Updated: 02/04/20 | February 4th, 2020
Songkran is a three-day water fight that celebrates the Thai New Year. It occurs between April 13th to 15th (which coincidentally is the hottest month of the year). Songkran is one of the popular festivals not only in Thailand, but in the world, marking the beginning of a new solar year and is a time of renewal and rebirth.
The History of Songkran
The word Songkran is from the Sanskrit language and means the passage of the sun from one sign of the Zodiac to another. The date was originally set by astrological calculations, but it is now fixed on 13 April. The country closes down for the holiday, focusing entirely on the festival and the accompanying holiday rituals.
Over the years, Songkran has become a massive tourist draw. Travelers and backpackers alike flock to the country to take part, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to ring in the new year by dumping buckets of cold water on each other.
Bangkok sees the largest of Songkran parties. The busiest streets are Silom road, Khao San road, and RCA. The holiday is meant to wash away the old year and bring in the new year. It’s awesome to see little kids, seniors, and even police get involved.
In fact, my favorite moment involves the police: a cop and I got into a water fight and I sprayed his partner who was not wet. He looked at me like I was about to get arrested. I was the stupid foreigner who took it too far. He walked over to me, took my squirt gun, stepped back and his parter and him teamed up on me. We all had a good laugh!
It’s a very high spirited holiday and everyone is just out to have a great time.
The only way to really understand the craziness that is Songkran is to see it like in person so here’s my video of the event to give you an idea:
Tips for Attending Songkran
To help you make the most out of this epic waterfight, here are some tips:
- Chiang Mai and Bangkok have the biggest celebrations but you’ll find little celebrations all over the country.
- In Bangkok, Khao San Road and Silom hold the two biggest celebrations.
- Plan to be wet — all the time. Even if you have a backpack or bag, people will still spray you with water. There’s no escape unless you are inside.
- The only way to avoid being wet is to have a camera or cigarette. If people see you with one, they won’t spray you with water.
- Just have fun. There’s no malice involved here so if you get wet and you didn’t want to, just go with it. It’s the holiday and you just have to accept it. They even pour water on people driving motorcycles.
- One of the most fun things to do is get in a tuk-tuk or truck and ride around the city spraying people with water. You get into some of the most amazing water fights and meet a lot of people. I highly recommend this during at least one day.
- Wear goggles. People are going to be shoot or throwing water at you all day long. You never know when the next attack will come, so get some goggles to protect your eyes. It will save you from squinting all day long!
- Don’t pay for water. 99% of locals will offer buckets of water for you to refill your water gun with for free, but there are a few people out there who will try to charge you for a refill. Just ignore them until you find someone sharing their water for free. You won’t have to go far.
- Road deaths double during Songkran, with up to 50 people dying in car accidents each day (the majority of which are motorcycle accidents). Stay safe and keep off the bike — whether it’s yours or someone else’s!
Attending Songkran: Logistics
With so many people taking part in this festival, accommodation sells out quickly. If you’re planning to attend Songkran, make sure you book your hostel early.
Also, keep in mind that Songkran is a public holiday. That means banks and government services will be closed. If you need consular or financial services, get them out of the way before the holiday. As of 2018, the government extended the holiday period to 5 days (to allow people time to go home and visit family) so many services are closed even longer now. Prepare accordingly.
If you want to enjoy the holiday in Bangkok, public transportation is both convenient and cheap. Non-airconditioned buses cost 10 THB while buses with AC cost 15 THB. These can take you anywhere in the city. The SkyTrain and Metro cost 15-50 THB per trip and you can purchase a day pass for 120 THB.
Taxis are a more expensive option and cost around 70-100 THB (one from the airport to Khao San Road will set you back 300-500 THB). Just make sure they use the meter. If they don’t just get out and find another taxi. Alternatively, there’s a Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link Express that’s a 15-minute non-stop journey between the city and the airport that costs 150 THB per trip.
Songkran takes place all over the country and, if you are in Thailand during this time, you WILL experience it. You can’t miss it. It’s like the one thing that brings everyone together here. Prepare to get wet. Prepare to have to fun! It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had (and I’ve done it three times). The event is just pure joy. Everyone is here to have fun. There’s no malice involved.
Get someone wet for me!
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Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time. My favorite places to stay are:
- Chada Guesthouse (Bangkok) – This is my favorite hostel on Khao San Road as it is one of the few places not run-down or overpriced. The staff is friendly and helpful and the beds are soft enough for a decent night’s sleep.
- Julie Guesthouse (Chiang Mai) – This is one of the most popular backpacker guesthouses in the city so if you want to stay here make sure you reserve a spot early. It’s a fun hostel and they serve food and drinks, and have an in-house travel agency.
- Samui Hostel (Koh Samui) – Located a short walk from Chaweng Beach, this budget hostel has air-conditioned rooms with en suite bathrooms. The dorms are a bit cramped, but it’s one of the cheapest places to stay on the island.
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