THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THAILAND depends exactly where you’re going. The islands on one side of the country have a slightly different rainy season to those on the other; the good news is that this extends Thailand’s dry, sunny season. So if it’s rainy and grey in one place, it’s a short hop over the coast to sunshine on the other side.
Basically, December to March are the best months to go to Thailand – though as with any tropical destination, a short and ridiculously torrential burst of rain is unpredictably possible, even on the sunniest of days.
The Thai islands in the Gulf of Thailand – KOH SAMUI, KOH PHANGAN, KOH TAO – tend to get less rain than the rest of the country (even in rainy season), and are at their best from the end of January until mid March. January is the freshest month – great for after the Christmas and NYE party chaos. February is the driest month, one of the sunniest, and the heat still bearable; and March is sunny and dry, too.
Over on Thailand’s west coast and the Andaman Sea – where you’ll find the Thai islands of PHUKET, KRABI, KOH LANTA, KOH PHI PHI -the optimum time for a beach holiday is slightly earlier, in December and January, when fresher weather, maximum sunshine and minimum rainfall combine to create the best climate for a beach holiday.
BANGKOK, meanwhile, is stultifyingly humid practically all the time (discomfort levels range from ‘high’ to ‘extreme’ year-round), but the best time to visit Thailand’s capital is December and January, when it is dry and a relatively bearable 31-32ºC average during the day, and 20ºC at night (the coolest Bangkok ever gets). When not to go to Bangkok: avoid the months of April and September. April is unbearably hot and humid; September is hot, humid and torrentially wet.
CHIANG MAI and the lovely little town of PAI, in Thailand’s cooler north, have much more pleasant climates than Bangkok and the south. Go from December to February for lovely sunny days (around 29ºC) and cooler evenings (the temperature dips to 13ºC – and even lower in the highlands, so dig out some warm clothes if you’re trekking).
The time to not go to Thailand is the rainy season, from May to October, when monsoons blow in from all directions.