Songkran (Thai New Year), Thailand’s Water Festival: Tourist Guide

Complete guide for an unforgettable trip to the Songkran Festival in Thailand: Thai New Year water fights, parades, and cultural celebrations.
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Complete guide for an unforgettable trip to the Songkran Festival in Thailand: Thai New Year water fights, parades, and cultural celebrations. - Songkran Tourist Guide - First Timer's Guide to Songkran

The Songkran Festival in Thailand is a lively and energetic celebration that welcomes visitors from all over the world.

If you’re visiting for the first time, this guide will be your go-to source for all the essential details you need to make the most of this fantastic event. It covers everything from where to go, what to expect, what to pack, and how to behave during the festival.

With this guide, you can prepare yourself for an unforgettable experience filled with water fights, traditional ceremonies, and vibrant street parties.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Thailand in April, make sure you pack your swimsuit and get ready to join in on the Songkran fun!


Watch our celebration of Songkran in a local part of Koh Samui.

Introduction to the Songkran Festival in Thailand: Thai New Year

The Songkran Festival in Thailand is like the ultimate water fight meets a New Year’s party. It’s a super fun and lively celebration that marks the Thai New Year, according to the lunar calendar, a national holiday.

People take to the streets armed with water guns, buckets, and even hoses to drench each other in water.

Locals splashing water during Songkran Festival - Thai New Year water festival - Songkran Festival Thailand

But it’s not just about getting wet and wild – there’s also a deeper meaning behind the festivities. The water splashing symbolizes purification and washing away bad luck from the previous year, while the act of throwing water on others is seen as a gesture of goodwill and blessing for the coming year. It’s a time for people to come together, have fun, and start fresh.

The inclusion of Songkran on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list has solidified its status as a significant cultural event on the world stage.

Locals splashing water during Songkran Festival - Thai New Year water festival - Songkran Festival Thailand

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The significance and history of the Songkran Festival in Thailand

The Songkran Festival is a beloved and widely celebrated event in Thailand that marks the traditional Thai New Year. It is known for its lively water fights and festive atmosphere.

But the festival is more than just a fun water party; it holds deep cultural and religious significance for the Thai people. The word “Songkran” comes from an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “astrological passage,” and it represents a time of purification and renewal.

Traditionally, water is used during the festival to cleanse and wash away bad luck from the previous year, symbolizing a fresh start for the year ahead. The festival also involves paying respects to elders and visiting temples to make merit.

Pouring water over Buddha images during Songkran Festival - Thai New Year water festival - Songkran Festival Thailand

Dates and duration of Songkran Festival in April

The Songkran Festival in Thailand takes place annually from April 13th to 15th, coinciding with the Thai New Year.

The festival was historically celebrated on the first day but now lasts for three days, from April 13th to April 15th each year. These dates mark the transition from the dry season to the rainy season and are considered a time of renewal and cleansing.

It’s important to note that Songkran is not just a single-day event but rather a multi-day festival filled with joy, laughter, and plenty of water splashing!

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Locals and tourists splashing water during Songkran Festival - Thai New Year water festival - Songkran Festival Thailand

Best places in Thailand to experience Songkran as a tourist

If you’re a first-timer looking to experience the Songkran Festival in Thailand, there are several places that offer unique and memorable celebrations.

While the festival is celebrated throughout the country, some of the best places to go for Songkran are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. These cities offer a vibrant and lively atmosphere during the Songkran Festival, with water fights, parades, and traditional rituals taking place on the streets.

No matter where you choose to celebrate, don’t forget to wear clothes that you don’t mind getting wet and bring a waterproof bag for your belongings – it’s all part of the fun!

Result of water splashing and powder smeared on body during Songkran Festival - Thai New Year water festival - Songkran Festival Thailand
The result of going to the store during Songkran – wet and smeared with white and orange powder/paste

Where to participate in the Songkran Festival in Bangkok?

If you’re looking to experience the Songkran Festival in Bangkok, there are several popular spots where you can join in on the water fights and festivities.

One of the most famous places to celebrate is Khao San Road, known for its lively atmosphere and backpacker scene. Here, you’ll find locals and tourists armed with water guns, buckets, and hoses, ready to soak anyone who crosses their path.

Another great spot is Silom Road, which hosts a massive street party during the festival. The area gets closed off to traffic, allowing people to roam freely and engage in friendly water fights.

Other areas like Siam Square and Lumpini Park also offer a fun-filled atmosphere for celebrating the festival, but in a more peaceful way, so they’re more family-friendly.

These more “toned down” celebrations are called White Songkran, where there is no alcohol, dressing is conservative, and the noise levels are controlled.

Where to celebrate Songkran Festival Thailand in Bangkok - Thai New Year
Lumphini Park, Bangkok

Where to participate in the Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai?

If you’re a first-timer looking to experience the Songkran Festival in Thailand, Chiang Mai is the place to be. This vibrant city in northern Thailand is known for its lively and immersive celebrations during the Thai New Year.

Head to the Old City, where you’ll find countless water fights taking place on the streets, with locals armed with water guns and buckets ready to drench anyone in their path.

The Tha Phae Gate area is another popular spot where you can join in on water fights, enjoy live music and performances, and sample delicious street food from vendors lining the streets.

Where to participate in the Songkran Festival in Phuket?

If you’re a first-timer looking to experience the Songkran Festival in Thailand, Phuket offers a unique and vibrant celebration of the Thai New Year, perhaps one of the craziest ones outside of Bangkok.

The main areas in Phuket where you can experience the Songkran festivities are Bangla Road in Patong, Kata, and Karon. These areas are known for their lively water fights and street parties, where locals and tourists come together to splash water on each other as a way of cleansing and starting fresh for the new year.

Tip: Looking for the craziest water fight during Songkran? Bangla Road in Patong is the wildest Songkran celebration in Phuket.

Where to participate in the Songkran Festival in Pattaya?

One of the most lively areas to celebrate Songkran in Pattaya is along Beach Road, where locals and tourists gather to engage in water fights and enjoy live music and performances.

Another popular location is Central Festival Pattaya Beach, a shopping mall that hosts various events and activities during the festival.

Additionally, Pattaya’s Walking Street and Soi 6 are known for their vibrant street parties and water battles.

Where to celebrate Songkran Festival Thailand in Pattaya - Thai New Year
Post-Songkran look 😁

Where to participate in the Songkran Festival in Koh Samui?

The most popular spot for Songkran in Koh Samui is Chaweng Beach, where locals and tourists gather on the beach and the road next to it, engage in water fights, and enjoy live music and entertainment.

Another option is Lamai Beach or the West Side of Koh Samui, which offers a more laid-back atmosphere with smaller water fights and family-friendly activities.

No matter where you choose to celebrate, be prepared to get wet and have an unforgettable time at the Songkran Festival in Koh Samui! And remember, if you want to avoid it, stay in your hotel room!

We experienced Songkran in Koh Samui and mostly stuck to the more local areas, not too far from Chaweng, and had a blast! Click here to check the video of our experience.

Songkran Festival Packing List

If you’re planning to attend the Songkran Festival in Thailand for the first time, there are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure you have a memorable and enjoyable experience.

Firstly, prepare to get wet! The festival is known for its water fights, so be sure to bring waterproof bags or covers for your belongings. It’s also a good idea to wear clothes that you don’t mind getting soaked.

TIP: If you’re wearing contact lenses (like us), take sunglasses for protection while getting soaked with water. It helps a bit! 😀

Songkran Festival Packing List - What to pack for Songkran - Songkran Festival Thailand - Thai New Year Water Festival

If you’ve been wondering what that white and other colorful powder/paste is, it’s a natural limestone powder that they smear on people’s faces during Songkran. But it’s not harmful and washes off easily from clothes.

Songkran Festival Packing List - What to pack for Songkran - Songkran Festival Thailand - Thai New Year Water Festival - Songkran Powder
Locals stop people to put the paste on.

Additionally, don’t forget to protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen and a hat. It’s easy to lose track of time while you’re enjoying the fun and not realizing that the sun is still burning you.

Other essentials to bring include a waterproof phone case, a water gun or bucket for participating in the water fights, and some cash for purchasing food and drinks from street vendors.

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Songkran packing list:

  • Dry bag
  • Fast-drying clothing
  • Swimwear (wear it UNDER your clothes – see etiquette below)
  • Waterproof camera (we used GoPro)
  • Waterproof phone case
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and hat

Songkran Festival Packing List - What to pack for Songkran - Songkran Festival Thailand - Thai New Year Water Festival

What to expect during the Songkran Festival?

WATER FIGHTS – PARADES – CULTURAL ACTIVITIES

If you’re planning on attending the Songkran Festival in Thailand for the first time, get ready for a fun and festive experience!

During the Songkran Festival, it’s common for people to roam the streets armed with water pistols and buckets of water, ready to drench anyone in sight.

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What to expect during Songkran Festival Thailand - What to pack for Songkran - Songkran Festival Thailand - Thai New Year Water Festival
Splashing people with our improvised water-propelling devices.

In addition to the water fights, there are also traditional parades featuring beautifully decorated floats and performances showcasing Thai culture and traditions. It’s a truly immersive experience that allows you to celebrate and embrace the Thai New Year.

Here are some things to expect during Songkran.

  • Do not get angry. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself completely soaked within seconds of stepping outside! It’s all part of the fun.

  • Don’t expect to stay dry during Songkran. We’re repeating this time and time again but for a reason. Going to the store? You will get wet. Going to eat? You will get wet. Going to the ATM? You will get wet. Don’t want to get wet? Stay inside.

  • Some stores close down during Songkran. Also, most smaller restaurants will likely be closed, as the families are likely all participating in the national holiday. Expect more things to be closed down on the islands.

  • Anyone takes part – from babies to elderly, from locals to first-time visitors.

  • Popular tourist destinations have a more party atmosphere during Songkran – more drunk people, so be careful.

  • Be prepared for crowded streets and busy attractions. It’s important to note that Songkran is a popular time for locals to travel as well. To make the most of your experience, plan ahead and check local event schedules to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the festivities.

What to expect during Songkran Festival Thailand - What to pack for Songkran - Songkran Festival Thailand - Thai New Year Water Festival

What is the etiquette and respectful behavior during Songkran?

When attending the Songkran Festival in Thailand, it is important to be mindful of cultural etiquette and to behave respectfully. This festival is deeply rooted in Thai traditions and holds significant religious meaning.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the festival with respect:

  • Dress modestly: It is customary to dress modestly during the festival, so avoid wearing revealing clothing.

  • Show respect when participating in water fights: While water fights are a common part of the festival, it is important to be respectful when engaging in them. Avoid targeting the elderly (unless they’re clearly participating), active policemen, or monks, as this is seen as disrespectful.

  • Don’t forget to say “Sawasdee Pee Mai”: This phrase means “Happy New Year” in Thai and is commonly used during Songkran. Saying it shows respect and appreciation for the festival’s significance.

By following these cultural etiquette guidelines, you can fully immerse yourself in the festivities while respecting Thai traditions and customs.

What are the negative impacts of the Songkran Festival in Thailand?

While the Songkran Festival in Thailand is a joyous and festive celebration, it is important to be aware of some potential negative impacts that can arise during this time.

One such impact is overcrowding, as the festival attracts a large number of locals and tourists. This can lead to crowded streets and venues, making it challenging to move around freely.

Be mindful of not wasting water. In recent years, there has been a growing concern about water conservation during Songkran. Try to use water sparingly and avoid excessive wastage.

Sustainable celebration of Songkran Festival in Thailand on the riverside
Using the river for an unlimited supply of water.

Additionally, the increased number of people can also result in heavy traffic congestion, especially in popular tourist areas.

Safety concerns are another factor to consider, as water fights during the festival can sometimes become rowdy, and accidents or injuries may occur. It is advisable to take necessary precautions and be mindful of your surroundings to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience during the festival.

Locals splashing water on roadside during Songkran Festival Thailand - Thai New Year Water Fight

One instance where fun can turn into an accident is when someone driving a motorbike is splashed by a larger amount of water, causing them to lose control of their vehicle and potentially crash it or even into others. We saw a similar situation where somebody barely managed to stop the bike and not crash after getting splashed by a bucketload of water.

Please be cautious while driving around Thailand by motorbike during the Songkran Festival, and definitely drive much, much slower so you can quickly respond to these situations if they do happen.

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Locals splashing water on roadside during Songkran Festival Thailand - Thai New Year Water Fight

Safety tips for participating in water fights and festivities

Participating in the Songkran Festival in Thailand can be an exciting and memorable experience. However, it is important to prioritize safety while enjoying the water fights and festivities.

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Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Protect your belongings: Keep your valuables, such as phones and wallets, in waterproof bags or leave them securely at your accommodation.

  • Be mindful of slippery surfaces: The streets can become wet and slippery during the water fights. Take extra caution while walking to avoid slips and falls.

  • Use clean water: While it may be tempting to use water from public sources or rivers, it is recommended to use clean water from designated stations or commercial vendors to minimize the risk of contamination.

  • Respect others’ boundaries: Remember that not everyone may want to participate in the water fights. Although, since onlookers are often the targets, it’s hard to quickly predict who’s up for it and who is not.

  • Stay hydrated: With all the excitement, it can be easy to forget about staying hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration.

  • Be mindful of traffic: During the festival, the streets can become crowded with people participating in water fights. Pay attention to your surroundings and be careful when crossing roads or walking near traffic.

By following these safety tips, you can fully enjoy Songkran while ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for yourself and others around you.

Locals splashing water on tourists from pickup truck during Songkran Festival Thailand - Thai New Year Water Fight

Are there alternative ways to celebrate Songkran in a more peaceful or traditional manner?

While the Songkran Festival in Thailand is known for its lively water fights and energetic celebrations, there are alternative ways to experience this traditional holiday in a more peaceful or traditional manner.

For those seeking a quieter celebration, visiting temples and participating in religious ceremonies can provide a deeper understanding of the festival’s cultural significance. Additionally, exploring rural areas or smaller towns can offer a more authentic and less crowded experience.

Engaging in traditional activities such as making merit at local temples, releasing birds or fish as a symbol of good luck, or taking part in alms-giving to monks can provide a unique and meaningful way to celebrate Songkran.

For example, we experienced Songkran in Koh Samui, and went through the more local streets and had a much different experience than we would, for example, have in Phuket, Bangkok, or Chiang Mai, where there are much bigger crowds of people, and it gets much crazier.

Full streets during Songkran Festival Thailand - water splashing on roadside - Thai New Year Water Festival
We joined one of the “camps”.

How to get around safely during Songkran

To get around safely during Songkran, use Grab to book a taxi rather than driving a motorbike or a motorbike taxi, as you will get wet otherwise.

Remember that during Songkran, it’s best to use public transport options (bus, train, metro), which typically don’t allow splashing of water during the festival.

But if you intend to drive, make sure to drive slower (especially on a bike). And if you’re going around by car, roll your windows all the way up if you don’t want your car to get soaking wet.

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Full streets during Songkran Festival Thailand - water splashing on roadside - Thai New Year Water Festival

How to celebrate the Songkran Festival sustainably

If you’re a first-timer attending the Songkran Festival in Thailand, it’s important to celebrate with sustainability in mind.

One way to do this is by using water bottles instead of purchasing water guns. This not only reduces plastic waste but also allows you to control the amount of water you use.

Water scarcity is a growing concern, so it’s crucial to be mindful of the amount of water you use during the festival. Consider using smaller buckets or cups instead of large containers and avoid excessive water wastage.

Happy tourists splashing water during Songkran Festival Thailand - water splashing on roadside - Thai New Year Water Festival
Our improvised “guns” that locals loved! 😁

Songkran Festival Thailand: Frequently Asked Questions

Can tourists celebrate Songkran in Thailand?

Absolutely! The Songkran Water Festival is a popular and vibrant celebration in Thailand that welcomes tourists to join in the festivities. Many cities in Thailand, such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, have designated areas where locals and tourists can participate in the water festivities.

Just make sure to dress appropriately and be respectful of local customs and traditions while enjoying the fun-filled atmosphere of the Songkran Water Festival!


Is Thailand the only country in Southeast Asia celebrating Songkran?

No, Thailand is not the only country in Southeast Asia celebrating Songkran. Songkran is the traditional New Year festival that is celebrated in several countries in Southeast Asia, including Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

In these countries, Songkran is known by different names, but the spirit of the festival is similar – it is a time for cleaning and renewal, as well as for water fights and celebrations with family and friends.


Why do the Thai pour water over Buddha images and the hands of monks during Songkran?

Pouring water over Buddha images and the hands of monks is a way to pay respect and wash away any bad luck or sins from the previous year. It’s also a symbolic act of showing gratitude for their teachings and blessings.


What is the white powder and paste in Songkran?

Din-Sor-Pong is a natural limestone powder, also used as a paste in a variety of bright colors, including red, blue, green, and yellow. It’s commonly put or smeared on people’s faces during Songkran. But it’s not harmful and washes off easily from clothes.

Our thoughts about experiencing the Songkran Festival

We loved our time during Songkran in Koh Samui. As we wanted a bit more local experience, Koh Samui was the perfect choice. We were able to go amongst the local streets and enjoy it in a more peaceful way. But it was still very exciting!

Sawasdee Pee Mai! – Happy Songkran


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