If you are traveling to Laos, whether for a short visit or for a longer stay, it is important to know what you should or should not do in this country. Foreigners can sometimes find it difficult to navigate Laotian cultural norms, especially new visitors. Knowing what could be considered offensive to the Laotian can help avoid trouble and embarrassment.
The Lao word for Hello is ‘Sa Bai Dee’, usually said with a smile. Touching or showing affection in public will embarrass your hosts.
Lao people traditionally greet each other by pressing their palms together to ‘Nop’, although it is acceptable for men to shake hands.
In Laos your head is ‘high’, your feet is ‘low’. Using your feet for anything other than walking or playing sport is generally considered rude.
Touching someone’s head is very, very impolite.
Lao people appreciate clean and neatly dressed visitors.
Bathing nude in public is impolite.
- Good visitors
Try eating delicious Lao food whenever you can, it helps local business and Lao farmers.
Laos loses a little of its heritage every time an antique is taken out of the country. Please do not buy antique Buddha or other sacred items. Instead, support local craftsmen by purchasing new, quality handicrafts.
- In Laos house
Please remember to take your shoes off before you enter a Lao person’s home.
Remember, your head is ‘high’, your feet ‘low’. It is polite to gently crouch down when passing someone who is seated. Never, ever step over someone in your path.
Please show respect and dress neatly while in temples and when taking photos.
There are many sacred items and sites in Laos. Please do not touch or enter these places without permission.
Monks are revered and respected in Laos; however women should not touch a monk or a monk’s robes.
Please help to keep Laos clean and beautiful by not leaving litter. Picking up rubbish sets a good example for Lao youth.
The illegal sale of wildlife and wildlife products endangers many species native to Laos. Help protect Lao wildlife by refusing to buy wildlife products.
Please help preventing forest fires.
The use of drugs is illegal in Laos. The consequences may be severe for you and Lao society.