Traveling Asia in December is very enjoyable, but you're going to have to look hard for a white Christmas if that's a priority.
Temperatures in Southeast Asia will be even more pleasant than usual. December is a comfortable month to travel in Thailand and neighboring countries where the monsoon finished in November. Rain isn't a serious disruption, and days aren't nearly as hot as they will be in March and April.
China, Japan, Korea, and the rest of East Asia will be cold. You'll have to escape to the southern parts of these countries to enjoy milder weather. The average temperature of Seoul in December is 32 degrees (0 C). In chilly Beijing, expect an average of 28 degrees (-2 C). Tokyo does a little better with an average temperature of 46 degrees (8 C).
Asian Festivals and Events in December
Although it's mostly been adopted from the West, or was delivered via colonialism, Christmas has become a "thing" in Asia. Some places observe the event more than others. Goa in India has a sizable Christmas celebration, as does the Philippines.
December 31 is celebrated as New Year's Eve by expat communities and some Asians, however, not nearly with as much gusto as the Western world.
The real celebration begins a month or so later with the start of the Lunar New Year (commonly called Chinese New Year).
Any of these big festivals and holidays in Asia may affect your travel plans if you're in the area:
- Christmas: (December 25) Christmas is celebrated with excitement in a few countries throughout Asia, most notably the Philippines.
- Kings Birthday in Thailand: (December 5 and July 28) King Bhumibol's birthday on December 5 is an annual event in Thailand. Following his sad death in 2016, the new King of Thailand's birthday is July 28. The monarch is honored with fireworks, candles, and a moment of silence.
- Dongzhi Festival in China: (Dates vary, but around December 22 each year). The Winter Solstice Festival in China welcomes the arrival of winter.
- Thailand Full Moon Party: (Monthly; one party for Christmas and another party for New Year's Eve on December 31) Although the party is monthly, the December party is especially rambunctious!
- Shogatsu in Japan: (Begins around December 30) Japanese New Year is one of the favorite festivals in Japan. The epicenter of the celebration is at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
- Emperor of Japan's Birthday: (December 23) The Emperor of Japan's Birthday is one of only two days each year that people are allowed access to the palace grounds in Tokyo.
Where to Celebrate Christmas in Asia
Although you may encounter some Christmas celebrations all across Asia, for the most part, December 25 is just another work day. But if you are feeling nostalgic and a bit homesick, there are a few options.
Without question, the Philippines — the largest Catholic country in Asia — is the most enthusiastic about celebrating Christmas. You may hear Christmas music and see decorations in early October!
With scores of expats, foreign workers, and plenty of Western-influenced trends, Singapore is another good location for getting into the Christmas spirit.
Christmas in Asia certainly isn't the large-scale commercial event it is in the United States. Even still, big malls may give Christmas a shout out by decorating trees or holding special sales.
Where to Go in December
Although the dry season begins roughly in November, December begins the real "high" season in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, and Vietnam.
While rain is still always a possibility, the busy season begins to build around the end of the month with people traveling for Christmas and New Year holidays.
Crowds, temperatures, and prices begin a steady rise that runs from December until May.
As the same time, destinations such as Bali and much of Indonesia will be getting heavy rain in December. Bali and neighboring islands are best enjoyed in the spring and summer months.
The typhoon season should more or less be finished for places such as Japan and the Philippines. Temperatures will be pleasant by day and mild at night in countries such as Hong Kong, however, much of China, Japan, and Korea will be cold.
The Himalayan destinations in North India and Nepal will be plagued with snow. Many mountain passes and roads become closed. But if you are willing to brave the weather, low humidity and fresh snow provide the most impressive scenery on earth.
Places with the Best Weather
- Thailand, especially the west coast (Koh Lanta and other Thai islands)
- Southern beaches on Sri Lanka such as Unawatuna
- Langkawi Island and the western side of Malaysia
- Rajasthan, India (weather is more comfortable than usual)
Places with the Worst Weather
- Malaysian Borneo (rain)
- Sumatra (rain)
- Kuala Lumpur (rain)
- Bali (rain)
- Perhentian Islands in Malaysia (rain)
- Central China including Beijing (cold)
- Northern parts of Japan (cold)
- Korea (cold)
- North India (cold / closures)
- Higher elevations in Nepal (cold / closures)
Singapore in December
While Singapore maintains a pretty steady climate and receives rain year round, December is often the wettest month out of the year.
India in December
December is one of the best months to travel in much of India. Not only will the monsoon season be long over (hopefully), temperatures are still bearable. You may be able to get by with just three showers per day rather than the usual four required to survive the 100+ degree daily temps in New Delhi!
Rajasthan (India's desert state) enjoys pleasantly cooler evenings than usual during December. Large parties are held in Goa in December. As long as you don't go too high in elevation, pretty well all of India enjoys nice weather in December.