General Advice - show respect and use your
head and eyes and common sense will guide you
well in navigating Lao culture safely.
When in Laos, try and do as the as the Lao do
and remember; don't touch heads, don't loose
your cool with people and don't flash your
flesh. The rest is about manners, shoes left
outside, accepting hosts' greetings and not
upsetting religious feelings.
The Lao are very friendly and hospitable and a
minimum effort will make your trip smooth and
Respect the culture and you will earn its
respect in turn.
a kiss or embrace from a stranger
is insulting and humiliating. Traditionally,
Lao people use the 'NOP' on meeting and using
it will win you instant friends if performed
How to use the 'NOP'?
Raise your hands in a praying gesture. The
higher you go, the more respect you show, but
don't be over the top!
A handshake will suffice, but try to use the
Lao greeting of 'Sabai Dee'.
Public displays of affection are taboo in Lao
society, so don't cause shock or embarrassment
by kissing or cuddling in front of people.
Modest dress and discreet behaviour will
ensure you don't attract unwanted attention or
Foot and Head
In Buddhism and general Asian
society, the head is very important to the
souls and its purity, while the feet walk the
earth and all that is deposited on it. Raising
your feet to headheight, putting them on
furniture or pointing with them is taken as a
deliberate insult or sign of barbarism.
Don't gesture with your feet or touch an Asian
head. You would be asking for trouble.
Here, as in all things, check out what local
people do with their feet and shoes and try to
- 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 favours.
- Bodily hygiene and cleanliness
are of the highest standard in Lao and a
visitor's failure to meet these standards is
not well received. Wash yourself and your
clothes daily or prepare to be laughed at and
In a Lao House - Shoes are generally no-go
indoors. Use your eyes and common sense to
maximise your chances of social success.
Keep your head and general profile low at
Particularly when passing by older people
respect should be seen to be shown!
- Religion is a major part of daily life and
remains the practice of the massive majority.
Show respect in temples and shrines, watching
how locals behave in such places. Dress neatly
when visiting temples and religious shrines.
You should never go shirtless, or in shorts,
miniskirts or hot pants.
It is acceptable to wear shoes when walking
around a temple compound, but not inside the
chapel where the principal Buddha image is
kept. Visitors are welcome to relax and be
peaceful in all temples.
Every Buddha image is regarded as a sacred
object, no matter how big, small, old or new.
Never climb onto a buddah image to take a
photograph or do anything which might indicate
a lack of respect.
Keep your head lower than the buddahs and
monks. Buddhist priests must not be touched by
a woman or to accept anything from the hand of
one. If a woman gives anything to a monk, she
first hands it to a man, who then presents it.
Don't turn your back on a buddah.
Environment - You will rarely be alone in
Laos, even when you seem to be, and pollution
is not well received.
Bins are scarce, so use your plastic bags to
return rubbish to towns or villages.
- the penalties may be severe for you and even
worse for the Lao society.