Laos Country Guide


The official language in Laos is Lao, a tonal language closely related to Thai. Thanks to ubiquitous Thai broadcast media, most Laotian understand Thai fairly well but still worth learning a few basic expressions in Lao. However, only half of the people speak Lao with the rest speaking various minority languages (the country has nearly 50 ethnic groups), especially in the rural areas.
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There are two main ways to turn Lao words or script into the Latin alphabet. Either the French-style spellings like "Houeisay" or English-style spellings like "Huay Xai". While government documents seem to prefer the French style, the English spellings are becoming more common. Learning a few words in Lao, can get you a long way during your trip in Laos.

Street in Luang Prabang by Hans A. Rosbach

Most younger people prefer to learn English over other foreign languages in school. Therefore the younger generation will generally know some basic English, though proficiency is generally poor. 
Tourist areas will sometimes have school children who will practice their English with you as part of their academic requirements. They may after a conversation, ask you to sign a form or pose for a photo with you as proof that this conversation took place. These conversations can be a great time to gain some local ideas for your next trip or destination in Laos.

French is a legacy of the colonial days and 
the language is still commonly used in government and commerce. Many signage are bilingual in Lao and French. Nearly a third of Laotian students still study French but these days English is far more popular. 

Bilingual street sign by Dragfyre

Country Guide

Laos Hotels
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Huay Xai
Louang Namtha
Luang Prabang
Muang Sing
Vang Vieng

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