Thailand Weather - When is the Best time to visit Thailand
When is the best time to visit Thailand? What to expect in terms of weather, crowds, and activities
You dream of Thailand. The sun, the beaches, exotic culture, food, the adventure of it all. You must experience this wondrous place firsthand. You’re ready to book your flight. But first...when is the right time to go? How will your trip be affected by the weather and crowds? Will rainy days spoil your holiday? Are there any worthwhile activities during the Thailand monsoon season or hot season?
All the above are valid questions. But if you want to know the best time to visit Thailand, the real answer depends on your preferences. In other words, it differs for everyone. So how can you figure out when is the best time for your trip? First you need to understand how Thailand’s seasons affect weather, crowds, and ideal activities. So what can you expect in these three areas? If you’re like most people, weather is top of mind. So let’s start there.
Thailand’s 3 seasons: What to expect for weather
Though Thailand has three seasons, all of them share one common trait. It’s always warm. And typically, even in the Thailand rainy season, there’s a lot of sunshine (more on that later). First, let’s take a closer look at what you can expect from Thailand’s three main seasons.
Thailand Cool Season Weather
The most popular time to visit Thailand is when it’s coolest, between November and February. Though this time of year is called Winter by some locals, it is nothing like the Winter many of us westerners imagine. Snow is as foreign to Thailand as volcano eruptions are to London. For the most part, you can expect temps between 19 to 30 degrees celsius and sunny, dry days. Depending on the year you visit, you may get the odd day that drops 5-10 degrees below these averages, so it may not be a bad idea to bring a few warmer items just in case—such as a sweater, pants, or even woolen hat. This is even more true if you plan on spending significant amounts of time in north Thailand, such as Chiang Mai or the northern highlands.
Thailand Hot Season Weather
Immediately following Thailand’s Winter is the Hot season. This short period lasts from March to May, and is known for soaring temperatures, and sunny and dry days. In Bangkok and Chiang Mai, air pollution can be a problem this time of year. And many travellers will also find the excessive heat unbearable. Does that mean you shouldn’t visit now? As you’ll soon see, there are a few unique benefits to a holiday during the Hot season. More on that later.
Thailand Rainy Season Weather
Lasting from May to October, Thailand’s longest season is characterized by somewhat cooler temperatures from 22 to 35 celsius and, well, rain. That said, the wet weather is not what most travellers expect. Throughout the majority of the country, rain only lasts for an hour or two each day. And it can be a welcomed downpour. The showers typically drop temperatures during the rainfall and sometimes up to a day afterward.
It should be noted that the Rainy season is often referred to interchangeably as the monsoon season. While a monsoon may stir up images of high winds, downpours and flooding, the term actually denotes the wind pattern that occurs during this season, where moisture is pulled from the Indian Ocean to Asia’s mainland.
How Thailand weather varies by region
Now that you have a general understanding of Thailand’s seasons, let’s look closer at weather variations among the regions.
Central Thailand Weather
Almost everyone who visits Thailand makes a stop in the capital city of Bangkok. It’s hard to miss. The Big Mango is, of course, a travel hub for the entire South East Asian region. That said, Bangkok weather is almost always hot. In fact, the World Meteorological Organization named it the hottest city in the world. As such, even in the Cool season it can be hotter than any other area of Thailand, likely due to its inland location, excessive concrete, and air pollution (which traps heat in the city). Don’t let that scare you. Bangkok is a phenomenal city with some truly amazing sites and things to do. Check out the 25 Best adventure activities Bangkok visitors will love to see for yourself.
Though it’s always hot, the Rainy and Winter season are noticeably cooler (or perhaps better said “less hot”). While max temperatures can reach 35 celsius and higher in the Hot season, temps range from 34 to 21 in the Rainy and Cool seasons.
Outside of Bangkok, other central region cities are somewhat cooler year round. For example, below gives you a brief snippet of Pattaya weather.
North Thailand Weather
Generally speaking, northern region weather is quite similar to that of central Thailand. The seasons operate on the same schedule, however, there’s a key difference: northern Thailand experiences the greatest range of temperatures. The Hot season here, surprisingly, can sometimes get hotter than central Thailand. And Rainy and Cool seasons are characterized by their colder days. For example, Chiang Mai weather in the morning and late evening can see temperatures that drop to lows of 14 celsius.
It should also be noted that the further north you travel and higher you climb in the mountains, the colder it gets. If you plan on exploring mountainous terrain in northern Thailand—like Phu Chi Fa or Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park—during the Cool season, be sure to pack plenty of warm clothes and even a winter jacket. Nighttime temperatures can fall below freezing in mountainous areas around December and January.
Lastly, be aware that northern Thailand is affected by an unusual pattern of weather. Chiang Mai undergoes what is often referred to as “burning season”, which typically occurs between February and April. During this period, smog from burning crop fields and forest fires can blanket Chiang Mai and other cities in the region. Air quality Index (AQI) levels in March are regularly between 150-200. And considering that many western cities usually have an AQI below 50, burning season pollution is a concern. Everyone may experience negative health effects, especially those sensitive to air pollution or who have breathing issues.
South Thailand Weather
While north and central Thailand weather are defined by the three seasons mentioned above, the south plays by its own rules. Southern temperatures are much more consistent all year long, and because of this, the region really only has two seasons: wet and dry.
But there’s a catch. The time period at which the seasons occur differs depending on the coast you visit.
The west coast, which borders the Andaman sea, is hit by the southwest monsoon. This causes the Rainy season to run from April to sometimes as late as November.
The east coast, also known as the Gulf of Thailand, is affected by the northeast monsoon, which brings the most rain from October to December. Rainfall peaks in November.
While the south is lucky to bypass the dreaded Hot season, it does succumb to the most rainfall of any region in the country. It gets 2,400 millimeters of rain every year, which is significantly higher than the 1,400 millimeters the central and northern regions experience.
Does that mean you shouldn’t visit in the Rainy season? Not at all. While the south does sometimes have entire days where it rains, much of the time the rain downpours in short spurts (for just a few hours) like the rest of the country. What’s more, while most of Thailand is getting soaked from May to September, the Gulf Coast may be the best place to spend these months. On islands like Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Samui, there’s significantly less rainfall than the rest of the country during this time of year.
When is Thailand most crowded with travellers?
No doubt, the Cool season from November to January is peak tourist season in Thailand. At this time, the warm weather is a welcome escape from many cold western climates and is not yet unbearably hot. Simply put, the weather throughout Thailand is most favorable in the Cool season. So does that mean you should join the masses and schedule your Thailand holiday for the same period? Not exactly.
Why travel to Thailand outside the Cool season
While the Cool season has lovely weather, there are a couple reasons you may want to travel outside of it. The first is that tour companies, hotels and anyone who caters to tourists, raise their prices during this time of year to cash in on the onslaught of travellers. In other words, everything is more expensive in the Cool season. Second, the crowds. Thailand is packed from November - February and you’ll have to share paradise with droves of other travellers at this time. Below are a couple reasons you may want to consider travelling in Thailand’s other two seasons.
Why visit during the Hot season?
The Hot season can be miserable in parts of Thailand, and many westerners may have difficulty tolerating the extreme heat. That said, cheaper prices and less crowds are two benefits of visiting during this time. But that’s not all. There are two more reasons to consider the Hot season for your Thailand holiday.
- Attend one of the world’s most unique, fun celebrations - possibly the most unique holiday in the world, Songkran is the Thai new year that takes place every 13th to 15th of April (in the height of the Hot season). Why is this holiday so special? The entire country—from Phuket to Bangkok to Chiang Mai—breaks out into a massive water fight for three days. Everywhere you look, people are blasting each other with squirt guns and buckets of water. On the sidewalks, sois, restaurants and even the bus, everyone gets wet. For many, Songkran is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that makes coming to Thailand during the Hot season well worth it.
- The south has great weather and less crowds - as mentioned earlier, the south only really has two seasons, and neither of them begin with the word “hot”. From March to May, the south is the best place in Thailand to escape the heat. What’s more, there will be less travellers around—which means less people to share the gorgeous beaches with.
Why visit during the Rainy season?
Just like the Hot season, the Rainy season also boasts some appealing reasons for a visit. Here’s three below:
- Rain falls typically less than 2 hours a day - when most travellers hear the words “Rainy season”, they think days of non-stop downpours. But in Thailand that rarely happens. As mentioned earlier, most of the time rain only lasts for a few hours, and the rest of the time it’s sunny.
- Cooler temperatures - while usually not as cool as Thailand’s Winter, Rainy season temperatures are noticeably lower than the Hot season. Which can make travelling a bit more comfortable.
- Low season crowds and prices - the Rainy season is technically Thailand’s Low season. This means travellers get Low season prices and crowds, which are both significantly less than other months of the year. In terms of best times to visit Thailand, the Rainy season may just be the country’s best kept secret.
What activities can you do in the Rainy and Hot seasons?
Just because the weather changes doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do in Thailand during the Rainy and Hot seasons. Most activities, like many of the 10 Best Things to do in Pattaya Outdoors, 25 Best Things to do in Chiang Mai or 6 best family activities in Chiang Mai, can all be done any month of the year. That said, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
Hot season activities
As you now know, Hot season temps make it painful to be outside in some parts of Thailand. Many travellers will not want to spend hours in the scorching sun exploring the ruins of Ayutthaya or Sukhothai (though you certainly could). So what can you do? Here is a short list of alternative activities to try when the heat is unbearable:
- Waterparks: Thailand has a surprising amount of waterparks, and is even home to South East Asia’s biggest, Ramayana, which is located in Pattaya.
- Museums: Bangkok’s National Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art and bizarre Siriraj Medical Museum, are great attractions where you can escape the heat. Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya also boast plenty of museums to keep you busy while learning a thing or two about Thai history.
- Aquariums: Pattaya’s Underwater World and Bangkok’s Ocean World (which is the largest aquarium in South East Asia) offer an impressive display of marine life in air conditioned bliss.
- Theatrical performances: Even if there were no AC, Pattaya’s Alangkarn Show and Bangkok’s Siam Niramit would still be worth seeing for the fantastic entertainment and telling of Thai history.
- White water rafting: Cool off outside with a trip down the Mae Taeng River. Ask us about our Chiang Mai Zipline Experience + White Water Rafting two-day tour package.
Activities better done in the Hot season than other times of year: Yes there are a few. You have your best shot at seeing a whale shark in Thailand during April (the hottest month of the year). Also Thailand’s best snorkelling and scuba diving happens in the south at this time, particularly in the months of March and April.
Rainy season activities
As rain usually only falls for a few hours, most activities can be done during the Rainy season. If you do get the odd bout of all-day rain, worthwhile indoor activities include:
- Muay Thai fight: Catching a live match of Thailand’s legendary martial art is an ideal activity when it’s storming outside.
- Temples: Bangkok’s Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha Temple, Wat Pho and Wat Traimit, all can be explored on a rainy day. Most of the 5 best temples in Chiang Mai’s Old City are also doable during the rain.
- Shopping: Bangkok is famous for its mega malls, and there’s no better time for a shopping spree than when it’s wet outside.
- Cooking class: What better way is there to kick the rainy day blues than with cooking some delicious Thai food? Combine a zipline tour with a culinary course as part of our Chiang Mai Zipline Experience + Cooking Class.
Activities better done in the Rainy season than other times of year: Want to attend a rocket festival or a Thai version of Halloween? At Bun Bangfai festival, which takes place in eastern Thailand at the beginning of the Rainy season, locals fire giant rockets into the sky. And during northeast Thailand’s Phi Ta Khon festival, which typically occurs in the Rainy season (the date changes every year), Thais take to the streets as they dress up as spirits and ghosts. Besides festivals, Rainy season offers you your best chance at spotting a pink dolphin. Visit Hat Khanom–Mu Ko Thale Tai National Park between June and August to hopefully see the rare species.
It should be noted, that Flight of the Gibbon’s premier zipline activity is perfectly suited for any season: hot, wet, or cool. Our rainforest location can provide some respite from the Hot season’s soaring temperatures, and the rain has little effect on the operations of our Chiang Mai or Chonburi course.
What season should you visit?
Now that you know what to expect during Thailand’s three season, at which time should you visit? Well, that depends on your priorities. So ask yourself, “What’s most important to me?”
If it’s cooler temperatures and little to no rain, then visit during the Cool season. Want low prices, less crowds, and milder temperatures? The Rainy season is probably your best choice. Or are you interested in southern beaches, whale sharks, and the most epic water festival on earth? You’ll likely love Thailand’s Hot season.
Whenever you choose to visit Thailand, Flight of the Gibbon offers plenty of action-packed activities to satisfy your adventurous spirit. From ziplining to white water rafting to segway tours and more, we can keep you entertained and captivated anytime of year. Contact us to learn more.