When is the best time to visit Thailand?
The best time to visit is during the months of November to February when most of the country is in its cooler season. If you are planning on visiting the east side of the peninsula, also known as the Gulf of Thailand, the best time to visit is from April to September.
Because Thailand is entirely within the tropics, the weather doesn't vary like in regions with four seasons. Instead, two tropical weather patterns bring in monsoons that cause a wet season and a cooler dry season. Unless you're in the northern mountains, where temperatures can be mild during the winter, Thailand will be warm all year long, sitting between 25-29ºC.
When are the wet and rainy seasons in Thailand?
Thailand is known to have about three seasons, the wet season from May to October, a cool winter season from November to February and a hot season that occurs from March to May. This hot season can make temperatures somewhat uncomfortably, especially in the northern regions with highs nearing 40ºC.
Although it may sound odd, the best time to visit Thailand is during the so-called ‘winter’ time. Thailand is a tropical country all year round, so most travellers prefer to go when the temperatures are more manageable and the humidity has eased off. The west coast will also have calmer seas in these months, perfect weather to get out the snorkels and flippers.
When are the monsoons in Thailand?
The wet season is caused by the southwest monsoon that occurs from May to October. The monsoon will bring heavy rain and high humidity to most of the country, including the northern region and the west coast. The heaviest rains start around September; however, there may only be short bursts of rain in the early months. So, if you don't mind dodging some lighter showers, May to August is a quieter time to see the country. Consistent onshore winds make these months good for surfing too.
Soon after the southwest monsoon eases off in October, the northeast monsoon rolls in and lasts until January. This monsoon mostly affects the east coast, with the heaviest downpours falling around November.
When is the best time to visit Thailand for Phuket?
Phuket sits on the west coast of the Thai Peninsula. The best time to visit Phuket is between December to March, when there is the lowest rainfall, days are the longest, and temperatures typically sit around 28ºC. This is also the best time to sail from Phuket to destinations like the Phi Phi Islands.
Being the tropics, Phuket will typically sit between 24ºC to 33ºC for most of the year and generally be quite cloudy outside the December to March. The highest months of rainfall are September/October, with an average monthly rainfall of 315mm.
Best for: Bo Sang Umbrella and Sankhampaeng Crafts Festival, New Year's Eve and boating
Without the heat and intense humidity, January is a great time to visit Thailand. The northeast monsoon may still be impacting the Gulf of Thailand, but the west coast resorts should be in full summer swing, perfect for snorkelling and beach enthusiasts. If you're already in the area, you could always follow the good weather along the coast to see the best of Thailand and Malaysia. Or, go all the way from Bangkok to Bali to really take advantage of the tropical sunshine.
Thailand celebrates not one but three New Year’s celebrations. If you are planning to celebrate the Western world’s NYE on January 1st, it's good to know that this is also in the middle of the school holiday break for Australia and New Zealand. So it's likely to be pretty busy.
Best for: Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Chinese New Year and beaches
This month is another great time for beaches, swimming and exploring. With hotter temperatures starting in March, February is one of the last months of the peak season. Consider travelling to the northern reaches of Thailand before the heat really kicks off. You may even be able to catch the beautiful Chiang Mai Flower Festival in the first week of February. Or, depending on the lunar calendar, you might even be in town to celebrate the ever-exciting Chinese New Year.
Best for: National Elephant Day, Poy Sang Long Festival and sun-filled days
Temperatures begin their yearly climb to the mid-30s (ºC) as the hotter season kicks off in March. Temps will start to rise from now until June and crowds will generally start to fade. You may find a bit more space to spread out on the many stunning beaches around the country.
Thailand’s National Elephant Day falls on the 13th of March. If you'd like to see these magnificent animals enjoy their well-earned celebration, visit ethical rescue centres like the ChangChill Elephant Sanctuary or the Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park.
Best for: Songkran (New Year Water Festival), swimming and snorkelling
The temps are high but if you’re in Thailand for the 13th-15th of April, you’ll likely get a nice cool down by way of Songkran. Thai New Year’s Eve, known as Songkran, is a water festival where people splash water to wash away bad luck for a fresh start in the next. So prepared to get soaked as both locals and visitors share in the splashing. It's usually busier around this celebration, with locals and travellers journeying out for the water party.
Best for: Bung Ban Fai Rocket Festival, surfing and fewer travellers
May sits on the border of the hot and wet seasons. It can be quieter around this time but the southwest monsoon may start to impact the weather. This usually sees short bursts of rain, likely in the later parts of the day. The coastal regions won't get quite as hot as the rest of the country but the arriving monsoon will bring onshore winds, providing some pretty decent swells for the surfers out there.
A special event marks the approaching rainy season in Thailand. The festival, known as the Bung Ban Fai Rocket Festival, is a noisy, fun-filled day where huge numbers of rockets are launched into the sky, intended to encourage the much-needed rains to come.
Best for: swimming, smaller crowds and visiting historical sights
With the west coast usually affected by the May to October monsoon, the east coast is a great holiday destination. Temperatures in the capital Bangkok are an average of 30ºC, and with the start of the monsoon, there will be heavier rains, although generally, it's not as much as later in the wet season. Consider some exciting adventures on the east coast from May to October and tick off some of Thailand's most iconic attractions, such as the ancient capital Sukhothai, the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi or Erawan National Park.
Best for: Phi Ta Khon (Ghost Festival), surfing and island exploring
July is a popular time for visitors, especially for east coast beach destinations like Ko Tao, Ko Samui and Ko Phitak. If you are okay managing a few showers, the west coast may be preferable for those who wish to travel but not be in amongst the crowds.
If you’re interested in a true cultural experience, the Phi Ta Khon Festival in northeast Thailand is not one to miss. Known as the Ghost Festival, locals parade in bright costumes and ceremonial processions, donning ghost masks that liven up the streets in one giant party.
Best for: Asahna Bucha Day, Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival and Por Tor (Hungry Ghost festival)
The east coast is your best bet for sunshine in August, although since it’s the tropics, you may still get some slight showers. The rest of the country will be experiencing heavy rains but there’s always something exciting happening in Thailand, and August is no exception.
The day known as Asahna Bucha Day is an important day to Buddhists and occurs around August. To celebrate this day, candle festivals are held, with the most known being the Ubon Ratchathani. At this celebration, see impressive candles and wax creations on floats alongside traditional music and dance.
Best for: east coast adventures, surfing and low crowds
September is the rainiest month for eastern cities like Bangkok as well as the rest of continental Thailand. This is one of the last months for great weather on the east coast, although soon the west coast will be back to sunshine-filled days. Because of the rain and winds, Thailand will be quieter than in other months, which is great for off-peak season travel and surfers.
Best for: Awk Phansa Rub Bua (Lotus Throwing Festival), Lai Reua Fai (Illuminated Boat Procession) and the Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Now the northeast monsoon arrives, bringing wet weather to the Gulf. But on the plus side, the change in wind direction generally takes off some of that famous rainy season humidity. It’ll also start to calm the waters on the west coast. Consider a trip towards the end of the month for drier conditions.
There’s a selection of celebrations for those looking to see more of Thailand’s local scene. See the beautiful Lotus Throwing Festival, called Rob Bau, that occurs on the Buddhist holiday, Awk Phansa Day. Or, grab a spot for the Lai Reua Fai, the Illuminated Boat Procession in the northeast. And the popular Phuket Vegetarian Festival is on this month if you'd like to see a more extreme style of Thai celebration.
Best for: Yi Peng (Lantern Festival), Loy Krathong and water activities
Now comes the winter time, but don’t be alarmed. There’s no huddling up in jumpers or beanies because Thailand's on the always-warm equator. Winter here is also known as the cool season, as the greater rains have passed and the heat isn’t at its peak. Think sunny west coast beaches, perfect for snorkelling, boating and adventure.
Visitors will start to arrive now for the good weather, as well as some beautiful celebrations that occur in November, such as the Loy Krathong, or ‘Festival of Lights’, where candles are placed on the water in small ‘krathongs’ (vessels/baskets), to pay homage to the goddess of water. Another celebration worth visiting is the Yi Peng Lantern Festival, where to mark the end of the rainy season, lanterns of every colour grace homes and temples.
Best for: island hopping, family holidays and swimming
The great weather meets the Christmas holiday crowds this month, so it’ll likely be busy. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying all that Thailand has to offer. Explore jungles for roaring waterfalls, hand-feed elephants their lunch, float down a river or simply enjoy the best of Thai cuisine. With so much to offer, Thailand makes for a great family adventure