The best time to visit Thailand is between November and March, which is when the weather is warm, dry and not too humid. It’s also when the country is at its most festive, with lots of events and festivals. This is the peak season, so expect more crowds and higher prices. For better deals and fewer people, consider visiting during the shoulder season.
Climate and weather in Thailand
Thailand’s climate is tropical, and the country basks in average temperatures of 28°C. It is a large country, which has, broadly speaking, three main seasons: the hot season (March to May), the cool season (November to February), and the rainy season (June to October). The further south you go, the less seasonal variation is found.
In Phuket and the Andaman coast in the south, the rainy season can last from April to October: however, the rainfall usually comes in short afternoon storms, so you can still expect plenty of sunshine. Heavier storms hit in September and October, although it is rare that it rains on several consecutive days. The best time to visit is in the cool season (from December to March) when temperatures are between 24°C and 32°C.
Bangkok is the hottest city in the world, and temperatures can top 40°C in the hot season between March and May. Come between December and February for more manageable temperatures of around 30°C, and (comparatively) cool evenings. The monsoon season (May to October) brings high humidity and regular rainfall. This usually falls in short bursts, although the sky may remain overcast.
The peak time for visiting Pattaya is during November to February, when there is little rainfall and temperatures average 30°C during the day. Temperatures soar during the hot season (March to May), when humidity can be uncomfortably high. The rainy season brings heavy rainfall, usually in the form of short, sharp afternoon storms, but there is still plenty of sunshine to enjoy.
Events and festivals
There’s always something going on in Thailand, from small village festivals to nationwide parties.
The year begins with Chinese New Year, celebrated in January with firecrackers and family gatherings. In February, the three-day long Chiang Mai Flower Festival dazzles with gorgeous displays of blooms and processions of lavishly decorated floats. Other popular festivals in February include the annual Trang Underwater Wedding, when dozens of happy couples are married underwater, and Pattaya Bike Week, a huge gathering of motorbike enthusiasts. Phuket celebrates its International Blues Rock Festival in late February. In March, there is more music at the Pattaya International Music Festival and Thai elephants are treated to banquets of fruit and sugar cane on the 13 March, National Thai Elephant Day.
Thailand’s biggest festival takes place in mid-April: Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year Festival, is famously celebrated with water fights and parties throughout the country. There are processions of statues from the temples (which are also carefully washed) and a host of other activities. In May, the explosive Yasothon Rocket festival takes place, with rocket competitions, pageants and parades. In late May, the prestigious Ko Samui Yacht Regatta is held, and June sees the Hua Hin jazz festival. Phuket has its Yachting Race Week in July and also hosts the curious Por Tor Hungry Ghost festival in August, when elaborate meals are prepared in homes and temples for visiting ghosts.
In October, Thailand celebrates the Vegetarian Festival by abstaining from eating meat, seafood and dairy products. In Phuket, the festival is particularly intense, with colourful parades and the presence of the mah song: these are people who have become so entranced by the festival that are impervious to pain. As a result, they perform acts of self-mutilation that can be terrifying to see. Much more peaceful and enchanting is Loy Krathong, a festival of lights and lanterns, celebrated nationwide but particularly in Chiang Mai and northern Thailand, during the month of November. The Surin Elephant Round-Up is held in the third week of November, an astonishing festival that showcases the talents of the elephants and their handlers. The month concludes with another animal-related event: the Monkey Banquet in Lopburi. The townspeople of Lopburi thank the macaques that live in their town with gifts of fruit and food.