Lao people are frank, open and friendly, and they possess a strongly developed sense of courtesy and respect. Everyone who adheres to the latter will receive a warm welcome.

The generally accepted form of greeting among Lao people is the nop. It is performed by placing one’s palm together in a position of praying at chest level, but not touching the body. The higher the hands, the greater the sign of respect. Nonetheless, the hands should not be held above the level of nose. The nop is accompanied by a slight bow to show respect to persons of higher status and age. It is also used as an expression of thanks, regret or saying good-bye. But with western people it is acceptable to shake hands.

When entering a vat or a private home it is customary to remove one’s shoes. In Lao homes raised off the ground, the shoes are left at the stairs. In traditional homes one sits on low seats or cushions on the floor. Men usually sit with their legs crossed or folded to one side, women prefer solely the latter. Upon entering guests may be served fruit or tea. These gestures of hospitality should not be refused.

Since the head is considered the most sacred part of the body and the soles of the feet the least, one should not touch a person’s head nor use one’s foot to point at a person or any object. Moreover men and women rarely show affection in public. It is also forbidden for a woman to touch a Buddhist monk.

Do’s and Dont’s in Laos

Do's and Don'ts in Laos

The Lao word for hello is “sabai dee”, usually said with a smile. Touching or showing affection in public will embarrass your hosts.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 1

Lao people traditionally greet each other by pressing their palm together to “nop”, although it is acceptable for men to shake hands.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 2

In Laos your head is “high”, your feet “low”. Using your feet for anything other than walking or playing sport is generally considered rude.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 3

Touching someone’s head is very, very impolite.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 4

Lao people appreciate clean and neatly dressed visitors.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 5

Bathing nude in public is impolite.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 6

Please remember to take your shoes off before entering a Lao person’s home or temple.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 7

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.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 8

Kissing and hugging in public is impolite, please be discrete.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 9

Lao people speak softly and avoid confrontation. Please do not shout or raise your voice.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 10

Before you take a photo of someone ask if it is OK.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 11

Please do not distribute gifts to children as it encourages begging, but give to an established organization or village elders instead.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 12

Try eating delicious Lao food whenever you can. It helps local business and Lao farmers.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 13

Please show respect and dress neatly while in temples and when taking photos.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 14

There are many other sacred items and sites in Laos, please don’t touch or enter these places without permission.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 15

Monks are revered and respected in Laos, however women should not touch a monk or a monk’s robe.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 16

Please help to keep Laos clean and beautiful by not leaving litter. Picking up rubbish sets a good example for Lao youth.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 17

The illegal sale of wildlife and wildlife products endangers many species native to Laos. Help protect Lao wildlife by refusing to buy wildlife products.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 18

Please help prevent forest fires.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 19

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.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 20

The use of drugs is illegal in Laos. the consequences may be severe for you and Lao society.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 21

Sex tourism is illegal in Lao PDR and child-sex tourism is a serious crime. Please help protect children in Laos from sexual abuse and exploitation by reporting suspicious behavior.

Do's and Don'ts in Laos rule 22

Source: Lao National Tourism Authority