Thailand can be a tricky country to anticipate. If it’s not storming, the countryside might be burning due to planned recultivation efforts by the farmers.
These are not reasons to avoid Chiang Mai (far from it), though the climate can be surprising if you’re not ready for it.
Whether you’re most concerned with getting the best price, enjoying the best weather, or enjoying the city without having to fight the crowds, our experts have done a little research so you’re more likely to get the trip you want.
Plus, we’ll tell you more about the worst possible times to visit and give you a few traveler tips that can help you get more from your vacation. Let us be your guide!
Why You Should Visit Chiang Mai in 2023
Chiang Mai is more than just its incredible hotels and array of street foods. There’s a very different vibe in this city, despite its size. While it’s the largest in the north (and second largest in the country), it’s more like a village than you might expect.
That means that you won’t necessarily be on top of people no matter where you go. It’s more orderly rather than chaotic and you should have enough space to breathe and navigate while you’re here.
What people appreciate most about this place, besides the fabulous museums and friendly elephants, is the preserved cultural heritage here.
Every country has its own relationship with the past, with some more willing to tear down and rebuild than others. Chiang Mai has struck a balance by both developing new areas while saving the ancient structures that made the city unique.
When this area was once a Siamese kingdom from the 13th to 18th Century, Chiang Mai was chosen as its capital for its natural beauty, intuitive layout and carefully constructed temples.
When you visit Chiang Mai, you’ll see why people nicknamed it the Rose of the North. Most people will visit this country as one stop of many along the way.
If you’re spending all of your time here, though, you should have plenty to see and do. There are more than 300 temples and museums, plus festivals throughout the year, hot springs, shopping and nightlife.
Overall Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai
The best time to visit Chiang Mai is December and January. By traveling either very late or very early in the year, you’ll get temperatures that are warm but not hot.
Nights are cool but not cold. Take t-shirts during the day and a sweater at night, and you should be just fine. These months don’t just have great temperatures, they also have low humidity and less precipitation.
If you’re planning to spend a lot of time outside, which you should, given how much there is to see and do, you can be relatively certain that your plans won’t get washed out.
And, while this is the best time to visit, many families can’t do so because of their holiday schedules. You’ll be battling fewer crowds than normal and have more opportunities to get into all of the most popular spots.
Cheapest Time to Visit Chiang Mai
The cheapest time to visit Chiang Mai is typically between July and October. Despite its convenience to our summer schedules, the heat and rains during these months is enough to bring prices down for hotels and flights.
However, the price discrepancy can vary widely based on where you’re flying from. If you’re coming from a major destination like LA, you might have an easier time getting cheap flights during the most coveted months of December and January.
Of course, that doesn’t mean if you visit during these months, your trip will go poorly — you’ll just need to plan around the heat.
So maybe you spend a full day in the water during the day and then see the city once the sun goes down. Another way to save money is by looking at any of the shoulder months for better prices.
For instance, it may not be a drastic difference between October and November, but you may be able to save a few bucks on essentials, so you can put more toward treats. Plus, you’re likely to get better weather the further into October you book.
Least Busy Time to Visit Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is the least busy from March to June. It’s no surprise when you consider that April’s temperatures can get up to 104° every day.
My wife and I visited Chiang Mai in March and trust me — it gets hot. While there’s a lot to do during the day (we loved grabbing coffee or heading up into the hills to see the elephants), we found ourselves waiting out the heat and venturing out at night.
The best part of visiting during this time is that you’re likely to get into the restaurants, temples, etc. without having to book months in advance. The other perk is that you can schedule your trip for Thai New Year in April.
This festival is more than a good time, it’s a cultural event that can help you connect with the region and its people on another level.
If you’re going to visit during these months, it’s extremely important to stay hydrated, dress in breathable fabrics, and to have enough sunscreen.
These are standard tips to beat the heat, but they’re also easy to forget if you’re tired from travelling or otherwise unprepared.
Worst Time to Visit Chiang Mai
March is the worst time to visit Chiang Mai, because this is one of the most popular months for farmers to burn their fields for re-cultivation.
The smoke and the dust in the air make for a dense climate, and travellers and locals alike are asked to remain inside to protect their lungs. However, March isn’t the only month of what’s known as the burning season.
It can start in January and last as long as May, it all depends on the individual farmers. The distinction between months has more to do with volume. If you go in January when only a few farms have been burned, then you’re unlikely to notice the aftermath in the air.
I can also confirm this to be true. While it was cheap and not very busy, I myself got a bad sinus infection from all the junk in the air. Not fun at all. Fortunately, we went to India next, where they had plenty of over-the-counter antibiotics for very cheap.
April is the worst time to visit if you want to avoid the heat, and August is the worst time to visit if you want to avoid the rain. It all depends on what angle you’re looking at your trip from, though.
Chiang Mai is a year-round destination for its friendly atmosphere, orderly streets, and ancient buildings. As long as you’re ready for the monsoons or the scorching temperatures, you might be surprised at just how enjoyable your visit can be, no matter when you go.
Things to Consider
Here are a few more tips if you’re planning your trip to Chiang Mai:
- Watch what you wear and do in their sacred temples. You’ll want to dress conservatively and show respect at all times.
- The prices in Thailand for most items are generally inexpensive, though you will pay more as a tourist than a local. While haggling might be expected if the charges were severely overinflated, many tourists suggest just paying a little extra.
- Try a wide variety of food while you’re there. The number of street food vendors and hole-in-the-walls are an invitation to step outside of your favorite curries and noodles to sample some of the best flavors in the city.
- Use bottled water while you’re here. If you want to save on your plastic waste, try to get the biggest possible bottles, so you don’t have to constantly drink and toss the small ones.
- Traffic is generally less chaotic here than in other parts of Thailand, but that doesn’t mean you can expect the same experience as you would at home. You may need to be more aggressive to get around, as opposed to waiting for drivers to make space for you.
- If you want to see the whole city, consider getting a guide for a day or two to show off its best parts. It’s easy to miss things while you’re here because of its large size.
- You’ll need strong bug spray. Take the bottle with you in case it starts to wear off, so you’re not caught off guard.
- Most people in Chiang Mai will speak some degree of English, though learning a little bit of Thai can be extremely useful to get by.
- We highly recommend booking for Yi Ping in November. Not only is the weather likely to go your way, but you can enjoy the lantern festival up close and personal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it rainy season in Chiang Mai?
The rainy season in Chiang Mail lasts from May to November, though rainfall can vary considerably between these months. August and September typically have the most rainfall if you’re looking to avoid getting wet.
How many days is ideal in Chiang Mai?
About 2 to 3 days will be enough for the city. Despite its size, most people will explore all of Thai while they’re in the country, and you won’t want to miss the sights of Bangkok or Phuket if you can help it.
Is Chiang Mai better than Phuket?
Chiang Mai is better if you’re looking for an active trip, while Phuket is better for a more relaxed day at the beach. There is ultimately no better or worse in terms of the city. Both are beautiful places where you can explore new traditions, foods, and sights.
How long is typhoon season in Thailand?
Typhoon season can start as early as April and last until November, though the chances your trip will be severely impacted are highest in late summer and early fall. Keep an eye on the weather reports before you go to ensure you have all the equipment for what you need.
What is the coldest month in Chiang Mai?
The coldest month is in January, though it will still be relatively comfortable when you’re there. You can expect the temperatures to reach the low 80s and high 50s. Only if you head into the mountains are you likely to come across snow.
So, What Is the Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai?
|👍 Best Time to Visit||May-September|
|💲 Cheapest Time to Visit||October-February|
|🗓️ Least Busy Time to Visit||December-February|
|👎 Worst Time to Visit||July-August|
There is a lot to learn about Chiang Mai here, so we’ll recap the major months you need to know. The best time to visit Chiang Mai is in the early winter. December and January aren’t freezing by any stretch.
In fact, they boast some of the most comfortable weather in the entire country. Less rain means less hassle and warm temperatures make for sensational days and nights.
If you’re looking for the time of year that offers the best balance, aim for late October through November. You can potentially get better prices alongside good weather and fewer crowds.
The cheapest time to visit Chiang Mai is typically during mid-summer and early fall (July to October). This is the country’s rainy season, with high rainfall in the dead of summer between August and September.
The least crowded time to visit is typically from March to June. The heat is pretty intense during these months, which makes for fear crowds along the way.
The worst possible month to visit Chiang Mai is March. This is not just because it’s hot, it’s also that is known as burning season. If farmers have to burn down their fields during the spring, the smoke has to go somewhere.
Farmers don’t all burn their land at the same time, but March tends to be the most heavily polluted month. Not that you have some idea of what to expect in Chiang Mai, it’s time to start looking at flights, hotels, and activities.
Whether you want to hang out with the elephants or visit as many temples as possible, we’re here to keep you in the know. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!