How to survive Songkran Festival in Thailand

Heading to Thailand’s riotous New Year festival, Songkran? Here’s how to survive the world’s biggest water fight…

Insider Secrets
11 April 2019

What does the world’s biggest water fight look like? If you’re heading to Songkran in Thailand, you’re about to find out.

During Songkran the normally quiet and respectful Thais go a little crazy. Arming themselves with water guns, hoses and buckets, they set about trying to soak anyone and everyone they see.

For the next three or four days, visitors to Thailand should expect to get wet and perhaps be smeared with white powder. Here’s how to come out smiling…

1. Keep smiling

Celebrating Songkran, and smiling through the soaking (Shutterstock)

Try to keep your temper and smile. Unlikely as it seems, the antics of Songkran are part of the ancient tradition of paying respect to elders. For more information, see our etiquette tips for Thailand.

2. Don’t dress in white

Water fights during Songkran (Dreamstime)

Thin white t-shirts and tops can be pretty revealing when wet. You will also be painted with white powder. Forget what you look like, and soak up the atmosphere. If you want to be fully prepared, put on some swimwear under your clothing.

3. Make your valuables waterproof

Mid-soak on the Khao San Road. Photo taken by a camera in an (essential!) waterproof bag (Shutterstock)

If you take your camera out with you, make sure you put it in a plastic bag. Better still, buy a waterproof camera or a waterproof case. Want to take incredible shot? See our tips for photographing water festivals.

Also, make a photocopy of your passport to take out with you, and leave all important documents in a secure (and dry) place.

4. Accept your fate

Children splashing people inside a tuk-tuk. You’ve been warned (Shutterstock)

Even a quick trip to a local restaurant is likely to include a soaking. You may even find yourself faced with a flying water bucket or two.

A meter taxi or bus may offer some protection, but if you ride in a tuk-tuk, you’re just asking for it. If you go out on a motorcycle, take even more care than usual: bike accidents soar during the festival period.

5. Seek out Songkran’s traditional side

A traditional Songkran festival, taking place at Watphadarabhirom temple in Chiang Mai (Dreamstime)

Songkran is not just about water fights. Make an effort to see the more traditional side of the festival. Water is used to gently wash the hands of elders and monks and bathe Buddha images. Sand pagodas are constructed in the temple grounds.

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