Local habits

Greetings
You are greeted by both hands pressed together in prayer and a slight bow. It is greatly appreciated if you answer the greeting in the same way. Take off your hat or cap to show respect.

Temple habits
Respect local dress standards and do not enter a temple scarcely dressed. Cover shoulders and upper arms, and wear no shorts. Take off your shoes before entering a temple, as well as your hat or cap. If you sit down, turn the bottom of your feet away from a sacred image or a monk. A monk is supposed not to touch or be touched by a woman. Respect this habit. Temples are mainly maintained by donations, so when you leave, a small donation is more than welcome.

Photographs
Laos is great for taking pictures. If you are photographing people or monks, ask them for permission. Especially in the early morning at the ritual of alms giving you see many disrespectful 'paparazzi'  lately. Please avoid doing this !
If people object, respect that. There are people who believe that their soul is taken away when you take a picture.

Tipping
Tipping in not necessary. However, realize that the average income is low, and that the tips are a much needed additional income.

Bargaining
Bargaining is common practice, there are usually no fixed prices on items. The aim should be a realistic price. Remember that for us a bit more or less does not matter. For locals a few cents more can mean food or no food for the day.

Authenticity of articles
In Laos, there are many counterfeit articles. Gemstones and antiques are often not real/old. Remember when buying the above articles that importing them to Europe is prohibited and can lead to heavy fines ! Antiques and valuable cultural/religious items are prohibited from being exported out of Laos (sometimes stolen from temples) and may be confiscated at the border.

Safety
Laos is a safe country to travel. However, like in many tourist areas, theft takes place. Pay attention to your bag and belongings and do not carry them on the side where scooters are driving.  Use safes in hotels and  don't leave any valuables behind.
Furthermore, don’t go off the paths in remote areas. Landmines are cleared in many areas and it is safe, but in remote areas (especially near the Plain of Jars and near the Lao/Vietnamese border) landmines are still found.

Safety in traffic
In traffic many accidents happen. People hardly adhere to traffic rules and the roads are often in poor condition. Especially motorbikes and tuk-tuks often drive recklessly. Self driving a car is not recommended, given the state of the roads and road safety. Renting a car with driver is a better option.

Plugs and voltage
Standard current used is 220 volts. The plugs and sockets vary from hotel to hotel, usually it's the 2-plug Northern European or the flat 2-plug American one. Please note that power cuts are quite common, especially outside the major cities. A flashlight is very useful!

Internet and mobile phones
In most areas, Wi-Fi is available in hotels and often in restaurants. The mobile network is fairly reliable. SIM cards are available at a reasonable price througout the country.

Language
Lao is the official language in Laos. The Lao script is unreadable for us. In the touristic areas English is usually spoken, but not much elsewhere.


Opening hours
Shops: 7 days a week
7:00 am - 19:00 pm, sometimes closed at lunch time from 11:00 am.
Museums: mostly 8:00 - 12:00 am and 13:00 - 16:00 pm, differs per museum
Banks: mostly Mon-Fri 8:30 am - 15.30pm