Laos travel advice

Tips from our friends in Laos

Cultural advice

Lesley Schofield from our supplier, All Points East, shares her advice on local culture:

“Though Lao people have a reputation for tolerance toward their foreign visitors, local people can be easily offended or embarrassed by visitors’ behavior. Basically, the way to behave correctly whilst in Laos is a matter of common sense and good manners – no different from how you would behave as guests in your own country, but a few specifics are worth pointing out. It is not necessary to learn a lot of vocabulary to be polite but a few words and a smile are always appreciated. Don’t speak or shout loudly, it is considered very bad manners. Do praise and thank people. Don’t get too drunk in public and do act discretely - overt shows of affection in public are also a no-no.”

Food advice

Sarah Allard from our supplier, Lost Earth Adventure shares her Laos travel advice for foodies:
“The food is Laos is really good; it’s really fresh and so refreshing. The flavours are similar to Thai, but what they really excel at is using fresh herbs like mint and coriander, lemongrass, galangal and bright chopped chillies, which form the basis of their ingredients and ends up in various forms. You can get lots of fragrant noodle soups and the national dish is called ‘larb’, which is minced meat or fish cooked with garlic and ginger that comes with beansprouts and green beans, which you then eat using your hands and balls of sticky rice as your utensil. It’s absolutely delightful and it’s really healthy too; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fat Laotian. When you have a local guide on a jungle walk, he’ll just pick lots of different foods for you to taste that are growing right there.”

Shopping advice

Kian Rackley from our supplier, Insider Journeys, shares his Laos travel advice for shoppers:

“Bargaining is the norm, but do not be obsessive. A fair price is one that leaves smiles all round. Try not to see it more as banter than bargaining. Spread your shopping across the destination, outside the cities, as well as in places famous for shopping like Luang Prabang’s night markets. Spending in villages and provinces will help spread the direct benefits of tourism across wider geographic areas. Social enterprise projects are one of the best ways to get more from a destination and give back and Laos has a number of social enterprise projects. A favourite of ours is Makphet, a restaurant in Vientiane that trains underprivileged or at-risk young people in hospitality and business as well as a number of other apprenticeship schemes. One of the best ways to help the local economy is to experience local food at a local hotel: it is a win for all involved.”

Packing advice

Lesley Schofield from our supplier, All Points East shares her advice on packing for Laos:
“In the north of Laos I think it surprises people that from November through to January can be chilly, so it’s best to pack fleece weight clothing if you’re heading north and for any trip it’s best to pack layers. Also, if you’re anywhere in Southeast Asia during the rainy season then take a small umbrella – coats are useless because it may be raining, but it’ll be hot. It’s better to pack long sleeves and long trousers too because Laos is a conservative country and it’s respectful to cover up where possible.”

Health & safety in Laos

Travel safely in Laos


  • Visit your GP or travel clinic at least 6-8 weeks before departure to ensure you have all the necessary vaccinations and that they are up to date.
  • The quality of medical care in Laos is generally poor. Most healthcare providers are badly equipped and unhygienic, with a limited supply of drugs. There is no guarantee that equipment will have been properly sterilised, especially in rural areas. You should avoid all but basic treatment or essential treatment in the event of an emergency
  • Getting hold of medicines in rural Laos is practically impossible, it’s worth taking a first-aid kit with you. Include bandages, plasters, painkillers, rehydration sachets, medication for upset stomachs and antiseptic cream.
  • The most common health hazard in Laos is water borne stomach infections and diarrhea, usually in a mild form, but uncomfortable given the lack of developed bathroom facilities. In both instances, get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and replace lost salts with rehydration sachets.
  • Tap water in Laos is generally not safe to drink. You should drink only bottled water and only accept ice that you know is from a safe source.
  • Don’t underestimate the strength of the sun across the country, especially when traveling along the river. Temperature and humidity can take time to adjust to, so apply sunscreen regularly, wear loose clothing and drink lots of water.


  • Fortunately, travel in Laos is relatively safe and still largely free of the major bane of travel in other parts of Asia: begging. It’s never a bad idea to stay as safe as you can and there are ways to ensure your trip is as enjoyable and trouble free as possible.
  • Your biggest threat in Laos is the country’s large problem with unexploded ordnance (mines) and certain rural areas remain off-limits because of this. Stick with your tour group and never wander off.
  • It’s recommended that travelers to Laos keep their passport and valuable in a concealed money belt that they should wear at all times. Carry some photocopies of your passport incase identification is needed.
  • Bag snatching has been known to occur in rural Laos. Never put your bag in the basket of a bicycle.
  • Vang Vieng has become a bit of a hotspot for petty crime, so if you are part of a tour that visits there, just keep your wits about you and don’t drink too much!
  • As with anywhere tainted by communism, the political situation in Laos is sensitive, so it’s best avoided as a topic of conversation in unfamiliar company.
  • Homosexuality is not illegal in Laos, but is misunderstood and frowned upon. It’s advisable that same sex couples act discreetly at all times.

For further information on health and safety in Laos, please visit the FCO or the CDC websites.


Laos tips from our travelers

Recommendations from those who have been there

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Laos travel advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.

“Travel light as there are a lot of one night stays”
- Gillian Brassington

“A trip to Laos is a good mix of cultural and tourist places, adventure and something a bit special and unique from experiences with the locals.”
 - Amy Worthington

“Don’t worry too much about dirt, squat toilets and the like, just be prepared!”
- Sarah Beddow

“Relax and go with the flow. Chill out for a while and watch the world go by you can be amazed at some of the sights right in front of you.”
 - David Conway

“Go with an open mind, embrace the bargaining, the food and the culture.” 
- Matthew Blank

“I found the quality of the accommodation to be high, I had expected more basic sleeping arrangements.”
 - Peter Heath

"Have a sense of adventure and realise that Asia is different in so many ways to our western way of life.” - Bridie Brittain

“Be prepared for long bus journeys; we travelled 12 hours on a bus to Vientiane and 6 hours the next day to Vang Vieng. It was a bit much.”
- Lucy Charlotte Brand

Photo credits: [Cultural advice : Davidlohr Bueso] [Shopping advice: Adamina] [Crickets: Prince Roy] [Mountain steps: Chi King]
Written by Polly Humphris
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