A few years ago, I was lucky enough to travel around South-East Asia for a year. What a joy! But what a headache too! Trying to predict the best periods regarding the climate for each one of the travelled countries, that’s something. When I started this travel blog, I obviously wanted to talk about all these countries I’ve visited. Today, in this article, I’ll talk about weather, climate, rainy season and monsoon. So, when to go to Laos to fully enjoy the best of the country? I will also give you some tips and advice on your itinerary in Laos, depending on the weather locally and the necessary equipment.
Well, yes, you’re going to tell me: it’s warm over there, no? We’ll surely have to wear shorts and flip-flops all year long, no need to worry about thinking about the weather for a trip to Laos! And yes, it is true… more or less. I spent a total of one month in Laos and, by the way, it’s the country I liked the most, after the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. It remains relatively off the beaten track compared to its neighboring countries, widely visited by tourists. Are you preparing your trip? I explain you what travel budget to plan for your trip to Laos.
I mentioned in introduction my trip around the Asian continent. I had tried then to adjust as best as possible the visited countries to the weather during my trip, in order to avoid as much as possible the rainy seasons and big monsoons. So, my itinerary was as follows:
July: South Thailand
Why am I telling you this? To introduce the first paragraph about climate.
In fact, you may not realize it at first glance, but Laos remains a tropical country in the northern hemisphere, therefore it does have the same seasons as France or the US. The main difference is that the country has a great period of rainy season (monsoon) as well as a pronounced dry period. There are also big differences between Southern Laos (warmer and lower in altitude) and Northern Laos (colder and more mountainous). When visiting Laos, two climate related elements are important to consider: temperature and precipitation.
Overall, average temperatures in Laos remain relatively mild, between 25°C and 30°C depending on your location in the country. The average temperature for the capital of Laos, Vientiane, is around 28°C with maximum temperatures of 35°C in April, and minimum temperatures of 29°C in December/January (winter).
Overall, over the whole country, temperatures remain lower between October and February. Knowing that you will surely visit the whole country, it is useless to give you all the temperature differences between each region. Just remember that the South of Laos is overall much warmer than the North. For your information, the minimum temperature recorded in Pakse (South) is 18°C in December/January. Conversely, in Luang Namtha (North of the country), temperatures of 7/8°C have already been recorded. Sweater is mandatory!
However, temperatures are not really a problem in a tropical region like Laos. You get used to the heat relatively well, especially when traveling. On the other hand, rainfall in this country is very pronounced during a few months.
In my opinion, avoiding the rainy season in Laos is the best solution to fully enjoy the territory. The rainy season starts around May and spreads until September, with more than 20 rainy days per month. If you are planning a trip during this period, expect to be clearly wet! Officially, the monsoon starts in May in the country.
Beside these months, from October to April, the rainfall remains very low and it will never be a problem during your trip.
If we only based on the country climate (which is not always possible in a trip around the world, not to mention the tourist season), the best time to go to Laos is usually between October and March/April. This way, you make sure that you’ll avoid the rainy season, which may complicate your trip, and temperatures are still cooler. Note that the months of March and April often remain the warmest.
I personally spent the whole month of February in my trip to South East Asia, and it was perfect. We had very little rain, and temperatures were quite correct. Nothing much different than if you are planning a trip to Thailand, for example.
Once you know the best period to go to the country, you can globally consider the things to do in Laos according to the climate. In my opinion, the only real thing to know for your trip to Laos regarding the climate is your coming to the north of the country.
Overall, if you choose the best season mentioned above, all the tourist areas of the South will be accessible without any worries. Moreover, climate will be ideal to go for a boat ride on the Mekong River (to the 4000 islands, for example), visit the city of Pakse, the temples of Champassak. The whole South of Laos is ideal in this season, with little or no rainfall. It is also the perfect time to go discover by motorcycle the Boloven plateau. As this is a higher altitude area, we suggest bringing a sweater and a windbreaker, as evenings can turn out to be quite cool.
On the other hand, if you go during the monsoon in this part of the country, expect heavy rains and floods. However, travel is still possible during this season, and you will surely be happy to avoid the high season with its too-many tourists. As soon as you enter central Laos and head north, temperatures will be a little cooler. The center of the country is especially famous for its authentic villages/cities and limestone caves.
If you have left during the good season to visit Laos, you should pay a special attention to a climate element when you’ll go to the North of Laos. No worries during the day, as temperatures remain mild and days are very pleasant, with almost no rainfall.
However, in the late evening and at night, temperatures can drop very low. As soon as you go up to the North of Luang Prabang, the minimum temperatures can be around 9/10°C or even less, and the nights will be really very cool or cold. Anyone wishing to hike in the northern region of the country, around Luang Namtha, Muang Xay, Pak Beng, etc. should bring warm clothes.
Admittedly, we most of the time rely on the climate or on a certain world-trip itinerary to choose our passage through a country. However, in a country like Laos where culture and religion are very present, it seemed interesting to me to give you the dates of local festivals and festivities. I’m not saying that you should organize your trip according to them, but it can clearly be a bonus to go in the country during these times, if you have the possibility and the flexibility, right? Besides, some travelers do plan their vacations for particular celebrations, such as the festival of colors in India, the famous Holi.
Here are some vacations that happen to coincide very well with the best season in Laos. If you are passing through the country, it is really worth a visit:
- The national holiday (December 2nd): it is the day of the monarchy abolition. Early in the morning, people gather in every town and village to celebrate this day. In some villages, you will have the opportunity to see locals in traditional dress.
- Elephant festival: it takes place every year in February, in the city of Sayabouri. You’ll be able to attend an important gathering of elephants, along with traditional dances and songs.
- Pi May (15 to 17 April): it is the festival of the Buddhist, and Lao New Year. This festival announces the beginning of the rainy season. It is reputed to be very joyful and festive, and you will be able to witness huge water battles, with local dances and songs.
- The Rocket Festival/Bun Bang Fai (early May): very famous festival in the country, where the main purpose is to throw homemade bamboo rockets. In local beliefs, these rockets are supposed to fertilize the clouds and trigger the flood to bring the water necessary for the rice fields.
Finally, other local festivals exist: the canoe race (October), Bun Pha That Luang (November) and Hmong New Year’s Day (December). All these traditional festivals can be considered if you are still wondering when to go to Laos for your trip.
I end this article with a more personal note regarding my experiences on my 1-month trip to Laos. I told you about climate, but is it really the most important thing to think about when going on a trip to a tropical country? Are you necessarily going to look at the climate to plan a trip to Vietnam? To Myanmar? Bali? Sri Lanka? I’m not so sure actually.
Let’s assume you will; climate is an important element to consider, especially in countries where it can really complicate things. I’m thinking of all cold countries, for example, where things can quickly turn into a nightmare if you’re badly prepared. In Laos, the heat is still bearable in my opinion, and even if there is a better time to visit the country, leaving in the middle of the hot season (supposedly very unfavorable) could be such a great experience.
Because, finally, in a country like Laos, instead of wondering “When should I go to Laos?”, it seems to me more relevant to ask “What to visit in Laos? What interesting things to do in Laos? What are the places of interest in Laos? ».
Once you have chosen your period to visit the country, I particularly recommend you try to get off the beaten track. Like everyone else, we felt like we had to do some classics: 4000 islands, Pakse, Boloven Plateau, Vientiane, Luang Prabang.
As soon as we were a bit out of that, that is to say towards the North-West of the country, things became really more interesting. And now, I deeply regret not having spent more time in the high plains of the country, these mountainous regions on the edge of the country, where a very large number of ethnic minorities live. The opportunities for discovery and fulfillment are truly very great in the region. There’s no need to worry before leaving to organize this, I would rather advise you to go to the city of Pakbeng, or further north to Luang Namtha, and rent a motorcycle for a week or 10 days to just get lost in these regions.
If I ever come back to Laos, this is something I would really like to do anyway. I now come back to our climate and weather in Laos topic after this small digression. If you go to the North, really think about taking some warm clothes (fleece, under sweater, hat, etc.). I remember crossing the border in North Laos, towards Dien Bien Peu in North Vietnam, and believe me when I say it was not warm at all up there!
I hope this article has taught you what you need in order to know when to go to Laos. Enjoy your stay there, Laos is a Southeast Asian country where you can still get lost and see amazing things. I’m repeating myself but quickly pass the tourist spots and rather turn towards inland.
See you soon for another article,