Best Time for Sightseeing: Bangkok is busy year-round, which means no matter what season you arrive, you’re bound to have to battle the crowds, though there are times that are worse than others. One of the biggest festivals of the year is Songkran (Thai New Year), which takes place in mid-April, bringing especially thick crowds, while Christmas and the New Year holidays also see a big increase in visitors to the city. While it won’t make a huge difference, late November and early December may be the best time to visit Bangkok, when the city is drying out from the monsoon season and experiencing a slight cool down, and the holiday crowds have yet to arrive. September and October are Bangkok’s (and Thailand’s) rainiest months. The best weather for Thailand’s beaches and islands are December to March, so if you’re combining Bangkok with a visit to one of the southern islands then this is best time for sunny, dry weather. More important than time of year when visiting Bangkok, try to visit the most popular attractions early in the morning for the smallest crowds, coolest temperatures, and best experience.
Best Time for Shopping: By far, the best time for shopping in Bangkok is from mid-June through mid-August when the “Amazing Grand Sale” takes place. Shops offer discounts of 10 to an incredible 80 percent on items like clothes, electronic items, jewelry and more, allowing shoppers to stock up on dream purchases at a fraction of the price. No matter when you’re in the city, timing is crucial when it comes to shopping. Bangkok markets are best to visit in the morning or evening when it’s slightly cooler and often less frantic. Save the air-conditioned malls for the peak heat of the day. You may want to avoid traveling around the city during morning and evening rush hours, from 07:30 to 0:900 and again from 17:00 to 18:30.
Best Time to Visit the Grand Palace: The Grand Palace is Bangkok’s No. 1 must-see attraction, receiving millions of tourists annually, which means it’s almost always crowded; however, there are times when you can enjoy it in relative peace. Your best bet is to come early in the morning during the peak of rainy season, from about mid-June through mid-September. Be at the entrance by about 8:15am, just before the 8:30am opening time to get inside first. Start at Wat Phra Kaeo, before the famous temple is packed with tourists. If you can’t arrive early, the next best option is mid-afternoon, after most tourists and groups exit around 2:30pm. The worst time to visit is during peak periods like Songkran in mid-April, as well as Christmas and New Year holidays.
Best Time to Visit Chinatown: Chinatown is Bangkok’s most chaotic, colorful district, and a little city in its own right. Many feel the crowds are what make it so exciting, and visiting around the Chinese New Year in late January or early February is when Chinatown is at its best. The area hosts exciting dragon parades, firecrackers and dancing in the streets. You’ll find lots of energy here year long, day or night, though after dark is more vibrant, with sidewalks turning into street restaurants, and the opportunity to taste some of the best street food on the planet.
High Season (November through March): While Bangkok is busy and hot year round, there are slight differences between the seasons when it comes to weather and crowds. Late fall and winter bring somewhat cooler and drier weather, while crowds are at their peak, particularly around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. It’s virtually impossible to explore the city without rubbing shoulders with fellow tourists during this time, and the outdoor beer bars will be packed with them. Expect prices to rise steeply and accommodation to fill up quickly. Booking ahead becomes essential during these months, which can take some of the spontaneity away from your holiday.
Shoulder Season (April through June, September and October): While the crowds may not be as thick during shoulder season, April through June are Bangkok’s hottest months, with April by far the most unpleasant month temperature wise, which means booking an air-conditioned room is really a must. September and October are slightly cooler and wetter. Your reward for going in any of these less-crowded months, is the best opportunity to save a little on both room rates and airfare.
Low Season (July and August): Low season falls during monsoon season, which brings frequent but usually short bouts of intense rain. Many feel this is a great time to visit the city, as it generally offers some of the best deals on hotels and excursions. Off-season weather isn’t intolerable, and the trade-off of significant savings and more elbow room is likely to be worth the bit of discomfort. When it rains, tourists can enjoy the wide range of indoor activities, like visiting temples, aquariums and entertainment complexes as well as the numerous shopping opportunities.
Bangkok Weather in January: This area of Asia has a tropical climate with hot, humid weather year round. While winter is slightly cooler than the other seasons, it still brings plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures. The average high temperature in January is 27°C, and there is little rain to cool things off as January is one of Bangkok’s driest months, with an average of just 10mm of rain coming down over two days. At all times of the year in Bangkok, you’ll want to pack light clothing made from natural fibers like cotton, or moisture-wicking synthetics. As you’ll need protection from the sun, and clothing like shorts and tank tops aren’t appropriate for the city, particularly in the temples and palaces, loose and light long pants and comfortable, short-sleeve tops are ideal. A wide-brimmed hat is important to avoid burning in the intense sunshine. As you’ll be going in and out of highly air-conditioned environments, including taxis, the Skytrain, malls and hotels, bring a cardigan or something to wrap around your shoulders to avoid a chill as well. (Average Max Temperature: 27°C. Average Precipitation: 10mm.)
Bangkok Weather in February: February is similar to January, and considered the last “cool” month until November, though the average high temperature creeps up a degree to 29°C. The rain is still at a minimum, with an average of just 10mm coming down over three days of rain. Pack as you would for January, and always keep in mind that the soaring temperatures, which are much higher than most other parts of the world at this time of year, can result in heatstroke. Drink plenty of water and duck into air-conditioned malls or other areas to take a break from the heat. (Average Max Temperature: 29°C. Average Precipitation: 30mm.)
Bangkok Weather in March: March is slightly warmer than February, with the average high climbing up to 30°C. Rainfall is still rare, though there’s a bit more than the two previous months with an average of 30mm over five days of rain. It’s typically hot and muggy, which means you‘ll need to avoid spending too much time in the direct heat, or risk dehydration and even heatstroke. The heat can be oppressive during the day, so much so that sightseeing can become unpleasant, which means planning indoor trips during peak daylight areas and booking an air-conditioned room that you can find relief in, particularly if you’re sensitive to the heat. (Average Max Temperature: 30°C. Average Precipitation: 30mm.)
Bangkok Weather in April: April is the hottest month in Bangkok, with the average high a sizzling 32°C – and, sometimes it can soar to around 37°C, making things especially miserable. With the humidity at around 70%, it can feel extremely muggy and sticky combined with the higher temperatures. Now more than ever, you’ll need plenty of protection from the sun, including slathering on high SPF sunscreen, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and taking regular breaks from the heat. Drink plenty of water too, as this is the month when more people are reported to suffer from fatigue and heatstroke. There is also slightly more rain in April, with an average of 70mm of rainfall over 10 days, but not enough to damper plans or cool things off. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
Bangkok Weather in May: May marks the start of the monsoon season, bringing some relief from the sweltering heat of April. It will still be quite warm, with an average high temperature of 32°C, and, when combined with the rain, the humidity can be excruciatingly intolerable, though the rains do help cool things off a bit. It is quite wet this month, with 190mm of rainfall on average coming down over 17 days. Expect to see some flooding in Bangkok during the first few weeks of May as the drains, clogged from dry season debris, tend to get blocked. Especially toward the end of the month, the rain tends to come down in buckets, but don’t bother to bring a raincoat as it will be far too hot to wear it. Instead, carry a small, portable umbrella and be prepared to remove your shoes and wade if necessary. (Average Max Temperature: 32°C. Average Precipitation: 190mm.)
Bangkok Weather in June: The monsoon rains have now arrived, with rainfall and temperatures similar to May, though the mercury does dip down a degree to an average high of 31°C. Plan for scorching heat and humidity as you would for last month, bringing plenty of loose, lightweight and protective clothing, along with a small umbrella. As with all months of the year, packing a cardigan or something to wrap around your shoulders if it gets too cool in air-conditioned areas is also a good idea. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C. Average Precipitation: 150 mm.)
Bangkok Weather in July: July is low season, a time when it’s very humid and very rainy. There is a steady rise in rainfall and a very slight drop in daily average temperatures that will continue on a monthly basis through to September, though this month the average high remains a very hot 31°C. While there is still an average of 180mm of precipitation in July, it comes down over 19 days, increasing the odds of experiencing at least a few rainy days while you’re here this month. Once again, pack light clothing and an umbrella, but keep in mind that the rain tends to come in short bursts, rarely lasting more than 30 minutes. (Average Max Temperature: 31°C. Average Precipitation: 160 mm.)
Bangkok Weather in August: Temperatures remain hot – nearly identical to those of July. Expect to see street flooding in Bangkok this month, particularly after a torrential downfall. The humidity is high too, averaging at 74%, so expect to feel sticky and sweaty, though you won’t have to worry about bumping elbows with other travelers as much. As before, an umbrella is a must and you’ll need to be prepared to take off your shoes and wade occasionally in addition to taking breaks in the shade to get away from the intense heat of the sun. (Average Max Temperature: 30°C. Average Precipitation: 190mm.)
Bangkok Weather in September: September is the wettest month of the year in Bangkok, with 290mm coming down on average over 22 days of rain. Although autumn is approaching, you’re unlikely to ever feel cool, though the average high is slightly cooler than August at 29°C. Basically, you can expect lots of rain, occasional sunshine and unpleasant humidity this month. The downpours are usually quite heavy, but also short, making it easy to duck into a mall or café until it clears. Pack lots of loose, lightweight and protective clothing that dries quickly, high SPF sunscreen and a portable umbrella, along with a light cardigan for cooler indoor spots. (Average Max Temperature: 29°C. Average Precipitation: 290mm.)
Bangkok Weather in October: In October, the rain begins to get lighter, and as the month progresses, Bangkok will say goodbye to the rainy season. There will be plenty of rain, but by mid-month the wet season is in full retreat. If it was a particularly wet one, there may still be some flooding in the city; however, that doesn’t happen every year. The sun will be shining brightly most of the time, with the average high temperature the same as it was last month, at 29°C. Pack as you would for September to be prepared for rain and sun. (Average Max Temperature: 29°C. Average Precipitation: 210mm.)
Bangkok Weather in November: The rainy season has ended, and locals are now preparing to deal with the “cold,” with average highs of 28°C, though temperatures often hover around the mid-20s Celsius. There is very little rain, with just 60mm coming down on average over five days in November. This is when the city is often at its most pleasant, though you’ll still need protection from the sun in the form of sunscreen, as well as loose, lightweight clothing. As the nights are relatively cool, with lows around an idyllic 22°C, there’s a more happening nightlife too. (Average Max Temperature: 28°C. Average Precipitation: 60mm.)
Bangkok Weather in December: December is Bangkok’s driest month, with just 9mm of rain, which means there is a good chance you won’t experience any at all while you’re here. This is the height of tourist season, and the coolest time of the year with average high temperatures still at 27°C, though lows dip down to 20°C, making for especially comfortable evenings as well as bringing the peak of the city’s nightlife. As always, you’ll need light, loose clothing and sunglasses as well as a cardigan for indoors, but you’re unlikely to need that umbrella. (Average Max Temperature: 27°C. Average Precipitation: 10mm.)
Bangkok Events and Festivals by Month
Bangkok Events in January
New Year’s Day – New Year’s Day, January 1, is a public holiday in Thailand. While it may be a little quieter as some residents visit their local temple to make merit, the shops and malls remain open and only government offices and banks will be closed. National Children’s Day – On this day, celebrated on the second Saturday in January, doors that are usually closed to the public are opened, like the Government House, Defence Ministry and inner Grand Palace. Zoos, theme parks and many other sights are free, and there are many special events held for children.
Bangkok Fringe Festival – Held annually between late January and early February, this performing arts festival that takes place at the Patravadi Theater features Thai and international artists who perform dance, music, theater, puppetry, film, and more.
Chinese Lunar New Year’s Day – A weeklong celebration rings in the Chinese New Year in late January or February. In 2017, the Chinese New Year will be on January 28. This is a time for Thai-Chinese to rest and celebrate, so many businesses will be closed. Chinatown will be filled with lanterns, firecrackers, lion and dragon dances, Chinese opera and an even greater number of food stalls than usual.
Bangkok Events in February
Valentine’s Day – Valentine’s Day, February 14, isn’t a public holiday, but in a country where public displays of affection are frowned upon and many are shy about love, it offers the opportunity to send a card or ask someone to dinner. It’s celebrated much the way it is in other countries, and is becoming an increasingly extravagant affair. Most of the city’s top restaurants and bars host special romantic evenings and themed events.
Makha Bucha Day – This public holiday and important Buddhist lunar festival is observed throughout Thailand on the full moon night of the third lunar month. In the evening, Thai people join candlelit processions around temples to celebrate the day Buddha gave a sermon to 1,250 enlightened devotees. Foreign visitors are welcome to the observances that begin around sunset. Some of the best places to go in Bangkok include Wat Benjamabopit and the Golden Mount, where monks from the temple lead a procession up the mount.
Bangkok Events in March
Bangkok International Fashion Week – Held in mid-March, this five-day event typically takes place at the Impact Exhibition & Convention Center and showcases a variety of products, including clothing and cosmetics, jewelry, leather products, bridal and handicrafts.
National Book Fair – This international annual event brings together writers and publishers in all genres and is held at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in late March and early April. In 2016, it will run from March 23 to April 4.
St. Patrick’s Day – While you won’t be able to watch a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Bangkok, the St. Patrick’s Society is one of the oldest social communities in Bangkok and typically hosts events for the Irish holiday, like the St. Patrick’s Day Shindig on March 17 at the Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn Bangkok, which will feature plenty of Guinness and Irish coffee along with Irish music and tasty Irish fare. The city also has a number of Irish pubs where you can lift a pint and toast to St. Patrick as well as enjoy dining on Irish stew.
Bangkok Events in April
Chakri Day – This holiday is an important observance for modern Thailand held on April 6, celebrating the founding of the Chakri Dynasty from which the current royal family originates. Banks, schools and government offices are closed, but most other businesses remain open. Thai people may light incense and lay wreaths at prominent statues of King Rama I.
Songkran – The Thai New Year celebration is a three-day holiday that takes place over April 13-16, 2016, but the festivities can last all week long. During Songkran, most office buildings, banks, family-run shops and eateries shut down completely, though the big shopping malls usually remain open. At least half of Bangkok residents leave the city, traveling back to their hometowns during this time. Those who stay should prepare to get wet by dressing appropriately and protecting phones and wallets, with the celebrations including young people that arm themselves with high-velocity water guns, buckets and hoses to take part in massive water fights – tourists and businessmen are often top targets.
Bangkok Events in May
National Labour Day – Also known as May Day, May 1 is an annual public holiday taken by private companies and banks, though usually not by government officials who instead observe mid-May’s Royal Ploughing Ceremony. While there have been May Day rallies in Bangkok in the past, today the emphasis is on employees taking a day to rest and spend time with their families.
Coronation Day – May 5 is Coronation Day, a public holiday that marks the anniversary of the coronation of the country’s current King Rama IX. On this day, royal decorations are presented to those who’ve made valuable contributions to the country, and you can expect to hear the royal anthem played widely. Some rooms at the Grand Palace which aren’t normally open to the public, may be open for viewing.
Royal Ploughing Ceremony Day – This highly ceremonial event is held at the Sanam Luang ceremonial site in Bangkok each year. It marks a promising start to the new planting season. Presided over by a member of the Royal Family, the ceremony follows a strict agenda in which court ceremonial gown-dressed Brahmins lead two sacred oxen in a ploughing ritual around the Royal Field while sowing rice seeds into the ground. The public holiday takes place during the sixth Thai lunar month, but the exact date isn’t fixed, rather it’s announced by the astrologers a the Bureau of the Royal Household.
Visakha Bucha – The holiest of all Buddhist holidays is commemorated on the full-moon day of the sixth lunar month which normally falls in May. In 2016, it will be celebrated on May 20. During this public holiday, Thai Buddhists visit the temple to make merit in addition to making an extra effort to uphold the Five Precepts of Buddhist teachings which include abstinence from alcohol. Some bars and clubs are closed for the day, and those that do remain open may keep the music at lower levels and only serve alcohol in a very discreet manner, such as pouring beer into tea cups.
Bangkok Events in June
Amazing Thailand Grand Sale – This fair that begins in mid-June is a place for shoppers to grab some of the best deals all year for a variety of goods and services with an array of stores, restaurants, hotels and resorts offering discounts from 10 to 80 percent.
Crab Festival – This festival held at Central Plaza Rama in mid-June offers the chance to taste fresh crab from Bang Khun Thian. It also features a number of exhibitions, including international cooking demonstrations.
Bangkok Events in July
Asana Bucha and Khao Pansa – These two important Thai Buddhist holidays fall next to each other, usually in July. In 2016, they will be celebrated on July 19 and 20. Asahara Bucha commemorates the day Buddha preached his first sermon to his five first disciples, while Khao Pansa is the beginning of the Buddhist Lent, when the monks’ three-month rainy reason retreat starts and alcohol is banned all day. Monks use the retreat to meditate more intensively, while lay people often use this period to develop more ascetic practices, such as abstaining from cigarettes, alcohol or meat. A Buddhist Lent Festival takes place, featuring celebrants that make huge candles and parade them through the streets along with floats depicting scenes from Buddhist and Hindu mythology.
Pattaya Marathon – This event takes place around the nearby Pattaya area on the outskirts of Bangkok. Popular with runners from around the world, the course offers coastal views and passes magnificent scenery along the way. In addition to the marathon, there are a variety of distances to choose from, including a 5k for kids, a 10.5k and 21k.
Bangkok Events in August
Queen’s Birthday – August 12 marks the birthday of Queen Cirkit who was born in 1932. It’s also celebrated as Mother’s Day. As the Queen was born on a Friday, and light blue is a color associated with the day, people often dress in light blue to show their respect. In Sanam Luang, you’ll witness candle-holding crowds, and you’ll also see illuminations on Thanon Ratchadamnoen as well as citywide shrines.
Short Film & Video Festival – Held every year in mid-August at the Bangkok Art & Culture Center, this festival showcases Thai indie film, as well as some global and gay programming with a focus on short films, student films, documentary, experimental and animation films. In 2016, it will be held from August 11 through August 21.
Chinese Ghost Festival – This festival takes place on the 15th night of the seventh lunar month in the Chinese calendar, usually in August. In 2016, it will be celebrated on August 17. Observed by Taoists, Buddhists, and Chinese folk religion believers, the festival is believed to be the time when the gates of hell open so that spirits can roam the earth in search of food and entertainment. Food offering ceremonies are organized at home to make merit, as well as to distribute food and other necessities to those in need. The main celebrations are observed around major Chinese shrines in Thailand.
Bangkok Events in September
Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival – The Moon Festival originated in China, but takes on a whole new meaning here. This is an exciting time for food lovers, when culinary creativity abounds. Chinatown fills with food stalls promoting mooncakes in every flavor imaginable, from roasted chestnut and green tea to coffee, ginseng and even ice cream.
International Festival of Dance and Music – Bangkok’s largest annual arts festival features top or second-tier opera, classical music, dance, ballet and jazz in a star-studded program that begins in the second week of September and runs through mid-October.
Bangkok Events in October
Awk Phansa – This day (October 16 in 2016) marks the end of the three-month period of Buddhist Lent. Monks are allowed to leave the temples, and people gather to bring them food and robe offerings in a ceremony known as Thot Kathin, which lasts for one month. Throughout Thailand, various events and festivities are arranged, and in Bangkok there is a royal ceremony that’s usually held at Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn).
Kin Jay Vegetarian Festival – For nine days each year during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar (typically late September/October), a large portion of Thailand’s population eat exclusively vegan foods in observation of the Chinese cleansing festival. Popular among vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, restaurants and street stalls across Bangkok put up yellow flags to announce their participation. While some serve non-vegetarian dishes, most are completely vegetarian during the length of the festival.
Chulalongkorn Day – Every year on October 23, Thai people celebrate the life and reign of King Chulalongkorn on the anniversary of his death in 2010. On this public holiday, many people bring offering in front of his statues, or portraits, in hopes of having their prayers answered.
Halloween – Halloween is generally not celebrated by Thai people and is mostly ignored outside of large tourist destinations; however, in places like Bangkok where there are many foreign visitors and expats, you’ll find parties at many pubs, bars, and nightclubs throughout the city that offer the chance to dress up in costume.
Bangkok Events in November
World Film Festival of Bangkok – Held in early November, November 4 to November 13 in 2016, this festival screens more than 80 international films, including works from the European Union Film Festival, Latin America, Asia and Southeast Asia and included short films, experimental films, documentaries and animation productions.
Beer Garden Festival – This is Thailand’s answer to Germany’s Oktoberfest. November is the start of the country’s annual beer garden season, where tables and chairs are brought out onto the street and Singha, Heineken, and a host of other beers are available on tap. While it’s a nationwide event, it’s most prevalent in the capital. Food stalls, live bands and practically an endless list of different beers can be found at plazas, bar strips and malls like Central World.
Loy Krathong Festival – One of the most picturesque festivals in Bangkok happens on the first full moon day of November, on November 14 in 2016. In the evening, Thai people buy or make a krathong, which is like a small boat made of banana tree and banana leaves, with flowers and a candle in the middle. They then gather around lakes, rivers and canals to pay respects to the goddess of water by releasing their beautiful rafts in order to wash away sins. The sight of the thousands of flickering lights is truly magical, and there are many spots throughout the city to get involved or simply watch the festivities. The main Loy Krathong celebration in Bangkok has been held at Asiatique in recent years.
Bangkok Events in December
Trooping of the Colours – This impressive event is held on December 1, a few days before the King’s Birthday. Inspired by the British Army’s Trooping of the Colours ceremony, in this event, members of the three armed forces, the Royal Thai Navy, the Royal Thai Army, and the Royal Thai Air Force, together with the royal guards, all don colorful uniforms specific to their regimens and plumed hats, and declare the oath of allegiance while marching in unison before the King and Queen and members of the Royal Family. As locals often arrive as early as mid-afternoon to get a seat around the Royal Plaza, if you want to attend you’ll need to go early and wear modest attire.
The King’s Birthday – On this celebration held annually on December 5, visitors have the chance to witness the adoration and reverence the Thai people have for their monarch, who has been the King of Thailand for 70 years as of 2016. An impressive display of fireworks are traditionally released near the Grand Palace, and the streets of the city’s center are decorated in his honor. Thousands also light candles after dark, while traditional music and dance is enjoyed into the night.
Constitution Day – This public holiday on December 10 commemorates the first constitution of Thailand, which came into effect in 1932. It marks the transformation of Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. It is traditionally celebrated across Thailand by displaying and paying respect to portraits of Thai kings past and present; it is also common for government offices to be lit up and for civilian and military parades to take place. In Bangkok, a ceremonial procession takes place at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall.
Christmas Day – Christmas Day is a Christian tradition, not celebrated in Thai culture, but as the Thai people enjoy giving gifts to each other, it’s become a commercial and marketing event here, with Christmas trees found in shopping centers rather than living rooms. Bangkok’s infamous high-end, sky-scraping shopping centers and luxury hotels showcase Christmas trees and dazzling lights that become an attraction of their own. There are Christmas services on December 25 at area Christian churches, though the holiday is more about shopping, food and drink here.
New Year’s Eve – Bangkok is one of Asia’s biggest party hubs, so you’ll find a wide variety of options when it comes to celebrating the coming year, including everything from the colorful New Year countdown with thousands in Central World Square to wild parties at swanky clubs and private river cruises along the Chao Praya River which hosts a huge fireworks display. Khao San Road is always a fun and lively spectacle during New Years Eve.