Laos is a fascinating country to explore and even with its two distinct weather seasons, it is still a wonderful country to travel to year-round. Laos’ climate is fairly straightforward and consists of a wet season (runs from May until September) and a dry season (runs between October and April) Also, Laos is a landlocked country with no coastline to influence the weather system.
The Laos weather and climate is impacted by its altitude that can lead to a reduction in the country's average temperature. The south has the lowest altitude, which includes the Mekong River valley which has the hot and humid climate that can reach 35° C at the end of the dry season (March and April). In the north, east and central region, the altitude is higher which helps to keep the temperature down.
During the wet season, the rains are more consistent from late July to September when it is very heavy at times. Heavy rainfall is especially noticed in the south of the country. But, tourists travelling at the start of the wet season (May until July) will find the climate is very hot, but the rain is short lived and less of an inconvenience when exploring the sights.
The climate in Laos varies with region throughout the wet season. For instance, the temperature is likely to average 23°C in the higher mountain valleys, while the lowlands with seen a higher temperature range of about 29° C.
Unless on the Laos holiday during the hottest months (March and April) it is practical to travel with a fleece or jumper to wear in the evenings because the temperature can start to get quite cool at this time.
What is the best time to visit Laos?
A popular time to travel to Laos is during the shoulder season (July and August). The weather can be wet with high humidity in most parts of Laos, but the landscapes are truly stunning in emerald green. Also, the crowds are much smaller with less foot traffic and hotel costs are lower. However, there are some areas that still offer the chance of great weather at this time, such as Luang Prabang.
Dry season (October to April)
The dry season is split between two sub-sections – it starts with the cool and dry season that is very pleasant for sightseeing and other things to do in Laos, and then the dry, hot season arrives. The cool season is a great time to visit the country, but the later hot weather is a lot less pleasurable to travel in. The dry, cool season runs between late-October and February, while the dry, hot season is short-lived and lasts from March to April. Even though the hot season is short, the temperature does get quite ferocious.
A further factor that can make travelling during hot season less attractive is the smoke which can feel quite unbearable at times. Farmers are seen to set fire to degraded forest and rice stubble from March to May to get the soil prepared for the next crop cycle. The smoke from the fires can cover large areas of Laos (including popular destinations like Luang Prabang) which not only has a negative impact on views and photography opportunities, but is also quite irritating to the eyes. March to May may not be the most appealing time to visit the country on the Laos tour packages.
On the other hand, the dry, cool season is a wonderful time to discover the best places to visit Laos. The air is cleaner with temperature that is a lot more pleasant, especially in the months of November and December. Also, the rivers are still at a useful height to make river trips a real possibility. This is the time of the year (October to February) when a lot of travellers visit the country.
Wet season (May to September)
The wet season lasts from May until September and similar to other SE Asian countries, the rainfall is quite predictable and lasts for a few hours daily, and not the constant all-day downpours. Even though the rainfall in the country can impact the country uniformly, there is a slight variation in certain regions. For instance, Xieng Khuang and Hua Phan can get earlier rain arriving from Vietnam, while Phongsali is early with rains that come from southern China.
In general, the high regions will get the most rain, while the low-lying towns south of Vientiane along the Mekong River are likely to get the least amount of rainfall.
Similar to the impact the wet season has on Cambodia, the effect in Laos includes a quite negative impact on the infrastructure which can significantly lengthen the travel times. The severely rutted roads are a major concern, while landslides are also quite common. However, the road network in Laos is a lot more resilient and able to stand up to the changeable weather, but the mountainous terrain can lead to the frequent landslides. Also, the rivers can soon get fast and cause damage to some of the bridges. Overall, the transport options at this time of year can be quite soggy and slow.
A useful upside of the rainy season is the possibility of using rivers for boat transportation. The high water levels make the perfect conditions for boats to make fast and efficient pace. But, even with the travel issues, a holiday during the wet season is certain to be appreciated for cleaner air, lower temperatures and smaller crowds.
What to pack for Laos tour
Loose-fitting and lightweight clothes are the best option when travelling in Laos. The light linens and cottons can help when sightseeing in the high humidity. Smart clothes aren't really necessary unless planning to live the high life in Luang Prabang or Vientiane. For tourists planning to explore the mountainous regions, a jumper or jacket is a practical addition for the cool evenings. Also, take along appropriate clothing to cover the knees and elbows when visiting temples or other religious buildings.
Best time to visit Laos