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Useful information

Laos Useful information

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Common Courtesies

Lao people are frank, open and friendly, and they possess a strongly developed sense of courtesy and respect. Everyone who adheres to the latter will receive a warm welcome.

The generally accepted from of greeting among Lao people is the Nop. It is performed by placing one’s palm together in a position of praying at chest level, but not touching the body. The higher the hands, the greater the sign of respect. Nonetheless, the hands should not be held above the level of the nose. The Nop is accompanied by a slight bow to show repect to persons of higher status and age. It is also used as an expression of thanks, regret or saying good-bye. But with western people it is acceptable to shake hands.

When visiting temples (call “wat”) you must  be dressed decently and remove your shoes before you enter the religious buildings. Avoid wearing short and sleeveless shirts. Be deferential in  front of objects in the pagodas.

When entering a Wat or a private home, it is customary to remove one’s shoes. In Lao homes raised off the ground, the shoes are left at the  stairs. In traditional homes, one sits on low seats or cushions on the floor. Men usually sit with their legs crossed or folded to one side, women prefer solely the latter. Upon entering, guests may be served fruit  or tea. These gestures of hospitality should not be refused.

Since the head is considered the most sacred part of the body and the soles of feet the least, one should not touch a person’s head nor use one’s foot to point at a person or any object. Moreover, men and women  rarely show affection in public. It is also forbidden for a woman to touch  a Buddhist monk.

As in many Asian countries, it is important not to step over people on a bus or in a crowded place, and it is common to make room (even when you think there is none) for others to pass rather than inviting them to go over.

 

Do and Don’t

Do,
-Keep your smile and greet strangers with “ sa bai dee”.
-Remove your shoes when entering Wat or Lao home.
-Take care when driving. Traffic is undisciplined. At night, cyclists use no lights. Be vigilant at traffic lights. Vehicles and cyclists often stop in the right lane to turn left and vice versa. They may do so directly in front of you without looking and without signaling.
-Attempt to learn some Lao
-If you display a Buddha image for decorative purposes (it’s better no to do so), place it at a lofty height and definitely not in a stairwell.
-Cultivate patience, remember to reinforce requests if something is required on a routine basis; otherwise, the assumption is that you wanted it once only.
-If you’re a woman, keep your shoulders covered and make sure that clothes have at least cap sleeves if meeting Lao people or going to the market.
-Kneel when putting money into the “ donations box” in a wat.
Don’t
-Shout and rage at a Lao, you lose face.
-Reprimand a Lao in front of others. He loses face
-Place your feet, the least respected part of the body, on a table in the company of Lao. This is insulting.
-Indicate with your foot. When seated on the floor in company or wat (temple) of Lao, keep feet tucked below or behind you. Try not to have the sole of your foot directed to ward anyone. Take care when sitting cross-legged.
-Pat a child on the head or abuse a Lao’s head in any way. The head is the most sacred part of the body.
-Wear scanty clothes in public. No matter how hot the weather, shorts of any kind are inappropriate as office attire.
-Be irritated by giggles when you consider the occasion to be anything but a laughing matter. They often hide embarrassment or shyness.-If you’re a woman, attempt to shake the hand of a monk, hand anything to him directly or sit beside him. Monks are not allowed to touch women. If you wish to hand something to a monk, do so through a male, offer it on a tray, or place it on a table or on the ground in front of him.

 

Clothing

During the hot season, January to April, bring light clothes in cotton and linen, sunglasses and a hat all year long. Sunscreen and bug repellant is also recommended.

From November to December, the cold season, it is a good idea to bring warm clothing such as sweaters and jackets for the morning and evening, and even more so if you are visiting the mountainous regions of the North.

From May to October, during the rainy season, it is best to have waterproof clothing. It is best to wear easily removable shoes or sandals when visiting the temples.

 

Health

Medical and dental facilities are mostly operated by the government. Private clinics and pharmacies are available in the major cities. The International Clinic is operated under the supervision of the Ministry of Health, to accommodate foreigners and diplomats. Medicines from France, USA, Russia, Thailand and China are widely available in most pharmacies.

 

Currency
The currency of Laos is kip. The kip is the official currency of the Lao PDR. Notes are in denominations of 50,000;20,000; 10,000; 5000; 2000; 1000; 500; 100; 50; 20; 10; 5 and 1. The smaller denominations are not in common use. Coins have negligible purchasing power and are being withdrawn from circulation.

One US dollar approximately 10,810 kip. Now, traveler cheques in other currencies are best changed in Vientiane or in main cities only. And they also could be conveniently cashes at all most provincial banks except local exchange shop. The authorized moneychangers will calculate at time of bank rate of that day. Exchange at the black market is illegal and will be fined. All of the banks in Laos provides standard service from Monday to Friday but the exchange shop open 7 days a week from 9:00 AM-15PM.

Furthermore, all domestic and foreign bank in Vientiane allow cash withdrawals on Visa credit card or Master Card. Right now, in the main cities credit cards can be used in hotels, guest houses, restaurants. However, in the remote areas is advisable to take kip with you. The authorized moneychangers will calculate at the bank rates.

 

Shopping

The unique and fascinating handicrafts available in Lao PDR allow visitors to take some special reminders of their travels in this beautiful country.  A rich selection of silk and cotton textiles, exquisite silver and gold jewelry, handmade baskets, intricate carvings and traditional musical instruments and utensils are just some of the delights awaiting visitors on the markets.

The textiles and fabrics produced in the country are all hand woven on small looms in villages with long traditions in the craft.  Styles, designs and patterns vary according to the area in which they were made.  Hill tribe weavers and textile craftspeople produce distinctive and beautiful fabric and cloth products.

Carvers work in wood, bone and stone and produce work depicting scenes from both religious stories and everyday life.  The craftsmen make a great variety of goods and are only too happy to produce special order items as well..

Bargaining-although most shops have fixed prices for goods the price of fabrics, carvings and some jewelry may be negotiable with careful, good-humored bargaining.

Tipping is not usual but may be expected at some of the more exclusive hotels and restaurants.

 

Note:

Every visitor should remember that it is forbidden to take any antiques or Buddha image (which are older than 50 years ) out of the country. Therefore such items brought into Laos from other countries have to be decrared at customs.

 

Visas
All Laos Tours visitors entering Laos must possess valid passports. Tourist visa is valid for 15 days staying. Over staying a visa will be fined $ 5.00 at the time of departure.

International check points
1. Wattay International Airport-Vientiane
2.Mittaphab Bridge-Vientiane
3.Luang Prabang International Airport
(Visa fee $30 at the above check points)

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