Laos Country Information & Dos and Donts in Laos

The natural beauty of Laos is one of the best hold secrets of this country. We used to say, “less people, more nature” as only about 7 Million people live in our mountainous country along the Mekong. The rugged hills, valleys and jungles of the east stretch from north to south along the Lao-Vietnam border.

The geography of Laos is one of the most interesting guidelines to understand history, ruler-ship, kingdoms, ethnic diversity and spread as well as the economical development of landlocked Laos. The Mekong river in adds another very strong component towards the insight understanding of the country. Last but not least modern life in the fast growing centers and cities add towards the process of modernization, but also towards the gap between poor and rich, tradition and modernity. Laos has much to offer, even as a small country it is rich and invites to be explored, inside out.

Standard information about Laos covers the size of population and other hard facts that can best be found on a platform like Wikipedia. Most blogs and writers source a lot of information from there, which we will not do at this stage.

If you read the stories about Laos that we prepare on this blog, week by week, you get a very good feel about what is happening on the non-political stage in Laos. Information that is relevant to travelers and expats alike is written and published on this platform of Explore Laos.

Laos is the least developed and most enigmatic of the three former French Indochinese states. A ruinous sequence of colonial domination, internecine conflict and dogmatic socialism finally brought the country to its knees in the 1970s, and almost ten per cent of the population left. Now, some decades after isolation from the outside world, this landlocked, sparsely populated country is enjoying peace,stabilizing its political and economic structures and admitting foreign visitors.

The lack of foreign influence offers travelers an unparalleled glimpse of traditional South-East Asian life. From the fertile lowlands of the Mekong River valley to the rugged Annamite highlands and mountains along the east of Laos, travelers who have made it to Laos tend to agree that this country is the highlight of South-East Asia. We also agree !

North Laos, our main activity area for Fair Trek

Northern Laos is a wild and rugged country where, at every turn, convoluted rivers curl through layers of mountain ridges. Center of the North of Laos and beautifully located on the banks of the Mekong river, the former royal capital of Luang Prabang is by far Laos’ most magical town and the region’s tourist hot spot. Luang Prabang was not destroyed during the Indochina wars’ bombing during the 20th-century. The hidden temples, the lively cultural and religious life makes it a pure pleasure to simply stay a few days. From here most visitors move into the far northern regions and into the Nam Ou valley, or even beyond to Phongsali which is a great place for treks to hill tribe areas. The rugged mountains and rivers are an amazing playground for outdoor activities and reflect a hardly influenced region where it feels like you’ve stepped back in time a hundred years.

Visitors with more time may also visit where much of the population hid for years in caves around lovely Vieng Xai and Nong Khiau. All over northern Laos, and what most people come for is the experience of unique rural life. Thatch, bamboo and timber houses abound, giving virtually any village a timeless, photogenic value. The small population forms an intriguing melting pot of cultures, best explored while trekking or exploring rivers with your kayak. But also boating river trips offer a wonderful way to discover the lovely sceneries and are a great alternative to some tortuous bus rides.

And just some hard facts

  • Full country name: Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR)
  • Area: 236,000 sq km (92,040 sq m)
  • Population: approx 7 million
  • Capital city: Vientiane (pop 500,000)
  • People: 50% Lao Lum (lowland Lao), 30% Lao Theung (lower-mountain dwellers of mostly proto-Malay or Mon-Khmer descent), 10-20% Lao Sung (Hmong or Mien high-altitude hill tribes) and 10-20% tribal Thais
  • Language: Lao and Lao dialects (closely related to Thai), French
  • Religion: 60% Buddhist, 40% animist and spirit cults
  • Government: Socialist republic
  • Major products/industries: Rice, tobacco, coffee, tin mining, and timber
  • Major trading partners: Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan

Dos and Donts in Laos

Respecting the following customs and principles will help make a stay in Laos a positive experience for both you and your hosts. Using your eyes and common sense will help guide you – while in Laos. Try and do as the Lao do, and you will be rewarded with hospitality and friendliness.


  • Dress neatly and show respect when entering religious grounds: cover yourself from shoulders to knees, and take off hats and shoes when entering buildings
  • Women should not touch monks or their robes
  • Please do not touch, point your feet at, or turn your back on Buddha images
  • Keep your head lower than Buddha statues and monks
  • Do not take pictures or disturb monks during prayer times


  • Revealing clothing and showing flesh (for women and  men) is offensive
  • Don’t wear bikinis, skimpy clothing, or take   off your shirt in public
  • In Laos, your head is ‘high’ and your feet ‘low’
  • don’t gesture with your feet, and don’t put your feet on furniture. Also, do not touch someone else’s head
  • Kissing and hugging in public is impolite – please be discrete
  • Please ask before taking photos of people
  • Support development by buying local food and handicrafts


  • Do not take anything from the forest except fresh air
  • Do not litter on land or in water; take all your rubbish with you
  • Do not buy wildlife or wildlife products – nor let your guide buy it
  • Do not make unnecessary noise
  • When trekking or riding bicycles, do not leave the route or trample and destroy vegetation & crops


Drug tourism damages and creates a false image of the country and its people. Do not use drugs in village areas. Give a better example.

  • Drug use…encourages economic dependency on  illegal commodities
  • Drug use…encourages impressionable Lao adolescents to do the same
  • Drug use…impedes the development of one of the world’s poorest countries
  • Drug use…has resulted in the death, injury and imprisonment of tourists
  • Drug use…means quick profits for a few but social problems for whole communities

Images provided with the friendly permission of the Lao National Tourist Administration and


  1. ^ a b c “Background notes – Laos”. US Dept. of State. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d “Laos”. International Monetary Fond. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
  3. ^ “Human Development Report 2009. Human development index trends: Table G”. The United Nations. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  4. ^ These same pronunciations using Wikipedia’s pronunciation respelling key: LOWSS, LAH-oss, LAH-ohss, LAY-oss.
  5. ^ “definition of Laos from Oxford Dictionaries Online”. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  6. ^ “Laos – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary”. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  7. ^ a b “Laos Securities Exchange to start trading”. 10 January 2011. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  8. ^ Kislenko, Arne (2009). Culture and customs of Laos. ABC-CLIO. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-313-33977-6. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  9. ^ Hayashi, Yukio (2003). Practical Buddhism among the Thai-Lao: religion in the making of a region. Trans Pacific Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-4-87698-454-1. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  10. ^ “History”. Laos National Tourism Association. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  11. ^ “Fa Ngum”. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  12. ^ “Let’s hope Laos hangs on to its identity”. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  13. ^ Librios Semantic Environment (11 August 2006). “Laos: Laos under the French”. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  14. ^ Joe Cummings; Andrew Burke (30 January 2005). Laos. Lonely Planet. pp. 23–. ISBN 978-1-74104-086-9. Retrieved 24 December 2011.
  15. ^ “History of Laos”. 9 August 1960. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  16. ^ MacKinnon, Ian (3 December 2008). “Forty years on, Laos reaps bitter harvest of the secret war”. The Guardian (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  17. ^ “Laos – Climate”. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  18. ^ “Laos travel guides”. Archived from the original on 2010-11-10. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  19. ^ a b “Nsc Lao Pdr”. Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  20. ^ Amnesty International (29 April 1998). “Thongsouk Saysangkhi’s death”.
  21. ^ Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. “WGIP: Side event on the Hmong Lao, at the United Nations”. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
  22. ^ a b The Times (30 July 2006). “No way out”. London.
  23. ^ “Laos agrees to voluntary repatriation of refugees in Thailand,” U.P.I., June 5, 1991.
  24. ^ “Lao Refugees Return Home Under European Union Repatriation Program,” Associated Press Worldstream, 22 11, 1994. Karen J, “HOUSE PANEL HEARS CONCERNS ABOUT HMONG,” States News Service, April 26, 1994.
  25. ^ Hamilton-Merritt, Jane. Tragic Mountains. p. xix–xxi.
  26. ^ “Acts of Betrayal: Persecution of Hmong”, by Michael Johns, National Review, October 23, 1995.
  27. ^ “Acts of Betrayal: Persecution of Hmong”, by Michael Johns, National Review, October 23, 1995.
  28. ^ Reports on results of investigations of allegations concerning the welfare of Hmong refugees and asylum seekers in Thailand and Laos Refugee and Migration Affairs Unit, United States Embassy (Thailand), 1992, Retrieved 2007-07-27
  30. ^ “Laos refuses to take back Thai-based Hmong refugees,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, August 20, 1998.
  31. ^ “Refugee Admissions Program for East Asia” Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, January 16 2004, archived January 17 2009 from the original
  32. ^ History of the Hmong Resettlement Task Force Hmong Resettlement Task Force, archived October 21 2008 from the original
  33. ^ “Hmong refugees pleading to stay”. BBC News. July 28, 2005. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  34. ^ Hunted like animals Rebecca Sommer Film Clips
  35. ^ REPORT on the situation in the Xaysomboun Special Zone and 1100 Hmong-Lao refugees who escaped to Petchabun, Thailand during 2004-2005 Rebecca Sommer, May 2006
  36. ^ a b Thailand: EU Presidency Declaration on the situation of Hmong refugees EU@UN, February 1 2007
  37. ^ Hmong refugees facing removal from Thailand The Wire – Amnesty International’s monthly magazine, March 2007, archived October 13 2007 from the original
  38. ^ Deportation of Hmong Lao refugees stopped in last minute Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker, January 30 2007
  39. ^ Hmong: UNHCR Protests Refugee Deportation Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, February 5 2007
  40. ^ “Thailand halts Hmong repatriation”. BBC News. January 30, 2007. Retrieved May 4,

Leave a Reply