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Luang Prabang Laos Customs, Etiquette, Culture and Warnings

 Luang Prabang Customs, Etiquette, Culture and Warnings
Laos is one of the new players in the tourism sector where they recently opened up full scale to travelers in 2008.

This was also after an article appeared in the New York Times in early 2008 that made Luang Prabang the number one destination to visit in the world.

Surprisingly in 1995, tourist arrivals in Laos was only a mere 500,000 visitors. From 2001 to 2003, the numbers jumped to 750,000. And in 2008, that number shot to around 1.7 million tourist.

With the Laos SEA (South East Asian) Games taking place on at 9 to 18th December 2009, the country is looking at the most visitors all time.

Luang Prabang Customs, Etiquette, Culture and Warnings

This guide is important to anyone who is planning to visit Luang Prabang or Laos, as you should be aware of their local customs, etiquette and cultures here.

Laos Western style greetings
Western style greetings are not practiced here
The 25th SEA Games in Vientiane, Laos will be attracting thousands of people and I hope this general guide will help all visitors understand the Lao people, country and traditions.

Remember that Laos is not the same as Thailand or Vietnam and they are still considered a new tourist destination so one should respect their customs, traditions and culture especially as a traveller, businessman or guest.

Greeting in Lao
Greetings in Lao
Laos is a country where you will not see anything Western or ultra modern. There are no McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Huts or Starbucks Coffee there.

You can hardly find any other beer there besides Beer Lao which is the national beer. This alone would make you feel totally in a foreign land.

Unlike other developing countries, Laos is considered the youngest of the Indochina group in terms of tourism.

Respecting the Lao People
Respecting the Lao culture and people
If you have been to other Indochina countries and have been treated like a king, please do not think that you can do it here.

The Lao people are absolutely nice, yes, much nicer than the neighbouring countries so treat them with utter respect.

Etiquette in Luang Prabang Laos
How to behave in Luang Prabang and Laos
When in public places around Laos, please show full respect where ever you go. This is especially when you go drinking at the bars or cafes.

Well, there are not much party places in Vientiane so do not expect a Bangkok environment like Soi Cowboy or Patpong here.

Overall in Luang Prabang, there are no discos or modern day clubs there. You will only find restaurants and cafes that serve beer and liquor, and also those in your hotels or resorts.

Manners in Luang Prabang
Do not shout in Luang Prabang
One thing I noticed when in Laos was that there were no international brand hotels around here. The biggest hotel I saw was the Don Chan Palace which was really huge.

Forget the Hilton, Marriott or Shangri-La hotels as there are none of these kinds of hotels found around here. I kind of like it this way actually.

To be very honest, I feel great when travelling to a new place and you do not see the same old hotel brands or chains everywhere.

Laos Dress Etiquette
Dress appropriately when in Laos
Temple Etiquette in Laos
Respect the Lao religion when you are there
Laos has a lot of temples (Stupas) and places of worship so when you visit these places, please follow the basic simple rules.

Even in Luang Prabang, there are countless temples and stupas there where monks are seen walking around the main town area.

The monks are generally friendly, and if you talk to them, they will attempt to talk back to you in simple English.

Luang Prabang Temple Etiquette
Temple etiquette when in Laos
You will be surprised on how many local monks speak decently good English around Laos and also in Luang Prabang.

This means that you can approach them to ask these monks some questions. Well, not everyone speaks English, bu you need to ask the monks first if they can speak English.

Greetings in Laos
Greetings in Laos
Drug and Other Warnings in Laos

And Lao authorities are very strict with drugs. So, you should know better as you would not want to be sentenced into a Lao prison.

The other major crimes in Laos are child prostitution, sex with minors and also taking out antiquities without formal paperwork.

This means that if you are an antique collector, please check with the relevant departments on this before buying authentic Lao antiques.

Almsgiving in Luang Prabang Laos

Notice for Almsgiving in Laos
Notice about Almsgiving in Laos
When in Luang Prabang, or other places around Laos, there is the morning almsgiving session which happens around the main town area, or even at the temples.

A lot of people have abused this amazing daily ritual, so please read up and understand what goes on and what you can do during the morning almsgiving here.

Do not abuse this traditional religious practice that has been going on for centuries. You are the foreigner here, therefore you must respect this practice.

Drug Warning in Laos
A general warning for travelers visiting Laos


Just like any other foreign country, I strongly believe that you must understand the customs of each destination as they are not the same.

Over the years, many people have started to explore Indochina and Southeast Asia, with a lot of travelers not fully understanding the culture here.

Please do your homework before you visit a new country, and everything should work out fine for your travels.

Other than that, Laos is a truly wonderful place to visit and I recommend exploring Luang Prabang, so after you have understood the customs, etiquette and culture, you will have a great time here. 


Anonymous said...

I believe in being a respectable and sensible tourist wherever one travels.

CathJ said...

This is very Good bro.... Thumbs up! I read all through... Such an important message and reminder..

Thank you.. ^_^

Tony Wan said...

Hahahah. Very informative!

Thanks bro!

Yvonne said...

interesting post, heh. though im not intending to visit, but just read through cos it's quite informative.

Malaysia Asia said...

Mei - Should be a general practice by all travelers but sadly not many follow the etiquette.

Cath - Thank you. When you plan your trip to Laos, let me know.

Tony - Thanks for dropping by.

Yvonne - Thanks for stopping by.


Nicholas Leong said...

Interesting. Never knew about the head lower than monks and buddha rule.

Unknown said...

This is a good guide and reminder should I feel the urge to visit Laos one day. Thanks!

Fico said...

I like this post...
Some of the western people just read about destination how to go there, prices, accommodation etc,but doesn't know how to behave, act or what to wear when they went to some sacred places.. i am glad these days people does traveling a lot.. so they could learn each other cultures.
But.. hehe even sometimes i did the same mistake too when i went traveling heheh... just minor one..

Anonymous said...


Check out this link..

These are the things that tourists shouldn't be doing while they are in Laos.. Totally disrespecting the locals, so rude!!!

If you can pass on the words, I would appreciated. thanks!

Andrew said...

David thanks fr sharing this post. It's excellent. I will forward this link to others.