What is the best time of year to go to Thailand?
Honestly, it depends on your travel goals and the length and type of your trip. Many say that the best time to visit Thailand is from November to February, as the weather is ideal during this time throughout the country. However, this is also the tourist high season. Going in the shoulder or off-season is quite appealing as well, as you will get lower prices and fewer crowds.
Climate by region
Central & North Thailand
The best weather occurs during the dry season from November to April. From June till September, the north is affected by the southwest monsoon, with regular heavy rainfall.
South East Coast Thailand
The Gulf of Thailand (including the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao) see lots of sunshine during the dry season of January till July. September to December is monsoon season on the eastern coast.
South West Coast Thailand
The western coast, including such destinations as Krabi, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta, has a shorter tourist season. Weather is ideal from November to March, with rainier months from May till September.
How bad is the rainy season?
In the rainy season, it won’t literally rain all the time.
Also, if you’re from a temperate climate you’ll probably think of rain as a constant drizzle throughout the day. In tropical Thailand, rain often comes in the form of very heavy downpours lasting a couple of hours, followed by sunshine. You might also associate rain with cold, but in the tropics the rain is just, well… wet!
But even if you get soaked, your clothes can dry in just 20 minutes.
I once travelled in northern Thailand in October which is in the monsoon season. The landscapes were lush and green, though I also had heavy rain on a few days. It led to a cosy afternoon spent at the hostel reading and playing cards with other travellers. Another time I was in the patio of a bar when without warning the skies suddenly emptied — it rained so hard things were getting knocked off the tables, and the bar closed for the evening. But I also hiked for several days in the beautiful sun, spent a week in Chiang Mai with barely a drop, and so on.
Similarly, I spent a lot of time on the west coast in May (start of monsoon season) and I actually can’t remember seeing any rain at all. As an added advantage, places like Railay Beach that are normally rammed with tourists were very chill during this time. I was also on the east coast in December (end of monsoon) and had sunshine for most of the time.
In the middle of the monsoon it definitely rains a ton but it’s still a totally viable time to visit Thailand, particularly if you’re travelling around Thailand (focusing on cultural and nature experiences) and not just there for a beach holiday in Phuket.
By the way, if you’re about to depart for Thailand and your weather app shows thunderclouds for the whole week, don’t panic just yet! In hot climates like these it’s common to have some thunder in the evenings, but good weather during the day—however, weather sites will then just use the thunderclouds icon for that entire day, which can look pretty alarming on a weekly forecast.
When should you go?
If your trip in Thailand is short and on a fixed itinerary, I would recommend going in the main tourist season (roughly December to February). With a short trip the stakes are higher, and during this time you’ll simply have less risk of bad weather affecting your one and only scheduled day in a particular place.
If your only priority is having a beach holiday in Thailand, you should probably also avoid the monsoon seasons.
If you are in Thailand for at least a few weeks, then it might matter a lot less if you’re in the supposedly ‘perfect time of year’. A rainy day here and there will probably have less of a dramatic impact on your travel plans. You can plan around it, or stay a day longer somewhere. To you, going outside the tourist high season actually has some great advantages.
Personally I recommend the months bookending the monsoons, as they’re very nicely chilled out (with far fewer tourists) but for the most part still have some fantastic weather.
Avoiding the monsoons
Two things are useful to know for planning around the rainy seasons:
- The western and eastern coasts on Thailand are out of sync with each other. E.g. when it’s rainy season on the east coast, it’s probably not on the west coast, so you can choose your islands accordingly.
- If you’re travelling through Southeast Asia, then keep in mind the monsoon in other countries can be opposite of Thailand. For instance, Indonesia has its dry season from May to September, which is when it’s rainy season in most of Thailand. You can arrange the order of your visits in Southeast Asia to make best use of the weather.
Festivals & events
Some dates you may wish to consider:
- Songkran – Thai New Year, a public holiday during which many streets close and people take part in massive water fights – April 13-15
- Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai – thousands of lanterns are sent up into the air to pay respect to Buddha, November 3 or 4
- Full Moon Party – boozy beach festival held in Haad Rin Beach on Koh Phangan every month at full moon.