Laos

Laos is a country of peace that blessed with great natural beauty. Largely unspoiled, devotedly Buddhist and typical with ethnically diverse culture that not much changed over the centuries, this country will forever leave a lasting impression on all travellers. Laotians are hospitable, friendly and soft people. They have a very relaxed attitude to life. When you are in Rome, do as the Romans do. Compiled here are some tips that might be useful when you travel in the country. Please, help to protect the traditional values of Laos and its environment.

Laos responsible travel tips

Dos

  • A formal greeting for most Laos people is the “Nop” (joining one’s hands together in a praying gesture at chin level). Handshakes are also commonly used among male friends and with foreign visitors.
  • Learn some basic Laos phases and practice them with the locals you meet, they will be impressed and you will be well received. The Laos word for “hello” is “sabai dee”, say it with smile and you’ll be well received.
  • Before entering a local home, take your shoes off and leave them outside the house or on stairs. Do the same when you enter a temple or pagoda.
  • It is polite to gently crouch down when walking past someone who is seated, especially older people
  • In a Lao gathering, keep a low profile and you’ll maximize your chances of social success in Laos.
  • Laotians dress conservatively. Modest dress and discreet behaviour will ensure you don't attract unwanted attention or embarrass others. Show respect and dress neatly.
  • Dress neatly and show respect when entering religious grounds. Cover yourself from shoulders to knees, and take off hats   and shoes when entering buildings
  • Before taking a photo of someone, ask if it's OK.
  • Be clean and neat in appearance whenever possible. Bodily hygiene and cleanliness are of the highest standard in Lao and a visitor's failure to meet these standards is not well received.
  • Do consider leaving a small donation when visiting temples.
  • Support local economy. Use and enjoy little family business, purchasing handicrafts in markets or villages directly to support local artisans and their traditional crafts
  • Do respect the Laos' interpersonal space - there is little physical contact or closeness between individuals who are not family.
  • Most Lao people swim in rivers or waterfalls with at least shorts and a T-shirt. It is more polite to do this rather than walk around in swimsuits or bikinis. Also if you are in the country and have to bathe in the river in the evening, women should wear a sarong.

Don'ts

  • Don't, if you are a woman, touch monks, hand them objects, sit with or talk to them outside of temples. Any offerings need to pass through the hands of a man first.
  • Do not take pictures or disturb monks during praying times
  • Don't touch, climb or sit on statue nor take pictures posing with Buddha images.
  • Don't point your feet towards Buddha images or people. When sitting in a temple, keep legs together and to the side in a mermaid position.
  • Never raise your voice to Lao people as they never react well to it. Even shouting to friends or for taxis will cause shock and worry. Lao is a land of calm and patience, and shattering the peace will do you no favour.
  • The head is considered high. It is not acceptable to touch Lao people’s heads, so bear that in mind.
  • Raising your feet to head height, pointing at people with your feet or putting them on chair or table while seated is not acceptable and is taken as a deliberate insult or sign of barbarism.
  • Never ever step over someone in your path.
  • In Lao homes, don’t sit anywhere higher than the host do. If the host sits on the floor you should sit there as well.
  • Do not show affection in public.
  • Do not distribute gifts such as candy to children as it encourages begging, but give to an established organisation a school, monastary/temple/kyaung or village elder instead.
  • Do not get involve in any thing illegal like prostitution, drug nor buy stuffs from wild animal, endangered species neither buy antique or other sacred items.
Laos responsible travel tips