Seasons & climate

Thailand is a tropical country known for heavy humidity and temperatures consistently topping 30C. It has three distinct seasons: hot and dry (March to May), rainy (June to October) and cool (November to February).


Dry and sunny weather covers most of the kingdom from November through April, although the latter end of that stretch gets brutally hot at inland destinations like Bangkok and Sukhothai. While all of the dry months are popular for holidays, lodgings fill up around Christmas and any of three New Year festivals: the 31st December and the Chinese version a month or two later, depending on the lunar cycle, as well as the Thai New Year, or Songkran, in April.

Steer clear of the North during the April burning season when field stubble smoulders away at countless farms in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, cloaking the whole region in a thick haze. Chiang Mai, normally a relatively pollution-free city, has some of the worst air quailty of any city in the world on certain days in April. It ends when the rains arrive in May.

All but one of the monsoons affecting Thailand arrives in May and lasts through October, a period when resorts and restaurants close on many islands, some ferries stop running due to rough seas and certain marine park islands close up entirely. Rainy season does have its advantages on the mainland, including discounted room rates, more impressive waterfalls and thinner crowds. Though flooding is relatively common in the southern and central regions, the north and northeast are both good bets during the wet season.

The rainy season arrives later on the southern Gulf coast, allowing islands like Ko Samui, Ko Phangan and Ko Tao to collect tourists when the Andaman and Eastern Gulf coasts are getting drenched. The rain finally sneaks in around August and lasts well into December or even January, when the Andaman coast is most likely bone dry only 120km away.


Floating lanterns at Loi Krathong festival, Chiang Mai

Festival and events

Songkran, or Thai New Year, might just be the world’s biggest water fight. Held in the steamy hot season, this tradition may be a full-blown water war waged by hose, pistol, balloon and bucket, but it began centuries ago with some innocent water splashing that remains part of a cleansing ritual still seen at temples. The festival runs from April 13th-15th nationwide, although Chiang Mai adds extra soakage days and the Mon enclave of Phra Phradaeng, near Bangkok, throws its own unique style of Songkran a week later.

Thailand's other big nationwide holiday is Loi Krathong, when candlelit offerings fill rivers and float through the sky in a moving ritual to release past negativity and start afresh. Accompanied by cultural performances, parades and light shows, Sukhothai's Loi Krathong festivities are unforgettable. The date changes year to year but typically falls in November, always on a full moon.

Few places do regional festivals better than the northeast Isaan region between late May and early July — the start of the rice planting season. In Loei province, Phi Ta Khon celebrates the spirit world via elaborately painted masks worn by dancing and flailing "mediums" in a spiritually charged spectacle.

For something lighter, check out Ubon Ratchathani's Hae Thian Parade of detailed carved wax image. In the nearby and otherwise obscure province of Yasothon, the Bueng Fai Festival features rockets small and large, launched day and night as part of an annual rain-making ritual.

Lastly, Thailand has a national public holiday dedicated entirely to kids. On Children's Day or Wan Dek, held on 11th January, schools close as special fairs and activities spring up across the country.

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