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The Ultimate Guide to Spending Christmas / New Year Holidays in Southeast Asia

The Ultimate Guide to Spending Christmas / New Year Holidays in Southeast Asia

By CindyUpdated Oct. 19, 2023

Are you tired of seeing the same places on Christmas and New Year's Eve? Do you want to see new landscapes, new environments, and to meet new people? Discover the best destinations to celebrate Christmas and New Year in Southeast Asia here.

Whether you're looking for an epic countdown party complete with a majestic firework display to boot, or something a little more subdued and family-friendly, Southeast Asia will have something for you.

Reasons for Celebrating Christmas in Southeast Asia

There are countless reasons to celebrate the holiday season in Southeast Asia. We round up the best reasons to visit the region at Christmas / New Year time.

1. Take a beach break from winter.

Does December for you mean sub-zero temperatures, rain, sleet, and grey skies?! Not the case in Southeast Asia!

If you like the idea of choosing flip flops over slippers on Christmas morning, swap the snow for sand and feather-down jackets for swimsuits, then the tropical islands of Southeast Asia are where you want to be.

In December, temperatures average 24–30 degrees Celsius (75–86°F) across the region, making it the perfect warm-weather escape during winter. Sending pictures of yourself suntanning on the beach in shorts or a swimsuit is one way to make your northern-hemisphere-based friends and family jealous!

spend christmas and new year in thailand

2. It is more affordable than you might imagine.

Of course, the festive season is not a cheap time of the year, so is it possible to enjoy a festive break without breaking the bank? Southeast Asia is still an option.

While it can be expensive getting to Southeast Asia from the Americas or Europe, once you're there it can be as cheap or expensive as you make it, with some hotels available at bargain prices and the cost of attractions and food unbelievably cheaper still.

You can practically live like a king for US$50 a day in many cities in the region, compared to US$50 not quite even paying for a dorm bed alone in some European cities.

More expensive flights to get there can save a fortune in a cheaper destination. A trip lasting 15 days in many of Southeast Asia's great cities will be much cheaper than many of Europe's great cities.

Let us know your budget and we'll help you tailor-make a trip for you.

3. Enjoy the festive spirit of another culture.

Rather than sticking to the same old Xmas retreats, spending Christmas / New Year in Southeast Asia provides you tremendous opportunities to try something new during the holidays, from counting down to midnight with warm sand between your toes, gazing out at misty mountain tops to watch the first sunrise of the year, to releasing a paper lantern into the night's sky as you make a wish for the year ahead.

spend christmas and new year in southeast asia

4. Still, soak up the festive spirit as you would at home.

You may be halfway around the world, but that doesn't mean you'll miss out on all the Christmas sparkle of home.

In many cities of Southeast Asia, such as Bangkok, you'll see dozens of Christmas trees and sparkling decorations, and you'll even hear carols being sung in some coffee houses and shopping malls. Many hotels and restaurants usually have special Christmas dinners, buffets, and feasts to cater to guests who wish to dine out on Christmas Eve.

China Highlights, Asia Highlights, and Global Highlights collaborate to provide families and couples with personalized and stress-free experiences in diverse destinations.

Celebrating Christmas and New Year's Eve in Thailand

You can head to Thailand this December for the perfect combination of holiday cheer and interesting activities. Whether you want to be in the city to watch the fireworks amongst the skyscrapers or kick back on a beach with a cocktail in a coconut, here are some great spots to spend your Christmas and New Year's Eve.

In Bangkok, you can take a picture with a 30-meter Christmas tree (supposedly the tallest in Southeast Asia) at Central World shopping complex, witness an eye-popping firework display at a rooftop restaurant while relishing a deluxe New Year's Eve meal, or join a street party at Khao San Road to toast the arrival of 2024...

You can simply escape to the lush tropical islands of Phuket where you can spend your Christmas / New Year soaking in crystal blue waters.

Or go to experience one of the wildest outdoor parties in Ko Phangan. Paint yourself up, and drink buckets of alcohol from dusk until the first dawn of the new year to welcome the new year with over 20,000 young people.

See the Best Places to Celebrate New Year's Eve in Thailand, or How to Plan Your First Trip to Thailand — 7 Easy Steps.

spend christmas and new year in southeast asia

Celebrating Christmas and New Year's Eve in Vietnam

Vietnam also has lots to offer when it comes to Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations.

In the capital city Hanoi, don't miss the famous St. Joseph's Cathedral. Nowhere is the Christmas spirit more pronounced in Vietnam than there, which is especially beautiful with neon lights, big Christmas trees, and stars. Take a stroll around Hanoi's Old Quarter dressed in holiday decorations and feast on the special atmosphere at the Christmas markets in Hang Ma.

If you want to experience a warm, cheerful, and authentic New Year celebration, Hoi An can be a great option. Walk around the ancient town lit up by thousands of colorful Chinese silk lanterns, drink freshly-pulled cold beer and watch lanterns float down the river. Feast on street food and watch the fireworks at midnight.

In Ho Chi Minh City, book a rooftop bar or a cruise on the Saigon River in advance to enjoy the magnificent fireworks display at the city's iconic Bitexco tower.

See How to Plan an Awesome Trip to Vietnam.

spend christmas and new year in southeast asia

Celebrating Christmas and New Year's Eve in Cambodia

If you happen to be in Cambodia on New Year's Eve, then you're in for a treat. Cambodia hosts many special events that comprise breathtaking parties, dance performances, and delicious food to usher in the new year uniquely.

In Phnom Penh, head to the Tonle Sap riverside where you can find a strip of restaurants, bars, and hotels that allow you to see the full view of firework displays. Take a cruise along the river to observe the festivities from a different perspective. Bassac Lane is packed with live music amid bars and other stores that you can go to celebrate with family and friends!

In Siem Reap, you can be a part of the best nightlife parties at Temple Town's Pub Street to celebrate the new year's arrival.

The beautiful coastal town of Sihanoukville is bursting with crowds who come to enjoy time on the beach and party hard. This is definitely a place to go if you're looking to get a bit crazy and then nurse your hangover on the beach the next day. There's usually a giant beach party where locals and tourists mingle, dance, drink, and count down to a new year together!

See Top Things to Do in Cambodia, or more places to celebrate New Year in Southeast Asia.

spend christmas and new year in southeast asia

Essential Tips for Spending Christmas / New Year's Eve in Southeast Asia

1. Think beyond December to avoid high prices.

The Christmas/New Year's holiday is the most crowded and expensive time to vacation almost anywhere, including Southeast Asia. Airfares and hotel rates shoot up. It is not uncommon for flight prices to double and hotel prices to triple.

According to our experience, the peak time is from December 22nd to January 3rd.

If you have a longer vacation time around the festive season, planning your trip to begin at the end of November / beginning of December or end in the middle of January to February can save a large amount of money. Even adjusting your dates by a day or two can sometimes make a difference. For example, flying in on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve or flying home after the first week of January can often be cheaper.

We promise you enjoy 100% refund of any payments made to China Highlights prior to 3 weeks before departure (detail⇒).

2. Settle for less expensive cities or towns if possible.

Hotel prices climb quickly in the days leading up to Christmas and New Year's Eve. This is especially true in popular destinations, such as Bangkok and Phuket.

Luxury hotels and beach resorts often impose minimum-stay restrictions (usually more than 3 nights), and a compulsory dinner on the day of Christmas and New Year's Eve.

If possible, on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day, you can settle for less expensive cities or towns to save a massive sum. For example, you could celebrate New Year's Eve in Chiang Mai instead of Phuket.

spend christmas and new year in southeast asia

3. Book in advance.

If you are very sure about holidaying this Christmas or New Year, plan early and book in advance. Booking far ahead is an opportunity to earn massive discounts on the prices of hotels and flights.

Some special experiences such as a romantic New Year's Eve dinner on the Chao Phraya River cruise in Bangkok also require reservations in advance.

If you don't plan far enough ahead, you'll find everything decent is sold out. We have developed many unique and authentic experiences that could make your festive break special. Let us know your interests and we'll take care of everything from planning to booking.

4. Work with a Local Travel Expert.

Working with a local travel expert like us not only means some discounts on travel expenses like accommodation, but also means better experiences, from choosing a place where you can experience fireworks without any crowds to selecting a spa resort that offers a romantic New Year's Eve dinner.

A private tour with us is our guarantee of a brilliantly memorable Christmas / New Year trip.

5. Give yourself a few buffer days.

Delays during the holiday season are inevitable. If you need to attend a holiday gathering or an event that you can't miss, don't leave it down to the wire. Give yourself a buffer between when you plan to arrive and when you need to be there.

Ready to start planning your Christmas / New Year's Eve vacation?

Want to take the stress out of planning a Christmas / New Year's vacation? Have questions about your vacation budget? Our Southeast Asia travel planning service is the easiest way to arrange your holiday.

Just let us know your interests and requirements, and we'll tailor-make a unique and perfect tour for you.

We'll take care of the hard stuff, so all you have to do is relax and enjoy your time with your loved ones!

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