Winter in Thailand: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Boats on the beach and blue water at Koh Lipe, Thailand

4FR / Getty Images

 

Winter in Thailand is exactly what you need for sand, sunshine, and shareable #nofilter photos that will undoubtedly cause coworkers to grind their teeth. As the monsoon season winds down in November, sunny days return sans humidity, making winter the best time to travel in Thailand.

With ideal weather luring travelers from their dark winters, Thailand gets busy. High season becomes crowded, particularly in January and February. Here's what you need to know and pack to really enjoy winter in Thailand.

The Busy Season in Thailand

As with most countries that experience monsoon seasons, improving weather lures more and more travelers to enjoy sunny days. This is particularly true in winter when those travelers are weary of scraping ice from windshields at home.

Thailand is a popular destination and stays pretty well busy throughout the year. Bangkok often surpasses London, Paris, and New York as the most visited city in the world. As the high season hits in December, the tourism floodgates really open. Popular destinations get busier than ever during winter in Thailand. Book early, especially if you'll be traveling in January and February.

Haze and Smoke in Thailand

Annual slash-and-burn agricultural practices start fires that burn out of control, mostly in Northern Thailand. The haze and smoke from these fires linger, causing respiratory issues and even occasionally prompting the shutdown of Chiang Mai’s international airport.

The haze really peaks in March and April, however, there’s a chance that some fires will already be burning in February or sooner. Travelers with asthma or other respiratory problems should check the particulate matter levels for Northern Thailand before traveling there.

Thailand Weather in Winter

December, January, and February are typically the months with the best weather in Thailand. From November to February, daily humidity drops to between 60 – 70 percent. Mean temperatures stay in the low 80s F (28 – 29 degrees C). Those numbers may still sound a little high, but they're way more comfortable than the rest of the year!

Although nice and warm, Thailand is situated neatly in the Northern Hemisphere. "Winter" refers to the months of December, January, and February.

Thailand Weather in December

Unless the monsoon is running late, expect virtually no rain in Bangkok for December. Meanwhile, the islands in the Samui Archipelago will still be receiving a little rain.

Temperatures and humidity are among the lowest of the year. You may even feel cool at night in northern destinations such as Chiang Mai!

Average High / Low Temperatures

  • Bangkok: 91 F (32.8 C) / 74 F (23.3 C)
  • Chiang Mai: 84 (28.9 C) / 61 F (16.1 C)
  • Phuket: 90 F (32.2 C) / 77 F (25 C)
  • Koh Samui: 85 F (29.4 C) / 75 F (23.9 C)

Rainfall in December

  • Bangkok: 0.6 inches
  • Chiang Mai: 0.1 inches
  • Phuket: 3.4 inches
  • Koh Samui: 6.2 inches

Thailand Weather in January

Rain slacks slightly for the islands in the Gulf of Thailand but doesn't stop completely. Conditions in Bangkok are ideal. Average humidity is around 64 percent, the lowest of the year.

Nights can really feel cool in the north, especially after hot afternoons. Dress warmly if you'll be among the many people who drive a motorbike along the scenic, mountainous road from Chiang Mai to Pai.

Average High / Low Temperatures

  • Bangkok: 91 F (32.8 C) / 73 F (22.8 C)
  • Chiang Mai: 86 F (30 C) / 59 F (15 C)
  • Phuket: 91 F (32.8 C) / 77 F (25 C)
  • Koh Samui: 84 F (28.9 C) / 75 F (23.9 C)

Rainfall in January

  • Bangkok: 1.1 inches
  • Chiang Mai: 0 inches
  • Phuket: 1.9 inches
  • Koh Samui: 4.5 inches

Thailand Weather in February

February is the last month of ideal weather for visiting Thailand before heat and humidity begin to build again in March.

Seasonal fires during March cause air-quality issues in North Thailand, making February the best month to go. Conditions in the islands will be perfect.

Average High / Low Temperatures

  • Bangkok: 93 F (33.9 C) / 77 F (25 C)
  • Chiang Mai: 91 F ( C) / 61 F (16.1 C)
  • Phuket: 93 F (33.9 C) / 77 F (25 C)
  • Koh Samui: 85 F (29.4 C) / 77 F (25 C)

Rainfall in February

  • Bangkok: 1.2 inches
  • Chiang Mai: 0 inches
  • Phuket: 1 inch
  • Koh Samui: 1.9 inches

What to Pack

Nighttime temperatures in places such as Pai in the mountains of Northern Thailand can feel chilly after hot afternoons, but temperatures never really dip below the mid-60s Fahrenheit. A light cover-up or thin jacket will suffice; you’ll want one anyway for the freezing temperatures on buses due to the drivers’ overuse of air conditioning.

The default, footwear of choice in Southeast Asia, and many other parts of Asia, is the simple flip-flop sandal. From the islands to big cities, locals wear them daily. If you are visiting temples, it's easy to take them off before going in. If you don't plan on going to up-scale establishments or doing any serious trekking, you could actually get by just fine on your trip with a single pair of flip-flops!

Have a good plan for waterproofing your passport and luggage for late, pop-up showers in the islands.

Grand palace at twilight in Bangkok during King's birthday celebration
Bee-Teerapol / Getty Images

Winter Events in Thailand

Most of Thailand’s biggest festivals, aside from Chinese New Year, tend to be in either spring or fall rather than winter. Other areas of Asia do have key winter festivals. For Thailand, you can expect to see these winter celebrations:

  • Father's Day (Formerly the King's Birthday Holiday): December 5 is commemorated as the birthday of King Bhumibol, the late King of Thailand. The date is set aside for remembering him with candlelight vigils in places such as Bangkok. December 5 is a public holiday and also National Day in Thailand. The King's Birthday celebration is now July 28 to observe King Maha Vajiralongkorn's Birthday.
  • Lunar New Year: Lunar New Year is observed in Thailand with lion dances, parades, stage shows, and lots of fireworks. The holiday can be a very busy time to travel in Bangkok, and throughout Asia, for that matter. Prices for flights and accommodation sometimes spike as demand increases.
Christmas Stalls with colorful light in front of the Cathedral.
by Chakarin Wattanamongkol / Getty Images

Christmas in Thailand

Christmas is observed in big cities around Thailand, particularly Bangkok and Chiang Mai where large expat communities call home. The many malls in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area will have Christmas trees and decorations in place, although not nearly as over the top as is seen in the United States. You may even get to see a Thai Santa Claus!

The Christmas Full Moon Party at Haad Rin on the island of Koh Phangan is one of the largest of the year. More than 30,000 travelers will meet on the beach to party for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Winter Travel Tips

  • Remember that winter is the busiest time to travel in Thailand. Try to stay patient, take breaks, and arrive early when visiting big attractions such as the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Also, remember that you are the boss of your trip. If someplace ceases to be fun because people are jostling for photos—leave!
  • Although Thailand's weather is ideal in the winter months, it's still probably way warmer than you left at home. Remember to protect yourself from the sun, and make an extra effort to stay hydrated. Drinking fresh coconut water is an excellent option.
  • Like much of Asia, Thailand has a culture of haggling. Do a little friendly negotiating when making purchases in the markets—it's expected—but understand that getting discounts during winter in Thailand is harder to do than when traveling during the low season.
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