Busy Times for Travel in Thailand

There are some times of the year when trains, buses and ferries in Thailand become much more busy than usual and you really need to book in advance if you want to travel, particularly on more popular services.

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Public Holidays in Thailand

In Thailand it’s very common for people to travel back to the town or village where their parents live several times year when public holidays occur. Typically at the start of a public holiday periods all forms of transport departing from Bangkok becomes more busy than usual, and at the end of public holiday all forms of transport going back to Bangkok become very busy.

Thai people know this and they tend to book bus tickets, train tickets and flights well in advance to avoid long waits for an available seat. This has a knock on effect on tourists who may find it difficult to travel as planned because of a limited availability of seats. For this reason we recommend that visitors to Thailand book their tickets well in advance as well, particularly visitors on shorter trips of less than 2 weeks.

Ticket queues get longer during Thai public holidays
Ticket queues get longer during Thai public holidays

In a year there are typically 12 national public holidays in Thailand. These holidays happen every month except for June, September and November. The two most significant public holidays occur at the end of December for the New Year celebration, and in the middle of April for the Thai New Year celebation, known as songkran. During these periods it’s not uncommon for nearly every bus, train, plane and ferry to be fully booked making it very difficult to simply turn up and try to get a ticket.

West Coast High Season in Thailand

There are two different monsoon seasons in Thailand, affecting different parts of the country at different times of the year. Quite often it’s the case that when it’s bad weather on the West Coast of Thailand, the weather is good on the East Coast. and vice versa. It’s during the good weather periods for each part of the country that ‘high season’ occurs and the number of visitors increases in particular parts of the country increasing pressure on local transport systems, and demand for tickets.

Full ferry departing from Saladan Pier in Koh Lanta
Full ferry departing from Saladan Pier in Koh Lanta

The prime tourist season on the West Coast, including destinations such as Phuket, Koh Phi Phi and Ao Nang, is from November through to the end of April. From May through the end of September the weather becomes more unsettled and the West Coast of Thailand receives fewer visitors. The frequency of departures reduces during this period, and ferry and speed boat services to a number of islands in the Andaman Sea stop altogether.

East Coast High Season in Thailand

High season on the East Coast of Thailand is from the end of December through to the end of September. In December and January, however, the weather tends to be less settled than it is on the West Coast. From April through to Setpmber, on the other hand, visitors have a much better chance of calm seas and no rain than on the East Coast than they would travelling to the West Coast.

Lomprayah Ferry Pier in Chumhpon
Lomprayah Ferry Pier in Chumhpon

Partly because of the weather, the East Coast of Thailand becomes much more busy during July, August and September.

Travellers wishing to visit Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao during those months should consider booking in May or June. By July many types of transport, particularly the better seats on trains or flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui, often come close to completely selling out for the period from the end of July and all of August, which is the traditional summer holiday period for visitors from Europe.

Full Moon Party in Thailand

Thailand’s famous Full Moon Party happens every month, and twice in December, once to coincide with the full moon and again on New Year’s Eve. These parties occur in Haad Rin on the South East Coast of Koh Phangan ,and during good weather periods they attract tens of thousands of visitors. Party goers tend to turn up on Koh Phangan, or neighbouring Koh Samui, gradually during the 5 or so days leading up the night of party and then they tend to all want to leave at the same time, which is after one night more on the island to get over lack of sleep and the excessive consumption of alcohol during the party.

This increases in the number of people travelling on certain days will have an affect on other people visiting the South of Thailand during that time. Trains on the Southern Line, which stops at Surat Thani (which is the connection point for ferry services to Koh Phangan) become a lot busier. Ferry services in particular also become a lot more busy. The same ferries which travel to Koh Samui and Koh Tao typically stop on route at Koh Phangan which means on certain days during the month the ferries which will be very full.

If you plan to travel to Koh Phangan, Koh Samui or Koh Tao we recommend that you check when the Full Moon Party is happening and book your travel tickets well in advance if your planned date of travel coincides with the period before and just after the party is scheduled.

Superior Travel Services in Thailand

Whilst many of the public transport services in Thailand are relatively cheap, but not very luxurious, there are some premium services which are in high demand.

First Class Sleeper berths in Thailand are a good example. These berths accommodate two travellers in a private compartment with it’s own light, lockable door and power points. However, there aren’t very many available. Not all trains have First Class Sleeper compartments available, and the ones that do normally only have one carriage of these. During busy peiods 100% of the First Class Sleeper seats on trains in Thailand will sell out 1 to 2 months before the date of travel.

If you want to travel First Class by train in Thailand you absolutely have to book in advance.

First Class Compartment on a Thai Train
First Class Compartment on a Thai Train

There are other premium services in Thailand which regularly sell out during busy periods, such as:

  • Lomprayah High Speed Ferry services between Bangkok and Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui
  • Bangkok Airways flights between Bangkok and Koh Samui

 If you are coming to Thailand for a 2 week holiday, and you want to travel in more comfort, then make sure you book your tickets in advance.

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