Most tourists coming to Laos will find the locals extremely friendly and notice that they have a very relaxed attitude to life. This is one of the pleasures of visiting this country but there are a few customs, which if known, can make your stay even more enjoyable.
Buddhism is the main religion in Laos and people are very religious. In temples, do not take any Buddha images, sit on them or handle them roughly.
Females should never touch monks or novices, though talking to them is fine.
Do not touch people on the head unless you are close friends.
Shoes should be taken off in all Lao houses, and sometimes it is also required in shops, restaurants and hotels.
Do not take photos of people unless asking them first, especially in temples and hilltribe villages.
Refrain from giving money (even for photos) as it encourages begging.
Laos is still often a very conservative country so please dress appropriately, especially in temples and when visiting Government offices. Knees and shoulders should be covered at these times.
Public displays of affection are frowned upon. It is illegal for a foreigner and a Lao person to have a relationship, the Lao person could be put in jail for doing so.
The traditional Lao greeting is a "nop", where the hands are placed together in a prayer position. With the introduction of more foreigners, handshakes are now commonplace but a nop is a great way to say hello to Lao people.
Losing your temper in Laos is not a great way to get anything achieved. The Lao people will feel very embarrassed for you and usually run away to let you calm down in peace. Smiles work wonders though.
Chopsticks are usually only used for noodle dishes, a spoon and a fork are used for all other food.