A First-Timer’s Guide To Everything About Songkran in Thailand

Songkran, Thailand’s most famous annual festival, is going all-out in April this year! Traditionally a three-day public holiday, Songkran 2024 officially runs from April 13th to 15th. However, the Thai government has extended the celebration into a month-long event. This festival marks the traditional Thai New Year and promises plenty of excitement.

Affectionately known by tourists as the world’s biggest water fight, this exhilarating festival is a must-try on every traveller’s bucket list. If you’re a Songkran first-timer, here’s your guide to everything you need to know!

Origin: The Symbolism Of Water

Songkran marks beginning of the Thai New Year in line with the Buddhist calendar.

Before it evolved to become an all-inclusive gigantic water party along the streets of Thailand, this tradition has its humble roots from the collecting and pouring of blessed water during a holy cleansing process. Also a significant Buddhist religious festival, the water splashing during Songkran is symbolic of renewal to bring good fortune and good health for the New Year.

So, while you engage in the frivolities of Songkran, be respectful and keep in mind the religious importance and deep cultural roots of this tradition-steeped festival.

SONGKRAN Do’s & Don’ts

Before I go into the nitty gritty details, it is essential to set expectations on the right track. Everyone will get soaking wet once you step out of your hotel. No one is going to care that you have makeup on or your branded top costs a bomb. Do not harbour silly thoughts of staying dry and clean – it is a wet, wet affair!


Protect Your Valuables

This is not the time to check social media unless your mobile phone is waterproof because water comes splashing from all directions. It is necessary to carry a small waterproof bag so that your valuables stay dry. A ziplock bag works fine too! Also, do keep a watchful eye on your belongings because you do not want to be an easy snatch-theft target.

Choose Your “Weapon” Wisely

There are vendors selling all types of water guns in various sizes and capacities. A small one is more portable and is less exhausting because the water fight goes on all day. However, the bigger water guns allow for a lot more fun and you waste less time reloading up on ammunition.

If a water gun does not suit your style, pails and water hoses are also welcomed!

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Footwear

You are going to be drenched from head to toe, so do away with jeans and sneakers. Choose clothing that is lightweight and dries quickly such as dri-fit tank tops, singlets and board shorts. Similarly, wear sandals or flip flops that come with anti-slip soles so that it will be safer to walk on the slippery roads. I have seen tourists looking miserable in wet sneakers, much to the amusement of the wiser crowd.

Tip: Wear goggles! They protect your eyes from water, grime and white chalk. In a chic array of colours, you can easily buy them from the street side vendors.

Be Respectful

There are unspoken rules to follow. Songkran is still pretty much a public holiday in Thailand so most business will be closed except for big shopping malls, convenience stores and night spots.

Playing with water in the interiors of malls, shops and restaurants or throwing water into residential property is a big no-no. Also, it is extremely rude to spray water on people who are eating or working. When in another country, be a well-behaved tourist and respect the local etiquette!

Songkran Festival in Silom Road, Bangkok


Wear A Poncho Or Carry An Umbrella

Any attempts to hide from the boisterous water-splashing and powder-smearing is futile. In fact, the more you try to hide, the more the fun-loving locals want to target you! It is common to see unsuspecting victims who wear ponchos get an extra dose of water poured down the backs. It is all done in good fun so remove all inhibitions and take part in the revelry!

Aim At The Face

For obvious safety reasons, never aim your water gun directly at people’s faces! It can be very painful and even harmful if the water jet gets into the eyes. Safety should always be the priority. Also, remember not to involve monks, the elderly, and babies in your water game.

Get Angry Or Aggressive

Songkran is a celebration of the Thai New Year and not war. Some tourists become aggressive and engage in full-on battle mode, which is very much frowned upon by the locals. This occasion is considered to be an auspicious period when everyone should be happy and good-natured.

Be a nice tourist! Smile, be friendly to the locals, do not get angry and wish them Sawadee Pee Mai (meaning Happy New Year in Thai language)!

Drink and Drive

The casualty rate during this festive season is staggering. Last year in 2018, there were 3724 road accidents reported, 3,987 cases of injuries and 418 deaths during the 7-day festival. And, the main cause of the accidents is drink-driving.

Alcohol intoxication is widespread among party-goers during the Songkran festivities. Play hard we say, but leave the keys behind and take a taxi instead. Walking back to your hotel is also an excellent way to soak in the local atmosphere.

Pattaya Street during the Thai New Year – Songkran Festival

Popular Cities to Enjoy Songkran in Thailand

Chiang Mai is often cited as the best place to enjoy Songkran because travellers get to experience both the modern and traditional way of celebrating Songkran. Wake up early to catch a rare sight of monks clad in saffron robes collecting alms from the local Thai people.

Bangkok is a hot favourite among tourists because it transforms into a massive party town from sunrise to sundown! Must-go places for revelers to experience Songkran in Bangkok are at Khao San Road and Silom (especially along Patpong street). There is always something interesting going on at every corner so let loose and bring out the inner child in you!

Other popular beach destinations in Thailand such as Phuket, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Koh Samui are also ideal destinations to visit during Songkran. Every island has their own version of Songkran celebrations as the high-spirited Thai people love to make merry. Beach towns are great when you want to take a little refuge from the maddening crowd and just chill out on the beach with a beer.

Extra Tips for A Holistic Experience

1. Visit A Temple

Amidst the non-stop water throwing and partying, take a breather and experience an authentic side of Thai culture by visiting one of many temples. Here, you can get to witness age-old traditions where the local people come to pay their respects, offer food to monks and pour blessed flower water over Buddha statues and the hands of Buddhist monks.

2. Make Friends With The Locals

One of the most treasured travel experiences has to be interacting with the local people. Making friends with the locals will give an extraordinary insight into the local culture and allow for a heartfelt encounter. The Thai people are mostly good-natured and genuinely friendly. So, put on your best smile and strike up conversations!

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