Most people who travel to Laos do so out of interest and respect – but how can you take that one step further and travel sustainably in Laos? These travel tips will fill you in on you how you can make more of a difference when you visit this beautiful country.
Laos is only recently becoming a more popular destination, but with more visitors can come problems. It has low population density, diverse ethnic lifestyles and traditions and perhaps the richest, most extensive network of ecosystems of South East Asia. So, it needs to be carefully protected.
Large-scale tourism development can damage ecosystems, pollute environments and exploit local communities. We’re not saying don’t travel here – far from it! There’s plenty of ways you can make a difference. Here’s how to travel sustainably in Laos.
How To Travel Sustainably In LaosHow do these rankings work?
1. Travel To Laos At Off-Peak Seasons
Think outside the box – would you be able to travel outside the peak season? Overtourism of certain places is destroying beaches and putting a strain on local communities.
While Laos is certainly not suffering from overtourism, consider visiting here off-peak, during the hot months of April-May. The money you spend then will help businesses that can struggle outside peak season.
2. Book Eco-Tourism Activities
When looking for things to do in Laos, focus on community-run tours and companies that directly support locals in the area and promote sustainable travel. For treks, we love FairTrek – they hire local Lao staff and use a local supply chain. Green Discovery Laos is a great tour company that brings visitors to rural and protected areas with the least possible environmental impact.
COPE (Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise) is a small museum and charity that covers the history of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos, the way it affects life in the country and how the work of COPE helps local bomb victims.
3. Embrace Local Handicrafts
Keep in mind two phrases beginning with L: “less is more” and “local”! Think locally designed and handmade products. They’re more eco-friendly and there’s usually a heart-warming story behind the products. Avoid buying souvenirs made from animal parts, including claws, paws, teeth, ivory and pelts, and look out for the ‘Luang Prabang Handicraft Label’, which proves that it is locally made.
It’s not about how much money you spend – it’s about where you spend it.
4. Eat Local Lao Food As Much As Possible
Buy fresh foods in the market and eat Lao dishes to ensure that your money stays local and supports Lao farmers. If you’re on a tour, ask your guide if it’s possible to eat in the village instead of taking food with you from town. This will provide villagers with income.
5. Try To Book Eco-Friendly Accommodation
Whether it’s for a weekend or a week-long stay, make sure your accommodation has green habits. You should also hang towels that can be used more than once, turn lights and air conditioning off when you go out. Laos has plenty of rural homestays (read reviews before booking to make sure it’s not exploitive of locals) and eco-bungalows on Airbnb.
6. Cut Down on Plastic Use
When travelling to Laos, we suggest you bring reusable water bottles and eating utensils. Overtourism can lead to large piles of rubbish and plastic everywhere, so don’t contribute to any unnecessary waste.
Forget about the single-use plastic bottles and fill your own water filter bottle with clean water straight from the tap. It’s clean, refreshing – and by using your own bottle, it will help keep your carbon footprint down.
7. Respect Local People
Learn a few words of the local language and make sure you know what’s considered polite and what’s not in terms of eating, greeting and local values. Remember that you are visiting someone else’s home. Laos is a Buddhist country and you should respect the culture here. This includes covering up when visiting temples and taking off your shoes before entering homes or even some cafes.
Ultimately, make sure that what you do on your trip its not exploitative of people, nature, or resources and you’ll find that following sustainable travel tips is easier than you think.