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Do's and Dont's in Laos

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Considering that Laos has been for many years secluded from the rest of the world, and in particular from the western culture, please read on to find out more about the do's and dont's for culturally sensitive travel in Laos (source: Lao National Tourism Authority).

  • The Lao word for hello is "sabai dee", usually said with a smile. Touching of showing affection in public will embarass your hosts.
  • Lao people traditionally greet each other by pressing their palm together to "nop", although it is acceptable for men to shake hands.
  • In Laos your head is "high", your feet "low". Using your feet for anything other than walking or playing sport is generaly considered rude.
  • Touching someone's head is very, very impolite.
  • Lao people appreciate clean and neatly dressed visitors.
  • Bathing nude in public is impolite.
  • Please remember to take your shoes off before entering a Lao person's home or temple.
  • Remember, your head is "high", your feet "low". It is polite to gently crouch down when passing somene who is seated. Never, ever stop over someone in your path.
  • Kissing and hugging in public is impolite, please be discrete.
  • Lao people speak softly and avoid confrontation. Please do not shout or raise your voice.
  • Before you take a photo of someone ask if it is OK.
  • Please do not distribute gifts to children as it encourages begging, but give to an established organization or village elders instead.
  • Try eating delicious Lao food whenever you can. It helps local business and Lao farmers.
  • Please show respect and dress neatly while in temples and when taking photos.
  • There are many other sacred items and sites in Laos, please don't touch or enter these places withouth permission.
  • Monks are revered and respected in Laos, however women should not touch a monk or a monk's robe.
  • 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 prevent forest fires.
  • Laos loses a little of its heritage every time an antique is taken out of the Country. Please do not buy antique buddhas or other sacred items. Instead, support local craftsmen by purchasing new, quality handicrafts.
  • The use of drugs is illegal in Laos. the consequences may be severe for you and Lao society.

Click here for a "cartoon" version of the do's and dont's in Laos (PDF file)

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