It’s the beginning of October and Thailand is preparing for the arrival of the official high season. New rental houses are being built, new restaurants are popping up, soon the seasonal workers will start arriving from neighbouring countries and the North-East. November to March will bring the influx of tourists in pursuit of a tropical paradise. The tourist industry is bracing itself for another peak season and the locals try to make the most out of it. Expect prices to rise steeply and accommodation to fill up quickly. Booking ahead becomes essential during these months and can take some of the spontaneity away from your holiday.
But do you really want to visit in the high season? That depends on your preferences. And it also depends on where you are going. Although the period between November and March is known as the peak season, Thailand experiences different weather influences, so the climate varies across different areas of the Kingdom. If you are planning to travel South-East and visit the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand, expect to encounter a typhoon during the so-called high season. The prices there still go up, but the pleasant weather is far from guaranteed. You might experience a week or two of constant rain, with ferries having trouble crossing to or from the mainland. On the other hand, the Andaman Coast, Pattaya and Phuket get sunshine, blue skies and crystal clear waters during this period. For these areas it is in fact the true ‘high season’, sunshine matching busyness.
To simplify, we could say that the Andaman Coast and the West side of Thailand are best visited between November and April, while the South-East is best left for April to October. Unless you enjoy watching movies and doing crosswords in your room. That said, the weather is less predictable these days. The seasons are not as distinct as they used to be. Some locals declare that they haven’t experienced a full-blown rainy season in years. So you might just be lucky and get away with minimal rain even if you visit the South-East during the ‘high season’.
And then there is the North of Thailand, known for its milder climate, which makes it the getaway for expatriates and locals when the sweltering heat strikes. If you are planning to do some trekking around Chang Mai or Chang Rai, October to February is considered the best time. The temperature is cool and the rain scarce. But do bring a warm jumper, as night temperatures in the mountains can plummet. However, the rainy season, which falls between May and September, can also be a good time to visit the North. You might get soaked every now and then, but nature will compensate you generously for that slight inconvenience, with views of lush and colourful vistas. Plus, there will be less tourists crowding your trail.
The only season you might want to avoid throughout Thailand is the hot period between March and April. The extreme heat (up to 40oC, or even slightly more) and humidity, can incapacitate even hardier travellers. People, who usually can’t stand air conditioning start insisting on a room with it.
Even if Thailand is a relatively small country, you have to remember it is surrounded by two major oceans (The Pacific and The Indian) and has two monsoons, so planning your holiday can become slightly more complicated than the tourist industry wants you to believe. One thing is certain though: with the right attitude and a bit of flexibility, your Thailand holiday will be a great experience, no matter when you visit.