numerous opportunities for everyone.

Monsoon Travel Tips

Too many options dragging you down? We have a handy list of travel tips and tricks to ensure you have a magical monsoon break.

1. Plan Ahead

While just loading up a car/bike and taking off might seem like the perfect getaway, travelling during the monsoon might require a little more preparation. The monsoon brings with it uncertainty in the form of traffic diversions, alternate routes and sometimes the occasional blocked access route.

Figuring out the best routes and planning out the most scenic one/with the minimum disruptions would go a long way in making your trip one to remember. For those looking at setting off for the mountains or waterfalls that abound during the season, it is advisable to look up alternate routes in the event of roads being blocked/landslides etc.

2. Check Expenses

Looking to make your monsoon trip within a budget? While you should not cut back when it comes to supplies and medicines, technology can go a long way in helping you save on other expenses. Looking at refueling along the way? Keep track of daily changing fuel prices through handy apps. Here you can receive alerts on petrol and diesel prices based on the city you are in.

Check real time petrol price and rein in those ever-mounting petrol bills. Avoid time and fuel-wasting diversions by tracking traffic in real time, so you can get to your destination in the quickest and most convenient way possible.

Also, do make sure you track your overall spending on the trip so you don't go over budget. Personal finance features on mobile applications can help you keep track of every expense on the road. Tracking expenses for the duration of your trip can help you keep a check on unnecessary expenditure. It will allow you to enjoy your vacation without worrying about going over budget.

3. Keep Updated on the Weather

Regularly keeping track of the weather along your route and at your destination is another handy tip. It could go a long way in making that vacation a memorable one. With the monsoon being unpredictable, there could be a chance of cave-ins or traffic disruptions along your route. To avoid being stuck in traffic jams or having to turn back midway, monitor the news or use a weather app to track climate. It is also advisable to avoid accident-prone areas as far as possible.

4. Waterproof Luggage

Thinking of setting off on a monsoon trek, or visiting a waterfall? No matter what your activity or travel plan, ensure you have waterproof and quick drying clothing so you are comfortable throughout your trip. Trundling through a winding road dripping wet can ruin even the most diehard traveller's day.

So stock up on those quick drying clothes and invest in waterproof covers for your essentials and electronics. Look out for water resistant bags or covers for your regular luggage, if you are not looking at buying new gear. For those travelling with electronics, dry bags are an excellent way to keep electrical items safe and dry when on the road.

5. Pack for the Season

Despite heavy romanticism of rains, it starts pouring very very heavily in short period of time and it's advisable to keep at least a small umbrella handy all the time during June-October. Don't forget it in typical spots like restaurants, trains and autos.

Seems like a no-brainer, but packing for the season and location is a must when you are looking at monsoon travel. Based on your planned location/locations and activities, packing appropriate clothing makes a world of a difference. You won't be lugging around huge suitcases, totes or backpacks, for one, and you will be prepared.

Wet weather usually entails a sticky, muggy climate and swarms of mosquitoes in most places. So keep those bug sprays and disinfectants at the ready. Another essential for monsoon travel is protective gear-raincoats, ponchos, and umbrellas. Keeping warm and dry is always preferable to getting soaked and spending the rest of your travels sniffling.

6. Handy Spares

Whether you are riding into the sunset or planning a drive, carrying along spares is a must. Since the season sees fewer travellers, finding help along the way might prove difficult. So remember to carry essentials wherever possible. Spark plugs, cables and a spare tyre for a four-wheel drive are some basic spares that will ensure you are not stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Make a checklist of supplies and spares that you would require so as to avoid missing out on anything. Rechargeable batteries and portable charging stations are also must-haves. It can be picked up at most electronic shops and added to your travel tool kit.

7. Sturdy Shoes

A wardrobe essential for monsoon travel, carrying or wearing a sturdy pair of shoes can make or break your trip, especially if you have activities planned. Flimsy flip-flops or fashionable boots should be left behind in favour of comfortable sandals or quick-drying shoes. With rain always on the horizon, surfaces will be slippery so ensure your shoes can grip slick surfaces.

Investing in a pair of rubber-soled shoes or sturdy rain shoes will tide you over for the duration of your trip and beyond. Carrying shoes based on the activities you have planned is also advisable. Planning a trek? Look for lightweight waterproof trekking boots that can double up as rainwear shoes as well.

8. Medical Kit

Another no-brainer, a first aid kit should be one of the first items you load up on that bike/car before you set out. It is advisable to take a fully stocked first aid kit and some seasonal additions in the form of insect repellent, seasonal medication in case of allergies and plenty of disinfectant for those errant scratches.

You can either buy a fully stocked medical kit or make up one based on your individual requirements.

9. Take Advantage of the Lower Prices

One of the main advantages of traveling during monsoon is that you get better prices on accommodation, tours, and plane tickets. This applies to long term apartment rentals, too. You can find plenty of great offers and find out how much money you can save by booking during the rainy months.

Likewise, as there are fewer tourists, you will get the ticket prices for regional flights and boat trips reduced. Therefore, if you would like to see more and stretch your budget, you can do that during the winter. From eating out to luxury hotels, you will get a discount on everything. Even your haggling skills will go further at the market.

10. Get a Stable and Comfortable Base

It is important that you have a set base where you start off on an adventure. It has to be in a big city, such as in Jakarta. So if the roads are flooded and you can't get out of the city, you can still fend for yourself and see some of the sights on foot. You can rent a room in the center or an apartment, and stay dry on the days when it is simply impossible to get out and explore.

You might need heating in your apartment, as the temperatures drop when the heavy rain comes and the sun is covered by clouds.

11. Engage with a Local Tour Operator

If you would like to know what you can see and do during the monsoon, you will have to ask a local. International tour operators will try and sell you the most expensive tours and trips without considering the season.

If you contact a local agency, however, you will not only get better prices and customer service, but can also customize your trip to the weather. Some of the smaller local companies will include the price of private transfer from one place to the next, too. So you can avoid getting wet while waiting for a taxi or the train to get to where you want to be.

12. Get a Car or Private Transfer

It is much easier to get a private transfer company to be ready to pick you up whenever you need them than trying to figure out how locals get around. You can get the transfer cheap from a travel agent or contact a company directly, if you have already designed your itinerary and know where you want to go and when.

Even private taxi to and from the airport can be cheap, but if it is prearranged, it is even more affordable. Don't forget to haggle, as companies will be in a fierce competition with each other when there are not many tourists around.

13. Pack Loads of Waterproofs

You should invest in waterproof kits and have a spare one in your backpack every time. Unfortunately, normal umbrellas will not do much during the monsoon alone. You will need waterproof over trousers and jackets with a hood to protect your health. Pay attention to your shoes, as well. Most of the time you will have to face roads that have inches of water on the surface, and puddles that are simply too big to jump over.

A waterproof high ankle boot or Wellington boots will be necessary. Have an extra pair of socks and a poncho handy, just in case you are facing a torrential downfall. Remember that it is not very cold, only damp during the monsoon, so you only need light layers.

14. Don't Camp; Book Hotels

While most of the time it is best to explore the breathtaking places on foot and camp under the stars, this is not recommended during the rainy season. The ground can become very muddy, and landslides are very common. Instead, you should ask your local travel agent or other places to get your accommodation booked upon arrival.

Get the transfer arranged, and avoid the risk of a chest infection when traveling during the wet season. Take a portable hair dryer or a small heater with you, so you can dry your clothes when you arrive at your accommodation.

15. Improve Your Immune System

Before you set out on your journey, it is recommended that you start taking vitamin and mineral supplements to improve your immune system. Visit your clinic before you travel so you can get all the vaccinations to kick in before you arrive.

You might even get an immune boost supplement or injection, so you can prevent the weather and related illnesses from ruining your vacation. If you are not fit and healthy, it might also be a good time to step up your exercise routine, so you can walk the trails and deal with the challenging terrains.

16. Be Prepared for Migraines

All year round, the air is very humid, and this is true during the monsoon. If you suffer from headaches related to the weather, it is important that you take loads of painkillers and homeopathic supplements. Whatever works for your migraines at home will come handy, but you are likely to need a larger dose.

While you might find similar products, you will have no guarantee that they will work for you. Check with your travel company and airline to make sure you are not taking too much medication, though, or you can get into trouble at the airport.

17. Plan Indoor Programs

The monsoon season might be a good time to explore some of the museums and temples. While you might not be able to go on a hiking trip in the forest, you can still visit some of the zoos and animal sanctuaries. If you would like to take the opportunity to get closer to nature, you can also become a volunteer at a national reserve, and have your accommodation and food provided.

This is a good way of seeing more of the country without having to go on wet hikes and walks. In the night you can enjoy the traditional dance.

18. Boat Trips

To take in the natural beauty of the islands and the rock formations, volcanoes, and green spaces, you can book yourself a cruise trip. You will have your own dry cabin and only have to leave the cruise when you feel like it. If you are generally not suffering from seasickness, this can be your idea way of exploring the different islands.

Choose a boat trip that offers a covered deck, so you can sit outside staying dry and take in the scenery.

19. Be Aware of Regional Differences in Rainfall

The monsoon spread and strength will change when you move from one island to another. You have to ask locals and monitor the situation so you can avoid being stuck on an island or getting your trip plans canceled. Moreover, the monsoon changes from one year to the next. It is important that you listen to weather forecasts, as well as local people.

Some of the lower regions of the islands are more likely to flood than others, but if you choose your accommodation on the hillside, you might face landslides and have to plan an escape route.

20. Keep Mosquitoes at Bay

One of the main health risks of traveling during the monsoon is getting mosquito bites. The humid air and the swollen waters will attract the animals and help them breed. If you are booking a hotel or private accommodation, you need to make sure that you have adequate repellents and mosquito nets on the windows.

It is also a good idea to take some repellent with you every time you venture out, as you don't want to end up with a new strain of malaria that your current vaccination doesn't provide protection against. Cover your arms, hands, and ankles, as well as your neck, as those are the areas mosquitoes are most likely to attack.

It is possible to make the most out of your trip during the monsoon season. However, you need to arrive prepared and adjust your plans according to the predicted and past rainfall. If you don't mind getting wet and want to save money, you might start planning your perfect rainy season and avoid the crowds this winter.

Remember to pack a spare flashlight/torch for emergency purposes, as well as a spare set of batteries. Keep these tips in mind and make the most of your monsoon break, without breaking the bank.
Kalyan Panja