Lao culture is very relaxed and easy-going in general. Local people have a ‘live and let live’ attitude and visitors generally find there is a welcoming, non-judgemental atmosphere. However, there are some notable laws and customs which all visitors should respect.
The social customs in Laos are fairly similar to those in neighboring countries, such as Vietnam and Cambodia. Common sense and respect should be enough to avoid awkward situations and problems with the law.
This guide will explain the most important local laws in Laos and social customs to be aware of.
Important Laws in Laos for Travelers
Laos is a tolerant country but there are a few laws which may seem harsh to visitors. Conditions in prisons and detention facilities are also unpleasant so visitors should avoid problems with the authorities. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind.
Stay away from drugs
The possession of illegal drugs is a very serious crime in Laos. Those caught can face long prison sentences and the death penalty still exists for drug trafficking. In addition, a number of tourists have suffered from fatal overdoses from relatively small doses of drugs.
Relationships with locals
Sexual relationships between foreigners and Laos nationals are prohibited, except when the two people are married in accordance with Laos law. Couples must submit a formal application for marriage.
The punishment for failing to register a relationship ranges between a heavy fine (up to US$5,000) and even imprisonment in some cases. The Laos authorities have been known to enter hotel rooms and guesthouses when they suspect this law has been broken.
LGBT rights in Laos
There are no legal restrictions on same-sex relationships and the organization of LGBT events. However, sexual relations between foreigners and locals are prohibited regardless of sexuality.
Photographing military sites
Visiting and photographing military sites is prohibited and can lead to arrest and detention. This includes taking photos of places like bridges and airfields which could be considered as military infrastructure.
Social Customs and the Culture of Laos
Although Laos is very tolerant, it is also quite conservative in some ways. To avoid causing offence, it is essential to be aware of certain social customs in Laos. Here are a few things to remember.
In Laos it is fine to wear bikinis and swimming trunks on the beach. However, when walking through the streets it is not good etiquette. People will probably not say anything to you about it but it is considered to be impolite.
When visiting temples it is often a requirement to cover your knees and shoulders. Shoes and socks should also be removed before entering
Tipping in Laos
Tipping in Laos is not typical but it has become almost expected by certain professions within the tourist industry. Here are some rough guidelines to follow…
Tour Guide (full day)
1 traveler USD 8
2 travelers USD 10
Group USD 15
Driver (full day)
1 traveler USD 5
2 travelers USD 7
Group USD 10
Avoid public displays of affection
Public displays of affection are frowned upon. Again, probably no one would say anything but it is considered to be disrespectful.
Don’t touch monks
Touching monks is a social taboo which not all visitors are aware of. Keep this in mind when with or near Buddhist monks.
Do you need a visa to enter Laos?
Whether you need a visa to enter Laos depends on your nationality, how long you wish to stay in the country, and you reason for visiting. Many nationalities can stay for limited periods of time as long as they are entering for tourism.
Other nationalities can apply online for theLaos eVisa. The online application form only takes a few minutes to complete and it just involves answering a series of basic questions.