Want to know more about Laos? Here are 25 Interesting facts about Laos that you probably didn’t know before reading this, including more general information about the country.
Laos is one of the least explored countries in Southeast Asia, but there are plenty of beautiful places to visit in Laos. It’s also an interesting country to visit for a cultural experience, and the country is full of history and kind-hearted people.
Interesting Facts about Laos
Most boys in Laos are expected to become novice monks for 3 months
Laos is primarily a Buddhist country with more than 60% of its population belong to the Buddhism faith. And most boys between the age of 8 and 20 are expected to become a novice monk for at least 3 months.
Beerlao is the national beer of Laos
Beerlao has won several awards and it’s a national icon in Laos. The beer is made from yeast imported from Germany and Jasmine rice. It’s been recognized in various publications such as the NY Times and Wall Street Journal in addition to awards in several beer competitions.
There’s a nationwide curfew at midnight
The curfew is mostly enforced on businesses though, but there is still an official curfew across the country that goes into effect from midnight until early mornings.
This is definitely one of the most interesting facts about Laos since there are not many countries in the world where a nationwide curfew exists during normal times.
It’s a landlocked country with 4000 islands
There’s no ocean in Laos, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of beaches and places to go swimming. Si Phan Don, also known as 4000 islands is a riverine archipelago with thousands of small islands.
Some of the main islands include Don Kong, Don Som, Don Det, and Don Khon. The Mekong River flows through this area, and this is also where you can see the Irrawaddy dolphins.
Around 7 million people are living in Laos
According to the latest statistics, there are some 7 million people living in the country. Compared to the neighboring countries, Laos is not a densely populated country. There are only about 32 people per square kilometer, which is around 4 times less than Thailand’s population density.
Laotians are the highest consumers of sticky rice
Some Laotians even refer to themselves as luk khao niaow, which can be translated as “children of sticky rice”. Sticky rice usually accompanies every meal in Laos and is considered a staple food.
The Lao currency is called Kip
Kip is the local currency of Laos. It’s a closed currency, meaning that it can’t be sold or bought outside the country. If you have any Lao Kip remaining before leaving the country, you should use them or save them as a souvenir.
US Dollars are also widely accepted as currency by most sellers. However, you’ll likely get the change back in Kip. In the southern part of the country, Thai Baht is usually accepted as well.
Coffee is one of the main agricultural exports
Coffee plants were brought from France in the early 20th century and since then it has become one of the major agricultural exports. The volcanic soil that can be found in the Bolaven Plateau offers perfect growing conditions for coffee.
Laos was part of French Indochina
Laos was under French rule from 1893 to 1945, and from 1946 to 1953. During this period, influences from France spread across the country. The country gained its independence in 1953, but still today, there are colonial buildings and several traditions have French origins. Some local traditions have also been mixed with French influences.
Laotian silk is 100% handmade
Laos is famous for its handwoven silk and the finished products can be purchased in various markets across the country. Still today, most weavers are using ancient weaving techniques that result in top-quality silk products.
It’s a communist country
Laos is one of the five remaining countries that are led by a communist government. The ruling party of today is known as Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, which originally was known as Lao People’s party who came to power after the Laotian Civil War in 1975.
The Pathet Lao movement started in 1950 and they were closely associated with Vietnamese communists. Still today, one can see flags with the hammer and sickle, which are important symbols of communism.
There are more than 100 different ethnic groups in Laos
While the majority of the population are referred to as ethnic Lao. There are over 100 different ethnic groups living in the country, including Khmou and Hmong. Each ethnic folk group has its own languages, although only Lao language is recognized as official.
Champa is considered a sacred flower by Laotians
Dok Champa can be seen at temples in Laos and it represents sincerity and joy in life. It’s also a symbol of luck and the flower has been regarded as sacred for centuries.
Larb is the most famous dish from Lao cuisine
Larb is the national dish of Laos and it can be described as a type of meat salad. It’s also popular in northern Thailand, especially among Lao and Hmong people who’ve made it part of Thai cuisine as well.
It’s one of the most bombed countries in the world
During the Vietnam War, more than 2 million tons of bombs were dropped over Laos by the US Military. About 30% of them didn’t explode, and still today, these unexploded bombs pose a threat to locals across the country.
Luang Prabang is the former royal capital of the Kingdom of Laos
Luang Prabang was the former seat of the government before Pathet Lao took over political power in 1975. The city was previously known as Xieng Thong and it was also the royal capital of the Kingdom of Laos.
More reading: Best things to do in Luang Prabang
Lao foot etiquette
If you want to respect Lao culture and customs, it’s worth learning more about the so-called Lao foot etiquette. For example, feet should never be pointed at any other person, including Buddha.
Moreover, your feet should never touch someone else, and they should not be raised on tables or chairs. Basically, you should only use your feet for walking, running, or playing a sport. Everything else that you do with your feet might be considered rude.
There are many festivals in Laos
Lao New Year, also known as Pi Mai is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. Boun Bung Fai, Boun Khao Phansa, and Boun Ock Phansa are some of the most popular festivals in Laos. The national day is also widely celebrated with locals dressing up in traditional costumes.
Petanque is a popular sport
Petanque is a French sport, but due to influences from France, the game has become a favorite Lao Pastime.
The ‘Land of a million elephants’
The elephant is not only a national symbol of Laos but the country used to be called Lane Xang, which can be translated as ‘Land of a million elephants’. Unfortunately, there aren’t many wild elephants left in the country due to logging and loss of habitat.
It is estimated that only 800 elephants are remaining within Lao borders. Luckily, there are some sanctuaries and conservationists that work hard to preserve the majestic animals, such as MandaLao Elephant Conservation.
Lam Vong is a traditional dance in Laos
Lamvong means Circle Dance if you translate it to English, and it’s the traditional dancing style of Lao people. It’s commonly performed during festivals and weddings as well as during local celebrations.
Laos Facts for Kids
- The elephant is the national animal of Laos
- Vientiane is the capital of Laos
- The Irrawaddy dolphin is living in the Mekong river
- The country’s official name is The Lao People’s Democratic Republic
- Plumeria alba is the national flower of Laos
Cultural facts about Laos
- Laotians typically value a simple life rather than wealth and money. Eating, drinking, and leisure times are generally most important for Lao people.
- Buddhism is the biggest religion in Laos
- Every morning, there’s an alms giving where locals give food to Buddhist monks
- Many local women wear a traditional long skirt on a daily basis
- The locals in Laos mostly greet each other with a prayer-like gesture, also known as nop.
- Laotians are rarely talking about politics or the government.
- Visitors are expected to dress appropriately
- Public affection is frowned upon in Laos and should be avoided.
- Showing disappointment or anger in public is considered inappropriate. Causing someone to lose face is very rude according to Lao customs. A loud voice is also considered as aggressive.
- Making comments about people’s appearance is a common habit among Laotians. So don’t be offended if someone points out that you’re too skinny or fat.
General information about Laos
Below are some facts about Laos’ population, land area, national day, government form, official language, and other general information about Laos that will be useful to know.
The economy of Laos has been growing rapidly in recent years with an average of 7% growth in 2019 and 8% before that. However, despite having one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, it remains one of the poorest countries in Asia.
- Official name: The Lao People’s Democratic Republic
- Population: 7 million people
- Continent: Asia
- Capital: Vientiane
- Demonym: Lao or Laotian
- Life expectancy: 68 years
- Highest Mountain: Phou Bia (2819 meter)
- Land area: 237,955 km2 (91,875 sq mi)
- Largest Lake: Nam Ngum reservoir
- National Day: 2 December
- Government: Unitary Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic
- Party General Secretary and President: Bounnhang Vorachith
- Currency: Kip (₭) (LAK)
- Official language: Lao
- Religion: Buddhism and Tai folk religion
- National song: “Pheng Xat Lao”
- Time zone: UTC+7 (ICT)
- Country Code: LA
- Calling Code: +856
Flag of Laos
The Laotian flag is characterized by two horizontal stripes in red color at the top and bottom, with a wider blue horizontal stripe in between and a white circle in the middle of the flag.
Map of Laos
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic shares borders with Vietnam, China, Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia.
How many of these Laos facts did you know? Leave a comment below!