Songkran is the worlds largest water fight and now the most popular holiday that can be celebrated here at Wyld Family Travel. We got our water pistols and our bathers and we were ready for a huge day of celebrating Songkran in Thailand…or so we thought.
We knew we might be a little underprepared the night before as we walked past some local kids. I don’t speak Thai but I am pretty sure what she was screaming as she was pointing at me was ‘Get the foreigner’
And they got me good! It was all laughter as I tried to get them back. Their laughter was just the best noise and well worth the drenching the night before the official start of the Songkran festival.
The local Thai kids are like little tiny water throwing masters that will have you drenched in minutes or even before you can throw a good bucket load of water back. They have years of celebrating this Thai water festival on you and they use their skills well. Here we will give you the essentials of surviving Songkran in Thailand and how to celebrate Songkran festival like a local.
What is Songkran?
Songkran is the national holiday where Thai people celebrate their New Year. It is celebrated on the 13th of April every year but it extends from the 13th to the 16th of April. This gives all people time to go home to their families to celebrate Songkran.
The Songkran holiday can be explained as the biggest water fight in the world that lasts three days and Songkran is best celebrated in Thailand. Chiang Mai is supposed to be the best place to celebrate Songkran but we had a great time in Chiang Rai. Our hostel made sure we were fully prepared for our first Songkran festival.
If you walk, drive or run past someone’s house, business or wherever they have set up a large body of water you are best to assume you will get wet as they shout good Songkran wishes at you!
What are the essentials for Songkran in Thailand?
All the shops you will go into will have all that you need to have an amazing few days of throwing water and getting it thrown back at you. From water pistols to blow up pools, they will have you totally covered but in this post, we will help you take on the locals and enjoy this 3 day festival of water!
We went to the local 7-11 and bought some water pistols in what we thought was the best way to arm ourselves. We were wrong. If you are totally serious about getting into how to celebrate Songkran this is what you will need.
Most of the time we were fully clothed but there were some people who just had bathers on. I think this would have been a much better idea for us but by the end of the three days it just really didn’t matter. Buy your swimwear here
We found ourselves throwing water for nearly 6 hours straight we were just having that much fun. Make sure you have a lot with you and keep re-applying throughout the day. Click here to purchase sunscreen
I don’t know how many buckets of water we copped but it was the ones that hit you perfectly in the ear that caused the most amount of trouble for us. In the future, I would invest in some of these especially if you have any form of ear ache problems. Browse earplugs for your trip
If you have a set of these bad boys you can see those little Songkran ninjas coming at you from a mile off. You are easily blinded by water getting thrown at you pretty quickly especially without eyewear.
It is a good idea if you are going to wander the streets you should have a really good pair of shoes to wear that are ok to get wet. We had thongs (flip-flops) on while we were at the hostel but we did really need some good shoes when we ventured on a walk through the streets. Search the wide range available today.
One thing I did not have with us when we went for a walk through the streets was a towel. Everyone headed back to the Hostel and Willow wanted to stay for a bit longer so I stayed with her. Soon as the sun went behind a cloud it got cold and she was shivering just before we got home. There are some great lightweight travel towels on the market
Water-proof phone cover or bag
You are absolutely mad if you leave your accommodation without having your phone, camera or any other valuables secure in a water-proof bag or phone cover.
You can pick these up from any store you come across anywhere in Thailand. There are heaps of different kinds. I’d go the one with the handles so you can throw better.
Blow up pool or large plastic tub
Again, you can literally find these for sale of the sides of the road leading up to Songkran in Thailand. If your hotel, hostel or accommodation doesn’t have one you can get one very cheap. (For around 200*500Baht)
Big, big, big ice blocks
Oh, these are the Songkran secret. You will come across some people with warm water, which sort of freaked me out a little bit but the hardcore Songkran water festival people buy huge ice cubes to put in their water and it is freezing when you are hit with it. You can buy them from a shop or there are people riding around in tuk-tuks selling them for around 25 Baht per cube.
Safety during Songkran in Thailand
Songkran in Thailand is an unforgettable experience but it also comes with some dangers. It is a three day holiday and there are many people drinking on the roads and in the streets.
On the road
It is reported that in the three days of Songkran there are more injuries and fatalities on the roads than there is all year. You MUST be careful on the road if you do have to travel. We would suggest if you don’t have to travel during this time don’t. If you can, stay in the one spot for the three days.
You will see people riding around in the back of utes (trucks) and we did see people fall out of them as they went through the streets.
We also recommend if you can stay put buy as much as you can so you don’t have to leave your accommodation too often. Crossing the street can be difficult at times from motorbikes going quite fast to stop getting hit with water.
If you are in a tuk-tuk or a bus don’t think you are safe either. There were plenty of times that we got caught with the windows open.
On the streets
Many people start drinking about lunchtime and can go on for hours. This will cause some people to be overly friendly and really want you to join in with their parties. This is the one thing we did see the most of our time wandering around Chiang Rai.
In other terms, there will be people intoxicated on the street. We did see a lady passed out in the street and our group did stop to help her until medical help arrived. This is apparently very common and was a real eye-opener for the kids.
At no time did I feel unsafe or anything like that but I did find that some people liked to target you because you were a foreigner. Some thought it was funny to get very close and throw it really hard at you. A guy did this to Mark and I did it right back to him which gave his mates a laugh.
The little kids love to get you and I spent so much time standing there waiting for them to get me before they would run off before I could get them back yelling some Songkran wishes at me from over their shoulder!
They are just so cute it is hard to walk past them and not let them throw water at you. I would always say ‘Happy Songkran festival or Happy Songkran Day’ to them before I walked away
Extra things to be aware of during Songkran
- Most of the time if you say no they won’t throw water at you but you will get some who just don’t care
- Some people will recycle their water from the street. Beware of the dirty water
- Thailand in April is hot so you will need to stay hydrated as well
- Many people go home to celebrate with family so many businesses will be closed or have little staff on hand. Please be aware of this
- If you are travelling during this time take extra precautions to have protection for your luggage
- Some people get so keen they start the night before
Where is the best place to celebrate Songkran in Thailand?
For us, we had heard many different things but mainly that smaller towns were great places to celebrate as the community really gets involved.
For us and our first time celebtrating Songkran in Thailand Chiang Rai was brilliant for us. It was also thanks to our hostel Connect Hostel that made it extra special. We were on the main street so we got plenty of opportunities to throw water and get involved but we were far enough away from any of the really busy, party streets.
*Just a warning. A friend who celebrated in Chiang Mai which is a recommended place to celebrate Songkran Day was very surprised that the water from the moat was being used. It wasn’t the cleanest water I have ever seen in Asia so just a word of warning if you plan to get there.
Added Songkran festival tips
- Get involved. The locals love it and it is a heap of fun
- Try to master the Songkran greeting if you can. It is a bit of a tongue twister!
- Don’t be surprised if you are asked to join in a Songkran party if you are walking the streets
- Hours will pass before you even realise
- Most people are very respectful of kids so just make sure they know they are with you
- Streets become busy…be careful
- You will come across a street where all the Songkran Day action is happening.
- You can find DJ’s pumping out music, food being sold and alcohol freely being sold on the street.
- You can get some great microwave meals from 7-11 so if you are finding it hard to get food in your area pick up a few of these (we all loved the carbonara and the ham/cheese toasties) and keep them in your fridge
- Have a brilliant and happy Songkran festival!
Songkran in Thailand is a really special occasion and many of the locals go all out. Yes, you may come across some who are celebrating a little harder than others but it really is a great celebration to be a part of and we would be going straight back to the Connect Hostel in Chiang Rai to celebrate it again. We hope we’ve prepared you on how to celebrate the Songkran festival in Thailand like a local!
What type of money do they use in Thailand?
The money in Thailand is the Baht. You will find coins of 25 and 50 satangs, 1, 2, 5 and 10 Baht. The banknotes come in denominations of 10 Baht, 20 Baht, 50 Baht, 100 Baht, 500 Baht and 1,000 Baht.
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More about the Author
Bec Wyld is a mother, wife and once reluctant traveller. Bec has been to over 30 countries across the globe. I have planned and stressed in all of these places. Becs writing can be found on Wyld Family Travel and as a guest poster and contributor on many other travel websites including Lonely Planet Kids