The Best Time to Visit Thailand

Thailand Rainy Season with man under umbrella

TripSavvy / Greg Rodgers

In a climate like that of Thailand, which is influenced by monsoons, it's best to give some thought to what time of year you go. The best time to visit Thailand is during the dry season, which lasts roughly from November to April. December through February, in particular, typically have the coolest temperatures and lowest humidity. Unsurprisingly, this is the country's busiest time, and masses of visitors arrive to take advantage of dry weather.

The Weather in Thailand

Rain during Thailand's monsoon season can be as manageable as a passing afternoon shower, or on the other end of the spectrum, it can rage for days and cause flooding. It all depends where you are and when. It's important to note that rain pops up unexpectedly during Thailand's dry season, too. A benefit of traveling during Thailand's low season is that you'll have to fight fewer crowds and can get better deals on accommodation in popular destinations.

  • When to Visit Bangkok: Bangkok is busy year-round, so you're going to have to fight crowds no matter what. The best time to visit, weather-wise is during the high season, particularly November and early December when monsoon season is ending and the holidays have yet to begin. September is typically the wettest month in Bangkok. Low areas around Bangkok near the Chao Phraya River are prone to flooding during very wet monsoon seasons, while the pollution in Bangkok keeps humidity very high year-round.
  • When to Visit Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai): Being set in the mountains, the climate of Chiang Mai differs from the rest of Thailand. Chiang Mai enjoys slightly cooler and lower humidity. The cool season, from November to February, when rainfall is low, is the best time to visit. Dust and uncontrolled fires cause poor air quality in March and April around Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand. People with asthma or allergies to smoke or dust will be better off visiting at a different time of year when the air is cleaner.
  • When to Visit the Islands: An unofficial busy season hits the islands in Thailand around June as many university students from Europe and Australia head out to party on islands such as Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Phi Phi. The islands quiet down again slightly after the students finish their summer breaks. The weather in the Thai islands is affected by more than just the time of year; storms at sea can bring rain even during the dry months. On the west coast for islands in the Andaman Sea such as Koh Lanta and Phuket, rain begins around April and tapers off in October. The islands such as Koh Tao and Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand see the most rain between October and January. Some islands such as Koh Lanta practically close down during the monsoon season. While you'll still be able to arrange transportation there, your eating and accommodation choices could be very limited. 

Peak Season in Thailand

The dry season is also the busiest time of year to visit Thailand, so expect to pay premium rates for flights and hotels. The Christmas and New Year holidays tend to attract large crowds to Bangkok, then the busy season climbs steadily from January onward. Chinese New Year (which takes place in January or February) is another busy time as many people travel to Thailand for the 15-day holiday.

The largest festivals in Thailand tend to make accommodation prices skyrocket, and transportation fills up before and after the celebration.

The Haad Rin area of Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand attracts enormous crowds of revelers each month bound for the famous Full Moon Party; accommodation around Haad Rin hits maximum capacity. Be sure to plan your visit around the Full Moon Party dates. For more information, read our full guide on traveling in Thailand during the high season.

Rainy Season in Thailand

The rainy season starts in May and goes through October, with August and September being the wettest months. Rain may fall in short and intense storms or last for days, so be prepared to get wet. If you don't mind the weather, you're most likely to find travel deals during this time. Traveling during the monsoon season is hit or miss, but you'll be able to enjoy some places in Thailand with little rain or only occasional thunderstorms. The north of Thailand typically receives less rain than the south during the monsoon season.

Key Holidays and Festivals in Thailand

Festivals in Thailand range from sacred religious holidays to full-blown water gun fights in the streets. Most holidays are based on the seasons or lunar calendar, so the exact dates change from year to year and it's a good idea to verify what's going on while trip planning. The biggest event of the year is Songkran, also known as the Water Festival, which takes place across the whole country in mid-April. Yi Peng, or the Lantern Festival, is a magical event along the riverbank in Chiang Mai every November.

A trip to Thailand during one of the many cultural events throughout the year is an especially exciting time to visit, but make sure to plan ahead. With an influx of travelers from around the country and the world, prices for hotels all go up while trains and buses are likely to sell out.

Winter

As monsoon season moves on, the crowds move in. Winter is a great time to visit, but expect more crowds and higher prices throughout the country.

Events to check out:

  • December 5 is the King of Thailand’s Birthday, which is celebrated throughout the country.
  • Don't miss the Christmas Full-Moon Party at Haad Rin on the island of Koh Phangan.

Spring

Spring is among the hottest times in Thailand, but it's also quite dry. Expect large crowds in most tourists attractions, as well as higher prices.

Events to check out:

  • Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year's holiday, takes place on April 13. It's trademarked by a huge water fight in the streets—a great way to cool off.
  • Chiang Mai is the epicenter for Songkran. Accommodation and transportation are entirely booked both before and immediately following the festival.

Summer

If you don't mind rain and heat, you might be able to find a deal by visiting Thailand during the summer. In Chiang Mai, the monsoon season peaks in August, while in Bangkok temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, summer is a popular time for university students to visit the islands.

Events to check out:

  • The Amazing Thailand Grand Sale takes place each summer and is sponsored by the country's tourism authority. Stores slash prices by more than 80 percent.
  • The Queen’s Birthday is August 12, which also serves as Mother’s Day in Thailand. A candlelight ceremony is held in the evening.

Fall

Fall in Thailand can be quite wet, but crowds are less, temperatures are a bit cooler, and low-season discounts can make a trip more affordable. Beware that fall flooding continues to be an issue in most cities!

Events to check out:

  • During Loi Krathong and Yi Peng fire-powered lanterns are released into the sky in Chiang Mai.
  • Visit the bizarre Phuket Vegetarian Festival in September. The unique event is actually part of the Taoist Nine Emperor Gods Festival.
  • The Loi Krathong and Yi Peng festivals (dates change; usually in November) attract considerable crowds to Chiang Mai; transportation gets completely bogged down.
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