Figuring the best time to visit Thailand is all about finding a balance between climate and crowds.

As a tropical nation, Thailand experiences both a well-defined rainy season and a period of intense heat. For the same reason, it also sees around 14 million tourists a year, ranging from budget backpackers to the luxury Koh Samui set.

Daniel Nahabedian, associate editor at Matador Life, currently lives in Chiang Mai and had this to say:

The best time to visit Thailand is between November and April. Mid-October usually marks the end of the rainy season and temperatures cool down during “winter,” making it much more pleasant for outdoor activities.

During this period, you’ll also be able to celebrate the 2 most important holidays in Thailand: Loy Krathong in November (Festival of Lights) and Songkran in April (Thai New Year). Just beware that the temperature starts increasing quickly, making April the hottest month in the year.

Based on her experience teaching ESL in Thailand for a year, Matador Life intern Anne Merritt largely concurs:

I lived in Ayutthaya, a landlocked town north of Bangkok. I’d recommend a visit in the fall. The rainy season is tapering off then, so the humidity is manageable. Also, while there are tourists in Thailand year-round, the high season doesn’t really gain momentum until December.

Loy Krathong day is in November, when people buy or make banana leaf boats and float them in the river with candles. Every town has some kind of river or lakeside festival with live music and pageants. The krathongs on the river are incredibly pretty, and it’s cool to see how families and communities celebrate an event together.

Matador member Kelsi George is a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand and shared these notes:

I’d say that the best time to visit Thailand is around the cool season (November-February) because the weather is comfortable.

The cool season is also the peak tourist season in Thailand and prices rise accordingly. To avoid this, travelers might consider visiting just before or after the cool season, such as in October or March.

April and May are the dead of the hot season in Thailand and are my avoid-at-all-cost months.

My experience

Photo: telmo32

I biked from Bangkok to the Malaysian border (well, with the help of a train and couple boats) during the first 20 days of November. The pattern seemed to be that it would rain for an hour or so each afternoon, but nothing more. Days were hot, while nights and early mornings were pleasant.

Even though November is the start of the official “high season,” places hadn’t started to fill up yet. In short, I felt like I visited at the perfect time.

So, what’s the best time to visit Thailand?

Short answer: Mid-October through November. March is a good shoulder season, and April gets you Songkran.