Thailand - High Season vs Low Season
There is a very distinct high season in Thailand from November to February, when prices in the tourism sector skyrocket. Hotel rates triple, airfares, even motorbike rental prices are hiked. It's obviously also the period you'll find crowds.
So what about travel in the low season? Thailand is a year round destination. Even during the rainy season, it's still possible to enjoy warm weather and blue skies. In fact, a spell of rain clears the air and cools things down. The countryside is greener. Many beaches are almost empty. There are even more local fruits coming into season during this time of year. Let's examine the pros and cons...
Low Season Pros
- Greatly reduced prices, particularly in the traditional tourist areas
- Many people claim their holiday was more relaxed, thanks to quieter hotels and less people. (This is why so many expatriates prefer low season)
- Easier scheduling i.e. hotels are very likely to have rooms when you want them and it'll be much easier to get tickets on buses and book seats on domestic airlines
- A number of annual festivals and events occur during low season, such as Songkran, or Buddhist Lent
- River trips can be more enjoyable because of the higher water levels
- The daily rains make the countryside lush and green
Low Season Cons
- In the rainy season, there is risk you will be rained on every day. However, it is usually a short, sharp downpour and is quickly over and the sunshine returns. Broadly speaking, the rainy season is from May to October, with regional variations
- Many services close down. For example, there aren't as many boat services to outlying islands. If you take a boat during a storm, it can be a very unpleasant experience indeed if you suffer from motion sickness
- During Songkran festival (mid April), domestic travel can be a total nightmare as so many Thais are going home. Ferry services to/from islands like Koh Samui have long vehicle queues and long waits
- There are certain types of tourism that should be timed seasonally, for example, snorkeling trips can be spoiled by rough waters but that's a subject beyond the scope of this article
- If you arrive in Thailand during the hot season (March - June) when the temperatures and humidity soar, you may find the heat unbearable and end up spending your vacation in an air conditioned hotel room
- Heavy downpours flood streets in minutes and you may occasionally find yourself wading through dirty drain water. Entire neighborhoods can remain flooded for hours, even days because of poor infrastructure/drainage
The weather is one of the most attractive things about Thailand for foreigners, particularly for those from colder countries. Thailand is hot all year round, although it can be unbearably hot at times. In fact, the capital Bangkok is officially the hottest city in the World.
It's worth mentioning that there is almost no variation between daytime and night time temperatures, making most evenings sultry and warm.
The hottest part of the year is generally from April to June. The winter months of November to March are the coolest but you can hardly describe them as cool. The north of the country has more of a noticeable cool season however and you might occasionally need a very light jacket. While rare, it's possible for temperatures to drop into single figures in Chiang Rai during December and January. Temperatures in the daytime often soar above 40 degrees centigrade everywhere in Thailand for much of the year, above 30 degrees centigrade is the norm.
Rainy season is mid to late summer/autumn, when city streets can become flooded. However, the Thais are used to this and it doesn't generally disrupt things too much.
In summary, don't pack your winter coat. . . Do pack your sunglasses.