Local laws and customs

Don’t get involved with drugs. There have been a number of occasions where British nationals have suffered fatal overdoses from very small quantities. Possession, trafficking and manufacture of drugs are serious offences. Those caught face lengthy prison sentences or the death penalty.

The Lao Government prohibits sexual relationships between foreign and Lao nationals, except when the two parties have been married in accordance with Lao family law. Permission for marriage or engagement to a Lao national must be submitted in a formal application to the Lao authorities.  Penalties for engaging in prohibited sexual contact or failing to register a relationship range from US$500 to US$5,000 and may also involve imprisonment. It is not unknown for Lao authorities to demand entry into hotel rooms or guesthouses where they suspect this regulation is being broken.

There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organisation of LGBT events in Laos. LGBT Pride was held by ‘Proud to be us Laos’ in 2012 and 2013. However, progress was stopped after their partner organisations became concerned about the reaction from government. Proud to be us Laos continue to raise awareness about LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS among the LGBT community. More local information can be found on their Facebook page. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

Photographing or visiting military sites is prohibited and can result in arrest or detention. This includes photographing anything that can be perceived as a military site like bridges or airfields.

When visiting temples and religious sites, wear suitable clothing and be respectful of the Lao culture. For example refrain from photographing monks around temples and during alms giving ceremonies. Women should also cover their shoulders, including when swimming in waterfalls.

Conditions in prisons and other detention facilities are harsh, with limited access to healthcare. If a British national is arrested and detained in Laos, the Laos authorities must inform the British Embassy on the prisoner’s formal request. However, it can take several weeks or months for the British Embassy to be formally notified and the Embassy often learns of an arrest informally from friends or family.