Thailand

Best time to go and how to get there

Thailand: When to Go

Bangkok is best in the so-called cool season (expect a mere 30 degrees), from November to February. It starts to get hotter through February, typically reaching a 40 degree climax in April and May, before the rains arrive. It’s still warm, though wetter, from June to August. At the end of the rainy season (September - October), whole districts of the city can flood, and there is frequent disruption.

The eastern islands (Gulf of Thailand) are affected by the northeast monsoon from October to December, with the worst of the rains coming in November. Travel to/from the island can be difficult during these months. January to April is high season, with hot and humid days; May through September are cooler, with pleasant breezes spilling over from the southwest monsoon during July - September.

The east coast of peninsular Thailand follows the same pattern, but the October - December monsoon is much milder; and there is also a little rain and cloud spilling over from the western monsoon (July - September). But it is rarely very wet at any time of year.

The west coast and islands (Andaman sea) have peak season in November to February, when the weather is relatively cool (30 degrees) and there is little rain. From March it warms up, and then comes the monsoon season (May - October). The seas can get very rough and you can expect some strong but short downpours (especially in May, June and September).

The north mainland (e.g. Chiang Mai) is best from November to January, when it's quite cool (high 20 degrees) and clear. But it is very busy. In February and March, swidden (brush) fires make it hazy in the hills, and low waters rule out rafting, but it's still fine for city sight-seeing. March to May is hot and humid, with rains typically coming any time after the Songkran festival (mid April). June to October is consistently rainy, making trekking muddy work, but ideal for rafting.

Festivals and events in Thailand are particularly colourful and vibrant, and it can be worth planning your trip to coincide with one. The 2 biggest - book early, or avoid them altogether! - are Songkran (New Year) in mid-April, which is basically an excuse to throw water at complete strangers; and Loy Krathong (Festival of Lights) in November, when Thais send floats downriver with a coin, candle and incense to take bad luck away. You'll also need to book hotels in advance if you plan to be in Bangkok around Chinese New Year (which falls on the first day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar every year) or Losar (Tibetan New Year). During the rest of the year, handicraft shows, beauty pageants and boat races are also popular. Many are determined by the lunar calendar, so the dates change from year to year.

JANUARY

  • Chiang Mai Winter Fair - beauty pageants, boxing competitions, craft stalls and loud music
  • Bo Sang Umbrella Festival (near Chiang Mai) - display of hand-painted parasols with dancing and music
  • River of Kings Show (Bangkok) - an extravagant theatrical production with 700 actors and 2 elephants (late January/early February)
  • Ban Thawai Woodcarving Fair (near Chiang Mai) - demonstrations, contests and sale of hardwood crafts (late January/early February)
  • Losar (Bangkok) - elaborate decorations and dances to celebrate Tibetan New Year (late January/early February)

    FEBRUARY
  • Chinese New Year - best in Chinatown, Bangkok, where Yaowarat Road is decorated with flowers, lanterns, food and shows (early February)
  • Chiang Mai Flower Festival - fantastic parade of floral sculptures, plus beauty pageants (first weekend)
  • Maha Puja (temples around Thailand, especially Doi Suthep near Chiang Mai) - a day of merit-making ending with candlelit procession (full-moon day)

    MARCH
  • Kite-flying contests (Sanam Luang, Bangkok and elsewhere)
  • Asian Dove Festival (Yala, southern Thailand) - includes a cooing contest between 1500 birds!
  • Pattaya Music Festival (east of Bangkok) - held on Pattaya beach

    APRIL
  • Songkran (Thai New Year) - nationwide merry-making with lots of water-throwing to mark the first rains; be warned, you will get wet! (mid-April)
  • Chiang Mai Art & Culture Festival
  • Pattaya Water Festival (east of Bangkok) - a firework-food-n-floats extravaganza that follows (and outplays) Songkran
  • Poi Sang Long (Mae Hong Son near Chiang Mai) - the ordination of novice monks followed by colourful procession

    MAY
  • Royal Ploughing Ceremony (Sanam Luang, Bangkok) - costumed ceremonies to inaugurate rice-growing season (14th May)
  • Visakha Bucha (temples nationwide) - night-time processions to celebrate the birth, enlightenment and passing of Lord Buddha
  • Fruit Festivals (eastern Thailand) - parade and sale of local fruit

    JUNE
  • 'Amazing Thailand' sales at shopping arcades and department stores nationwide; continues into July

    JULY
  • Samui Festival - local culture show on Lamai and Chaweng beaches
  • Khao Pansa (start of Buddhist Lent) - monks stay in their temples; exhibition of beeswax candles in Ubon Ratchathani

    AUGUST
  • Queen Sirikit's birthday - houses and public buildings are decorated (12th August)

    SEPTEMBER
  • Boat Races at Phichit, Phisanulok, Narathiwat and on other rivers (first week)
  • Kings Cup Polo Tournament (Hua Hin)

    OCTOBER
  • Vegetarian Festival (Phuket and elsewhere) - street processions and self-mortification ceremonies at Chinese temples (first week)
  • Water Buffalo Races (Chonburi and elsewhere) - the beasts take 2 days off from ploughing to race each other and wrestle with humans
  • Ok Phansa (end of Buddhist Lent) - exhibition of wax model temples in northeast Thailand, and boat races at Sakon Nakhon

    NOVEMBER
  • Regional Longboat Races (chiefly in northeast Thailand and Ayutthaya)
  • Surin Elephant Games (northeast Thailand) - including tug-of-war
  • Loy Krathong (Festival of Lights) (nationwide, especially Sukhothai) - ceremonial floating of lotus-shaped offerings to Mother of Waters, accompanied in Chiang Mai by hot-air balloons and elsewhere by fireworks; very uplifting (late November)
  • River Kwai Bridge Week (west of Bangkok) - exhibitions and son-et-lumiere reenactment of the WWII episode (late November/early December)
  • 'Amazing Thailand' sales at shopping arcades and department stores nationwide ( late November/early December)

    DECEMBER
  • King's Birthday - taken very seriously, with decoration of public buildings, and illumination of Bangkok's Grand Palace (5th December)
  • Kings Cup Regatta - Asia's premier yacht-racing event (6th-12th December)
  • Laguna Phuket Triathlon - well-publicised, world-class athletic event
  • Ayutthaya Celebration (north of Bangkok) - son-et-lumiere shows amid the ruins
  • Western New Year is celebrated in Bangkok (31st)

  • 03:29 | GMT + 7 Hours

    TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

    Getting There

    NB, please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning.

    BY AIR

    From the UK: carriers include Thai Airways, British Airways, Qantas or via the Middle East with Emirates, Etihad Airways.

    From Europe: try KLM, Lufthansa,Alitalia, Air France, Finnair and Swiss.


    From the USA: with Thai Airways.

    Getting Around

    INTERNAL FLIGHTS: Try Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways and Orient Thai.

    BY TRAIN: The most popular route is the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, which is an atmospheric way to arrive in the north. Other useful routes include the line south from Bangkok past Hua Hin and Pranburi to Chumphon (for Koh Tao); and indeed on to Surat Thani (for Koh Samui) and Nakhon Si Thammarat, if you don't mind spending a full day on board.

    BY BUS: There's a good network of inter-city bus routes, but they are rather slow and can be uncomfortable for long journeys.

    WITHIN TOWNS AND CITIES: You'll see songthaews - pick-up vans with 2 benches in the back. Standard taxis are also available in Bangkok and the larger cities. Another option is the three-wheeled tuk-tuk. Finally, if you're desperate, you can hop onto a passing motorbike-taxi, whose drivers wear brightly-coloured and numbered bib-jackets.

    BY BOAT: Among the islands and the coastal areas such as Krabi, the easiest way to get about is by boat, either by (shared or private) 'longtail boat', or on a larger ferry-type service.Ferries ply between the major islands and ports, including Phuket - Koh Phi Phi - Ban Laem Kruat (for Krabi) - Koh Lanta on the west (Andaman) coast; and Koh Samui (Nathon or Big Buddha) - Koh Phangan (Thong Sala or Hat Rin) - Koh Tao - Chumphon (mainland) on the east (Gulf of Thailand) coast.

    Need more Info

    tourismthailand.co.uk - the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Britain