March in Asia is an exciting time as seasons transition, fruit trees blossom, and cold landscapes emerge from winter. The start of spring in East Asia is spectacular and celebrated. Plenty of fun spring festivals can be enjoyed throughout Asia.
Although very hot in March, Thailand and neighboring countries in Southeast Asia will be experiencing peak dry season. Meanwhile, cold weather will begin to slack off across East Asian destinations such as China and Korea. India and much of South Asia will be hot but not as bad as they will be in April when temperatures well over 100 degrees F are a daily occurrence.
Nyepi, the Balinese Day of Silence
If Bali is in your plan for March, check the date for Nyepi, the Balinese Day of Silence. Many tourists get caught by surprise every year, and yes, Nyepi will certainly affect your trip. The entire island shuts down; even the airport closes for a day! No entertainment, noise, or leaving the hotel are acceptable during the Day of Silence. Tourists aren't exempt from the restrictions of Nyepi. You'll be expected to remain quietly indoors for 24 hours. Local men patrol the streets to enforce silence.
Dates for Nyepi change annually, but the holiday often hits in March. The night before Nyepi is a rambunctious party with plenty of fire and spirit-spooking rituals.
Burning Season in Northern Thailand
March is the peak month for annual slash-and-burn agricultural fires that rage out of control in Thailand along with neighboring Laos and Myanmar (Burma). All destinations in Northern Thailand such as Pai, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai will be adversely affected.
Particulate levels in the air often reach health-threatening levels in March, stinging eyes and causing many locals to don masks. Travelers with asthma or respiratory problems should check before planning a trip to affected areas in the northern part of Thailand. Pollution and haze choke the air until Thailand's rainy season arrives in May to quench the fires.
Asia Weather in March
(average high / low temperatures and humidity)
- Bangkok: 92 F (33 C) / 78 F (26 C) with 71 percent humidity
- Kuala Lumpur: 91 F (33 C) / 74 F (23 C) with 80 percent humidity
- Bali: 93 F (34 C) / 75 F (24 C) with 85 percent humidity
- Singapore: 88 F (31 C) / 77 F (25 C) with 80 percent humidity
- Beijing: 52 F (11 C) / 33 F (0.6 C) with 41 percent humidity
- Tokyo: 56 F (13 C) / 42 F (6 C) with 55 percent humidity
- New Delhi: 85 F (29 C) / 60 F (16 C) with 55 percent humidity
Average Rainfall for March in Asia
- Bangkok: 1.2 inches (31 mm) / average of 5 days with precipitation
- Kuala Lumpur: 9 inches (230 mm) / average of 17 days with precipitation
- Bali: 9 inches (229 mm) / average of 14 days with precipitation
- Singapore: 7 inches (178 mm) / average of 15 days with precipitation
- Beijing: 0.3 inch (8 mm) / average of 4 days with precipitation
- Tokyo: 4.2 inches (107 mm) / average of 17 days with precipitation
- New Delhi: 0.6 inch (15 mm) / average of 3 days with precipitation
March reinforces its reputation as a rainy month for southern destinations in Southeast Asia such as Bali, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. Meanwhile, northern places nearer Thailand will be experiencing high season with hot, dry weather. Afternoons can become unbearably hot and humid in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand.
India will be hot and dry during March, as will the southern half of Sri Lanka. In Borneo, the northern state of Sabah (Kota Kinabalu) will enjoy better weather than the south, Sarawak (Kuching). Temperatures in Beijing can still hit freezing at night, and Tokyo will be chilly but tolerable as people head out to see the cherry blossoms.
What to Pack
Layers are always a good idea when packing, but if planning for China, Korea, or Japan, they're more important than ever. Swings of over 20 degrees between daytime and nighttime temperatures can feel drastic and throw off the immune system, especially if jet lag is a factor. Even New Delhi, with temperatures over 90 degrees F, on many days can experience evening temperatures in the low 60s!
Pack for heavy downpours if you'll be traveling in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Have a good plan for waterproofing your passport and electronics in case you get caught while out.
March Events in Asia
Because many festivals and holidays are based on lunisolar calendars, dates change from year to year. Occasionally, Easter falls in March and is celebrated vividly throughout the Philippines. Some other exciting pring festivals in Asia have the potential to come up in March:
- The Holi Festival: Definitely the messiest of the festivals in India, the Indian Holi festival is all about covering friends and strangers with colored dye while in a dancing frenzy. Colors aren't just thrown in India; you'll find celebrations across Southeast Asia in places with sizable Hindu populations. You may luck into Holi celebrations in Singapore, Penang, or Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
- Carnival: Fat Tuesday occasionally hits in March; however, as a Christian holiday, it isn't given much focus in Asia. Even the Philippines doesn't make as big a deal about Carnival as one would expect; Easter is a much bigger event there. A large dance celebration is held in Goa, India, where Portuguese colonists introduced the holiday. But then again, there's always a good reason to party in Goa!
- Hanami Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan: Celebrated on different dates throughout Japan as the trees bloom, groups and families flock to parks for picnics and hanami—literally "flower viewing." It's a fun, social time to be outside in the spring air. The end of March and all of April are great months to be in Japan for enjoying the beautiful-yet-fleeting blossoms. A similar celebration takes place in Shanghai with the Peace Blossom Festival.
- Full Moon Party in Thailand: The monthly Full Moon Party in Thailand will be in peak form in March as tens of thousands of revelers cram into Haad Rin on the island of Koh Phangan. Don't complain about the chaos: Either join in the madness or avoid the Samui Archipelago altogether! The party affects accommodation and transportation in the area.
- Nyepi: The Balinese Day of Silence follows a rowdy traditional New Year celebration, usually in March or April. Tourists are expected to remain inside their hotels for 24 hours; all activity on the island shuts down, even the airport. Participation is mandatory!
Visiting Nepal in March
March is a great month for visiting Nepal. Kathmandu will still be enjoying the dry season, and humidity will be low for maximum visibility of mountain views.
For travelers planning to hit the Himalayas, there will still be plenty of snow and cold temperatures in March. But March is a good month for trekking before the trails get even busier with climbing season in April and May. Warmer temperatures later increase humidity and the risk of avalanches.
Climbing season for Everest doesn't really begin until May; however, teams may be making some preparations at Everest Base Camp in March and April.
March Travel Tips
- Public parks in Japan and Shanghai may be exceptionally busy as friends, coworkers, and families hold picnics beneath the blooming trees. Food is a given, but sometimes a little sake helps to warm things up.
- Anything you wear to a Holi festival will inevitably be permanently stained! Wear something you don't care about then keep the Holi-colored masterpiece as a souvenir. Remember that the dye will come out and stain other items pretty much every time you wash it.
- Unfortunately, not all of the colored powders thrown during Holi are natural spices as they once were. The artificial dyes thrown in modern times can cause eye and respiratory irritation.