When traveling in a foreign country, knowing thoroughly about their culture and lifestyle is a great help since tourists may avoid themselves from impolite behaviors and well prepare for their stay. Here are useful tips for tourism in Laos.
1. Things to avoid when in Laos
Lao is a religious country with over half of the population is Buddhist, thereby, Buddhism has been a crucial part of Myanmar’s culture and has blended with non-Buddhist beliefs. However, Lao culture is easy going if you just follow the guide below to have a safe trip and avoid taboos:
- The act of hugging the waist, shoulders or jokingly, especially with unmarried girls is considered rude. While in the West, you can kiss your hands, hold your waist ... but, in Laos, this is regarded as a taboo. Therefore, avoiding this action or you may get trouble with the police.
- When visiting temples and pagodas, remember that you are not allowed to touch any monks. Women should not hand anything directly to a monk but instead should pass the item to a male intermediary. Besides, you should not turn your back on the Buddha statues or call each other too loud in the temple.
- When sitting on the floor of a monastery building that has a Buddha image, never point your feet in the direction of the image.
- Do not bathe nude or walk around in a bikini or corsets since it is considered culturally unacceptable. In Lao, it is not uncommon to see Lao women are fully clothed and wrapped in a sarong when swimming. So, remember to bring a shirt or sarong to cover up when you get out of the water.
2. Lao traditional cuisine
The notes below are just cultural norms, not recorded as a must for tourists. However, if you tend to explore the Lao culture via local lifestyle, those tips may be helpful to prove that you have known their country before and making it easier to make friends with Laotians. In the local language, it is quite common for people to greet each other by immediately asking, “Have you eaten food?” (“Kin khao laeo bor?”). That fact proves that food is very important in Lao daily activities. They are always willing to share their traditional cuisine with curious travelers.
- Unlike Western culture who sit around a high table while eating, Lao people are used to squatting on the floor. Laotians still propose that the elderly in the family must eat first as the way they receive high respect from family members.
- Like most Southeast Asian countries, rice is the main material for most Lao dishes. Sticky rice is the most popular one that should be tried at least one time during your stay in Laos.
- When joining a dinning party at a Lao family, remember that you are not allowed to keep eating while others start to stand up and leave.
- In some countries, eating all the food on a plate is both to show savings and to compliment the chef, this concept is opposite in Laos. Laotians always leave food on the plate when finished eating to show that the host had prepared enough food, otherwise, they will think you are not full, the landlord will lose their face.
3. Suggested budget
In Laos, prices vary somewhat between cities and villages, in which, Luang Prabang is known as the most expensive destination. The Lao Kip is the currency of Laos, which has the currency code is LAK, and the currency symbol is ₭. The two foreign currencies that are commonly used for converting in Laos are Baht Thai and US dollars. Thereby, tourists had better bring US dollars or Baht Thai when traveling to Laos.
There are 2 types of the fee, including government fee and service fee that you will be charged when applying for a Lao eVisa. Depending on your nationality, the government fee is different, varies from US$ 36.23 to US$ 58.99. You should apply for your Lao visa at least 5 days before the date you intend to arrive in the country. Both the application and transaction are processed completely via this online portal and mail.
Accommodation options range from a budget hostel to 5-star hotel. If you want to save as much budget as possible, getting away from the popular streets will generally guarantee lower nightly rates, which the room price starts from only Lak 30,000. Dorm rooms with shared bathroom or homestay will bring local experience but with low cost. In contrast, for those with “thicker pocket”, Luang Prabang and Vientiane offer luxury hotels and resorts, which cost up to Lak 400,000.
Average street food meal in Laos cost between Lak 5,000 to Lak 10,000, whereas a Laotian meal in a mid-range eatery in touristy areas can cost between LAK 35,000 to LAK 80,000 per dish. However, the price is still reasonable for most tourists.
Excursions and Activities
The cost will range from Lak 35,000 to Lak 70,000 if you visit parks, waterfalls, or temples. However, for a more luxury experience like the Gibbon experience, it may cost up to 100 US dollars.
Towns throughout Laos are pretty easy to walk around without using any other form of transportation. However, for long-distance travel, tuk-tuk is more preferred because it is cheaper and more common. Taxi is also another popular option.
Do not think about hiring a bike to commute around Lao street. Though the traffic does not seem to be too crazy, it is so dangerous for tourists who have not got used to the traffic system in Laos. Therefore, do not hesitate about spending money on transport services.
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