Thailand climate guide
Wondering when is the best time to experience Thailand weather? Maybe this is your first visit to Thailand and you want to know when is the best time of year to travel to Thailand? Or where is the best location to visit in Thailand? We’ve compiled this Thailand Climate Guide to help you to answer these questions and plan your travels to Thailand with confidence.
The first thing to understand is that there is no one single best time of year to travel to Thailand. Because the country is oriented to the north and south, the bottom of Thailand is very tropical and dominated by beach resorts, while the top of Thailand is sub-tropical and dominated by mountains and forests. So Thailand weather also varies depending on where you travel in Thailand. Even within the same general area, seasonal differences can be significant. For example, the popular tourist destinations of Phuket and Ko Samui, in Southern Thailand, are only about 300 km apart. Phuket is in the Andaman Sea on the western side of the peninsula, so its wet season (along with the Pattaya weather pattern) is from May to October. But Ko Samui, just 300 km away, is on the eastern side of the peninsula in the Gulf of Thailand and its wet season is exactly opposite, from November to April. For travellers, this means there’s always somewhere where the Thailand weather is great, any time of year.
Cooler season (November to February)
Generally speaking, Thailand weather conditions are always cooler and dryer between November and February each year, and also less humid, so the skies are clear and the sun is very warm and this is considered to be the best time of year to book your Thailand holiday. But it’s also the most expensive time as this is winter in America and Europe so lots of people want to holiday somewhere warm. The daytime temperatures are in the low 30′s and the night time temperatures are around 20 degrees. So you can generally expect exceptionally nice weather except, perhaps, in Koh Samui and the Gulf islands where it’s the wet season.
Hotter season (March to May)
The hot season in Thailand is typically very, very hot. But this is also the time of Songkran, the Thai new year water festival which is usually held in early April and is a heap of wet, wet fun. Temperatures are typically in the mid to high 30s during the day and high 20s overnight, so getting soaked is not a problem. In the north, the farmers are burning off the stubble from the season’s crops so the air can be heavy with smoke and pollen, which could impact those who suffer from hay fever.
Wetter season (June to October)
The arrival of the distinct monsoon season is not clearly set. It used to arrive in June but recently the monsoon has been arriving in April. The wet season used to end in October, but more recently the rain has been continuing into November and even December. This is part of a global change of climate that’s affecting most places. During the wet season the humidity is very high and the temperatures are in the high 20s or even low 30s, so it can be a bit unpleasant. On the other hand, there are far fewer tourists, no queues to get into the best places and the hotel and flight prices are much cheaper. There are still long spells of sunshine between the rain periods and you can still swim and surf and snorkel in most places in Thailand. Generally any rainy periods will come in the late afternoon or overnight and may last for a couple or a few hours. They are more of an inconvenience than anything else.
In Southern Thailand (beach resorts like Phuket, Ko Samui and Krabi), there are no really definable seasons as you are quite close to the equator. But these areas do have a distinct dry season and wet season and it’s usually better to visit in the dry season if you want lots of sun, sand and surf. However, we often go to Southern Thailand in the early part of the wet season as the prices are cheaper and the resorts are less crowded, but the weather is still very warm with lots of sunny periods between showers. The dry season here is generally between May and October, with March and April considered the best travel periods.
Different locations, different climates
The graphs below show the top temperatures, average rainfall and average hours of sunshine for popular locations in our Thailand climate guide (courtesy of Virgin Holidays UK):
Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand weather and climate
Ko Phi Phi and the Gulf island resorts weather and climate
Key holidays and festivals
You might decide to plan your Thailand holiday around one or more of the key festivals and events that happen every year in Thailand. Here are some of the more significant events. The first event celebrated in Thailand each year is Magha Puja, the full moon festival which occurs on the first full moon of the third lunar month (usually February but sometimes March). On this day, Thai people try not to commit any kind of sin, to do good deeds and purify their minds. Magha Puja is a public holiday in Thailand,Laos,Cambodia and Burma and most Bhuddists visit their local temple. The temples hold candle-light processions and are decorated with flowers and incense.
The next key date is Chakri Memorial Day, celebrated on 6 April, which commemorates the Chakri Dynasty (the family of the current king) and the founding of Bangkok. King Rama I, the first of the Chakri Dynasty, is reputed to have saved Thailand from the Burmese after Ayutthaya, then the capital, was captured and partly destroyed. Rama I went on to build the Grand Palace and make Bangkok his capital. On Chakri Day, the Thai people make offerings of flowers and garlands at the numerous statues of King Rama I in the House of Chakri.
Songkran is the Thai New Year, the biggest festival of the Thai calendar, and is celebrated throughout the country in the week leading up to the 13th or 14th of April. Thailand also celebrates the western New Year but Songkran is different and special. If you really want the full experience of Songkran, you need to go to Songkran in Chiang Mai from the 7th to the 14th of April, as nowhere is this festival celebrated more passionately than in Chiang Mai. Water is the main theme of Songkran and it begins with cleansing rituals in homes and temples, then the blessing of elders with small amounts of water. But it soon descends into mad water fights on the streets with buckets, scoops, water pistols, what ever holds water. Foreign tourists are very keenly involved and are often seen as great targets, but it’s all in good fun and April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand so the drenching is often a welcome relief from the heat.
The first week of May brings two more public holidays in Thailand. The first is National Labour Day on the 1st of May. The second is Coronation Day on the 5th of May, which celebrates the anniversary of the coronation of King Bhumibol in 1950. Around the end of May, depending on the lunar calendar, there is also Visakha Bucha Day, also called Vesak, which celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. July has a couple of important events with Asarnha Bucha Day on the full moon around the middle of the month. This festival celebrates the day the Buddha delivered his first sermon to a group of disciples, the Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma. This is followed immediately by Buddhist Lent which marks the beginning of three months of meditation for Buddhist monks.
Thailand celebrates the Queen’s Birthday on 12th of August, which is also celebrated nationally as Mother’s Day. Chulalongkorn Day is celebrated on the 23rd of October to commemorate the death of King Chulalongkorn in 1910. King Chulalongkorn is famous for saving Thailand (or Siam as it was then) from being colonised by foreigners and was the model for the movie and musical The King and I.
The current King’s Birthday is celebrated on the 5th of December, also celebrated as National Day and Father’s Day in Thailand. On the last day of December, Thailand celebrate’s New Year’s Eve along with the western world.
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