Useful Information

  • Laos Culture

    The Laotians are known to be friendly and smiling peoples who love liberties with no quarrels or oppressions. They hold great respect for the nation and most live with honor and respect for others. A typical example illustrative of this well-known friendliness is the way in which inhabitants welcome strangers with a free meal.


    Friendship, love and peace sit in the hearts of Lao people. They hate conflicts or oppressors and their slogan is “united we survive and separated, we die”. They enjoy literature and arts, and the country’s ancient heritage arises from the national poetry that illustrates the Laotian way of life.


    Theravada Buddhism has contributed greatly to the Lao culture. It is reflected throughout the country in its temples, the language, the arts, literature, performing arts and more. Laotian music is dominated by its national instrument, the khaen, a type of bamboo pipe.


    Houses are built on stilts and have free space underneath the roofs with a triangle wind plates on each side. There are two types of houses; single and a double roofed. The number of steps depends on the height of the house, but traditionally they'll have an uneven number.


    The dress depend on gender and age. Lao women are dressed properly and seen traditionally as the mothers of the nation. Lao women wear silk skirts, blouses and scarves to attend important ceremonies. During significant events, Lao women wear scarves and coiled hair styles. Lao men wear salong, big large pants, or peasant pants, to attend important ceremonies.


    Lao People share a rich ethnic diversity, comprising such groups Hmong, Khmu, Yao, Akha, Lu, etc. Most of them have kept their own customs, dialects and traditional dress; there are 47 different groups. These can be classified into three broad groups:

    • The Lao Lum (lowlanders) who make up 70% of the population and predominantly live on Mekong River level. 
    • The Lao Theung (uplands) who comprise 20% of the population and on the foothills with an elevation of less than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). 
    • The Lao Song (hill tribes) who constitute 10% of the population and live in the mountainous areas.
  • Religious

    Buddhism first appeared in Laos during the 18th century A.D. The unified Kingdom of Lane Xang, in the 14th century declared Buddhism as the state religion and urged the people to abandon animism or other beliefs such as the cult of spirits. The policy was meant to develop the Laotian culture around one common faith, Theravada Buddhism.


    Today, this form of Buddhism is now the professed religion for 90% of the Lao people. Buddhism is an inherent feature of daily life and casts a strong influence on the society. Lao woman can be seen each morning giving alms to monks, earning merit to lessen the number of their rebirth. Lao men are expected to become a monk for at least a short time in their lives. Traditionally, they spend three months during the rainy season in a Buddhist temple. But nowadays most men curtail their stay to one or two weeks.
  • Visa to Laos

    Russians, Korean, Japanese, Swiss and ASEAN nationals including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines can enter Laos "visa free". all other tourists need a visa in the form of a tourist visa (for one or possibly two months) issued by a Lao embassy or consulate. A visa on arrival is also available to most people entering at the airports in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse. When applying for a tourist visa or to obtain a visa on arrival, one (maybe two at Lao embassies) passport photo is required (although you may be able to pay a US$1 "fee" to have this requirement waived).
    Extensions are also possible via agencies elsewhere in Laos who will courier your passport to Vientiane and back again, around US$3 per day minimum of 7 days.
  • Social, ethical and environment issues
    The majority of Laotians are Buddhists and it is particularly advisable to dressmodestly in Luang Prabang, one of Southeast Asia's most spiritual destinations. If entering a temple, you will be expected to leave your shoes outside and have shoulders and knees covered. It is also forbidden to point your feet towards a Buddha image and women cannot touch a monk. There are many sacred sites and artifacts throughout Laos, please do not enter or touch these without permission. In Laos your head is consider 'high' and your feet 'low', it is generally considered rude to use your feet for anything other than walking and sport. Please respect Lao culture by removing footwear before entering a private home and avoid touching a person's head, as this is extremely impolite.
    Please take the normal environmentally friendly steps you should take anywhere in the world, but especially in the third world - use water and electricity supplies carefully, re-use towels in hotels, try to use recyclable goods such as water carriers rather than plastic bottles, protect Laos' wildlife by refusing to buy wildlife products, etc. Try to set an example to Laos' impressionable youth by taking litter away for disposal and not dropping it in the street. Laos loses a little bit of its heritage every time an antique is taken out of the country, avoid buying antique Buddha images and other sacred items, instead try to support local craftsmen by purchasing new, quality handicrafts. Please try not to distribute gifts to children as it encourages begging; instead try to give to an established organization, or village elders.
  • Money & Exchange
    The Laos currency is the Laotian New Kip One Kip (Kp) is equal to 100 cents. Thai and US currency is widely accepted in shops, markets and hotels in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. There are no restrictions on the import or export of foreign currency, although banks will only accept Thai Bahts, GB Sterling or US Dollars.
    The import and export of local currency is prohibited. There is a money exchange facility at the airport, and several-licensed bureau in major towns. A few businesses and restaurants will accept travellers' cheques. Major banks in town will also cash travellers' cheques. It is best to always use cash - that way you also get the best bargains!
    Credit cards, are accepted in most hotels, gift shops and more up market restaurants, and can be used in major banks for a cash advance. There is an ATM at the BECL bank in Vientiane. The withdrawal will be in local currency.

  • Tipping
    Tipping is now commonplace in Laos especially in the service industry and you should be prepared to tip guides, drivers and porters who assist you during your stay.  As a guideline if you are travelling alone we would recommend that you tip your guide between $7-8 per day, if travelling in a couple then allow $8-10 per couple per day.
    When travelling in a group of 3-4 then tipping in the region of $10-15 per group per day is appropriate, when travelling in groups larger than four then allow an increase roughly equating to 10% more for each additional person in the group. For your driver please tip around half of the total tip given to your guide. If your itinerary is more intensive and incorporates more specialized elements such as trekking or overland journeys then increase these guidelines by 20% or more depending on your satisfaction level. For porters a tip of $1 per person per bag is appropriate and it is useful to have several dollar bill notes to hand for your convenience, alternatively an equivalent amount in local currency will suffice.
    We use the best guides and drivers available in Laos but if for any reason you are not satisfied with the service you receive then please speak to our agents who will be able to provide a different guide or driver to accompany you.

  • Food & Drink
    Rice, especially sticky rice, is the staple food and dishes will be Indo-Chinese in flavor and presentation. Lao food can be found on the stalls in the markets and in the many local restaurants. The food in Luang Prabang is similar to that in Northern Thailand.  There are several fairly good restaurants in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, catering mainly for tourists and the diplomatic community. Baguettes and croissants are normally eaten for breakfast. Drink: Rice whisky or lao lao is popular and there are two brands available. The local beer (Beer Lao) is also good. Try eating delicious Lao food whenever you can, it helps local businesses and Lao farmers
  • Language
    The Lao people speak a tonal dialect, which is very similar to that in Northern Thailand. French is still recognised as the official second language of the government but English is now spoken more widely throughout the country, especially by the younger generation. You will often be greeted by shouts of "Sabaidee" which means hello. Laotians often greet each other by pressing together their palms, an action known as 'nop', although it is considered acceptable for men to shake hands.
  • Getting Around
    In order to truly experience this peaceful nation, it is important to build in enough time to explore at a leisurely pace, wandering through the backstreets of serene Luang Prabang or taking time to relax by one of the picturesque waterfalls of the rural south. River travel fits naturally into the calm pace of life and we always try to incorporate a sedate boat journey into our Laos itineraries.