Do’s and don’t in Lao culture- showing respect for Lao religion and culture

With the increasing number of people visiting Laos every year, it is very important to know what you should do or shouldn’t. Foreign travelers may find it difficult to navigate the cultural norms of Lao culture. It is also important to consider what might be offensive to the Lao people.

Show respect and use your head and eyes and common sense will guide you well in navigating Lao culture safely.

When in Laos, try to do as the Lao do and remember; don’t touch head, don’t lose your temper with people and don’t flash your fresh. The rest is about manners, shoes left outside, accepting hosts, greeting and not upsetting religious feelings.

The Lao are very friendly and hospitable and a minimum effort will make your trip smooth and memorable. Respect the culture and you will earn its respect in turn.


Instead of checking hand, Lao use “Nop” to greet people. The Nop is a short bow done with raising your hands in a praying gesture. The higher you go the more respect you show, but don’t be over the top. A kiss or embrace from a stranger is insulting and humiliating.

Feeling in public

Public display of affection is taboo in Lao society so don’t cause shock or embarrassment by kissing or cuddling in front of people. Modest dress and discreet behavior will ensure you don’t attract unwanted attention or embarrass others.

Foot and Head

In Buddhism and general Asian society, the head is very important to the souls and its purity, while the feet walk the earth and all that is deposited on it. Raising your feet to headheight, putting them on furniture or pointing with them is taken as a deliberate insult or sign of barbarism. Don’t gesture with your feet or touch an Asian head. You would be asking for trouble. Here, as in all things, check out what local people do with their feet and shoes and try to follow suit.


Never raise your voice to Lao people as they never react well to it. Even shouting to friends or for taxis will cause shock and worry. Lao is a land of calm and patience, and shattering the peace will do you no favors.


Bodily hygiene and cleanliness are of the highest standard in Lao and a visitor’s failure to meet these standards is not well received. Wash yourself and your clothes daily or prepare to be laughed at and avoided!

In a Lao House

Shoes are generally no-go indoors. Use your eyes and common sense to maximize your chances of social success. Keep your head and general profile low at gatherings.


You will rarely be alone in Laos, even when you seem to be, and pollution is not well received. Bins are scarce, so use your plastic bags to return rubbish to towns or villages.


The penalties may be severe for you and even worse for the Lao society.


Religion is a major part of daily life and remains the practice of the massive majority. Show respect in temples and shrines, watching how locals behave in such place. Dress neatly when visiting temples and religious shrines. You should never go shirtless, or in short, miniskirts or hot pants. It is acceptable to wear shoes when walking around a temple compound, but not inside the chapel where the principle Buddha image is kept. Visitors are welcome to relax and be peaceful in all temples. Every Buddha image is regarded as a scared object, no matter how big, small, old or new. Never climb onto a Buddha image to take a photograph or do anything which might indicate a lack of respect.

Keep your head lower than the Buddha and monks. Buddhist priests must not be touched by a woman or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman gives anything to a monk, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it. Don’t turn your back on a Buddha.


  1. is it ok to wear shirts for a man? i am very sesitive to heat

  2. Yes, it's ok for man to wear shirts

  3. man wearing shorts, not so much.

  4. I never knew the 'bow' is called a Nop! I'm heading back to Laos in a few months.

    I've been studying hard to get a good grip of the language before I go back!

  5. Laos is always regarded as the “sleeping beauty” of Southeast Asia. It will wow you with its laid-back lifestyle, friendly people and with a variety of tourism attractions ranging from swamped jungles, remote tribal villages, ancient Buddhist caves, and numerous enigmatic heritage sites. Among such burden of interesting places, here are the most popular destinations that a truly wander-lush would never refuse.

    Laos tourist destinations