When to visit Phuket: High season or low season what’s the difference?

March 13, 2010

So you’re wondering when to visit Phuket? The rainy season in Thailand has many different names. They include the green season, the low season, the monsoon season, and the summer season. Let’s be honest in this article and trim away any cunning marketing labels and call it what it is, the wet season. It’s also correctly called the low season because of fewer tourist arrivals due to the monsoon rains. Like almost anywhere in the world the seasonal weather patterns vary from year to year, with some bringing more, or less rain than the last. Some monsoon seasons are especially dry with weeks and weeks of sunshine interspersed with a few heavy showers. Some years it can be the complete opposite with weeks of rain and grey skies peppered with a sprinkling of sunny days. Some years it rains so little that Phukets reservoirs struggle to cope with high demand for water during the peak season.

So when to come to Thailand? There are three distinct seasons for travel to Thailand. The high season, the hot season, and the wet season.

The High Season – November to February

The high season runs from November through to February. This is the time of year when it rains the least, and the temperatures aren’t too hot and humid. This season is also known as the cool season. Weather can be a little changeable during November as sometimes the monsoon drags on longer that it should do. From mid December until March almost no rain at all can be expected, and if it does rain, it’ll usually only be a quick shower followed by sunshine. The skies are deep blue with very few clouds. The winds usually come from the east at this time of year, making conditions for Phukets beach resorts like Patong on the west coast ideal. Swimming at the beaches on the west coast is considered safe during the peak season.

The temperatures during the cool season are very comfortable. They usually hover around the late twenties celsius. Nighttime temperatures can sometimes get quite chilly.

The increase of tourist arrivals during the peak season brings peak season prices. The most expensive time to come to Thailand is during the fortnight that covers the Christmas and New Year holidays. Hotels are usually fully booked during this period even though prices are verging on extortionate. A room which goes for B500 in low season will be sold for as much as B3000 in late December. Flights are also busier which means they’re also more expensive this time of year.

The Hot Season – March to May

Thunderclouds start appearing on the horizon in late March and grow into angry towering anvils of cotton wool that tumble upwards towards space. Showers are frequent, especially in the evenings. Storms occasionally blow in without much notice giving welcome respite to the sticky heat, and temperatures are hotter now than at any other time of the year. Temperatures can reach a broiling 38 degrees centigrade. Prices for hotels are cheaper than during peak season with some bargains to be had. March and April are very good months for scuba diving as this is when there is seldom an easterly wind, making all of the east coat Racha Yai and Racha Noi dive sites accessible everyday. Manta Ray and Whale Shark sightings are also more common during these months.

All in all the heat is not so bad, and if it gets too hot there’s always the hotel pool or the beach where you can chill out and relax. Temperatures drop a few degrees at night and air-con will chill your room to a perfect sleeping climate.

The Wet Season – May to October

Not a good day for swimming

Not a good day for swimming

The wet season varies in strength from year to year. May and September are usually the wettest months, but not always. Some years very little rain will fall in May making it a great month to be in Thailand. Images of a monsoon conjure up savannahs in Africa being deluged for months on end, or rain coming from all directions even straight up from the ground for weeks at a time. It’s not like that in Thailand. Sure, it’s wet, and there’s a fair amount of rain around the region, but there’re also sizable sunny periods where the sea is flat like glass for days or weeks at a time.

This is when hotel prices are at their lowest. They are literally giving away their best rooms at bargain prices. Flights are cheap, and money can be saved everywhere you go. Okay, so you might lose a few days on the beach or around the pool due to a few days of rain, but there’s still a lot to do to keep you busy and entertained. The local scuba diving around Racha Yai is at it’s best, with all the best dive sites on the east side perfectly sheltered from the monsoon winds, sometimes offering in excess of forty meters visibility.

All in all you shouldn’t worry too much about when exactly you come to Thailand. The sun can be shining just about all year round. It’s impossible to guarantee exactly when it might rain.

One thing to note though, if you’re coming here for scuba diving and want to dive the Similan Islands, you’ll have a lot more choice if you come between the months of November and May. Only one or two operators run dive trips to the Similans outside these months, and these trips only go subject to good weather conditions. The Similan Islands are officially closed from 15th May until 10th October every year.

High Season Pros

  • Great weather
  • Cooler Temperatures
  • Great scuba diving in the Similan Islands.

High Season Cons…

  • Expensive hotel prices
  • More traffic
  • Packed beaches

Low Season Pros

  • Cheap prices
  • Fantastic scuba diving around Racha Yai
  • Less busy

Low Season Cons

  • Unpredictable weather and storms.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max Temp (°C) 26 28 29 30 30 29 29 28 28 28 27 26
Max Rain (mm) 09 25 35 68 195 150 160 190 330 230 55 09
Chiang Mai
Max Temp (°C) 21 23 26 29 29 28 27 27 27 26 24 22
Max Rain (mm) 08 05 16 45 160 140 170 230 250 130 45 15
Max Temp (°C) 26 28 29 30 30 29 29 28 28 28 27 26
Max Rain (mm) 10 25 40 80 165 120 165 170 300 230 65 10
Koh Samui
Max Temp (°C) 26 26 28 29 29 28 28 28 28 27 26 25
Max Rain (mm) 45 10 15 65 190 115 145 125 210 260 300 110
Max Temp (°C) 27 28 28 29 28 28 28 28 27 27 27 27
Max Rain (mm) 10 15 40 160 350 210 260 260 420 300 210 40

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