One question I get asked a lot is “what is the best time to visit Thailand?” The answer to this question depends on what you are looking for in your Thailand vacation. If you are looking to get the cheapest prices possible, then the low season would be an ideal time, while someone wanting the perfect weather would be interested in the high season.
This article is written to give you enough information to help you determine when you should visit Thailand. I won’t tell you when you should visit Thailand, but I will talk about specific pros and cons of visiting Thailand at different parts of the year.
To know the best time to visit Thailand it is important to understand the different seasons (weather) that Thailand has to offer. If you visit Thailand in the wrong season, you may end up not getting the vacation that you expected. In general, there are three seasons in Thailand: Hot, Cool (less hot) and Rainy Season
Keep in mind the weather in Thailand can change depending on where you are. You may experience rain in the dry season and no rain in the rainy season. When I talk about weather, I am stating averages that are expected for that time of the year.
The Weather in Thailand (Seasons)
Cool Season (November-February)
Also referred to as High season, the cool season of Thailand ranges from the end of November to March. This is the period when the weather is relatively cool compared to other times of the year. When I say relatively, I mean if you come from a cold country this would still be considered warm weather. If you visit places in Northern Thailand, you may need to wear a sweater on occasion, but don’t expect anything too cold unless you are climbing a mountain.
Conversely, in the Southern parts of Thailand, the cool season just means less hot and rainy than the other seasons. The temperature averages between 25-30 degrees (77-88 F). The mild temperatures and lack of rain make this period the most popular among tourists.
You may have the occasional rain shower during this time, but it will only last for a few hours and will quickly pass. For the most part, the weather in the Cool season is the most comfortable time of the year to visit.
If you plan on diving in Thailand, the cool season is the best time for you to visit. From November to April, the ocean waters offer the best visibility because there are the least amount of waves and not many storms. Anyone getting their PADI will definitely want to visit in the cool season. While there are some diving companies open all year round, the other parts of the year are very bad for diving.
Hint: the cheapest place to get your PADI is in Koh Tao
Hot Season (March-June)
From the months of March till June the weather in Thailand becomes very hot. In these months the temperature can reach upwards of 35+ degrees Celsius (100+ degrees Fahrenheit), and the humidity is very high too. The advantage of this season is that it doesn’t rain much and it is mostly sunny (particularly in March-April).
The down side to the Hot season is that the temperature can be unbearable to some people. If you are the type of person who doesn’t like the heat, you may find traveling around Thailand to be a little bit unbearable when you aren’t by a pool or inside AC.
Songkran (Water Festival) – April 13
One of the most popular holidays in Thailand is the Songkran festival. This is the one time of the year that the whole country becomes one massive water fight. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to run around a city squirting people with water, this is the one day when that dream comes true.
During the period of a week in mid April, there are a lot more tourist that visit Thailand to specifically visit for this Water festival. You can expect an increase in traffic and perhaps some hotels my raise their prices during this period. This is a very dangerous time to be on the road because of all the drunk drivers, so I suggest that you avoid driving throughout this period.
There are even days in the Hot season where I’ve heard my Thai neighbors (most Thai people hate using Air Conditioning) turn on their AC units because of the humidity and heat. You know the temperature is unbearable when you hear your Thai neighbors burning their electricity to avoid the heat.
If you visit Thailand in this time just be prepared to sweat a little bit more than usual. As long as you position yourself near an AC room or a nice pool, you’ll be fine. Keep a bottle of cold water beside you and make sure you keep yourself hydrated.
Training Muay Thai in this heat often feels like you are training in a Sauna, which takes a bit getting used to. Expect to sweat out a few liters of water every training session. To counter dehydrating make sure you drink lots of electrolytes during and after training. It will take a bit getting used to, but it is amazing at how good the body is at adapting to different climates.
Rainy Season (July-October)
The last season in Thailand is the wet season. This is the time of the year that you get the most rain throughout the year. The benefit of this is that whenever there is a storm that rolls through, the temperature always drops and you get a real nice breeze from the storm.
Before you let the word “rainy” season scare you off, for the most part, it will rain hard for a few hours, and then the sun comes out. There will be periods when a tropical storm can roll through, which can result in a week or two of pretty bad stormy weather. My experience is that August-September are the worst months of the rainy season, but it will depend on what part of Thailand you are visiting.
Surfing Season in Thailand
Phuket is one of the only locations in Thailand you can actually surf. The swells are nowhere compared to the places in Australia and Hawaii, but there are plenty of people who go surfing. Surfing is only available in the rainy season because of the strong winds bring in the surfable waves.
It honestly comes down to a bit of luck. Some periods during the rainy season are all sunshine, and other times there will be a lot of rain. Keep in mind the rain is not that slow drizzle that you experience in the UK, but the heavy tropical rain that unleashes a bucket of water on the ground. I find this to be quite refreshing, especially when the weather is scorching hot.
Given the instability of the weather, you can either get lucky and have 2 weeks of sun shine, or you can get stuck in a storm. If your entire goal is to soak up as much sun as you possibly can, then this may not be the best time to visit. However, if you can stick through a few days of bad weather, this is a great time to get good prices because of the low season.
Another benefit of visiting Thailand in the rainy season is that the waterfalls around the country fill up and become much more spectacular. Instead of a small trickle of water that you may see in the high season, the low season water falls are 10x better to see.
Training Muay Thai in the wet season is nice because the weather is cooler when there is a storm that is rolling through. The downside, of course, is that you may get rained on during a run and be forced to do skipping before training. The rain is hit or miss, so you could get lucky and miss it all together.
Smoky Season in Chiang Mai
If you plan on visiting Chiang Mai avoid going there between February-April because of the increased pollution and haze. Because farmers are burning their crops at this time of the year, the air quality becomes really bad and it is filled with smoke. This
is one period of time that you should avoid the Northern Thailand and visit other parts of Thailand.
The Low, High and Peak Seasons
Now that we have talked about the the weather at different times of the year, we can talk about the Low, High and Peak season. These seasons are related to the crowds that come to visit Thailand every year.
If you like crowded beaches, gyms, and restaurants, then the high season is definitely going to be your ideal time. Conversely, if you are looking to have less crowded beaches and cheaper prices, then low season is your best bet.
Changing (Chinese) Tourists in Thailand
Recently Thailand has gone through a huge change in their tourism. Since the Russian economy has been on the decline for the past few years, there are now fewer Russians and more Chinese. Millions of Chinese tourist have started coming to Thailand on cheap tour packages from mainland China. This results in some tourist attractions becoming packed thousands of Chinese tourists and the roads get jammed with tourist buses. I’ve even noticed some commercial gyms starting to cater Muay Thai packages to Chinese tourists as well.
Low Season (April-October)
From the periods between April-October is the low season in Thailand. If you visit Thailand during this period, you will find that accommodation is much cheaper than other times of the year. The drop off is heavily correlated to the Winter in Europe. As Europe starts to enter the summer months, there are much fewer tourists who visit from Europe because the weather becomes much nicer in Europe (especially Scandinavia).
Low season corresponds to semi-rainy weather. The weather in the low season will range from Hot to Rainy, and you can expect to experience a good number of sunny days. If you don’t like extremely crowded beaches and massive amounts of traffic on the road, the low season is by far the best time to visit Thailand. I find the best time in Thailand with price and weather is mid-September – mid-October. You tend to get sunnier weather (especially in the South), and the prices are still set at low season prices. Come November, the sky is usually pure sun, but the prices jump up significantly.
If you want to get the best bang for your buck, the low season will allow your money to go a lot farther. You can score really good deals on accommodation, and some restaurants even cut their prices by half during this period.
It’s a bit of a hit or miss if you come to Thailand for the beaches during this time — you may have a few days of pure sunshine followed by a week of rain. Typically, the usual ‘rainy season weather’ is that it rains in the morning, clears up around 10 am and you get intermittent cloudy skies (partly sunny). Around 4 pm, the rain suddenly comes in, and you may get showers after this.
One benefit to coming during the low season is that a lot of Muay Thai gyms offer low season prices. If you contact the gym in advance, you can see if they offer a high season and a low season price. Usually, the biggest savings will come on accommodation which is increased in the high season.
Note that during part of the low season, some of the Islands like Koh Lanta, may be harder to get to due to reduced transportation options.
High Season (November-March)
From the period of November-February is high season. This is the time when the hotels (even some gyms) mark up their prices. Because the crowds will increase by tenfold, a lot of places can charge what they want and get away with it. High season is going to be very crowded if you are in a beach area of Thailand.
If you head to popular beach meccas like Koh Phi Phi, expect to be sharing the island (and beaches) with thousands of other tourists. If you come for beaches and hate the crowds, I recommend coming down February – April or September – October.
As the months become colder in Europe, more and more Europeans start visiting Thailand starting in November up until February. Most of these tourists are looking for a beach vacation away from their cold winter.
Since a lot of tourists want to experience their Thai holiday in a ‘tropical paradise,’ they tend to flock to the popular beaches. If you plan on visiting a rural or remote part of Thailand, then you won’t notice too much of a fluctuation in the crowds.
As I mentioned before, the benefits of coming in the High season is that you are practically guaranteed good weather. It also acts as a nice getaway if you are in a country that has a cold winter and want some sun.
Peak Season (Christmas/New Years)
Within the period of the High season, there is another PEAK season that occurs. This is the most crowded time of the year to visit Thailand. Between December 23 to January 3rd, everyone flocks to Thailand for Christmas and New Years.
If there were one time of the year I would recommend you do not visit Thailand; it would probably be between this time. Since a lot of people take Christmas holidays off from work, this is the one period when most traveler flock to Thailand.
Flights, accommodation, and restaurants are more expensive in the Peak season.
The prices can go up to 3x to 4x higher in this period of time. Getting accommodation means you will pay a premium price. Gyms located on tourist areas will charge more for accommodation because they know that you have limited options available. While there is something about spending your holidays on the beaches in Thailand, the increased crowds, the cost of accommodation, and transportation makes this time the least desirable time to train.
By waiting a few weeks, you can get cheaper prices and won’t have to deal with as many people.
Best Time to Train Muay Thai in Thailand
Muay Thai gyms have students visiting throughout the year. If you only have a 3 week holiday and can’t choose when you take your holiday, go when you can. There is never a bad time to train Muay Thai in Thailand.
The crowds at popular Muay Thai gyms will fluctuate according to the seasons. Since a lot of people have Christmas/New Years off during the winter, that will be when everyone migrates to train. If you train in a tourist gym on a popular tourist destination, expect the crowds to swell in the high season around the December/January months. You will also notice the summer months can be more populated with people who younger people who have summer holidays and are off school.
If you are training in a Thai only gym (only a fraction of people do) in Bangkok, you won’t have to worry too much of fluctuation in the amount of students training there. Of course the more famous Thai gyms will have more peak crowds according to the typical high and low seasons. The more isolated and Thai orientated the gym, the less fluctuation in student population.
The Best Time to Visit Thailand?
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to this question. I live in Thailand all year round, so for me there is no wrong time to visit Thailand, just many right ones. If you don’t mind the occasional rain storm, I personally like the rainy season. The weather can be cooler and you get to experience loud tropical rain storms which are quite the experience.
The lack of tourist walking around makes the Rainy season much quieter and gives you a chance to see tourists areas without thousands of people crowding the beaches. Additionally, you can save a lot of money on your accommodation and can find cheap flights. The price difference for a nice hotel room can be up to 4x cheaper when you compare it to high season prices, which means you can stay in pretty nice hotels for $50 or less.
In the rainy/low season, there are much fewer crowds at Muay Thai gyms around Thailand, which gives you a better chance to get one on one time with trainers. You may even visit some gyms that have more trainers than students, which is a very good thing if you want to learn.
If you don’t want to deal with any rain when you visit, but still want the lowest prices, the Hot season would be your choice. It gets hot and humid during this time, but you will be able to get low season prices and will see a lot of sunny days. Just make sure you avoid the north(Chiang Mai) in Feb/March because of all the pollution from the fire burning that takes place.
If you want to escape the cold winter months of Europe or North America and don’t mind large crowds, then you’ll probably end up coming in the high season. While you’ll have to deal with more crowds, you are almost guaranteed to have sunny days, and the temperature is very enjoyable (it’s still hot).
Keep in mind that the northern parts of Thailand get cooler, and the Southern parts stay hot all year round. Bangkok always tends to be crowded because there are so many people living there, but I definitely recommend you check it out.
The one time of the year I would recommend you avoid is the Christmas/New Year period. The hotels jack the prices so far up its crazy. Plus, you will find the crowds to be quite insane if you are staying in a tourist area like Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui or anywhere that has popular beaches.