When is the Best Time to Visit Laos
A small landlocked country in Southeast Asia’s Indochinese Peninsula, Laos is an amazing place to visit at any time of year. A country that is subject to the effects of the monsoon seasons, laos has only two seasons in a year, the wet season and the dry season. And while it may not sound nice, with its hot and humid climate and daily downpours, even the wet season has its benefits when traveling in Laos.
Officially known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Laos lies between Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southwest, and Thailand to the west and southwest, while Myanmar and China dominate the northwestern border. The history of the modern Lao people dates back to around the 14th century, and the rise of the Lan Xang Hom Khao, which means the “Kingdom of a Million Elephants Under the White Parasol”. One of the largest kingdoms in Southeast Asian history, the Lan Xang lasted for more than 400 years, and was a hub for trade with the surrounding nations.
travel in Laos
After the breakdown of the kingdom in the 18th century, it was reunited by the French as part of Indochina in the 19th century, and was given its freedom again in 1953. Despite having spent almost two decades in a civil war, Laos has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, with more than 5 million visitors a year being attracted to its simple, yet beautiful lands and people. Small wonder the tourism slogan for the country is “Simply Beautiful”.
Seasons in Laos
Laos has a very straightforward weather system, and is probably the simplest in Southeast Asia, with very defined seasonal changes. Although it only has two seasons, wet and dry, four of the months in the year are known locally as their “summer”. March to June are the hottest months, and span the change of seasons from dry to wet.
The Wet Season
The rainy season in Laos runs from May to October, and can make a real mess of the roads around the country, with many of the smaller roads turning to mud and becoming impassable. Temperatures can get a little hot in the wet season, and the air is more humid, with rainfall starting off intermittent and becoming heavier and more regular as the season progresses.
From March to June are the hottest months of the year, when temperatures can soar as high as 35 degrees in the heat of the day. The northern areas of Laos are cooler than the southern areas due to the increased elevation, and from May onwards the rains start to fall intermittently, mainly occurring in the late afternoon. As the season moves on towards July, the rains get heavier and more consistent, although there is still that tendency to happen mostly in the afternoons and evenings, giving you all morning to travel around without getting wet. Temperatures drop a little, and sit at around 30 degrees for the remainder of the monsoon, with the exception of the Bolaven Plateau in the south where it remains much cooler.
The peak of the rainy season is in August, and the country can be a bit of a washout, with mudslides and damaged roads making travel harder. The landscape becomes even greener and more lush with vegetation and foliage, while the southern waterfalls burst forth with torrents of water from the floods and heavy rains. However, come September, the rains start to ease off, and the sun returns to shine on the land, making it drier and better for hiking than it has been for months. The shimmering waterfalls and lush landscape make September and October a prime time to travel in Laos, and the stunning natural scenery, with the flowing waterfalls and swollen Mekong River make for an exciting adventure.
The Dry Season
The dry season normally runs from November to April, and is the cooler of the two seasons in Laos. Roads dry up from the rainy season and become a little more dusty than ever, while the sun shines through daily and the temperatures drop to between 17 and 29 degrees, with the cooler areas being in the north. Very little rain is seen in the dry season, making the lush foliage turn brown and start to wither under the intense sun.
The beginning of the dry season, in November and December, are prime times to visit for the river life of Laos. The swollen rivers from the rains have subsided a little, making riverboat travel very popular, and Mekong River Tours are one of the most popular attractions in Vientiane during the last months of the year.
January and February are the driest months, with comfortable temperatures and good travel conditions. Hiking becomes a major tourist attraction in the northern hills and mountains, where the weather is even cooler and the sunlight a little less intense. However, nighttime temperatures can get a little chilly for some, with lows at night of around 5-7 degrees, so wrapping up warm at night is a good idea, especially if you are on a river journey.
The last months of the dry season, in march and April, are when it gets hotter, in preparation for the wet season and the monsoons. Temperatures start to climb quickly, reaching highs of around 30 degrees within a few weeks. If you are not a fan of the heat, then head north to the higher elevations to retain a little cooler weather and continuous trekking in the hills.
When to Travel
When to travel to Laos really depends on what you are traveling there to see. The weather system in Laos is simple and straightforward, with two simple seasons, wet and dry. With no coastline, the seasons are clear and you can almost set your calendar by the dates of the seasonal changes. Also, with majority of the country being at a higher altitude than most of its neighbors, the climate is greatly affected in the higher areas, making the monsoon less wet and the temperatures a little cooler than majority of Asia’s sub-tropical countries.
Despite having severe monsoon rains in July and August, there is much to do in the country during the wet season, and it can be the best time to visit the larger cities such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Vang Vieng. However, the dry season is definitely the best time to visit, as you will have no problems getting around the country. During that time, November to February is obviously the optimal time to travel, with temperatures that are cooler, but still in the mid to high 20s, which makes travel and sightseeing more comfortable. Once the heat and humidity of the tail end of the dry season starts, then heading north is the best bet, where it does not get quite as hot.
One of the single most popular times to travel to Laos is during Bun Pi Mai, the Laotian New Year, which normally happens in early April. The celebrations of the New Year last for around a week, and it is also known as the Water Festival and is similar in form and tradition to its more well-known Thai counterpart, Songkran. But you should be prepared to get very wet if you travel to Laos then, as the chances of staying dry when you go out are almost zero. Locals and tourists alike celebrate the end of the dry season with water fights across the entire country, and everyone has a water gun or buckets of water, including the police, who happily join in the fun.
Majority of the festivals in Laos occur during the dry season, with the exception of a few traditional Buddhist festivals and ceremonies that have the same general date throughout Buddhism in Asia. With more festivals to attend during the dry season, there is much more attraction for tourists to the country, and there is the chance to spend more time outside and in the countryside, exploring the amazing landscape of this unique country.
However, the dry season is the peak season for tourism in Laos, and can be more expensive, although costs in the country are relatively low compared to many tourist destinations around the world. If you want more spend for you bucks, then the low season is the better time to come. May to August can be very hot, very humid, and very wet, so they are not idea, although once September comes, the rains ease off and the temperatures drop, making the tail end of the rainy season a good time to come to Laos for a cheaper vacation. There are also less people in the country in September and October, making it easier to get around seeing the main tourist attractions without the crowds.
You can also get some discounts on certain hotels and guesthouses in many of the major areas for tourism, as the limited numbers force them to lower their prices to get a chance with the lesser numbers of people staying there. In the far north, where the weather is always cooler and less wet, you will find that there is very little difference in the prices, but you do benefit more from the peace and tranquility that limited tourists can give you.
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