There are the next things that you should notice in Laos for your own safety, the preservation of the country and to respect the local people.
Think before riding a motorbike
Motorbikes are a popular mode of transportation in Laos, but ride at your own risk. There is no trauma center in the country and should you get into an accident, you’ll have to get across the border to Thailand for treatment. There is rampant drinking and driving in Laos, which makes the roads more dangerous at night. Many people, including children, drive without a license. If you do take to the road on two wheels, drive defensively, know the risks and check out the bike thoroughly before you drive.
Drugs are illegal
Alcohol is free flowing and you may be encouraged to drink more than you’d like (although it’s also fine to tell your host you’re done drinking). You also might find that illegal drugs, especially marijuana and opium, are prevalent. Exercise extreme caution. If a tuk-tuk driver offers you prostitutes or drugs unprovoked, your safest bet is to turn him down. Some dealers are in cahoots with the police and will turn in their clients.
Don’t bathe nude or walk around in a bikini
You’ll see Lao people swimming fully clothed, wrapped in a sarong or sometimes in jeans. Women, bring a sarong. You can always take it off once you’re in the water, but you’ll avoid uncomfortable stares and blend in better. In the same vein, walking around town in swimwear is not culturally acceptable for men or women, so when you go swimming or tubing bring a shirt or sarong to cover up when you get out of the water.
Don’t make public displays of affection
The Lao aren’t publicly affectionate among friends or romantic partners, and public hugging or kissing is frowned upon. It is against the law for foreigners to engage in sexual activity with a Lao person outside of marriage. This goes for heterosexual relationships as well as those with Ladyboys and Toms, so tread lightly.
Don’t buy antiques or wildlife products
Weak laws and lax enforcement of those that do exist has led to illegal poaching of the wild animals that were once prevalent in Laos. It’s illegal to take ivory, or animal pelts or products out of Laos. They will be confiscated and you will be fined. It’s also illegal to take antique Buddha sculptures out of the county, as many have been stolen from temples, which deplete cultural heritage. Luckily the woodcarving tradition is alive and well in Laos, and skilled craftspeople carve beautiful new pieces that can be purchased as souvenirs.
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