If you love sunshine, soft sand, and warm water lapping your toes while you sip a cold beer and dig into your traditional Thai massaman curry, then the best time to visit Thailand is most definitely from the beginning of December through to March/April time.
Known as the hot season, it starts to heat up late November reaching a peak through March and April. From mid November onwards, the waters are at their calmest, if it rains it will likely do so at night, (accompanied by the most spectacular sea bound lightning storms), and the sun is hot, hot, hot!
With a great atmosphere and lots of festivities, the summer months provide the perfect surroundings for understanding and engaging with Thai culture.
However, Thailand has a lot to offer year round, so when you visit depends on your personal preferences.
In this guide we’ll look at the benefits of visiting Thailand month by month, so you can choose the best time to visit for you.
A Bit About Thailand
The Land of Smiles, the jewel of Southeast Asia, Thailand is a perfect tropical holiday destination for everyone including families, couples, backpackers and digital nomads.
Sitting at the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand is bordered by Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar to the north. On the west is the Andaman Sea and on the south, it’s bordered by Malaysia and the Gulf of Thailand.
Thailand has had a continuous human settlement from 20,000 years ago to the present time. It has been the seat of several powerful kingdoms such as Sukhothai Kingdom, Ayutthaya Kingdom, Thonburi Kingdom, and Rattanakosin Kingdom.
I tell you this as coming here means you’re entering a country filled with ancient cultural practices and a rich history.
Today, Thailand is a world-famous tourist destination with postcard-worthy beaches, countless temples, exotic street food, and friendly locals.
The Best Time to Visit Thailand
If you want to enjoy great weather, sun-kissed beaches, and gorgeous scenery, November to February is the best time in general for all outdoor activities.
If you are a beach and island lover, November to March is the perfect time for a West Coast visit where you can experience the Similan Islands, Krabi, Phang Nga Bay, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, etc.
If you’re a scuba diver or keen snorkeller, the Similan Islands are best from November to March as above, however in the Gulf of Thailand sits the under-appreciated Koh Tao, whose rainy season is a bit later than in the West and runs from October to February. Therefore the Gulf of Thailand is best to visit from Feb onwards. Their Whale Shark season is during March and April, but visibility is amazing right through to September.
For experiencing the best of the Thai festivals, November is the best time to enjoy the Loy Krathong Lantern Festival and April is the unmissable Songkran (Thai New Year) Water Festival.
To enjoy the lowest prices, visit Thailand during the shoulder seasons (April-May and September-October). You are at greater risk of a few rainy days, but the temperature remains in the late 20’s, early 30’s all year round and these are the times when hotels, flights, and tours are the cheapest.
The Climate in Thailand
In general, Thailand has gorgeous, tropical warm weather year-round with the exception of the northern mountains. However, weather can vary significantly from region to region.
Northern Thailand experiences the maximum fluctuations while southern Thailand experiences minimal variation as you get closer to the equator.
Thailand has three primary seasons:
- Cool Season (18℃ – 32℃): Lasting from November to February. It is also the peak season to visit Thailand. (North Thailand is cooler than South Thailand, which rarely falls below 26℃)
- Hot Season (30℃ – 34℃): Lasting from March to May and is the dry season with the highest temperatures recorded in northern and central Thailand.
- Rainy Season (23℃ – 29℃): Lasting from June to October. This is the wet season caused by the unpredictable southwest monsoon. The Gulf Coast, however, is affected by the northeast monsoon meaning the wet season for islands such as Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao etc, runs from October through to February.
What is the Best Month to Visit Thailand
The best month to visit Thailand depends on what you want to do or see. For instance, if you prefer slightly cooler weather with lower humidity and relatively calm surf, but don’t mind the crowd, December/January is best.
If you are on a shoestring budget, the monsoon season is the best when the hotel and flight prices will hit the rock bottom. You might need a raincoat and an umbrella, but most rain showers come, fast and heavy, clearing up relatively quickly.
Here is a month-by-month breakdown of climates and events across Thailand:
Visiting Thailand in January
January offers slightly cooler weather perfect for beach holidays and sightseeing. If you want to travel about and see more of Thailand this is the best time, as temperatures will be between 20°C to 30°C.
All popular destinations like Phuket, Bangkok, Koh Samui, Chiang Rai, and Chiang Mai attract tourists this month.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are at their best, the beaches are fabulous and the Chinese New Year which follows the lunar calendar is the key festival usually happening towards the end of January, beginning of February. Bangkok’s Chinatown is the best place to enjoy the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Visiting Thailand in February
February is also a peak time for tourism with weather similar to January and the average temperature being between 22°C and 32°C.
This month is great for island and beach hopping and some popular places include Khao Lak, Krabi, Phuket, etc.
The sea is calm, making it ideal for various water activities including Kayaking, SUP’s and boat trips.
The Chinese New Year might be celebrated this month depending on the lunar calendar and the Chiang Mai Flower Festival is a major 3-day festival in early February.
Visiting Thailand in March
This is the month when summer is reaching its peak. If you enjoy the hot weather and want a serious suntan, this is a great time to visit Thailand.
Low rainfall and pleasant temperatures between 26°C and 31°C make March an ideal time to visit anywhere in the country.
Bangkok, Koh Samui, Krabi, Phuket, Similan Islands, Phang Nga Bay, etc. are fantastic choices. Similan and Surin Islands offer near-perfect diving conditions with crystal-clear waters.
The key festival in March is Makha Bucha Day.
Visiting Thailand in April
Image Credit: Takeaway, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
April is the hottest month in Thailand when the temperature can reach as high as 39°C, but it usually hovers between 29°C to 34°C throughout the day and night.
Early April is a little cooler, but it gets hotter by mid-April. Chiang Mai is hotter than Bangkok, but Chiang Rai, which is above Chiang Mai, remains around 1 to 2°C cooler than Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
The Songkran Festival, which is a celebration of the Thai New Year, is held between the 13th to the 15th of April and is a fantastic water riot that engulfs the whole country.
If you don’t mind getting soaked by a water gun, thrown in a pool or the sea or literally getting water blasted from the back of trucks as they drive by, April is a super fun month to visit Thailand.
Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Phuket, and Bangkok are great places to visit during April. You can enjoy sun-kissed beaches, clear blue skies, and warm calm seas!
Visiting Thailand in May
May is still hot and relatively dry but the rainy season starts knocking. The average temperature is between 28°C and 34°C and by the end of the month, the rainy season starts to kick in.
Bangkok and other major cities start getting humid and Koh Samui on Thailand’s east coast in the Gulf of Thailand becomes a preferred destination because of low rainfall and low humidity on the Andaman coast.
This is when hotel and flight prices start dropping, making it ideal for budget travelers.
Visiting Thailand in June
With an average temperature ranging between 28°C and 34°C, Thailand experiences 15 to 22 days of rainfall in June but in short bursts, usually in the afternoons and/or evenings.
This is when tourism starts to decline and the country quietens down. Beach lovers can explore the east coast which experiences dryer weather. Hua Hin and Koh Samui are the most favored destinations this time of year.
Visiting Thailand in July
July is when the west coast experiences heavy rainfall and turbulent waves. The average temperature is between 25°C and 32°C, but it is quite hot and humid.
On the east coast, Koh Samui, Koh Tao, etc., make great beach holiday destinations because of fewer showers and relatively great weather.
Urban areas like Bangkok will be hot and wet, so staying indoors will be a good choice.
Visiting Thailand in August
With temperatures still ranging between 25°C and 32°C, and the rainy season in full swing, the south west coast is a no-no!
Stay away from the attractions of the west coast like Phi Phi Islands, Krabi, Koh Chang, Phuket, etc., if you don’t like wet and humid conditions.
Attractions on the Gulf of Thailand side are a better choice with warmer sunnier weather.
Visiting Thailand in September
This is the wettest month with heavy rain and average temperatures between 25°C and 31°C.
Bangkok, though wet, is still a lively city with plenty of things to do despite the rain. Again, the east coast is a great choice for beach lovers and watersports enthusiasts.
It rarely rains all day long though and is still nice and warm, so even if you do visit during September, you’ll have a great time.
Visiting Thailand in October
With slightly cooler temperatures between 24°C and 31°C, October also experiences heavy rainfall. By mid-October however, the rainy season starts tailing off and by the end of the month, the rainy season (in theory) is almost over.
It’s now when the peak rainy season starts in Koh Samui and other islands in the Gulf.
Tourists start flocking to Thailand by late October to participate in the annual Thailand Lantern Festival that begins in early November.
Chiang Mai and Bangkok are the focal points for the festival.
Visiting Thailand in November
This is when the cool and dry season begins around most of the country, with the temperature staying between 24°C and 31°C. The east coast however, will be pretty rainy.
When we first arrived 10 years ago, November would have been dry, however in recent years the rainy season has overflowed into this month and so I can’t guarantee there won’t be some rainy spots.
It’s in the month of November, the winds turn, the seas calm and the resorts all open their water sports facilities.
Islands on the Andaman Coast steal the spotlight, with Similan Islands, Phuket, Krabi, and Phi Phi Islands, becoming the major attractions with little to no rainfall.
Chiang Mai and Bangkok, are the most popular destinations for the Thailand Lantern Festival when the night sky is bejeweled by paper hot-air balloons.
Visiting Thailand in December
This is Thailand’s coolest month, not that you’d really notice in the South, with temperatures ranging between 26°C and 31°C. The northern regions are much cooler, heading down towards 18°C – 25°C.
December is the best time to travel across Thailand and enjoy its beaches and national parks, but remember that Koh Samui is still rainy.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve are celebrated and hotels are usually booked 3-6 months in advance.
For an amazing New Years Eve spectacle, head to the Iconsiam building in Bangkok and watch the fireworks light up the skies by the Chao Phraya River. For an extra special experience, take a luxury boat tour with dinner down the river and see the amazing golden temples lit up at night.
The Best Time to Visit Thailand for Festivals
The two most popular festivals in Thailand are the Lantern Festival and Songkran aka the Water Splashing Festival.
The Lantern Festival takes place in November and consists of Yi Peng (releasing paper lanterns into the sky) and Loy Krathong (candlelit baskets released into the water).
Yi Peng’s epicenter is Chiang Mai, however the Loy Krathong festival is celebrated across the nation.
Songkran or the Thai New Year is celebrated nationwide in mid-April. This is when people splash (or soak) each other with water.
Other notable festivals include Lopburi Monkey Festival in late November, the Chinese New Year in January or February, Chiang Mai Flower Festival in early February and the Vegetarian Festival in September/October.
The Best Time to Visit Thailand for Scuba Diving
For the Andaman Sea (west coast), the best time for diving is between November and April. This is when you will enjoy calm seas and high visibility in Phuket, Similans, Phi Phi Islands, Krabi, Koh Lak, Koh Lanta, etc.
On the eastern side, the best time for diving in Koh Samui & Koh Tao is between March and September. This is when visibility can exceed 30 meters.
The Best Time to Visit Thailand for Island Hopping
Island hopping is a great attraction for international visitors but for the southern islands on the Andaman coast, May to October is the rainy season when island hopping is restricted or even closed.
The best time for hopping between Phi Phi Islands, Phuket, Koh Lanta, etc. is between late October and May.
On the side in the Gulf of Thailand island hopping is limited between October and December when the region receives its maximum rainfall. The best time is between January and September.
The Overall Best Time to Visit Thailand
The overall best time to visit Thailand is between November and February, which is the cool season (aka the peak season).
However, access to tourist destinations in Thailand’s Gulf Coast will be difficult because of the rainy season between October and February.
The dry season between March and May is the best time to visit anywhere in Thailand including the east and the west coast. However, this is when it’s hottest.
The shoulder season (April-May and September-October) are perfect for budget travelers and those who hate crowds, but keep in mind, April is the hottest month and the rainy season starts in May. This is when tourism thins out.
Similarly, September-October is when the rain starts waning but there are sporadic downpours. Temperature and humidity start falling but the high season is yet to start.
FAQs in Relation to The Best Time to Visit Thailand
What is the best month to go to Thailand?
The best months to visit Thailand are November through February. This is when you can enjoy good weather and gorgeous scenery.
What is the cheapest time of year to go to Thailand?
The shoulder seasons (April-May and September-October) are the cheapest time to visit Thailand. This is when flight and hotel prices drop because of the low-tourist influx due to heat (April & May) and rain (September & October). However, the eastern coast can become crowded.
What are the hottest months in Thailand?
March, April, and May are the hot months with April being the hottest.
What is the rainy season in Thailand?
The rainy season lasts from June to October. However, Thailand’s Gulf Coast experiences heavy downpours between October and February.
The Best Time to Visit Thailand; Summary
The best time to visit Thailand boils down to your personal preferences. If you don’t mind the crowds and higher prices, and you’re looking for perfect weather, November to February is perhaps the best time.
If you love rain, mountains, rice terraces, and brilliant shades of green, Northern Thailand is the perfect vacation destination during most of the year.
If instead you love to experience the underwater world, spot whale sharks and play chicken with triggerfish, the Gulf Coast of Thailand gives you everything you need from March to September, when the rest of Thailand is wet.
If traversing the entire length and breadth of the country is on your Thailand itinerary, I’d start in the North in April/May, head down to the Gulf Islands through June & July, cross the country through Bangkok in September and hit the west coast beaches by November!
Whatever you choose, you’re guaranteed an amazing experience.
Here are all the things to do and see while you’re here;
Top 10 Very Best Things to do in Thailand
Top 10 Things to do in Bangkok
35 Epic Things to do in Phuket
Top 10 Things to Do in Pai, Thailand
Top 10 Thailand Islands to Visit
Top 10 Very Best Things to Do in Chiang Rai, Thailand
Top 10 Very Best Things to Do on Phi Phi Island, Thailand
Top 10 Very Best Things to do in Koh Samui
Top 10 Very Best Beaches in Phuket
Have an amazing time!