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When is the best time to visit Laos and Cambodia?

| Words by Rachel McCombie | , ,

Plan your trip to Laos and Cambodia with this handy guide to the seasons these two countries experience, and find out how the weather may affect your travel experience.

Overview: Best time to visit Laos & Cambodia

From the majestic ruins of Angkor to the colonial charm of Luang Prabang, there’s no shortage of remarkable places to visit in Cambodia and Laos. If you’re planning a multi-country tour, the good news is that the climate in these two countries is very similar, so deciding when to go should be fairly straightforward. To help you plan when to go, read this guide to find out how the weather might affect your experience of travelling to Cambodia and Laos at different times of year.

Map: When is the best time to visit Laos & Cambodia
Map: When is the best time to visit Laos & Cambodia

Laos and Cambodia’s Seasons

The weather in Southeast Asia is driven by a monsoonal climate, meaning that there are two seasons: dry and rainy. Both countries are warm all year round, and temperatures rarely drop lower than 20°C (68°F), but it’s worth knowing when the worst of the heat, humidity and rain will be so you can travel in comfort.

Key Highlights

  • November to February: the most popular time of year to visit Cambodia and Laos, with cooler temperatures and minimal rainfall
  • November to April: the best time for beachside relaxation and scuba diving on Cambodia’s south coast
  • March to May: oppressively hot temperatures and high humidity mean that this isn’t the best time to visit either Laos or Cambodia
  • May to October: rainy season brings afternoon showers, but greenery is lush and there are fewer tourists around
  • September/October: Luang Prabang enjoys dragon boat racing on the Nam Khan river

Dry Season - November to March/April

Dry season is warm to hot, perfect for a refreshing swim in Kuang Si Falls, near Luang Prabang in Laos.

Thanks to its warm, dry weather, Dry Season, unsurprisingly, also means high season for Laos and Cambodia, so if you’re planning a trip for this time you’ll need to be prepared for lots of tourists and higher accommodation prices. If you’re not keen on the heat, you’re best off visiting Laos and Cambodia in the earlier part of the Dry Season.

From November to March, temperatures in Vientiane, capital of Laos, range from about 17°C (63°F) to around 30°C (86°F), while average temperatures in Luang Prabang are 27°C (83°F). It’s a similar picture in Siem Reap in Cambodia, where Dry Season temperatures range from around 20°C (68°F) to the high 20s (high 80s). Between March and May, however, Laos and Cambodia get unpleasantly hot and humid, with temperatures sometimes reaching 38°C (100°F).

If you’re planning a beach getaway for part or indeed all of your trip, Cambodia’s south coast is wonderful from December to April, when there’s lots of sunshine and the water is clear (ideal if you’re interested in snorkelling or scuba diving). If you end up planning your trip for April, Luang Prabang is a great place to enjoy the New Year custom of water throwing, which offers some respite from the searing heat and humidity.

May to October

Afternoon storm clouds gather over Angkor Wat

As the name suggests, the Rainy Season is characterised by a marked increase in rainfall, but it’s not such a bad time to visit Laos and Cambodia as you might think. Rain tends to fall in short, sharp afternoon showers, which don’t tend to be too disruptive (you may actually find them quite refreshing). Peak rainfall in Phnom Penh happens in September and October, while the wettest months in Luang Prabang are June to August.

The rest of the time, it’s still nice and sunny, and while it may be muddier underfoot, there are fewer tourists, hotel rooms are cheaper, and the greenery of the countryside (especially the rice paddies) is at its most lush and vibrant. Tonle Sap - the largest lake in southeast Asia - is best visited between July and December, as water levels may restrict what parts of the lake you can visit outside these months.

Visiting the ruins of Angkor in Cambodia in rainy season, you’ll enjoy the majesty of the temples surrounded by moats that are full of water. If you’re thinking about a river cruise to explore Pakse and the 4000 Islands of southern Laos, rainy season is the time to do it; but take extra care if you head off in search of adventure among the limestone karsts of Vang Vieng in the north, as this is also the time of year when the Nam Song river flows four times faster than normal and footpaths may be slippery. Head to Luang Prabang in September or October and you might be lucky enough to witness the dragon boat racing that takes place at this time of year on the Nam Khan river.

Tip: at times, the heavy rains of Rainy Season do render certain rural parts harder to access, such as the unpaved roads of Cambodia’s Battambang in September and October. If you’re planning a trip ‘off the beaten track’ during rainy season, be sure to do your research carefully.