What to Wear in Chiang Mai Year Round

Travel Tips, What's New — By A on October 31, 2010 at 10:00 am

There really isn’t a “dress code” here in Chiang Mai.  Many locals (the young and the aged alike) pretty much dress much like westerners do.  Unlike the capitol, Bangkok, the northern Rose of Thailand, city of Chiang Mai has a much milder weather, especially in the fall.  This difference in climate will require you to pack for a cooler weather if you  are headed to Chiang Mai during those months.

Typical Weather you’ll find here:

November – January (The Cold Season): Lows in the mid 50’s F/ mid 10’s C  to highs 80’s F/30’s C (this is also the peak tourist season!).  You will definitely experience cool breezes and lower temperatures especially early in the mornings and in the evenings.

Feb  – April (The Hot Season): Warmer, but cool breezes in the mornings and evenings.  April seems to be the hottest month here with the high in the upper 90’s F/mid 30’s C.

May- October(The Rainy Season): High of low 90’s F/ low 30’s C and low of 70’s F/ 20’s C.  Rainy season arrives at the end of May and can last until mid/late October.  Heaviest downpours are usually in July, August and September.   Rainy (or monsoon) season in Chiang Mai doesn’t mean it’s raining all day long.  It’s cooler before and after the rain burst, so on those hot days, you want it to rain!  When it rains, it pours hard, but it’s temporary.  Rainy season means it pretty much rains on a daily basis.

Now, if you are coming here during the peak or cold season like November-February,  it will be cool enough to require long sleeves shirts, long pants and a light jacket, especially if you are traveling on a motorbike,  tuk-tuk,  or song taeo.  The locals usually bundle up during November – February early mornings and evenings.  If you forgot or don’t have enough long sleeves or need another layer, no need to worry.  Walk along Chiang Mai Gate in the mornings and you’ll find plenty of vendors to keep you busy shopping for your next favorite sweater.

Coming here in the rainy season?  Be sure to bring a durable raincoat.  You will need it.  Having an umbrella is great too, but a raincoat is definitely recommended.  If you wish to purchase them here, you can.  You can even get rain boots.  Again, if you walk along Chiang Mai Gate, you will be able to locate your needed accessories regardless of the season.  Tip:  The locals tend to wear their raincoats backwards while riding their motorbikes to avoid getting wet.  It actually works better.

The hottest month is in April, but if you are here in April,  be sure to enjoy the Thai New Year Celebration also known as Songkran.

Regardless of the season, bring your sun screen.  Although the Thais are quite obsessed with having and maintaining a pale complexion, I’ve not seen or heard of advertisements for SPF as much.  Thus you will find many skin products and clinics for whitening treatments.  Some whitening ingredients can even be found in beverages/drinks – so make sure you read the labels and take caution.  Better safe than sorry, eh!

Bring light colored and light material clothing to keep cool.  Also bring a hat, sunglasses and comfortable shoes that are easy to put-on and off (this will come in handy too when you’re visiting temples).

Regardless of the time of the year that you are here,  it’s inevitable, you’ll be tempted to visit at least a temple here in Chiang Mai.  If you only visit ONE, I’d recommend this ONE!  Please remember there are some ground rules for Buddhist temple visits (including a dress code):

  • Dress politely.
  • Ladies: Do not wear shorts. Wear skirts or shorts that cover below your knees.
  • Please cover your shoulders and your cleavage.
  • Show proper respect in the temple and shrine area.
  • Take off your shoes before entering the temple grounds.
  • Keep your head lower than that of Buddha images, statues and honorable Monks.
  • Do not touch Buddha images or statues.  They are not props, but holy symbols.
  • Do not point with your feet.
  • Refrain from public displays of affection.  Keep it rated G, folks.
  • Keep clean.
  • Keep quiet.

Here are some examples for when you are considering what to wear when you’re in Chiang Mai.

Locals at a fast food joint in a mall in Chiang Mai.  Looks familiar??

Tourists at a temple visit during a traditional celebration in Chiang Mai

This couple is wearing cargo pants, comfy slip-on shoes, light weight material and light colored clothing.  Good choices!

My advice to the ladies:  bring a wrap or a shawl with you in your backpack if you are wearing sleeveless and low-cut tops.  There are temples everywhere in Chiang Mai.  You never know when you will come across a temple you’d want to visit.

Also, the wrap/scarfs/shawls are sold at Kad Suan Kaew Central, Night Bizaar, Saturday Night Wua Lai Market and Sunday night markets for as low as 59b (haa sip kow).

One last tip:  don’t leave home without the mosquito repellent.  Dengue fever is on the rise here in South East Asia.  Bring it and use it to protect yourself.

Have fun while you’re in Chiang Mai.  If you have any questions or comments to add on what to wear in Chiang Mai, please feel free to do so!

Kupkoon Khaaaa from Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Tags: Chiang Mai, Culture, dresscode, dressing like locals


  • Barbara Weibel says:

    How timely! I was just about to look up the weather in Chiang Mai, since I am headed there in December. Thank you.

  • Kirsty says:

    Good advice on the weather, coming in just over a week. It sounds like similar weather as in the central highlands in Vietnam

  • A says:

    Hi Kristy,

    Thanks for your comment. We will see you very soon. Safe travels. Cheers!

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