Do’s and Dont’s in Laos

Laos is a culturally sensitive than most of the western countries. Here is a guide on how to behave sensibly in public and get appreciation of the locals.

  • Greet any one you see with a smile and the word for hello in Lao language is Sabai Dee. Do not hug or kiss anyone in public, but you can shake hand with the people of the same gender.
  • The traditional way of greeting each other in Laos in press your palms against each other and bow your head a little.
  • The head holds a very high importance in Laos culture and the feet is the lowest importance. Do not sit or sleep in a position where your feet is on a higher level than your head. Also avoid picking up things with your feet.  And remember to not touch anyone’s head.
  • Do not wear clothes that reveal too much. The society is conservative and cover your legs and arms specially women.
  • When you are invited to a person’s house, remove your shoes outside the door. It is polite to gift the host in case you are invited for a lunch or dinner.
  • When some one is seated on your path do not walk or jump over them. Politely ask them to give a way with a smile.
  • Do not kiss and hug in public. It is impolite being romantic with your partner in public.
  • The religion and culture of Lao believe in faith. Do not shout at them or confront them.
  • Before you take photos of people or any temple as for permission.
  • Though Laos is poor, it is not a good action to distribute sweets or chocolates or money among the children. It encourages begging. Instead handover your gift to the elders and ask them to give to the children.
  • Try to buy food and any other things from the local people. It encourages local business.
  • When you are in a temple dress neatly, avoid talking in high volume, show respect to their culture and ask permission before you take pictures. Do not touch the statues or other items in a temple. They are sacred.
  • Do not touch a monk or his robes especially women. Be polite and do not photograph without permission.
  • Do not buy any illegal wildlife or products made from wildlife. If someone try to sell you illegal products pass on the information to the police.
  • Do not export antiques from Laos. Every time an antique is exported Laos looses a part of its history and culture. Instead buy products from local craftsmen.

Sai Karthik Reddy Mekala

Karthik Reddy has been traveling around the world since completing his M.B.A in 2012. He is passionate about photography, trying out new food, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures and explore places solo.

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