When is the best time to go to Thailand 2021?
The best time to travel to Thailand is between late November and early April when there is little rain and lots of sun, but the temperature is cooler. For swimming and sunbathing on Thailand’s best beaches, January to April is ideal; for tours and sightseeing, the best months are December, January, and February. Most of Thailand experiences a rainy season from July to October
Thailand – When To Visit
- Best Time for Great Weather: January to April
- Best Time for Good Weather: December to August
- Best Time for Diving: November to April (west coast), May to August (east coast)
- Best Time for Surfing: April to October (only west coast)
- Best Time for Sightseeing: November to February
- Best Time for Honeymoon: January to April
- Best Time for Nightlife: December and January
- Best Time for Saving Money: May to September
- Best Time for Beaches (Phuket Coast): late November to April
- Best Time for Beaches (Koh Samui Coast): late December to May
- Best Time for Chaing Mai (Northern Thailand): November to February
- Best Time for Bangkok: November to March
When is the Best Time to Visit Thailand 2021?
Thailand is a great year-round destination, but the best weather is usually between November and April. The climate varies between the east and the west coast. September brings the heaviest rainfall on the west coast, while the east coast gets its highest rainfall in November. Summer is from April to June, and the rainy season is from July to October in most of Thailand.
- Best Time to Visit Thailand for Good Weather: Being a tropical country, Thailand is warm through the year, with winters having average highs of 26-28ºC, and summers, 32-40ºC. The north and west have their rainy season from June to October, and the east from November to March. The best weather is usually found in December, January, and February.
- Best Time to Book Hotels for Thailand: The Best Hotels in Thailand get booked early – especially for the Chinese New Year, Kin Jay (vegetarian) festival, and the months of December and January. Try to reserve rooms at least 2-3 months in advance for peak season, and about 1-2 months in advance for the low and shoulder seasons.
- Best Time for Surfing: The best time for surfing in Thailand depends on whether one is planning to go to the east coast or the west. Surfing is especially great for beginners and long boarders as the waves are smaller (about 3-10 feet). April to October is a great time to surf on the west coast, and October to December on the east coast. However, many islands have very shallow coastal reef in places, which can be dangerous below mid-tide.
- Best Time for Snorkeling and Swimming: Great swimming and snorkeling is possible year-round in Thailand, except on days when there are thunderstorms during the rainy season. November to April is probably the best time, especially around the islands in the Andaman sea.
- Best Time for Hiking: The cooler months of October to February are preferable for Thailand’s incredible hiking/trekking. Though hiking can be done year round, summers can get very hot here, so pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent. Starting the hike early in the morning is advisable to beat the afternoon heat.
- Best Time for Whale and Dolphin Watching: The Gulf of Thailand on the east coast is where whales mostly reside. Bryde’s whales come close to Bangkok’s shores between September and December to feed on the abundant anchovies. Irrawaddy (river) dolphins with rounded foreheads can also be seen splashing in the Chao Phraya river at this time.
- Best Time for Fishing: One can fish in Thailand through the year, with different fish biting at different times around the large coastline and off the islands. Fishing in the rainy season is ideal. Thailand is especially known for its freshwater fish. Apart from the common species of fish, native species such as Giant Mekong Catfish, Barramundi, Siamese Carp, and Giant Snakehead are very popular. Fishing spots range from fishing parks to special resorts, ponds, lakes, dams, and rivers.
- Best Time for Discounts: Booking early and catching mid-week flights would get the best discounts. Usually, the best rates for flights and hotels are during the rainy season. March to May, September, and October usually find great rates. The annual grand sales in the mega malls run from mid-June to mid-August, which is actually a busy travel season.
- Best Time for Avoiding Crowds: The quietest months for tourists are April, May, September, and October. Late August is also fairly quiet except for European travelers.
- Best Time for a Destination Wedding: With its tropical beaches and sunny weather, Thailand is a great year-round wedding destination, except during the peak rainy season. Rains tend to fall in short bursts that quickly dry up in the beginning and the end of the monsoon. November to February is the best (and safest) time to get married on the west coast, and June to September on the east coast.
- Best Time for Inter-Island Cruises: September to December is the best times to spot whales off the sides of your ship, but November to January is also the most expensive time to visit. The start and end of the rainy season are the best time to get deals on cruises.
- Best Time for Buying Airline Tickets: Airline ticket prices depend on the season, festivals, events, and trade fairs. Generally, booking one to three months in advance offers the best rates, with six weeks prior giving the optimum deals. Exceptions are when booking for Chinese New Year and December-January. For these periods, it’s best to book as early as possible.
When To Visit Thailand
The Best Time to Visit Bangkok
Bangkok is a great metropolis worth visiting year-round, except in September and October, when the rains are heaviest. However, November to February is a great time to visit as the rains have receded and the weather is cooler (average max temperature ranges between 27°C to 29°C). Visiting in the rainy season is a good idea to get excellent deals on hotel rooms and enjoying the many indoor activities that the city has to offer, in case it is pouring outside. The annual “Amazing Grand Sale” is held from mid-June to mid-August, and shoppers can find incredible deals, including discounts up to 80%, on clothes, electronics, jewelry, and more. April to June are the city’s hottest months, and July and August are the wettest; both periods seeing thinner crowds and lower airfare and accommodation rates. The high season also coincides with New Year’s Day as well as the Chinese New Year. The 9-day Kin Jay (Vegetarian) festival in September/October is also very popular, when all of Thailand observes the Chinese cleansing festival, and several stalls and restaurants put up yellow flags to announce their participation by serving only vegan food.
The Best Time to Visit Phuket
The best time to visit Phuket is from November to April, when the weather is cool and ideal for beach and water activities. Phuket’s daily highs range from the 31°C to 34°C year round, warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter, but only slightly. May through October is the monsoon season, with hotels offering excellent rates, though the water can be dangerous at times when the weather is stormy, especially on the west coast. The east coast is relatively calmer through the year. December through March is high season, with maximum occupancy and rates. The low season falls from May through October, when humidity is really high, leading to low room rates. September to December is the best time to catch whales in the Gulf of Thailand, off Phuket’s east coast.
Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai
The peak tourist season in Chiang Mai is from December to January, so the months before and after, i.e. November and February, are the best months to visit the hill station to enjoy the weather and avoid the crowds. The cool and pleasant weather is complemented by light breezes during these four months, which is perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities. Temperatures range between 10°C and 30°C during winter. Chiang Mai has three seasons: summer (March to May), monsoon (June to October), and winter (November to February). Temperatures can go up to 40°C in the summer, and it gets very hot and humid. The monsoon months are slightly cooler, and the short bursts of heavy rains can give a cool respite. However, the thin crowds and the freshly washed lush green vegetation make it a pleasant time to visit. Chiang Mai comes alive during Thai festivals, and especially during the Flower Festival (first weekend in February), Songkran (mid-April), and Loi Krathong (usually in November).
Best Time to Visit Krabi
Krabi is located in southern Thailand, and offers exceptional natural beauty—national parks, virgin beaches, islands that can only be reached by boat, and relatively less commercial tourism. November to March is the best time to visit Krabi, with the monsoon just over and the summer about to set in. Temperatures range between 22°C to 32°C. Unlike the rest of Thailand, Krabi has a more tropical climate which can be described as dry (December to April) or rainy (May to November), with the highest rainfall occurring in September and October. Compared to most places in Thailand, summers are not that hot in Krabi, with the highest average temperature seldom crossing 32°C. Traveling in the rainy season can either be a dampener with heavy showers, or one can get lucky and have a sunny day with cheap prices and an entire island to themselves. November to April is also the ideal time for water-sports like wind-surfing, kite surfing, and wake-boarding, while scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming can be enjoyed through the year, whenever the waters are calm.
Thailand Travel Seasons
- High Season (November-April): Late November to early April is Thailand’s high season, especially around the Christmas, New Year, and Chinese New Year holidays. Flights and hotels are usually the most expensive then. Hotels usually have stricter stay, deposit, and cancellation policies around these holidays. It is best to plan and book early for travel in the peak season.
- Shoulder Season (April-May and September-October): The two shoulder season periods are an excellent time to visit Thailand, when the monsoon is either just setting in or leaving, and the temperature is not very hot. Prices are lower, and beaches and attractions are less crowded. The occasional short or heavy shower will cool the temperature, though the water will be off-limits if there is a storm. It’s also a great time to go surfing or diving on the west coast of Thailand.
- Low Season (May to September): Summer in Thailand is very hot and humid (temperatures can go up to 45°C), but it’s still a great time to enjoy the huge selection of indoor activities the country has to offer. During the rainy season, it can rain virtually every day, and afternoons can get almost intolerable in the summer. The stormy weather can also hamper diving, surfing, and other water activities. However, it’s very cheap to travel during this time, bookings can be done last minute, and one can even negotiate prices at the hotel upon arrival. The empty beaches and public attractions allow tourists to have a more leisurely vacation.
Thailand Weather by Month
Temperatures in tropical Thailand are warm all year long. The rainy season varies in different parts of Thailand, with the rare big storm seen on the west coast in August-September. The north eastern rainy season is from November to April, and the south western, from May to October. Brief and light showers occur regularly everywhere. Southern Thailand gets the most rain, northernmost point gets the lowest, and central Thailand, including Bangkok, is usually the hottest.
- Thailand Weather in January: January is one of the very few cool months in Thailand, with temperatures hovering between the low 20s (ºC) and low 30s (ºC) in most places, and Chiang Mai being the coldest with a minimum temperature of 10-15ºC. Rain is scarce. This is peak holiday season in the country, and everything is full. A light sweater or jacket is advisable in the evenings. (Average water temperature 28ºC.)
- Thailand Weather in February: The average temperatures in February are similar to January, around 22-32ºC. The chances of rain in the north increase while they recede in the south. The weather is excellent in southeast and southwest Thailand, with lots of sunshine and temperatures in the mid-20s. (Average water temperature 28ºC.)
- Thailand Weather in March: March is the precursor to summer in Thailand, and temperatures start rising rapidly. It is also the beginning of shoulder season, especially on the islands, so crowds start thinning out. It’s very dry, and a great time to scuba dive off the west coast. (Average temperature 26-31ºC, though it can go up to 35ºC in the daytime. Average water temperature 29ºC.)
- Thailand Weather in April: Hot and oppressive due to the high humidity. The south and east coast could be a little cooler, and occasional showers on the west coast as monsoon approaches. (Average temperature 29-34ºC, but can go over 35ºC in several places. Average water temperature 30ºC.)
- Thailand Weather in May: May can be slightly cooler, but just as oppressive, and strong bursts of rain increase humidity drastically. Crowds are thin despite plenty of bright, sunny days. Northern and eastern Thailand are almost dry. (Average temperature 28-34ºC, but can go over 35ºC in several places. Average water temperature 30ºC.)
- Thailand Weather in June: The monsoon covers almost the entire country, with a high chance of rain on the west coast. Weather is otherwise similar to May’s. (Average temperature 28-34ºC, but can go over 34ºC in several places. Average water temperature 30ºC.)
- Thailand Weather in July: Rains are heavier and the temperature dips slightly, with the west coast getting more showers than the east. (Average temperature 33ºC. Average water temperature 29ºC.)
- Thailand Weather in August: North and west Thailand get their highest rainfall, while the east coast is relatively sunny and dry in August. Humidity levels are fairly high. (Average temperature 32ºC. Average water temperature 29ºC.)
- Thailand Weather in September: Beach conditions are poor throughout the country due to heavy rains and stormy seas. Unsurprisingly, crowds are thin, and accommodations can be rented at a steal. (Average temperature 32ºC. Average water temperature 29ºC.)
- Thailand Weather in October: Rains and humidity levels start decreasing, and northern Thailand starts feeling the cool impact of the onset of winter. The south is still relatively hot and humid. (Average temperature 30ºC. Average water temperature 29ºC.)
- Thailand Weather in November: Eastern islands like Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan have their wettest month, but the rest of the country is pretty much dry and pleasant. This is also the start of the peak travel season in Thailand. (Average temperature 30ºC. Average water temperature 29ºC.)
- Thailand Weather in December: December is one of the best months to visit Thailand, as rains are minimum and days are sunny and pleasant. The southeast experiences rainfall, but the west coast is ideal in this period. A light sweater might be advisable in the evenings in the north. (Average temperature 30ºC. Average water temperature 28ºC.)
Thailand Events and Festivals
Thailand in January
- Chinese New Year: Celebrated in January or February, depending on the Lunar calendar, it’s not a national holiday in Thailand, but the streets still turn red and gold as the local Chinese population celebrates it with pomp and glory, with lots of fireworks, martial arts demos, traditional Chinese food, big sales, music, and lion and dragon dancing.
- National Children’s Day (Wan Dek): Thailand considers children to be the nation’s most important resource, and the second Saturday in January is celebrated as Children’s Day in their honor. Places like museums, zoos, amusement parks, etc. and even public transport are discounted or free for children, and fun activities are offered in malls and parks.
- Full Moon Party: Held every month on Phangan island to celebrate the full moon, this all-night beach party features live DJs playing mostly EDM and frenzied dancing and drinking. This event is not family-friendly.
Thailand in February
- Makha Bucha Day: An important Buddhist holiday, it is celebrated in February or March, depending on the full moon day of the 3rd lunar month. Worshippers offer prayers, give alms to monks, meditate, and even sleep in the temples, and candlelight processions are held after sunset. Wat Lat Phrao in Bangkok is an excellent place to experience this religious holiday.
Thailand in March
- Kolour in the Park: Held on the first weekend in March at Wake Park in Bangkok, the event is marked by techno and house music by international DJs, along with lots of arts and crafts workshops, food stalls, and water activities.
- National Elephant Day: Every year, Thailand’s revered elephants are celebrated on March 13. These mighty beings are offered fruits and sugarcane in parks, zoos, and wherever they are found, and blessing ceremonies are held by Buddhist monks to bring good luck.
- Bangkok International Fashion Week: Thailand’s premier fashion event is organized in the third week of March by the Siam Paragon, Siam Discover, and Siam Center malls in Bangkok, and features the latest creations from leading Thai designers and brands. Shoppers can find discounts galore too.
Thailand in April
- Chakri Day: This is an important day celebrating the founding of the Chakri Dynasty in 1782, when Bangkok was declared as the capital. Banks, government offices, and schools are closed, but normal businesses remain open. The Royal family organizes religious ceremonies to commemorate all past Kings of the dynasty.
- Songkran: Celebrated from 13-15 April to mark the Thai New Year, Songkran is an experience not to be missed. The festival is marked by water fights everywhere, with people drenching each other using water pistols, hoses, and even buckets of water. Many even throw a local white powder (din sor pong) on each other. Locals visit temples and give food to the monks.
Thailand in May
- National Labour Day: This international holiday is on May 1, and while most private businesses and banks remain closed, some government departments do remain open.
- Royal Ploughing Ceremony: Held in early May, with the exact date decided by Buddhist monks, this day marks the beginning of the rice growing season. The King offers a ceremonial sword and ring to the Lord of Harvest at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.
- Visakha Bucha Day: Falling in May or June (depending on the Lunar calendar), this important Buddhist holiday marks the birth, enlightenment, and death of Lord Buddha. Followers worship at temples, offer food to monks, and follow the 5 precepts of Buddhism, including abstaining from alcohol.
Thailand in June
- Hua Hin Jazz Festival: Usually held for 2 days in June, it showcases local and international musicians and groups on special stages erected on the beach, and attracts over 15,000 visitors.
- Amazing Thailand Grand Sale: Held every year from mid-June to mid-August, this nationwide event offers terrific discounts all around. Malls, shops, hotels, spas, restaurants, airlines, markets, and entertainment centers all take active part to draw customers with bigger and better offers.
Thailand in July
- Asanha Bucha Day: Another important Buddhist holiday, usually falling in mid-July or August, it marks the day Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon in India. Buddhists offer prayers at the temple and make merit, and candlelight processions are held in several places. Alcohol sales are restricted.
- Candle Festival: Coinciding with Asanha Bucha Day, this 2-day festival is marked by a grand candle parade. The most popular city for this festival is Ubon Ratchathani in northeastern Thailand, where artists from all over the world come to take part in the candle carving competition. There are plenty of markets, food stalls, and musical performances.
Thailand in August
- Mother’s Day: Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s birthday on August 12 is celebrated as Mother’s Day across Thailand. Apart from alms-giving, the day is marked with decorations, lights, flowers, and fireworks.
- Ghost Festival (Phi Ta Khon): Usually celebrated in August, this 3-day festival recreates the legend of a party which the dead and the living wished to attend. A parade where everyone dresses up as a ghost is held on the first day, pageants and music shows on the second, and religious Buddhist ceremonies on the last day. Dan Sai town is the most popular place to experience this festival.
Thailand in September
- Mid-Autumn Festival: Also known as the Chinese Moon Cake festival, it is celebrated during full moon in the 8th lunar month to mark the end of the harvest season. Sweet round cakes filled with salted egg yolks, also known as moon cakes, symbolize this festival.
- International Thai Film Festival: Held every September in Bangkok, this festival showcases the best of Thai and international cinema. Also included are panel talks, workshops, networking events, and an awards ceremony.
- Kin Jay Vegetarian Festival: Falling between late September and mid-October, this festival celebrates the 9 Taoist Emperor Gods, and is marked by cleansing of the body and spirit by avoiding meat, fish, alcohol, and drugs. Vendors put up yellow flags and wear yellow aprons to announce that their food is completely vegan. This is the best time to enjoy authentic Thai food for vegans and vegetarians especially.
Thailand in October
- Awk Phansa: Awk Pansa marks the end of the three-month Buddhist Lent period. People make offerings to monks and visit temples to make merit. Long boats are filled with rice sweets and launched in the evening, and boat races are also held in several places.
- Masters Tour of Chiang Mai: 4 days of cycling races across various age and difficulty categories, held annually in Chiang Mai. Around 250 multi-national cyclists take part, and thousands come to cheer them on.
- BangkokThai International Film Festival: Usually held in mid-October in Bangkok, this very popular film festival showcases hundreds of international feature films, short films, and documentaries, and concludes with an awards function spanning several categories.
- Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival: This 140-year-old week-long festival is held annually in October in Chonburi, about an hour from Bangkok. Apart from buffalo races, there are buffalo beauty pageants and several other contests.
- King Chulalongkorn Day: On October 23, Thailand commemorates the passing away of King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V) by putting flowers and garlands on his memorials and especially his equestrian statues. It is a national holiday.
- Halloween: Halloween is not a Thai holiday, but due to the high number of expats and foreign tourists, several bars, restaurants, and hotels host costume parties, dinners, or live music on October 31 each year.
Thailand in November
- Thailand Brew Fest: Usually held in November in Bangkok, there is music, fun, games, food, and over a hundred varieties of craft beer for everyone.
- Laguna Phuket Triathlon: Asia’s longest-standing triathlon is held annually at Laguna Phuket resort. It features multiple individual and team relay races, and attracts athletes from around the world.
- Bangkok Marathon: Extremely popular annual marathon held in the heart of Bangkok, with a unique midnight start for the full marathon. All races end by 6 am.
- Yee Peng Lantern Festival: Just prior to Thailand’s famous Loy Krathong Festival, Yee Peng is held in Chiang Mai where people release thousands of paper lanterns with candles in the center into the sky. The event is also marked with a parade, tradition Thai dancing, live music, and handicraft-making.
- Loy Krathong Festival: Possibly the most picturesque festival in Thailand, people release small boats made of banana leaves and decorated with flowers and a candle in the center into ponds, lakes, or rivers as a symbolic gesture to wash away their sins. Thousands of flickering lights floating quietly in the water make this a truly magical sight.
- Lopburi Monkey Festival: To commemorate the importance of monkeys in Lopburi’s (150km from Bangkok) tourism industry, a feast is held for the long-tailed residents of this city each year in November. The festivities are marked by dances and live performances, and tables of fruits, salads, and sticky rice are laid out for the monkeys.
Thailand in December
- Father’s Day: December 5 marks the birth anniversary of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday, and is a national holiday. Festivities and events mark the occasion as Thais celebrate their beloved late King’s birthday, whom they affectionately even think of as their father.
- Wonderfruit Festival: Held in Pattaya, this is Thailand’s answer to Glastonbury (UK) and Woodstock (US), and celebrates music and food. Family-friendly event, with Camp Wonder featuring several activities and even nannies for kids.
- Christmas: Christmas is peak holiday season in Thailand, and hotels are filled to the brim. The highly-decorated malls offer several discounts and promotions, and twinkling lights are everywhere.
- New Year’s Eve: All tourist places turn into party hotspots on New Year’s eve with shows, galas, musical events, and dinners everywhere as locals and foreigners alike bring in the new year.
Seasons in Thailand
It pays to keep in mind that seasons vary for different areas of the country. There are broadly three seasons in most of Thailand: hot, cool, and rainy.
The hot season in Central Thailand and Northeast Thailand runs from February to June. The rainy season is between June and October, and the cool season makes up the remaining months of October to February. Bangkok, Lopburi, Kanchanaburi, and Ayutthaya are common destinations in Central Thailand.
Northern Thailand – home to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Pai – sees the hot season between February and April, while the rainy season runs from May to September. The remaining months are the cool season.
In the south of Thailand, there are seasonal variations depending on the coast. Additionally, the southern provinces only really have two seasons: wet and dry. The Gulf coast is dry between January and August. The dry season on the Andaman coast is from November to March.
January is a peak time for tourism in Thailand, with the southern beaches on both coasts seeing hot sunny days, and the central and northern areas having cooler temperatures that are perfect for days trekking in jungles or sightseeing. Don’t forget to pack a lightweight sweater.
Accommodation prices are at a premium around the country, though you will still be able to find great deals if you head away from the tried-and-trodden track and explore less-visited areas. Beach lovers could swap Krabi and Phuket for Trang, a gorgeous southern gem. This is also the perfect time of year to visit Sam Phan Bok, a natural wonder in Isan’s Ubon Ratchathani. Only accessible in the dry season, thousands of holes are scattered across the bed of the Mekong River.
In the north, the small village of Bo Sang springs to life for the annual Umbrella Festival. A great side trip from Chiang Mai, the festival is held over the third weekend of the month. It demonstrates the skilled traditional art of making the colourful paper parasols and there are parades, live music, traditional dancing, and plenty of food stands. In the south, the Bay Regatta sees hundreds of vessels in the waters around Phuket, Phang Nga, and Krabi.
Another popular month for tourism, the weather is still good in most areas. While many places around the world are getting excited about Valentine’s Day, this isn’t such a big deal in Thailand. Instead, head to the Red Lotus Sea in Udon Thani for a romantic boat ride. Off the beaten track, the lake springs into bloom in the cool season, covered in beautiful pink lotus flowers.
Chinese New Year typically falls in February, though the exact dates vary from year to year. Go anywhere with a large Chinese population, like Bangkok’s Chinatown, to watch lion dances, acrobatic demonstrations, Chinese opera shows, dragon dances, and more.
The Buddhist celebration, and Thai national holiday of Makha Bucha is also often in February. (Precise dates vary each year.) Observe spiritual rituals in temples and see people making merit, praying, and chanting; Bangkok’s Wat Saket is especially atmospheric. Alternatively, move away from the mainstream and head to Prachinburi’s Makha Bucha fair for processions, cultural demonstrations, and a lantern release.
Beach lovers can soak up the sun on either of Thailand’s southern coasts, with business booming in places like Phuket and Koh Samui, and Krabi Naga Fest brings music to the beaches.
In March, temperatures start to really heat up. It’s prime time for diving in the Similan Islands and other places along the Andaman coast. Environmentalists and nature lovers should check out the Turtle Release Festival in Phang Nga. Chumphon Marine Festival is also lively, with sand sculptures, water sports, marine tourism, and seafood galore.
If you’ve ever wanted to soar above the skies in a hot air balloon, Thailand International Balloon Festival could be ideal. Generally held in March, the dates vary so do make sure to check in advance. Also, the location changes from year to year. The three-day Pattaya International Music Festival is one of Thailand’s best music festivals, and it’s completely free to attend.
National Muay Thai Day, on the 17th of March, is a great time to learn more about this traditional martial art and its long cultural associations. Although many stadiums and Muay Thai camps around the country have demonstrations and events, the ancient city of Ayutthaya is the best place for boxing fans to spend the day.
April is one of the hottest months in Thailand. Drink plenty of water, slap on the sunscreen, and make shade your friend. It is well worth paying the extra for accommodation with air-conditioning — fan rooms don’t really cut it in this heat.
April sees one of Thailand’s biggest festivals: Songkran. Famous for its huge nationwide water fights, celebrations for Thai New Year occur all around the country. The three public holidays are between the 13th and 15th, with extra days to compensate if these fall over the weekend. Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai are some of the best places to get wet and wild.
April is also traditionally the time that Thai men temporarily ordain as monks, with large ceremonies to mark the auspicious occasions. April the 6th is a public holiday that remembers the start of the Chakri Dynasty.
Another hot month in Thailand, May is a great time to visit some of Thailand’s more offbeat destinations and experience unusual festivals.
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that durian makes itself known in Thailand. Chanthaburi, famous for its gem trade, hosts The World Durian Fruit Festival every May (exact dates vary), with competitions and games, sales fairs, parades featuring floats adorned with fruit, and lots of tasting opportunities.
If you want May to really go with a bang, visit Yasothon in Northeastern Thailand. Usually held on the second weekend of the month, Bun Bang Fai Festival sees locals launching many rockets into the skies in hopes of receiving rains. Alternatively, see unusual monk ordination rituals in Chaiyaphum, with monks-to-be paraded around town on bamboo platforms, shaken vigorously along the route. It’s no wonder that the unique rituals are known as the Brutal Ordination Parade!
Dates for the Buddhist holiday of Visakha Bucha Day follow the lunar calendar and so vary each year. It’s usually in May or June. A public holiday, it is the most significant event for Thai Buddhists, commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Lord Buddha. Temples up and down the nation are filled with people making merit. Some of the best places to observe local traditions are at Chiang Mai’s Doi Suthep and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.
You’ll probably notice more showers by June and it pays to carry an umbrella and wear shoes that won’t slip. Take extra precautions when riding a scooter; Thailand’s roads can be lethal. Mellow out at Hua Hin Jazz Festival or admire the colourful fields of Siam tulips at Pa Hin Ngam National Park in Chaiyaphum.
If you’re heading north, don’t miss the Phi Ta Khon Festival in Dan Sai district of Loei province. A local spiritual festival, it features parades with people dressed in elaborate ghost costumes, complete with huge masks, and lots of music. The festival seeks to appease spirits and seek rains. The exact dates vary each year and are set by sages and astrologers, but May is a fairly common month for the ghostly festival.
July is generally a pretty wet month all around Thailand, and it often feels very humid. Make mosquito repellent your best friend this month and don’t forget leech socks if venturing into the jungles.
Speaking of jungles, this can be a terrific month to visit national parks; the rains fill up the waterfalls and the landscapes are lush and fertile. Khao Yai National Park and Kanchanaburi’s Erawan National Park are especially beautiful.
The driest beaches and islands include Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Hua Hin, and Cha Am. Fans of underwater explorations should don their diving gear and snorkelling equipment this month, with July and August the best (and busiest) times for diving around Koh Tao.
The 30th is the King’s birthday and a national holiday. The Buddhist holiday of Asahna Bucha is a national holiday too. Dates vary according to the lunar cycle. It marks the start of Vassa, often referred to as Buddhist Lent. Special ceremonies are held in temples around the country and the Central Thai province of Saraburi has a large religious parade. Alternatively, head to Isan for Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival. Huge wax sculptures are paraded through the streets and there’s lots of singing, dancing, and music. It’s a great way to enjoy local Northeastern Thai culture.
August is typically the wettest month all around Thailand. Prepare with rain ponchos, slip-proof shoes, and umbrellas. Backpackers should almost certainly make sure they have waterproof covers for their bags. Make a list of the best indoor activities; Bangkok’s many temples, museums, art galleries, and malls make it a perfect city come rain or shine.
August the 12th is the Queen’s birthday, Mother’s Day, and a national holiday. If you’re in Phuket in August you’ll witness Por Tor Hungry Ghost Festival, a time when people respect their ancestors and make offerings to spirits.
Foodies should add Hua Hin Food Festival to their itinerary, and the Akha Swing Festival in Chiang Rai offers a glimpse into fascinating traditions from one of Thailand’s ethnic groups.
The rains ease in September, except for the Andaman coast — this is the wettest time here. Around the country, waterfalls flow with abundance and the rivers are at their fullest.
September usually sees the start of long boat races, held on many rivers nationwide. The atmosphere is often electric, with roaring crowds, carnival-like games, street food galore, and traditional performances. Phitsanolok, Petchaburi, Singburi, Naan, and Surat Thani are just a few places where you can watch the age-old traditions on the water.
The multi-day Bangkok International Festival of Dance and Music draws large crowds, with musical performances from diverse genres, dance shows, operas, ballets, and more. For something really unusual, visit Lam Dome Yai in Ubon Ratchathani. Every year, thousands of little shrimps make their way up the stream, clambering out of the water to march along the river banks to bypass the raging waters of the rapids before climbing back down into the water again.
Central, Northern, and Northeastern Thailand are mostly dry and the temperatures start to fall. Almost all of the islands, however, are wet. This is the ideal time to visit anywhere from Bangkok upwards before large crowds appear. The popular hippy hangout of Pai is especially great in October.
Also in the north, the Naga Fireballs of Nong Khai are strange phenomena that usually appear towards the end of the month. Mysterious balls of fire erupt from the Mekong River, said to be the work of the mythical Naga. In Nakhon Phanom, the end of Buddhist Lent is marked with a beautiful illuminated boat procession. Various festivities mark the occasion around the country.
Many southern provinces have large and colourful vegetarian festivals, ideal for any meat-free foodie. Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival is especially well known, with gory rituals that involve self-mortification and fire walking.
Loi Ruea Chao Le Festival on Koh Lanta is a great chance to learn more about the Moken people, also known as sea gypsies. Based on the lunar calendar, the dates vary. People float boats on the waves and rejoice with traditional dancing and singing.
October the 13th is a public holiday to remember the passing of the beloved former Thai king, King Bhumibol. It is likely to be a very sombre day throughout the country. The 23rd is another national holiday honouring a former Thai king: King Chulalongkorn.
The dry season is well underway in most parts of Thailand, with moderate temperatures and plenty of sunshine. Beach lovers will be delighted that the Andaman coast is now at its best, along with Koh Chang and other islands along the eastern Gulf. The western Thai Gulf is, however, still rainy and stormy.
Mid-November (dates vary) sees one of Thailand’s loveliest festivals: Loy Krathong. Celebrated around the country, people float pretty krathongs on the rivers to give thanks to the water spirits. The north of Thailand has an extra celebration around the same time, known as Yee Peng. Famous for its stunning lantern releases, Chiang Mai is one of the best places to experience this beautiful festival.
Originally established as a way to honour elephants, Surin Elephant Roundup (third weekend of November) features a large buffet breakfast for the beasts and several shows. Don’t miss the nearby sound and light shows at the ancient ruins of Prasat Sikhoraphum. Another unusual celebration with an animal focus is Lopburi Monkey Feast. It takes place on the last Sunday of November and is a bizarre spectacle to witness!
December is one of the peak tourism months in Thailand, with great weather all around the country. Temperatures are, for the most part, comfortable, without being too hot or too cold. There’s little to no rainfall, and the beaches have lots of sun.
There are several national holidays during this month. The fifth is the birthday of the late King Bhumibol, and is also when Thai people celebrate Father’s Day. The 10th is Constitution Day.
For war history, don’t miss River Kwai Bridge Week in Kanchanaburi (held in November or December). For something novel, visit Loei province; it’s the only province in Thailand where temperatures can dip to freezing in the cool season. Ayutthaya World Heritage and Red Cross Fair has stunning sound and light shows amid the ancient ruins. Phetchaburi hosts one of the biggest and oldest music festivals in the Land of Smiles: Big Mountain Music Festival.
Christmas isn’t such a big deal in Thailand, though many malls do have festive decorations. For a true Thai Christmas, however, head to Sakhon Nakhon province. Home to Thailand’s largest Christian population, the province has an enchanting Christmas Star Parade, with many cultural and religious activities, between the 23rd and 25th. And of course, New Year is huge all around the Land of Smiles.
When not to go to Thailand
With such a wide program of events throughout the year and different seasons and weather conditions depending on the region, there really is no bad time to visit Thailand. There are, however, better times to visit particular areas.
Northern areas can see flash floods, flooded roads, and lots of mud in the rainy season. The south is generally best avoided in October and November, and the Similan Islands are closed between November and March. Avoid Koh Chang and the Andaman coast in June and July. Heavy rains and storms combined with choppy sea conditions mean that you won’t experience the best that the areas have to offer.
The hot season in Central Thailand and Isan can be brutal and uncomfortable, while the cool season in Northern Thailand may be a bit too chilly for some people’s liking. The so-called burning season in Chiang Mai normally occurs between February and April, with thick smoke hanging in the air and the air quality greatly diminished.
The peak tourist seasons are naturally the most expensive times to travel. If you’re looking to keep costs down, visit in the shoulder seasons.