Laos is one of those mysterious countries that nobody seems to know too much about. The big questions that get asked are "is the 's' silent or not?" - it is - and "what's the best time of year to go to Laos?"
Well here's the answer to the latter question. In general Laos has a pretty straightforward tropical climate. Hot, humid and wet in the rainy season, hot, humid and sunny in the dry season. The dry season runs from November to around April, and the wet season from May to late October.
However...the more complex answer to the question is that it's not only about weather. It's also about festivals, river levels and even farming patterns...
Here's a month by month breakdown of the best time to go to Laos:
December and January
These are correctly regarded as the best months to visit, but everyone else knows this too so you can't really escape the crowds (it's Laos though - crowds not a big deal yet). Bright, sunny, warm, usually cloudless, this is justifiably the highest of the high season.
This is generally bracketed with December and January as the high season - and in reality it is. However...you will notice the countryside drying up reasonably significantly in the latter half of the month, river levels might go down fast in a low rainfall year. On the plus side there's the Wat Phou Festival in the south! At any rate, it's not as green as you might think as we close in on…
You're still paying high season rates, but nobody has explained that river levels are now pretty low and that boat trip you want to take is not 100% guaranteed as a result. The countryside is looking distinctly un-green and a bit parched, but it's still hot, dry and sunny and there's the rice harvest festival (Baci ceremonies are traditionally performed now). One slight downside of the harvest is the way the replanting is done - by slash-and-burn techniques. This creates a smoky haze in the air from around mid-March onwards.
A month for mad dogs and Englishmen. Hot, humid, sometimes quite unforgiving, river levels are low...but there's always Lao New Year! That haze is still hanging around though.
This is technically the start of the wet season, but the rains come when they come, so May can be a lot like April, or a lot like June…
Now you're getting rain. But - hardly anyone knows this unless they've lived in the region - the rain doesn't fall like it falls in the Indian Monsoon (the archetype of the tropical downpour). It falls for perhaps an hour or two each day, usually in the late afternoon and that's it. Otherwise it's often quite dry, and even quite sunny. Greenness returns to soothe the eye, and the river levels increase again for those keen on boat travel. A general note on the effects of rain in Laos - it will make excursions into the countryside difficult and occasionally dangerous. Stick to the main towns and rivers.
July and August
Are much like June.
This is traditionally the "worst" month - cloudy and overcast, rainy every day for a little longer than in June or July, and without much going on. But that's when you'll get everything to yourself.
October and November
November is usually bracketed as the high season, but it's more like October really. It is the best overall month for visiting Laos in our opinion - no problem with river levels, greenery everywhere, quite a bit of sunshine and warmth and not too many tourists. October is wetter, but if you stick to the main towns and rivers it's still fun.
So there you have it, a month by month breakdown of the best time to visit Laos.
Make it happen
If you want to plan a Laos holiday, speak to one of our local experts. All our trips are private and can be tailor-made to your requirements and dates. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, call 0117 325 7898