You’ve made the decision to go to Thailand, you’ve got your travel buddy organised or decided to go it alone, and now it’s time to book your flights. But this is when the confusion starts – when is the best time to visit Thailand?! How do you find guaranteed sunshine? You’re not flying for 11 hours to sit inside and watch rain bucketing down. You can do that at home!
Trying to pick the right time to travel in South East Asia can be a headache. Getting it wrong, which we have done before, can mean overcast days on deserted islands with very little to do. It’s also important to remember that bad weather can mean rural areas and even entire islands are inaccessible, and can cause infrastructure issues in the country meaning transport delays or cancellations. So it’s important to look at the seasons before you plan your trip so that you’re not disappointed or out of pocket.
Thailand’s high season is November to February, when the weather is generally at its best throughout the country. If you’re planning to travel throughout Thailand and want to see everything from Chiang Mai to Koh Lipe then this would be the best time to go for optimal weather conditions during your entire trip. However, if you’re planning a shorter trip and only want to take in a couple of places, you can still travel outside of these months and have great weather – once you know where to go!
The easiest way to understand the different seasons in Thailand and to plan a trip around them is to split the country into three sections:
- Weather in Northern & Central Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ayyuthaya etc)
- Weather around the Andaman Sea (Koh Phi Phi, Phuket, Krabi, Koh Lanta, Railay etc)
- Weather in the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan etc)
The Best Time to Visit Northern & Central Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Ayutthaya, Bangkok, Chiang Kam
Dry Season: November – May
The dry season in Northern and Central Thailand is between November and May, with temperatures starting off relatively cool at 17 / 18 degrees and little to no rain expected in the region. November – Feb is usually referred to as the cool season up north so it’s a great time for trekking, and after the rainfall of the past few months the forests are lush, rivers swell, and waterfalls are stunning. It can be a little cold in the evenings further north so it’s good to bring warm clothes to wrap up in if you are trekking. The hot season runs from Feb to May when temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees. This is still a great time to visit as it’s hot and dry, but trekking can be more difficult in the heat and ‘hot haze’ can obscure the beautiful views.
Rainy Season: June – October
Once June hits, the rainy season starts to kick in up north. Temperatures remain high and there is an hour or two of heavy rain during the day that gives way to blue skies once it’s over. The start of the rainy season is not a bad time to visit, and we often make trips during this time because prices can be lower and places are less crowded with tourists. You want to go as early as you can though because the weather soon starts to get uncomfortably hot and humid.
As the rainy season progresses the temperatures remain high but more cloud cover arrives which makes it very humid and sticky while rainfall increases. Temperatures remain between 28 and 34 degrees so it is still hot, but rainfall will continue to increase and it will get more overcast as the weeks go by. Rainfall will be at it’s heaviest between August and September.
In October the temperature drops dramatically, cloud cover reduces and that sticky humidity ebbs away. The rainfall decreases and dry season kicks off again in November.
The Best Time to Visit Andaman Sea: Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe, Koh Lanta, Khao Sok National Park)
This is probably my favourite part of Thailand simply because it offers a never ending supply of things to do and gorgeous beaches to explore. There are so many islands to visit in this part of the country and the most fun thing to do during the day is to hop on a longtail boat to tour the nearby islands and beaches. I would definitely recommend not taking chances with the weather when you go here, simply because you will be missing out on so much if you do experience bad weather.
Peak Season: December – March
The very best time to visit the east coast of Thailand is December to mid-March. Temperatures start at around 26 in December and rise to 32 degrees in March. Humidity is low and thanks to a cooling wind it’s usually hot, but not uncomfortably so. Christmas and New Years are peak times here when islands become crowded with tourists and prices rise dramatically. We usually travel a couple of weeks before or after Christmas and get some great deals on accommodation.
Rainy Season: May – October
Around the end of May rainy season starts to kick in. Again rainy season doesn’t arrive with a bang, it starts with brief but heavy showers that clear to leave way for sunshine again, so this can still be a good month to travel. As June progresses the rains get stronger and humidity increases throughout July and August, but there are still patches of sunshine. September to October is the worst time to visit these islands as these months expect the most rainfall.
Shoulder Season: March – May & November
By November the rain starts to ease off and the dry, bright days return. This is a good time to travel here if you’re a budget backpacker as prices can be super cheap and there is a a lot of availability. Phuket, Krabi and Koh Lanta in particular are driest at this time.
From March to May temperatures start to rise and reach a peak of up to 36 degrees. It’s still be a great time to visit if you can handle the heat and humidity, it’s also likely to be less crowded during these months as the holiday season tourists start to leave. Again, because it’s technically out of season you’re not guaranteed great weather so it’s good to keep an eye on the forecasts.
The Best Time to Visit Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui, Koh Phan Ngan, Koh Tao, Koh Chang, Koh Kood, Koh Mak)
Peak Season: December – March
Mid-December to March is the best time to visit the Gulf of Thailand, when temperatures start at around 27 degrees and rise to 32 with cool winds and little humidity. This is a good time to go if you would like to do any water sports as the sea conditions are great at this time. Again the Christmas and New Year holiday season is peak time here which means high prices and low availability so it’s good to book in advance if you’re going here on a special holiday and want to stay somewhere nice.
Koh Samui has it’s own micro climate so December is actually the wettest month here, despite temperatures being around 33 degrees. Rainfall decreases as the month progresses so by Christmas and New years the weather might be more bearable if you do want to go. The best time to visit is January – April.
From March / April (Koh Samui) temperatures start to heat up and in May they reach reach up to 36 degrees. This is still a fine time to go to this region if you can handle the heat and humidity. There’s plenty of sunshine and little chance of rain so you’re free to enjoy the beaches and tour the islands every day. The holiday season crowds are starting to leave so you have a bit more space on the beaches and more availability in accommodation.
Rainy Season: June – November
June arrives with a little rainfall, usually with one or two hour downpours in the afternoon with bright and sunny spells between showers so this isn’t a bad month to travel. Rains increase slightly as July and August progress but still give way to blue skies, and temperatures average at 28 degrees so this is still a good time to visit. Koh Tao in particular gets over 300 sunny days per year so is still very popular with tourist from from June to August! We visited at the end of August last year and while we had a few rainy moments, it was dry a lot of the time so we still managed to fit in a few island trips and plenty of time on the beach.
Throughout most of the region rainfall peaks during October to November, which is probably the worst time to visit. However Koh Kood, Koh Chang and Koh Mak have their wet season from May to October so November is a great month to visit these islands. Temperatures average at 28 degrees and while you’re not guaranteed sunshine it remains relatively dry here for the month. We’ve travelled to Koh Mak in the Gulf during November and we’ve had some storms but some lovely sunny days as well.
When considering what time of year to travel to Thailand, think about what kind of holiday you want to have
- If you want sunshine but struggle with humidity go during the cool season (the first few months of the dry season, when the cool winds make the heat bearable). Prices and crowds will be highest so book in advance.
- If you want to relax, chill out, and sit on a beach with a good book then I wouldn’t recommend taking a chance with weather and I would go during the dry season, either the hot or cool seasons depending on how well you handle the heat.
- If you’re travelling on a budget, try the shoulder seasons, at the tail end of Monsoon season or just as rainy season starts. This is usually when we travel and we get great rates and empty beaches! There is usually an hour or two of rain each day and sometimes storms at night, but otherwise it’s sunny and hot.
- If you want to trek then arrive after the rainy season when the vegetation is green and lush, and the rivers and waterfalls are full and flowing. This will be during the cool, dry season so the temperature will be bearable. This is peak time so do book in advance if there is something in particular that you want to do.
One great thing to remember is that in Thailand there will always be sun on a beach somewhere and internal flights are very cheap! If you’re travelling at a time when weather is unpredictable then make cancellable hotel reservations and wait to book boats until you’re at the pier so you can move to another place if the weather turns. A one hour flight or boat might take you from torrential rain to paradise and cost as little as £20 with baggage. Check out AirAsia for super cheap internal flights, or use Skyscanner to compare prices between airlines.
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I hope this helps you to plan your trip to Thailand, and if you have any questions for me then do ask in the comments!
Thanks for reading!