The dos and don’ts of Thailand’s kingdom-wide New Year's water fight.
April is Thailand’s hottest month, and marks the transition between the end of the dry season and the start of the rice-growing season. It is also the month in which Songkran (Thai New Year) takes place.
Traditionally, Songkran is a time to pay respect and make merit. For the uninitiated, what originated as a religious water blessing ritual has now escalated into an annual all-out three-day water war.
That means you can expect two very different kinds of events during Songkran: mad, country-wide water fights and serene traditional ceremonies at temples.
Be prepared to get wet. Constantly.
If you’re leaving the house during Songkran, you will get wet—over and over. If you get splashed while walking down the street, take it in your stride.
Protect your essentials.
The less you carry the better. Seal your smartphone and cash in a waterproof ziplock bag—these are readily available for purchase from street-side vendors and shops during Songkran, but it’s best to purchase one in advance before the splashing begins!
Take pictures from the skywalks.
Want to capture stock photo-worthy images of all the action without destroying your phone? Then head up to the BTS skywalks overlooking Sukhumvit and Silom, where you can get aerial snaps to rival anything you've seen online.
Unless you’re taking part in a Miss Songkran contest, this is not a fashion parade. So, leave your favorite outfit at home, avoid anything white and consider wearing a swimsuit underneath your clothes. You may also want to wear sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes.
You may think that being wet all day will keep you cool but temperatures peak in April, so be sure to stay hydrated, especially if you’re drinking.
Drinking and water splashing are not permitted in indoor areas such as malls and stores. Don’t splash monks, the elderly, or babies. Avoid using unclean water from lakes or rivers in your water gun, opt instead for tap water.
Use public transport.
With road closures, traffic that’s even worse than usual and road accidents that totaled over 3,700 during Songkran 2018, cars and bikes are best avoided. Skip the traffic and stay safe with the BTS or MRT—to find out how to use Bangkok's public transport systems, check out our handy guide here.
Be aware of powder.
Though in past years the authorities officially banned din sor pong—the natural white powdery paste Thai people smear on one another’s faces during Songkran—it remains rife. Done respectfully—a light dab on the cheek paired with “sawasdee pii mai” (happy new year)—it’s harmless, and is considered as a blessing of good luck. Unfortunately, some people think it’s funny to smear it in others’ eyes and mouths, put Tiger Balm in it to make it tingle, or even use it as an excuse to touch women inappropriately, hence the ban.
Drink and drive.
The Songkran death-toll has become something of a dreary sensation, earning the title of “seven dangerous days.” Last year saw a seven-percent rise in deaths from the previous year, totaling 418—a majority of which came down to drink driving-related accidents. While drink driving is a no-no any time of year, it is a common problem during Songkran.
Expect to stay dry.
No gun? No one cares. No phone protector? So what. Hands in the air? Attack!!! Just arrive prepared and get in the spirit.
It's best to leave any electronics or items susceptible to water damage at home. If you must bring your phone, be sure to keep it in a waterproof bag—see above.
Wear your favorite outfit.
Especially if it’s white.
Shoot people in the face or eyes.
It’s just not nice, people.
Take a tuk-tuk with your baggage.
Every year we see forlorn travelers attempting to shelter their bags in the back of a tuk-tuk, always in vain. So, if you happen to arrive during the celebration, opt for a taxi.
Travel during the celebration.
As mentioned above, traffic during Songkran is next-level and thanks to an abundance of drink driving, the roads are highly unsafe. If you want to travel for Songkran, it’s best to fly or to drive to your destination a few days in advance of the festival.
Drink the water.
Avoid getting too much of the water in your mouth, food or drink—it's highly unlikely to be drinking water.
Use din sor pong powder disrespectfully.
The governement are yet to announce their policy on the powder this year. If it is not banned, use it respectfully (see above).