Luang Prabang Laos Customs, Etiquette, Culture and Warnings

Laos and 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 after an article in the New York Times made Luang Prabang the number one destination to visit in the world. With that, tourism barely took off in the 90s where in 1995, tourist arrivals in Laos was only a mere 500,000. From 2001 to 2003, the numbers jumped to 750,000. Until last year (2008) that number shot to around 1.7 million tourist.

With the Laos SEA (South East Asian) Games going on at 9-18th December 2009, the country is looking at the most visitors all time. If you plan to attend the SEA Games or just visit Laos, please follow the general etiquette there.

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.

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.

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.

When in public places around Laos, please show full respect. Especially when you go drinking and so on. Well, there are not much party places in Vientiane so do not expect a Bangkok night strip. More so in Luang Prabang, there are no discos or clubs there. Only restaurants and cafes that serve beer and liquor.

One thing I noticed when in Laos was that there were no top name hotels there. The biggest hotel I saw was the Don Chan Palace which was really huge. Forget the Hilton or Shangri-La hotels as there are none of them. I kind of like it this way actually. For once when traveling, you see nothing common. It should be like this.

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. They are generally friendly and if you talk to them, they will try to talk back to you.

Some of the younger monks in Luang Prabang actually speak quite good English to my surprise. I was talking to one of them and he actually spoke great English back to me. So you can comminucate with these monks and not worrying about communication matters.

A notice that makes so much sense

And Lao authorities are very 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. So if you are an antique collector, please check with the relevant departments on this.

When in Luang Prabang, every morning there is the alms giving which goes on in town area. 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 alms giving here.

The other thing I could not help notice was the main picture here, one of the local banks put up a notice to the back packers stating to please wear your shirt there and respect the others. I think that was really good, sending a direct message to the terrible backpackers.

Other than that, Laos is a truly wonderful place to visit and I recommend visiting soon. If you are a sports fan, visit during the SEA (South East Asian) Games during 9-18th December 2009. If not, a great time to visit would be around Jan to March.

For more information on the SEA Games, visit the website of the 25th LAOS Sea Games

A guide to Hotels in Laos

The biggest hotel in Vientiane, Laos - Don Chan Palace

More details on Laos, visit Laos General Information

Map of Laos

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~ jrhogan