When in Laos, try to adopt the same behaviour as the locals; the rest is about common sense and manners. Locals really are friendly and hospitable.


  • Do not kiss in public areas, do not touch the head and use your feet only for walking. Keep in mind that ladies cannot have physical contacts with monks.
  • When taking pictures, always ask permission first, as some people believe you are stealing their soul.
  • Always fix the price before buying an object or a service, and a polite refusal is always enough when you don’t need a service.
  • Don’t give candies, pens, books or money to kids and adults as it encourages begging and incites hanging around tourists rather than going to school. We provide you here with many ways to support the locals, and there are also many good organisations which support schools and hospitals.
  • Support the local economy to allow a better distribution of revenues. Please do not buy products that damage natural and cultural heritage, and bargaining with a smile is part of the game. Bottled water is safe to drink and is available throughout the country
  • When trekking or biking follow the trails to preserve the environment and never touch and feed wild animals. Look with your eyes, take with your mind, and leave things in their natural environement. When caving do not touch anything, as it took centuries to form.
  • Rubbish should be collected to be thrown away in town (keep the packaging at home) and be careful not to use chemical products besides water areas.
  • Wear correct and proper clothes and avoid getting stripped to the waist or wearing skin tight clothes, avoid bikinis in bathing areas where locals are, look at them as they bathe with all their clothes on! In religious places, you should cover knees and shoulders while shoes should be taken off.
  • Respect the laws; not knowing them doesn’t allow you to break them. Drugs are totally prohibited in Laos and the penalties can be severe. Sexual relationships with locals without being married are forbidden.
  • Always keep your cool, as it doesn’t help to get angry.

Learn some Lao expressions, as people appreciate when you make an effort to learn their language. Don’t be offended if you are a curiosity for some locals.

Basic Vocabulary

Sabai dii – Hello
Tjao sabai dii bor? –  Hello, how are you ?
Khop tjai – Thank you
Thao dai? – How much ?
Bor – No
Tjao – Yes
Dii – good
Bor dii – bad
Bor pen nyang – never mind / no problem
Tjak moong hao pai ? – what time do we go ?
Meu nii – today
Meu eun – tomorrow
Meu laeng nii – this evening
Toon sao – in the morning
Hong nam you sai ? – where is the bathroom ?
Khoi yark pai ban phak (Vayakone) – I want to go to the (Vayakone) guesthouse
Lao tjep – he is hurt
Lao thong pai hong mor – he has to go to the hospital
Thanh mor – doctor
Talat sao – morning market
Haan ahaarn – restaurant
Sentanthi lot maer – bus station
Sanam bin – airport
Khor beer neung keo – please, one (bottle of) beer.


Neung – one
Song – two
Saam – three
Sii – four
Ha – five
Hok – six
Tjet – seven
Paet – eight
Kao – nine
Sip – ten
Sip et – eleven
Sip song – sip kao = twelve – nineteen
Sao – twenty
Sao et – twenty one
Sao song – sao kao = twenty two – twenty nine
Saam sip – thirty
Sii sip – forty
Ha sip – fifty
Looi neung  – one hundred
Song looi – two hundred
Phanh neung – one thousand
Ha phanh – five thousand
Sip phanh – ten thousand

For more information about Do’s and Don’ts in Laos, visit http://www.tourismlaos.org/web/show_content.php?contID=16

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