The Ultimate Guide to Celebrating Thailand New Year: Songkran Handbook

In the heart of Southeast Asia lies a vibrant celebration like no other, marking the arrival of the Thai New Year. Thailand New Year festivities, known as Songkran, are bursting with culture and excitement, drawing in travelers from all corners. 

From busy cities to quiet towns, Songkran fills the country with vibrant colors and age-old traditions, inviting everyone to enjoy the fun. 

In this guide, we explore the essence of Thailand’s New Year celebration, unveiling its significance, customs, and top destinations to experience the magic firsthand. Get ready to dive into the joyous spirit of Songkran and discover why it’s a must-see celebration in the Land of Smiles.

5 Fascinating Factors About Thailand New Year – Songkran Festival

  • Water over Buddha (and you!): Songkran is renowned for its water fights, symbolizing cleansing and renewal. People splash water on Buddha statues for purification and enjoy joyful water battles in the streets, offering a unique way to celebrate the new year.
  • Giving with love: Songkran isn’t just about fun; it’s also a time for charitable acts. People often visit temples to make merit by offering food to monks and assisting those in need, reflecting the spirit of generosity and compassion.
  • Zodiac roots: Songkran is deeply rooted in Thai culture and tradition, with its origins tracing back to ancient astrological beliefs. According to the traditional Thai lunar calendar, the festival marks the beginning of the Thai New Year, aligning with the transition of the zodiac signs.
  • From Chaweng to Surin Beach: While Songkran is celebrated throughout Thailand, specific locations are renowned for their elaborate festivities. From the bustling streets of Bangkok to the beach parties of Chaweng and Surin Beach, each destination offers its unique twist on the traditional celebrations, attracting locals and tourists alike.
  • Families welcome: Songkran is a time for family reunions and bonding. Many Thais travel back to their hometowns to celebrate with their loved ones, engaging in traditional rituals and sharing special meals. It’s a time of joy, reflection, and strengthening familial ties, making it a cherished occasion.


> Time to Explore – Book Your Tour: Thailand Golden Temples, Beaches, and Nature

Top Destinations for Celebrating New Year in Thailand

Bangkok: The Epicenter of Festivities

When: During Songkran, from April 13th to 15th each year, Bangkok bursts with excitement as the city becomes a celebration hub.

In Bangkok, Songkran takes on a grand scale, with vibrant water fights and colorful parades filling the streets. The iconic Khao San Road and Silom Road are must-visit, teeming with revelers armed with water guns, ready for friendly skirmishes. Take advantage of the ceremonial bathing of Buddha statues at temples like Wat Pho, adding a spiritual touch to the festivities.

At least half of Bangkok’s population leaves the city in droves to return to their hometowns for family gatherings. Travelers who fly into Bangkok specifically to take advantage of one of the most vibrant and joyous seasons of the year take their place. While large shopping malls typically stay open during Songkran, the majority of office buildings, banks, and even family-run businesses and eateries fully close.

What To Do:

  • Experience the traditional rituals at temples like Wat Pho.
  • Explore the city’s markets and indulge in delicious Thai street food.
  • Watch the dazzling fireworks display at CentralWorld Plaza.
  • Join the vibrant street party along Khao San Road.
  • Experience the luxurious countdown galas at rooftop bars with stunning city views.


> Don’t Miss Out: How to Experience Thailand like a Local

Pattaya: A Blend of Beach Parties and Cultural Immersion

When: Songkran festivities in Pattaya typically run from April 13th to 19th, offering an extended period of celebration.

Given Pattaya’s reputation as a party city, it’s typical for Songkran celebrations here to last longer than in other parts of Thailand. The customary Songkran days (April 13–15) will feature water battles, but Pattaya celebrates unusually through the following week. 

The most significant celebration day, April 19, is often when the Wan Lai Festival, also known in Thai, takes place. This is your last celebration opportunity if you arrive in Thailand a little later than expected.

Pattaya offers a unique mix of beachside fun and cultural immersion during Songkran. The city’s beaches, particularly Jomtien and Pattaya Beach, come alive with water battles and lively music. For a more traditional experience, visit local temples where you can participate in merit-making activities and witness ancient rituals.

What To Do:

  • Enjoy beach parties and water splashing along Pattaya Beach.
  • Visit temples like Wat Chai Mongkol for traditional ceremonies.
  • Explore the local markets and try authentic Thai cuisine.
  • Dance the night away at the electrifying parties on Walking Street.
  • Enjoy live music performances and fire shows at beach bars.
  • Visit the Sanctuary of Truth for a unique cultural experience.


Phuket: Vibrant Beach Parties and Cultural Spectacles

When: Phuket celebrates Songkran from April 13th to 15th, offering a blend of beach festivities and cultural experiences.

Phuket, Thailand’s most well-liked beach resort, hosts extravagant Songkran celebrations. Over the three days of the New Year’s holiday, there has been an orgy of water hurling using buckets and water pistols. 

For a few days, even the Phuket police will participate and give up their gun in favor of a water pistol. In the past, Songkran was primarily observed on the first day in Phuket, but in recent years, the island has been completely taken over by parties from morning to night.

In Phuket, Songkran is a vibrant affair with beach parties, street processions, and cultural performances. Patong Beach is a hotspot for water fights and live entertainment, while Old Phuket Town hosts cultural parades and traditional ceremonies. Explore the island’s temples to witness age-old rituals and pay respects to ancestors.

What To Do:

  • Celebrate under the stars at the lively beach parties on Patong Beach.
  • Take a boat trip to watch the spectacular fireworks display over Phuket Bay.
  • Visit local temples like Wat Chalong to experience a more traditional New Year’s Eve.
  • Explore Old Phuket Town for cultural parades and ceremonies.


Koh Samui: Island Escapades with Traditional Flair

When: Songkran festivities in Koh Samui typically span from April 13th to 15th, offering a serene island setting for celebration.

While Samui’s Songkran festivities are not as extravagant as those in Pattaya or Phuket, they are among the most enjoyable in Thailand, with activities held in the main beach towns. There are impromptu gatherings across Samui where anyone is invited to show up and have a good time! 

Local kids will stop to play tag with you while you drive them around the island in the back of pick-up trucks. It’s usually entertaining, but watch out, as they use melted ice water, which can be very shocking to the senses.

There are parties on the beach and at all the pubs and clubs around Soi Green Mango, so if you’re looking for a wild party, head to Chaweng Beach. You may experience a more traditional side of Samui by traveling to the West Coast, particularly in the Na Thorn area. You can participate in the Thai New Year celebrations that the local fisherman and their families enjoy to celebrate.

What To Do:

  • Dive into the water fights and beach parties at Chaweng Beach.
  • Explore the island’s temples and take part in traditional rituals.
  • Relax on the pristine beaches and enjoy the laid-back island vibe.
  • Indulge in a luxurious New Year’s Eve gala dinner at a beachfront resort.
  • Explore the island’s natural beauty, such as Ang Thong National Marine Park.


> Get ready to be amazed: Koh Samui

Chiang Mai: A Haven for Songkran Festivities

When: Songkran festivities in Koh Samui typically span from April 13th to 15th, offering a serene island setting for celebration.

The Songkran festivities in Chiang Mai stand out as the most soaked, and arguably the most enjoyable, among all the countrywide commemorations of the Thai Buddhist New Year. While Bangkok boasts the most significant gatherings and Pattaya hosts the lengthiest events, no other place experiences as much splashing of water as Chiang Mai does. This distinction makes it one of the top destinations in Southeast Asia during mid-April, especially among international tourists and backpackers.

Simply go to Tha Pae Gate, in the historic Old City, and delight in a lively 4 km water battle along the ancient moat, which protected the city and its residents. Vendors offer everything you require, and extensive sound systems are arranged to keep you entertained throughout the journey. Festivities span the entire length of the moat, while a more relaxed and authentic atmosphere awaits at the numerous temples within the Old City.

What To Do:

  • Release a wish lantern and witness the breathtaking sight of hundreds floating skyward.
  • Join the festive crowds and enjoy the vibrant street party atmosphere at Tha Pae Gate.
  • Visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a sacred temple perched atop a mountain, for panoramic city views and a more spiritual New Year’s Eve experience.


> Let’s make memories with this tour: Thailand in Depth

Insider Tips for Travelers during Thailand’s New Year

Planning and Booking

  • Book Early: Songkran is a massive celebration, and transportation and accommodation get booked up months in advance, especially in popular destinations like Chiang Mai.
  • Embrace the Water: Songkran is all about getting soaked! Pack waterproof clothes, a light backpack, and an excellent phone case.

Respecting Local Customs

  • Water Etiquette: While getting splashed is part of the fun, avoid drenching elders, monks, or people holding electronics.
  • Temple Visits: If visiting temples during Songkran, dress modestly (covered shoulders and knees) and be mindful of ongoing ceremonies.

Staying Safe and Comfortable

  • Protect Your Belongings: Keep your valuables secure in waterproof pouches or lockers, as things can get wild during water fights.
  • Hydration is Key:  Songkran takes place during the hottest time of year. Carry a water bottle and take breaks in the shade to stay hydrated.

Alternative Experiences

  • Escape the Crowds: If intense water fights are not your thing, consider visiting northern Thailand or the islands in the Gulf of Thailand, where celebrations are more low-key.
  • Cultural Immersion: Participate in merit-making ceremonies at temples, where you can offer water to Buddha statues and receive blessings from monks.

Having Fun

  • Water Guns and Talcum Powder: Embrace the spirit of Songkran by purchasing a water gun and some colorful talcum powder, a traditional element of the festival.
  • Learn Some Thai Phrases: A simple “Sawatdee Pee Mai (สวัสดีปีใหม่ sà-wàt-dee pee mai)” meaning Happy New Year in Thai, goes a long way with the locals.
  • Embrace the Chaos: Songkran is a time to let loose and have fun. Enjoy the vibrant atmosphere, the friendly water fights, and the positive energy.

Experience Songkran: Plan Your Unforgettable Journey To Thailand!

As the water settles and the festivities wind down, Songkran leaves an indelible mark on those who have experienced its vibrant energy. With its rich tapestry of culture and tradition, Thailand New Year celebration beckons travelers to immerse themselves in its joyous embrace. 

From the bustling streets of urban centers to the serene charm of rural towns, Songkran paints the country in hues of excitement and renewal. 

Now that you’ve glimpsed into the heart of this magnificent celebration, why not plan your own journey to Thailand? Let’s embark on this enchanting adventure and create lasting memories amidst the Land of Smiles with Asia Trip Deals!