Soaked & Stoked: A Guide to Celebrating Thailand’s Epic Songkran Water Festival

A vibrant mix of local cultural traditions, playful water fights, and friendly mayhem, the Songkran Festival is a massive three-day water fest in Thailand that travellers should experience at least once. 

From the first day through the last, merry-makers run around and splash each other with water guns, hoses, buckets, and even water bottles! The goal: to get wet and get as many people as wet as you. Music, dancing, and drinking are plentiful, too. No matter where or how you choose to celebrate, expect to leave the country exhilarated and cleansed — literally and figuratively! 

The festivities typically take place from 13–15 Apr every year; in 2024, these dates fall from Saturday to Monday. That makes Songkran the perfect weekend getaway this year, don’t you think? For travellers eager to join in the fun, take a look at our complete guide to Thailand’s Songkran Water Festival, from the best places to celebrate to essential survival tips. 

First, what is the Songkran Water Festival?

Image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Newsflash: Songkran Festival is more than just a wet and wild water party in Thailand! UNESCO has even recognised the significance of the festival, granting it the title of Intangible Cultural Heritage. If you’re coming to the celebrations, you should know the basics of this iconic event. 

The traditional water festival marks the beginning of the Thai New Year based on the Buddhist calendar. Even its name, Songkran, has age-old roots: It’s derived from the ancient Sanskrit word sankranti, which means astrological passage and refers to the movement of time from one phase to the next. 

New beginnings are also why water is at the heart of all Songkran festivities. Deeply rooted in Thai tradition, the act of splashing water is a symbolic cleansing ritual meant to wash away the bad luck and negativity from the previous year. Water symbolises purity and renewal; after all, who wouldn’t want a fresh start to the season?

Keep in mind that although the festivities typically take place over three days, it ultimately varies depending on where you’re celebrating Songkran. Some destinations stage smaller celebrations, while others keep the party going for longer! 

Where to celebrate the Songkran Festival in Thailand?

Good news: No matter where your flight is landing, water-ridden revelry is likely nearby. Celebrations for the Thai New Year rage all across Thailand! Travellers will want to hit the major Songkran destinations first, though. If it’s your first time, we’ve listed the places that stage the best water fights, temple visits, and street parades below.


Image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

First on our list is the Thai capital, of course. Tourists flock to Bangkok for the Songkran Festival, taking over the capital as locals return to their hometowns to celebrate with family. 

Backpacker-favourite Khao San Road is a must-visit stop for raucous water battles — the famous road is even wilder than usual during Thai New Year! It’s named Bangkok’s main Songkran site this year, so expect the celebrations to be next level. Make your way to Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue and Sanam Luang, too; both have been designated as official Songkran sites by the Tourism Authority of Thailand for contributing to Bangkok’s vibrant local identity. 

Image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Massive water fights erupt on the streets, but the biggest one is probably on Silom Road. The five-kilometre street transforms into an enormous water fiesta with locals and tourists wielding water guns and buckets under the scorching summer sun. Don’t be surprised when fire trucks show up — but do be prepared to get soaked to the skin once they pull out the powerful water hoses. 

Meanwhile, Banglamphu Market and Phra Pradaeng promise a more traditional experience with local Songkran traditions taking place. Hotels regularly host pool and foam parties, too! For travellers with children, Siam Square stages a significantly less rowdy White Songkran that highlights family-friendly cultural activities with no alcohol. 

TripZilla Tip: If you want to get around Bangkok without getting drenched by revellers, the trains are your best bet. Water guns usually aren’t allowed on the BTS and MRT.


Image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Prefer to enjoy the water festival right by the sea? Just a two-hour drive or so away from Bangkok, Pattaya is a fantastic alternative. The party scene in Pattaya is second to none, so we’re not surprised the beachside city guarantees an unforgettable Songkran celebration. 

Here, sun-soaked streets buzz with water fights all day long. Head to Beach Road for live music, foam machines, and non-stop street parties that rage well into the night. Feeling a bit waterlogged? Let the sunshine and cool ocean breeze dry you off in between water battles — these are why Pattaya is one of the best places to enjoy Songkran in Thailand. 

Another bonus: Songkran Festival isn’t just a three-day affair in Pattaya! Instead, the beach city keeps the merryment going until the vibrant Wan Lai Festival on 19 Apr.

Bang Saen

Image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

An hour from Pattaya sits Bang Saen Beach in Chon Buri, another Thai destination famous for its unique Songkran Festival celebration. Water fights, lively parties, and parades pop up during the festivities, setting the stage for the biggest blowout of the year. But the highlight? A row of elaborate sand sculptures lining the shore. Crafted by local artists as part of a competition for Wan Lai, these sculptures range from intricate pagodas taller than a regular person to whimsical mermaids and elephants. 

Chiang Mai

Image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Bangkok may be the first stop of most foreign travellers in Thailand, but for the Songkran Water Festival, nothing beats the walled city of Chiang Mai. Similar to other Songkran hotspots, the streets transform into playful water-soaked battlegrounds from 13–15 Apr. Additionally, the city’s beautiful moat makes it the perfect stage for water parties. In fact, many say Chiang Mai puts together the wettest and most fun Songkran celebration in Thailand. 

Image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Looking for the best spot? That’s easy; the heart of the action lies at Tha Pae Gate in the Old City. Here, a four-kilometre water battleground unfolds along the ancient moat. Street vendors keep you armed and refreshed, while lively music adds to the electrifying atmosphere. Don’t worry if you can’t find a spot by Tha Pae Gate, though; you’ll find water battles in motion all along the moat. Getting drenched is a sure thing during the Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai!

Other fantastic spots to visit for festivities include Nimman Road and Wat Phra Singh. For tourists interested in the cultural side of Songkran, the massive parade of Buddha images at the start of the celebrations is not to be missed. 


Image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

As one of Thailand’s most popular beach and party destinations, it’s no surprise that Phuket embraces the exhilarating downpour of the Songkran Water Festival. The country’s largest island becomes a water-fueled playground come Thai New Year, so prepare to be joyfully splashed with water from day to night when you’re here!

If you’re seeking the ultimate party atmosphere, we recommend Patong Beach, the undisputed nightlife hub of Phuket. The bars and crowds of this beach district are legendary, after all. Expect for the electrifying nightlife scene in Patong to turn up a notch during the festival! Meanwhile the island’s capital Phuket City — particularly the Old Town — offers a more laid-back respite, focusing on local traditions and cultural practices. Temple visits, traditional performances, and scented water sprinkled to guests of the shrines are the norm here. 

How locals spend the three days of Songkran

Image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Three days may sound pretty long to celebrate a holiday, but Songkran Water Festival comes packed with Thai New Year traditions and activities. (And no, not all of them involve boisterous water fights with family, friends, and strangers.)

For locals, Songkran kicks off with a cleaning frenzy. On the first day, houses, temples, and schools undergo a thorough scrub-down, symbolising the removal of any bad luck lingering from the past year. 

Locals will also participate in Song Nam Phra, a ritual that involves cleaning the body of a Buddha statue with scented water (Nam Ob Thai). Besides paying homage to the Buddha statue, this practice is one of the ways locals offer blessings and invite good fortune into their lives during the Thai New Year.

Image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Meanwhile, the second day of Songkran Water Festival is known among the Thai people as Wan Nao. Locals will usually prepare food and various offerings for monks and temples; some will even craft miniature sand stupas on the grounds of their neighbourhood temple. Most families will gather to celebrate together, with younger members washing their parents’ hands and feet with fragrant water — a ritual known as Rod Nam Dam Hua.

And on the third day? Besides participating in massive water fights, locals will usually visit temples to offer food and clothing. 

Tips for first-timers

Image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand
  • Dress to get wet. Make sure you’re in lightweight clothing, preferably ones that dry easily. In fact, we recommend wearing a swimsuit under your clothes — it’s just a safer bet to ensure you’re properly covered up at all times!
  • Put your things inside waterproof bags. Otherwise, condolences to your working gadgets and cash. 
  • Never douse monks, elderly people, or very young children. 
  • Do not throw ice-cold water. We want to have fun, not make fellow revellers angry.
  • Expect heavy traffic. If you can, book a hotel or Airbnb near or within walking distance of the main Songkan celebration you’re planning to attend. 
  • Motorcycles may be a dangerous ride on slippery roads. Opt for tuk-tuks and other more stable modes of transportation.
  • Research the splash zones ahead of time. Some areas prohibit water fights — as strange as it may seem in these water-soaked cities. 
  • Wish Thai people a happy new year in their native tongue: “Sawadee Bee Mai!”
  • Enjoy and maintain a good attitude — even water attacks are all in good fun.

And there you have it: an extensive guide on what to expect from the Songkran Festival in Thailand, whether you’re just here for the water-soaked mayhem or eager to participate in local age-old rituals. The joyful, water-filled extravaganza is the country’s biggest festival — are you ready to join in the revelry?

For more information on the Songkran Festival, visit Tourism Authority of Thailand – The Philippines Branch Office Facebook page.

Brought to you by Tourism Authority of Thailand – Philippines. 

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