It is best to travel Laos between October and March, when the weather is warm and dry. The river travel is best between November and January, when the high water levels make passage easy along the Mekong River – Laos’ main waterway. The geography of Laos plays a major part in shaping the climate here, cool temperature often found in the highlands in northern, eastern and central of the country.

 

Most of the rains come between May and September, that brings the green color back to the country though showers are usually short and sharp. During this time of the year, waterfalls begin to flow and lush scenery attracts wildlife, and the country comes to life.

Guide to Traveling in Laos

Dominated by the Asian monsoon, Laos’ temperatures are generally high year-round. However, the country experiences cold periods in winter from October to March.

January through February is dry season in Laos, promising premium traveling conditions through the country. As with most Southeast Asian countries, cooler seasons will bring a larger number of tourists. In Laos, the situation is no different - larger crowds mean hotel and vendor prices will be higher.

Luang Prabang and Vientiane experience pleasant and moderate temperatures at the average of 20°C (68°F) and 24°C (75°F), whilst in Pakse and the 4000 islands in southern Laos, it is slightly warmer at average temperature at 26°C (81°F).

Dry days and relatively cool temperatures make February an ideal month for trekking in the remote northern mountains, such as Luang Namtha, Muang La and Phongsali. In Phongsali, for example, temperatures can dip to as low as 7°C (45°F). If you are heading to those destinations this time of the year, suitable warm clothing is recommended.

On the Mekong River via Pakbeng, it can still be chilly at night and in the early mornings with average temperature at 15°C (59°F). In the south, Pakse city of Champasak province sees the highest average temperature at 26°C (81°F).

Average temperatures in cities:

Phongsali Luang Prabang Vientiane Champasak
15°C/ 59°F 20°C/ 68°F 24°C/ 75°F 26°C/ 81°F

 

HOLIDAYS & EVENTS

  • End of January - Laos Food Festival: an annual event in the capital of Vientiane, brings almost 200 vendors to the streets. The largest food festival in the country, it shows all forms of produce including the iconic laap (famous Laos’ traditional dish) - a zesty meat salad flavored with garlic and lime - and a spirit of entrepreneurship among women.  

  • Boun Pha Vet: This temple centered festival celebrates the birth of Prince Vessanthara, the Buddha's penultimate existence. The birth story of Buddha is recited, and this is the favored time for Lao men to become ordained as a monk. Festivities are staggered between villages so that different villages can visit one another to their celebrations.

  • Full Moon, February - Boun Ma Kha Bu Saar: This celebration commemorates a speech given by the Buddha, in which he laid down the first monastic regulations and predicted his own death. The speech was heard by 1250 enlightened monks who arrived without prior summons. The festival is to celebrate with chanting and presenting offering carious Vat throughout the country, its biggest celebrations take place at the Khmer ruins of Vat Phu, Champasack.

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January 29 - Wat Phu Festival: This religious festival is held at the pre-Angkorian Wat Phu site every year in Champasak province, about 10-hour drive south of Vientiane. A trade fair of products from the southern province of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam is also held 3-5 days prior. Wat Phu is the most famous Hindu temple complex built in Laos under the Khmer Empire is one of Laos' world heritage sites.

As dry season draws to a close, March sees the temperatures gradually rise throughout Laos with higher humidity.

The northern regions of Luang Namtha and Phongsali are still enjoying cooler weather and favorable trekking conditions, at average temperature at 23°C (73°F). The verdant mountains surrounding Luang Prabang see the be average temperature at 26°C (81°F).

However, the low elevation destinations in Laos, such as the capital Vientiane, will be hot at average temperatures of 28°C (82°F). Pakse and the 4000 Islands region in the south will be warmer at the average of 30°C (86°F). 

April is typically one of the hottest months of the year in the country. This is the final month of Laos' dry season, days are typically sunny and rain-free. This Towards the end of the April, showers become more likely as the wet season approaches, especially in the northern regions around Phongsali, although these tend to be infrequent and short lived and won’t affect travel.

Driving through the hot and humid countryside of Laos during March and April, it will be hard not to notice a thick haze hanging in the air. Farmers are burning their farmland to make space for the next round of crops.

Mekong River Levels

Months of minimal rainfall mean the river levels are low at this time of year, making river cruising particularly problematic. 

In recent years, water levels on certain stretches of the Mekong River have reached record lows in February & March. This is not simply due to lower rainfall and global warming, but because of eight new Chinese ‘super-dams’ stemming the water flow to ensure a plentiful water supply to regions of China outside the Mekong River’s natural basin.

The result of this damming is that the river's fish stocks are declining dramatically in the lower Mekong countries, with other wildlife expected to become quickly over-hunted as a result. At this time a typically disappointing amount of international pressure is being applied to China, to exercise more stringent control on their damming procedure, to ensure the countries of the lower Mekong receive acceptable levels of water.

Average temperatures in cities:

Phongsali Luang Prabang Vientiane Champasak
20°C/ 68°F 26°C/ 79°F 28°C/ 82°F 30°C/ 86°F

 

HOLIDAYS & EVENTS

  • March 22 - Day of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party: The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party is a communist political party that has governed Laos since 1975. The party originates from the Indochinese Communist Party founded in 1930. Originally the ICP was entirely Vietnamese, but in 1936 a small “Lao section” was founded then developed into a communist resistance movement known as the Pathet Lao. This day is holiday in Laos. No specific demonstration, but all the administrations are closed.

  • April 14 - Laotian New Year: Lao New Year is a popular English name for a traditional celebration known in Laos as "Pi Mai" or "Songkran" (in Lao language).

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Laotian New Year is arguably the largest celebration in the country. For up to a week in larger cities, Laotians celebrate the breaking of the dry season by washing homes, Buddha statues, and each other in water. It’s not uncommon to see domesticated animals running free in town - as a way to build merit in the Buddhist tradition, people will set their animals free. This is also a great time to see some of Laos’ most beautiful cultural dance routines, including the majestic “lamvong”, or “circle dance.”

May through June is a part of the rainy season in Laos, when short and intense showers drop a deluge of water in the course of hours and quickly replaced by blue skies.

The rainfall is heavier the higher you are, and the return of the rains means the countryside is becoming more lush and green. Areas near the rivers such as Vientiane, will experience less rainfall than in the mountains in the north.

Temperatures remain high, with Luang Prabang and Vientiane experiencing average temperatures of 28°C (82°F) and 30°C (86°F), whilst further south in Pakse and the 4000 Islands in Champasak also see the average of 30°C (86°F). 

Avoid the short and heavy showers, you will find that May and June are still a great months of the year to visit Laos as plenty of sunshine can still be expected, and visitor numbers are lower than previous months.

Average temperatures in cities:

Phongsali Luang Prabang Vientiane Champasak
26°C/ 79°F 28°C/ 82°F 30°C/ 86°F 30°C/ 86°F

 

HOLIDAYS & EVENTS

  • Late May - Vixakha Bouxa: is a celebration of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death. Floats depicting the Buddha, often in glowing gold and light, are solemnly driven down the streets of cities and towns. Monks will also travel to receive alms from worshipers.

  • Various Dates in June - the Rocket Festival: is a merit-making ceremony traditionally practiced by ethnic Lao people. Celebrations typically include preliminary music and dance performances, competitive processions of floats, dancers and musicians on the second day, and culminating on the third day in competitive firings of home-made rockets.

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The Rocket Festival, or “Boun Bang Fai” in the Lao language, is a Buddhist celebration of fertility rites. Along with skies alight from fireworks and rockets—marked with phallic symbolism - large processions of women and men in brightly-colored garments perform ornate dances down the streets. Larger cities, such as Vientiane, become an ecstatic cacophony of music for days. 

July and August are the wettest months of the year in Laos, west season reaches its peak in August. However, showers tend to be short and intense, lasting for a few hours rather than all-day downpours, and plenty of dry days can still be expected.

In the northern mountain areas such as Phongsali and Muang Sing, the heavy rain can make travelling around fairly difficult and tracks may become unpassable, with risk of landslides in some areas. If it is “off the trail”, it’s best avoided in August.

Luang Prabang and Vientiane see the average temperatures at 26°C (79°F) and 29°C (84°F) respectively. Southern highlights such as the 4000 Islands remain accessible by boat, with the waterfalls at their best.

Backpackers tend to travel at this time to Laos, and the rest of Southeast Asia, as tourism is experiencing a lull. Expect to see some American and European tourists taking advantage of the low season’s prices, when tourism dollars will go far in July and August.

Average temperatures in cities:

Phongsali Luang Prabang Vientiane Champasak
25°C/ 77°F 26°C/ 79°F 29°C/ 84°F 27°C/ 81°F

 

HOLIDAYS & EVENTS

  • Mid-late July to early October: Boun Khao Pansa - otherwise known as Buddhist Lent, is a time for reflection, alms-giving, and meditation. For three months, many devout Buddhists will refrain from drinking alcohol, take more time to reflect on their lives, and give supplies and food to monks. Monks will not leave their temple once for the three-month period.  

  • End of August: Boun Ho Khao Pad Abdine - known as the Laotian “Day of the Dead,” brings Buddhists from all over the country to the temples bearing offerings. On one level a chance to build merit by offering food to the monks, people also ask the monks to make special offerings to their ancestors. Taking place for about two weeks, some mornings are marked with energetic drum music and splendid feasts. 

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As the rainy season is in full swing, the rivers and waterfalls of the country will be flowing strong. Just outside of Luang Prabang, Kuang Si Waterfall is an almost dreamlike collection of turquoise falls, nestled in a jungle clearing. At full flow, you can bathe under the main falls, a welcome respite to the heat and humidity. 

Dry season approaches the intense downpours as September rolls on, the rain becomes more infrequent and less severe while sunshine gradually replaces overcast skies.

The country sees a landscape lush with both green vegetation and flowers, preparing for tourism season hits hard in the region. The lush green countryside around Vang Vieng and Muang La is at its most picturesque in September, and the waterfalls around the 4000 Islands at their most impressive. 

Temperatures begin to drop slightly in September, with averages of 25°C (77°F) and 28°C (82°F) experienced in Luang Prabang and Vientiane, 27°C (82°F) in Pakse and other southern provinces.

Laos' wet season finally draws to an end in October, with a higher chance of dry days towards the end of the month. All-in-all October is a good time of year to visit Laos and beat the crowds, who flock back from November.

Street markets will be in full swing for their own local populations, so you’ll experience good prices and an authentic experience. Try a spicy bowl of papaya salad, a delicacy in Laos.

Average temperatures in cities:

Phongsali Luang Prabang Vientiane Champasak
24°C/ 75°F 25°C/ 77°F 28°C/ 82°F 27°C/ 81°F

 

HOLIDAYS & EVENTS

  • Mid-September - Boun Khao Salak: a celebration of the dead, brings many to their local temple to pray and bring offerings to the monks.

  • October 13 - Wan Ok Phansa: Boun Ok Phansa, the end of “Buddhist Lent”, is a national public holiday in Laos. It takes place sometime in October 13, 2019, near the end of the rainy season, and coincides with various boat racing festivals and other festive events.

MUST SEE

Wan Ok Phansa marks the end of Vassa, or Buddhist Lent. Boats made of paper are illuminated with colored candles and set down the Mekong River on a moonless night. The light can be seen for miles, and fireworks downriver light up the sky, reflecting on the water in a dream-like scene.

Tourism season is in full swing in November and December in Laos, meaning the larger cities - and many of the most popular attractions in and around them - will be crowded.

Following several months of rain, the countryside is lush and green, and river levels remain high, making November a great month for river cruising. While cosmopolitan areas of Laos will be less desirable, cruising along the robust Mekong yields a relaxing ride in comfortable temperatures. Laos’ lakes and waterfalls are at full power this time of year.

Alternately, trekking the northern highlands is also more enjoyable. Travelers to Laos tend to congregate around the cities - this could be a great time to see the natural side of the country while enjoying the serenity of the Laotian countryside.

Pleasant average temperatures hover around 19°C (66°F) in Vientiane and 24°C (75°F) Luang Prabang, and 25°C (77°F) in Pakse and the 4000 Islands. Peak temperatures are not expected until March. 

December is one of the best months of the year to visit Laos. Throughout the country, days are typically dry and sunny, and the temperatures make travelling comfortable. A higher number of visitors should be expected at the main tourist sites.

Favorable weather conditions make for enjoyable trekking in Muang La and Phongsali, and safe caving and rock-climbing in Vang Vieng. With minimal chance of rainfall and plenty of sunshine, the 4000 Islands are the place to head for R&R, although if it’s a beach you’re looking for then you may wish to consider southern Vietnam, which is easily reached from Laos.

Average temperatures in cities:

Phongsali Luang Prabang Vientiane Champasak
17°C/ 62°F 19°C/ 66°F 24°C/ 75°F 25°C/ 77°F

 

HOLIDAYS & EVENTS

  • Late November - Boun That Luang: which celebrates the Pha That Luang temple in Vientiane, brings thousands of Theravada Buddhists to the monument. As the most important symbol of Buddhism in the country, worshipers bring alms-giving bowls filled with offerings to the gleaming golden stupa, and circle the monument with bowed heads in reverence to its meaning.

  • December 2 - National Day: celebrates the country’s independence from France in 1953. Expect massive military parades in Vientiane.

  • December 31 - Hmong New Year: The Hmong in Laos is an ethnic group taking roots in some regions of China and Vietnam. In Laos, the Hmong people mostly inhabit the northern parts of the country and can be easily distinguished by their language and clothes. Luang Prabang and nearby Hmong villages are great places to participate, the festival lasts for three days and according to the tradition of "Noj Peb Caug" ten different dishes of food are prepared for each day.

MUST SEE

  • The Mekong River is alive with life at this time. Taking a boat ride down the river—especially with a trained guide—will yield great sightseeing and bountiful flora-spotting. With time for the rains to settle, the vegetation has truly begun to mature into what many consider its most beautiful season.

  • The rice harvest begins in December. In the countryside, thousands of acres covered in marshy green paddies can make for especially pleasant back roads travel. Being in the countryside is probably best, as most tourists are crowding into Vientiane and other major cities. 

  • Hmong New Year, celebrated by the Hmong people of Laos, brings all the resplendent colors they’re known for to the fore. Dancers wrapped in robes of ornate design and shining hues sing songs in elaborate displays of cultural pride. One of the celebration’s biggest highlights is Hmong storytelling—from legend and myth steeped in animist beliefs to struggles of the modern day during the Vietnam War, much of the Hmong culture is designed to preserve the past.

“A bit similar to Vietnam, Laos is best to visit between October and April, when daytime temperatures are agreeably warm, evenings are slightly chilly and the countryside is green and lush after the rains. Cruises in Laos are best between November and January, when it is not hot and the water levels along the Mekong River are high enough to pass through by boat.”

Pham Tuyen, Laos Travel Expert