If a tan is not your top priority, this could be the perfect time to come to Krabi.
Around May – October in Krabi, the monsoon winds change direction, bringing the cooler temperatures and showers associated with the rainy season. The sun-seeking tourists and package holiday-makers disappear, to take advantage of summer in other parts of the world, clearing the way for budget travellers, keen on the deals and lower accommodation prices available at this time of year.
Of course there is a reason for the existence of this so-called “low” season: the weather. But, while daily sunshine cannot be guaranteed, it does not rain all the time, either. The only sure thing is that it is very changeable (contradiction intended).
Whither the weather?
A typical low season pattern – if one exists – is of sun interspersed with brief, often very heavy and isolated showers once or twice a day, although it is also normal to have very long spells (2 -3 weeks) of glorious, dry weather – or a week of straight rain and grey skies. Unfortunately for visitors, there is little consistency from year to year – June, for example, could be dry and sunny one year and have long periods of stormy and wet weather the next.
So how do you know what to expect? The short answer is, you don’t. The best advice we can offer is (if you can) to book everything last minute. The weather can usually be predicted 3 – 4 days in advance and, over the years, we have found a couple of forecasting services that have proven to be more accurate than others – though even these short range forecasts are not 100% reliable, as the winds can blow predicted storms off course, or bring in rain unexpectedly.
The first semi-reliable forecast is Wunderground. The key here is to look beyond the daily symbol (it invariably shows thunderstorms during monsoon season) and at the percentage chance of rain on the day. Anything under 50% effectively means light to no rain or (if you are unlucky) you may be caught in an isolated heavy shower that is passing in a particular area. If 80% or over all day, and for several days straight, this is likely to be one of the handful of times during the long rainy season when it is difficult to do anything due to prolonged heavy rain.
The second forecast we use is YR.no. The key here is to check it frequently as they update every few hours and conditions can change drastically even in this space of time. Instead of percentage chance of rain they offer an estimate in mm, helpfully broken down by time of day (often heavy rain occurs at night). Anything under 3 – 4 mm translates as light – no rain or one heavy shower. Heavy rain is 9mm+. Note the temperatures on YR.no are very conservative. The “feels like” temperature, posted on Wunderground, is usually 5 – 8C higher than this.
By combining both forecasts (percentage chance with predicted amounts and times) you can usually get a decent picture of how a week is going to be.
If you are planning to go out to the islands, you can also check the maritime or shipping forecast for Krabi, as boat trips are more affected by wind and waves than rainfall. This link is to a basic version in English and it almost always says “all ships should proceed with caution”. This is no reason to panic – the actual sea conditions vary hugely in this area of many bays and islands and all tour operators know the waters well. However, more serious warnings, e.g. that small boats should keep ashore and / or alerts of wave heights over 2-3m, may mean your tour gets cancelled. Note: Krabi is located in the lower Andaman Sea, south of Phuket.
Take advantage of the “green” season
There are, believe it or not, some advantages that come with this weather, which is why TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) is now promoting this time as the ‘green’ season. The interior landscape really comes to life after the long, hot dry spell in March and April, offering lush, verdant views, gushing waterfalls and more abundant wildlife to be spotted in the forest, and on kayak trips.
Most of these inland activities – temple visits, kayaking and jungle trekking – can be considered all-weather, with reasonable precautions such as non-slip shoes in forest environments. Remember, this is warm, fat monsoon rain, not the freezing wintery variety. Many people find it adds to the overall exotic experience.
The exception, as mentioned earlier, is island-hopping, which is affected by rough sea conditions. This can occasionally (on average 2-3 days per month during low season) prevent boats going out at all, or force changes in itinerary – Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh, for example, is often inaccessible in times of high waves. Some outlying places, such as Ko Rok near Ko Lanta, are completely closed during the off-season.
Another downside is that, in the event of very heavy and prolonged rain, Krabi does not have much offer in terms of covered attractions – it is primarily an outdoor destination. Check the links below for ideas on what you can do for your “Plan B”.
If you do have to spend some time in your room, all the more reason to indulge in a nice one, with cable TV and a spa for when you don’t feel like going out – especially as the heavily discounted ‘low’ season prices really do justice to the term ‘affordable luxury’. Finally, don’t forget to pack a poncho or rainjacket – or buy one cheaply in any convenience store here – as well as a light jacket or non-woolly sweater for the cooler evenings.
Pros and cons of a low season visit
- Save money with reduced hotel bills
- Less crowded than in high season, in particular on the beaches and islands
- Residents generally are more relaxed as they are not overwhelmed by tourists, so people will be more friendly and willing to take extra time to help you out.
- Ideal time to do jungle treks, kayaking or spot wildlife
- It’s off-season for a reason: the weather can be unfavourable to downright bad if you are unlucky and there unfortunately seems to be no accurate way of predicting the weather from year to year.
- Because of the above, some clement weather activities may not be available during your stay. In particular island tours may occasionally be cancelled or suspended due to rough seas – and even sitting on the beach is no fun in the rain.
- Low season is the traditional time for hotels to carry out renovations and refurbishments to their rooms. You may find that your resort is adding an extra wing; improving its spa or repairing the roof – directly above your head. Check before you travel!
- Choose a nice hotel with good in-room facilities, or even better, a private villa or apartment where you will have room to spread out if stuck indoors
- Pick an area with access to “rainy day” activities like Ao Nang or Krabi Town
- Local weather lore says it is much more likely to rain in the week around a new or full moon than during the rest of the month. If you believe the fishermen, you might like to arrange your travel dates around this.