Laos is bordered by Thailand and Vietnam, as well as China in the north, Myanmar in the northwest, and Cambodia in the south. Forests and mountains cover most of the country’s land while it has no coastline border. Despite its geographic disadvantage compared to other countries in the area, Laos still offers a great experience for travelers who are keen on “off the beaten track” destinations. If Laos is in your bucket list, you should know more about Laos weather before planning your vacation.
Laos weather overview
Laos weather is relatively uncomplicated with 2 distinct seasons: dry and wet season.
The dry season in Laos typically runs from October to April, and the wet season starts from May until September. The heaviest rainfall is generally sawed in August and September, especially in the Southern part. Between March and June, the beginning of the wet season is the hottest period in the year when the temperature can reach 35°C and above.
The dry season in Laos
In the dry season of Laos, all months are not similar as there are cool dry weather (November to February) and hot dry weather (from March to April).
Obviously, the cool dry weather is much more pleasant which makes it become the best time to visit the country. In some regions of Laos, from March to May, farmers set fire to rice stubble and degraded (and not-so-degraded) forests to improve soil fertility in order to prepare for an upcoming rice crop. As a result, the surrounding areas are exposed to a layer of smoke, even in Luang Prabang.
I traveled to Laos in April earlier this year, I was shocked by the heat in the city of Vientiane. Even though where I come from, Vietnam, has a quite hot summer; it seems that the heat in Laos is unbearable. When I came to Laos, I was very lucky to participate in its New Year. During the festive days, it is one of Laos traditions to pour water on each other everywhere on the streets. Every time I drove on my motorbike, local people would splash water on me. I was as wet as a fish but only water can make the heat lessen.
The cool, dry season, on the other hand, is a perfect time to travel to Laos. Temperatures are relatively low, the air is cleaner. Particularly in November and December, the water level is high enough to make the river excursion. Not surprisingly, this period in Laos is the peak season for travelers.
Luang Prabang, being surrounded by forest and having the Mekong River cut through, is the city with the typical tropical weather. In this area, the weather has a tendency to be cooler than the areas in the south. During the coolest dry months of December and January, the temperatures can go down to 17°C at night time. Then, in the early morning when the sun has not risen, it can make you feel chilly. It is wise to prepare a light jacket in the morning for this weather.
In some of the mountainous areas of Laos such as Nong Khiaw and the Bolaven Plateau, there is a gap between the temperatures during the night time and day time. It is so cool during the night that you even do not need a fan to sleep.
The wet season in Laos
The wet season in Laos lasts from May to October. Not only in Laos but in many countries in the same areas, it is common to have a downpour for a few hours in this season. However, rain varies from region to region. The higher the area is, the more rain you get; and the towns along the Mekong River south of Vientiane get the least rain.
Wet season affects seriously the infrastructure of Laos. As a vast amount of area in Laos is the mountain, big rains create landslides, making the roads rutted. In addition, because of the rain, the rivers can become harsh.
The early months of the wet season (May to July) remain very hot and rain does not last for long. Meanwhile, in the latter months (late July until September) the rains become more frequent and can be heavy, especially in southern parts of the country.
Laos Weather by Month
These are general weather patterns in Laos by month for your reference:
- January is one of the coolest months in Laos, especially in the northern regions.
- Average temperatures range from 15°C (59°F) in the north to 25°C (77°F) in the south.
- It is generally dry with low rainfall.
- February marks the end of the dry season in Laos.
- Temperatures start to rise, ranging from 17°C (63°F) in the north to 28°C (82°F) in the south.
- The weather remains relatively dry with minimal rainfall.
- March is characterized by increasing temperatures as Laos transitions into the hot season.
- Average temperatures range from 20°C (68°F) in the north to 32°C (90°F) in the south.
- The weather remains dry, with occasional hot and humid days.
- April is the hottest month in Laos, particularly in the lowland areas.
- Temperatures can soar up to 40°C (104°F) in some regions.
- It is still relatively dry, but some areas may experience brief showers or thunderstorms.
- May marks the beginning of the wet season in Laos.
- Temperatures start to decrease slightly, ranging from 24°C (75°F) in the north to 34°C (93°F) in the south.
- Rainfall increases, with frequent showers and occasional heavy downpours.
- June is characterized by high humidity and rainfall.
- Average temperatures range from 24°C (75°F) in the north to 32°C (90°F) in the south.
- Rainfall is abundant, with frequent showers and thunderstorms.
- July continues the wet season in Laos.
- Temperatures remain relatively stable, ranging from 24°C (75°F) in the north to 32°C (90°F) in the south.
- Rainfall remains high, and occasional flooding may occur in some areas.
- August is still part of the wet season in Laos.
- Temperatures range from 24°C (75°F) in the north to 32°C (90°F) in the south.
- Rainfall continues to be significant, with occasional heavy showers and thunderstorms.
- September marks the end of the wet season in Laos.
- Temperatures start to decrease slightly, ranging from 23°C (73°F) in the north to 31°C (88°F) in the south.
- Rainfall begins to taper off, but some regions may still experience occasional showers.
- October is a transitional month in Laos as it transitions from the wet season to the dry season.
- Temperatures continue to decrease, ranging from 20°C (68°F) in the north to 29°C (84°F) in the south.
- The weather becomes drier, with less rainfall compared to previous months.
- November marks the beginning of the dry season in Laos.
- Temperatures range from 16°C (61°F) in the north to 27°C (81°F) in the south.
- The weather is generally dry, with minimal rainfall.
- December is one of the cooler months in Laos.
- Average temperatures range from 14°C (57°F) in the north to 25°C (77°F) in the south.
- It is relatively dry with low rainfall.
When is the best time of year to visit Laos?
Overall, the best time to visit Laos is typically during the dry season, which runs from November to April. This period is characterized by pleasant weather and lower chances of rainfall, making it ideal for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
However, the best time to visit Laos can vary depending on the specific travel activities you have in mind and the available time that you have for that holiday. If you really enjoy every moment when traveling, any time could be the best time to visit, here are some points for you to reference to prepare:
- The months of November to February are particularly popular among travelers. During this time, the weather is generally cool and comfortable, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). It’s a great time to explore cities like Luang Prabang and Vientiane, visit cultural sites, savor Laos street food, and engage in activities such as trekking, cycling, and boat cruises along the Mekong River.
- March and April mark the transition to the hot season, but they can still be good months to visit Laos if you don’t mind the slightly warmer temperatures. It’s best to plan outdoor activities in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the peak heat of the day.
- While the wet season, from May to October, brings more rainfall to Laos, it can still be a viable time to visit for certain travelers. The countryside becomes lush and green, and waterfalls and rivers are at their fullest. This period can be great for nature enthusiasts, as well as those interested in photography or experiencing the vibrant festivals that take place, such as the famous Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival) in May.
What to pack for your trip to Laos
From my own experience, it is necessary for you to bring along a light jacket or a wind jacket for all types of weather in Laos. It not only protects you from the rain but also from the extreme heat, especially when you ride on a motorbike or do a boat trip on the Mekong River. Do not forget to put on sunscreen; I am sure you do not want to get burned by the sun. Another item that is of great importance is insect spray because there are various falls in Laos, due to the tropical weather, you will probably find annoying insects in these areas.
Can weather conditions in Laos vary within different regions of the country?
Yes, weather conditions can vary within different regions of Laos. The northern regions, including Luang Prabang and the mountainous areas, tend to be cooler than the southern lowland regions. It’s important to check the specific weather forecast for your intended destination in Laos.
Is Laos very hot?
Yes, Laos can experience hot temperatures, particularly during the hot season, which typically occurs from April to May. In lowland areas, temperatures can reach as high as 40°C (104°F) during this period. The country’s tropical climate contributes to the overall heat and humidity throughout the year. However, temperatures can vary depending on the region and the time of year. In the cooler months of the dry season, from November to February, temperatures are generally milder and more comfortable for outdoor activities and sightseeing. It’s advisable to check the specific weather forecast for the time of your visit and plan accordingly to stay hydrated and protected from the sun.
When is the month to visit Laos?
The best month to visit Laos depends on your preferences and the specific experiences you are seeking:
- November to February: The most popular time to visit Laos with cooler temperatures and pleasant weather.
- November: Ideal for exploring cities like Luang Prabang and Vientiane, as well as trekking in northern regions.
- December to February: Cool and comfortable weather, perfect for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
- March to April: Transition to the hot season, temperatures rise but still manageable for exploring.
- May to October: Wet season with more rainfall, but the countryside becomes lush and green.
- May to August: Ideal for waterfall visits, river kayaking, and exploring caves.
- September to October: Decreasing rainfall, vibrant landscapes, good for trekking and rural exploration.
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Minh Vu – Travel Specialist