Travel Guide: 10 Tips to Survive Songkran

Songkran—Thailand’s traditional New Year—is perhaps the country’s biggest festival, attracting millions of tourists annually. Every year, from April 13 to 15, the whole country celebrates via a massive, nationwide water fight. Almost all establishments are shut down. Major roads are closed. Everyone is out in the streets—dancing, drinking, spraying water all over each other. Weapons of all sizes and shapes materialize: giant water pistols, baby guns, backpack tanks, hoses, buckets. It’s like The Purge, except everybody lives, and happily, might I add. I am not sure if you will love it, but one thing is guaranteed: you WILL get wet.

As with any festival, it would seem as if people have forgotten the real essence of Songkran, but the truth is that some people still stick to the Buddhist tradition. They give alms, offer prayers, visit temples, and continue to sprinkle water on the buddhas—a symbol of cleansing. In fact, most Thais would go back to their hometowns during Songkran to spend time with their families. This is not to say that they wouldn’t participate in the water fights; I’m sure they would.

I’ve been dreaming to experience Songkran for years, and I finally did it this year! Together with my best travel buddies, I did a 10-day trip across Bangkok and Pai before finally finishing in Chiang Mai, where we celebrated Songkran. It was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had, and I want you to enjoy it too—thus this travel guide!


Before You Go

Flights. Songkran falls in the high season so you better book your flights early. Otherwise, be prepared to pay for an expensive ticket.

Accommodations. The prices of hotels and Airbnbs surprisingly remained reasonable even if we booked a few days before Songkran (and even during)—unlike in the Philippines where everything is expensive if there’s a big event. As for the location, avoid Tha Phae Gate and Old City if you don’t wish to get drenched every time you go out of the hotel premises.

Weather. April is the hottest month of Thailand (about 35C, but can reach up to 40C), so bring light and comfortable clothes. Bring slippers or shoes that you’re ready to soak in water. 

Tours and other activities. A lot of shops are closed for Songkran, so make sure to contact your tour providers for any cancellations or changes with your tours. Also, if you’re going on a big food trip around the country’s popular food spots, they might be closed for the festival too.

Where to Celebrate Songkran

Chiang Mai

If you want to experience the wettest Songkran, definitely go to Chiang Mai. You would be astounded at the amount of water being consumed here. In addition, almost every street is a fight zone, unlike in other parts of Thailand where there are only “designated zones”. We were told that Chiang Mai’s Songkran is also the “most fun”—we believe it, even if we haven’t experienced Bangkok, LOL!

Where to go for water fights? Definitely head over to Tha Phae Gate where everyone goes and hang out by the Old City moat. Here, you can see people dancing along to music from gigantic speakers, tourists eating street food, trucks with oversized water hoses, and many more. Chiang Mai also holds several parties like the Songkran Splash Party at the MAYA Lifestyle Mall, and the nightly events at Zoe’s.


As locals living in Bangkok go to their respective provinces every Songkran, tourists arrive eager to participate in the biggest parties. As if Bangkok parties are not crazy enough on a normal day, they get even wilder during Songkran—can you imagine Khao San Road being rowdier than usual??? The Silom district is another major party area, if Khao San is not for you.

Aside from these street activities, hotels throw their own pool parties and host several huge events. International DJs are flown in, in preparation for excited partygoers. While this sounds incredibly fun though, I am personally more inclined towards celebrating in Chiang Mai (no hate, just love).

The Beaches

If you want to experience Songkran in the beach, you have several options: Phuket is known for its wild parties, while Pattaya is famous for its all-nighters. Although there will be less people there than in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, these 2 are, of course, your best bet if you want proximity to the beach as well.

Tips to Survive Songkran

Before you read my 10 tips on how to survive Songkran, please watch the below video!

1 | It’s useless trying to avoid all the water—just embrace it.

Since Songkran is a country-wide festival, expect everywhere to be a warzone. People, locals and tourists alike, will go out and celebrate it—they have been waiting an entire year for it! Families will be setting up huge drums of water in front of their houses or shops. Friends will be hopping onto pickup trucks, ready with their arsenal of weapons. There’s no way to avoid it except to stay inside, so if I were you, just let go and enjoy it!

2 | Leave everything you don’t want to get wet at home/in your hotel.

I’ve seen people walk around with their big DSLRs and then get mad when somebody fires at them with a water pistol. Come on! You know it’s Songkran, you know it’s gonna be wet, and you still chose to go out with your gadgets unprotected. If you want to capture great photos, well, buy yourself a waterproof case or something! Just because you want professional clicks doesn’t mean people will spare you, really. And oh—don’t forget to secure other valuables like phones, passports, and money!

My bags (all wet) upon arrival in Chiang Mai. Make sure your valuables are in plastic/waterproof bags.

3 | Those waterproof pouches are your best friend.

Everyone wears them for a reason—they protect your valuables. I actually brought my own, but I damaged it for some reason and I ended up one day with completely soaked Thai bills. Luckily, pouches are sold everywhere, and some bars give them for free if you buy beer from them. Go get them!

4 | Protect your eyes.

Aside from pouches, goggles are also widely sold, and you would want to buy them to shield your eyes from incoming sprays of water. For one, some pistols are high-pressure, so these goggles protect your eyes from pain. Two, you don’t know where the water came from—so unless you want to contract an infection or something, go wear one. I didn’t though, as I had eyeglasses on anyway and if I replaced them with goggles I wouldn’t be able to see a thing. Sad life.

5 | Keep your mouth shut!

Continuing the same reasoning as number 4, you wouldn’t want to drink water from unknown sources, wouldn’t you? As an example, some locals get the water from the Old City moat! I don’t want to imagine what sort of things are in there, but yeah … to be safe, just try not to open your mouth too much when laughing especially when you’re in front of several pistol-carrying people.

6 | Safety first.

As fun as it is to run after passing tuk tuks and songthaews, please be mindful of your safety. Don’t get injured trying to chase people and vehicles. Don’t get hit by oncoming cars or something. Don’t get too drunk and get into fights. Don’t ride a motorbike then try to shoot at people simultaneously. Whatever you do, don’t contribute to the accident tally count. 

7 | Don’t shoot at people driving motorbikes.

A lot of people living in Chiang Mai have bikes and use them to go around the city, but when it’s Songkran, I think it’s best not to shoot at them—especially on the face. The water will distract them and they might lose control and hit something. Hit on their legs maybe—or here’s a better tip: shoot at the person riding with them. That person usually has a water pistol of his own. And while we're at it, try to avoid babies, the elderly, and monks, as well.

8 | If you want to be easy target, hop into a tuk tuk or a songthaew.

Nothing excites participants of Songkran more than a completely vulnerable passing tuk tuk or a songthaew, and if you want to be a target, go hop into one! We came from the bus station via songthaew on our first day in Chiang Mai—which happened to be the eve of Songkran—and you know what happened? As soon as we got into the city center, everyone attacked us like zombies! Good thing I had secured my passport and valuables before we rode that songthaew. The next day though, we deliberately took a tuk tuk to get people to fire at us, LOL! If you don't want to get wet, book a Grab.

9 | Ice water is the best ammunition—ever.

OK, so some people will hate/reprimand/judge me for this, but ... the best feeling in the world is when somebody shot you with normal water and then watching his reaction when you fire back at him with ICE water. Hahahaha! *evil laugh* They just recoil, you know? They jump up and away! Most establishments give away free ice water refills—for some, you have to buy a beer or something. I made sure my 10-liter tank is always full of ice water for the entire duration of Songkran *evil grin*.

10 | Be a good sport.

And this goes back to #1. Be happy! It’s a festival! Locals are celebrating their New Year! When someone fires at you, shoot back! If you left your water pistol at the hotel, just smile and be cool about it! Make new friends. Engage in friendly gang fights. Play with the kids. Dance when there’s music, even if you don’t like it. And don’t forget to say “Sawasdee Pee Mai!” or “Happy New Year!”

Have you experienced Songkran? How did you find it? If not, is it in your travel bucket list?

If you like my posts and would love regular updates on travel photos, food finds, restaurant reviews, dance articles, and drunken tales, follow Pepe Samson on Facebook!

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