Surviving Thailand’s Songkran Festival

For those of you planning to visit Thailand in April, here’s an unmissable event: The Songkran Festival. It’s Thailand’s biggest water festival that marks the celebration of the Thai New Year. Although what you witness today is water fights combined with a lot of fun in the sun, the holiday initially began among Thai people who would throw water on their family members as a way of seeking good fortune.

Things have changed a bit and now everyone who wants to join can do it in an instant. Visitors and locals jump in on this crazy water fight holding buckets of water, bottles or water guns. It sure seems like a blast, but just before you get in there, there are a few things you should probably be aware of when it comes to choosing an outfit and carrying electronics to capture incredible moments. We collected some tips from travel bloggers who have first-hand experience in surviving Thailand’s Songkran Festival:

The Songkran Festival is held in the hottest month of the year, so make sure you wear something light and comfortable, and pack plenty of sunscreen. Pick something bright and colorful to express your joyful spirit, but keep in mind that the Thai government has been working hard at changing Thailand’s tourism image, so avoid anything too skimpy.

You might also want to invest in a pair of goggles, and, of course, a good water gun – go for something mid-range; the high-powered water guns are banned by the government. Don’t forget to waterproof your valuables; the best quality pouches for your mobile phones can be found at department stores or online, and as for your wallet, you can easily pick up pouches at stores along Khaosan Road and Silom Road, or anywhere the festivities are held. – Jackie, Jackie M

songkran wet
Photo Credit: Ryno Sauerman

If you are partaking in the event, bring your game face on and be sure to drop by Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, or Khon Kaen, because they have the best-of-the-bestest happenings when it comes to this water-splashing spectacle. The competitiveness level of the locals and the travellers alike are oftentimes ocean deep – so it’s best to come prepared with what you wear and not reveal too much (skin), which may be easy targets for more water shooting. It’s great to wear something ultra-comfortable and colorful (avoid plain whites and expensive clothes).

Likewise, you cannot go wrong with waterproof, shockproof, and dustproof point-and-shoot cameras (i.e. Olympus = the BEST!) to help seize and immortalize your Songkran water plunge experiences with the locals via pictures of the event. Thais are friendly with selfies, so they won’t veer away, if you ask for a selfie with them during the water-wars.

Equally, make the most out of this celebration by taking lots of photos and videos of the awesome festivity in Thailand. It is one of the experiences you will want to ecstatically shower yourself with. – Bowdy, Bowdy Wanders

throw water songkran
Photo credit: Madeleine_H via Visual Hunt / CC BY

You’ll be getting very wet, so you’ll want to dress in light fabrics and beachwear. Board shorts, tank tops, flip flops. Women may want to wear a swimsuit underneath their clothes. Avoid white as it becomes transparent when it’s wet, and avoid heavy fabrics that are uncomfortable to walk in when wet, like jeans.

This year the Thais are still mourning the death of the King, so Songkran may not be as wild as normal. Although in years past there have been plenty of shirtless men running wild, last year arrests were made… so keep your shirts on, fellas! All electronics should be left at home unless they’re waterproof, or in a sealed waterproof bag/case.

Nowhere you go is safe from the water celebrations, and people won’t ask permission before dumping water on you. A GoPro, a phone with a waterproof case, or a waterproof camera are best.  – James, Escaping Abroad

Since you’re going to spend the festival soaked in water, make sure you don’t wear anything white (for obvious reasons), unless you carefully thought through what you’re going to be wearing underneath! Personally, I’d opt for a bikini (or swimming trunks if you’re a guy – better safe than sorry), paired with comfortable clothes made from light fabric.

This way your clothes won’t weigh you down and get in the way of all the fun! It might also be a good idea to bring a waterproof/air-tight bag for your phone or camera if you’re planning on documenting the madness! I don’t own one myself but a quick search on Amazon returns a plethora of options! You can also arm your phone with a waterproof case – this can come in handy on your other adventures so it’s worth investing in a high quality one, like the cases by Life Proof. – Marta, A Girl Who Travels

songkran festival
Photo credit: shin–k via / CC BY-NC-SA

I would always recommend at any festival for people to embrace the fashion for the event. You should aim to be a part of the festival, participate, rather than spectate. You will have a much greater response from the locals and have a better time as they see you are getting involved and contributing to the fun. If you haven’t been before, attempting to buy clothes based on what you think is authentic for the festival can lead to the opposite reaction – wearing cliche clothes and looking like a tourist. You should allow extra time before the festival to buy some real local attire, which always becomes fantastic souvenirs to take home.

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Murphy’s Law always applies in this situation. What could go wrong will. Assume the worst and take every precaution with camera gear that you can. If you don’t – you could end up with broken gear on day one and it will effect your experience. For phones I recommend a waterproof case that is also shock proof, being sprayed with water in crowds you are bound to drop it at one stage. For DSLR cameras I recommend the cheap alternative of underwater housing – the underwater bags, DiCAPac is a good brand I use. They are cost effective and waterproof for a few meters so a few splashes won’t stop your fun. – Jamen, Jamen Percy

Photo credit: Shutter B (R/N) via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

Dress like you are going to the beach. Prepare to get wet, because you will. The first day of Songkran I walked out of my hotel and a woman I never saw before came up to me, pulled my shirt forward, and dumped a bucket of water down it. The only safe place is inside your room. If you go outside, prepare to get wet.

Do not have anything on your person that will get damaged if it gets wet. If you carry a camera, put it in a plastic bag. I had a plastic bag I put around my SLR and then I closed it around my lens hood so only the front of the lens was exposed. No one is going to spare you because you are holding a camera, so don’t think you can get away not getting wet. – Gary, Everything Everywhere

Wear something you don’t mind getting soaked! Mostly it’s just water being thrown at you but you might get the odd beer or too – bear this in mind! It’s wise to dress for hot weather too – shorts, vests, skirts etc. And sunglasses, a sunhat and waterproof sun cream are a must!

Don’t take your camera unless you have an excellent waterproof case (think dive proof – you will get soaked). We took our GoPro which worked perfectly. Waterproof phone cases are readily available – you can buy them very cheaply and you might even get given one for free like we did. – Laura and Tanbay, Travelling Weasels

Photo Credit: Nomadic Boys

We advise wearing something comfortable and waterproof. This is during the peak of the Thai summer in mid-April when it gets intensely hot! So ideally a swimming costume for guys (perhaps even speedos to get more attention!) with a sleeveless and equivalent for girls.

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To protect technology, we’d honestly advise to bring as little as possible because it can also get stolen. The best we saw was the waterproof cases you have around your neck in which you can put your phone, money and keys. – Stefan and Sebastien, Nomadic Boys

Photo Credit: Lost with Purpose

Songkran in Thailand is one of our most favorite festivals, and we can’t recommend it enough. Of course, a little bit of preparation goes a long way with Songkran—it’s a blast, but can certainly get a little wet and rowdy at times! Clothing-wise, men should wear swimming shorts and a t-shirt, while girls can wear swimsuits underneath shorts and a shirt.

Be wary of white clothes, unless you’re into the see-through look! Most importantly, leave the majority of your valuables in your hotel room. Bring a small waterproof pouch for your phone and cash, and if you want to bring a camera (as you should!), we recommend bringing a GoPro in a waterproof case. – Alex and Sebastian, Lost with Purpose

The Songkran festival, or Thai New Year is a celebration not to be missed and one in which may require a raincoat and a water gun! Possibly one of my favourite festivals; traditionally Songkran welcomes in the New Year by splashing water on friends and family as blessings for the New Year. Now it has escalated and basically turned into a full scale, three day, epic water fight.

So you’re planning to hit Songkran hard, you’ve got your water pistols ready and you’re about to head out. But are you dressed appropriately? Remember you are about to be soaked, so white may not be the best colour unless you know exactly what will be shown under it. I highly recommend wearing swimwear under clothes that have the potential to become see-through when wet. Equally, heavy clothes such as denim are going to be no fun when wet so are best avoided. For both guys and girls, dress as if you were going to the beach. So board shorts, t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. To complete the look, why not pop on some goggles….

Water, phones, money and valuables don’t really mix well. It’s definitely a good idea to waterproof your gear before hitting the streets. The easiest option is a waterproof bag, which are sold everywhere on the lead up to Songkran and are perfect for your valuables. Don’t want to take a bag? Well splash out a few dollars for a waterproof necklace. Wear it under your shirt and store your money, keys and phone.

Doubles up as a great waterproof case meaning you can easily take pictures through the plastic, documenting the epic celebration! My top tip? Bring along a waterproof camera. There are so many variations ranging from cheap to expensive, this purchase is so worth it! You can leave your phone safe in the hotel knowing you can document the epic event as it happens without water damage! – Will, The Broke Backpacker


If you’re packing for Thailand and you’re reading this, know that Songkran Festival is just around the corner. Throw in some beach clothes, get in there, have a blast and share your photos with us!

Antonia is a passionate writer and an avid reader. Eat well, travel often - are some of the words she lives by. When she's not writing or reading, she loves getting out in nature, hiking or losing herself in unknown cities.

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