Is Laos LGBTQ Friendly? How to Stay Safe

Laos is ancient, beautiful and scenic but is it safe? Our expert Ed Salvato from Man About World shares his advice on what LGBTQ travelers need to know before they go.

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Photo © GettyImages/Watsamon Tri Yasakda/EyeEm
Laos is the least developed country in southeast Asia but is one of the most tolerant communist states, with a growing acceptance of homosexuality.

Local Curfew

There is a nationwide midnight curfew for all businesses, so bars close at 11.30pm. There's not much to do except head back to the hotel and get ready for your adventures the next day.

LGBTQ Legal Status

Homosexuality isn't criminalized in Laos but the existing laws have suppressed the rights of the Laos LGBTQ community. Overall, the Lao people tend to be welcoming to visitors. However, while the country is tolerant towards LGBTQ visitors, Lao society remains traditional and conservative towards homosexuality. Most gay locals live in the closet and, while attitudes are changing, many are still expected to get married (to an opposite-sex partner) and produce children. 

LGBTQ Friendly Areas

There aren't any gay bars (there's almost no nightlife of any sort) though there are gay-friendly cafes. The most visited part of Laos, Luang Prabang, is a charming colonial city, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Incredibly pretty, the city has charming high-end boutique hotels where you'll certainly see other LGBTQ guests, and if you request a single bed your wishes will be respected.

Your tour guides will most certainly have seen many other gay visitors; the guide may even be gay. Many of the gay tour operators included below hire qualified gay guides when possible. They vet all their guides to ensure they are comfortable with LGBTQ guests.

The only caveats about traveling in southeast Asia is to respect the local norms and customs. Open displays of affection (whether same-sex or opposite-sex) are very uncommon. When entering temples and other important sites, you will be expected to dress appropriately.  Check with your government travel advisory prior to travel for LGBTQ safety information.

Trip Planning

  • Utopia is a good source for LGBTQ information in southeast Asia especially for bars, saunas, and sexually-focused information. 

  • Travel Gay Asia offers information on bars, clubs, saunas, beaches, and hotels. You can book hotels here which are fulfilled by a gay-owned and gay-managed travel agency, OutOfOffice.com. 

  • NomadicBoys is the blog published by Stefan and Sebastian, a gay couple writing about their global adventures.

Legal Services

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) publishes an annual survey of sexual orientation laws.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) conducts top-notch reporting and advocacy including for LGBTQ people around the world.

LGBTQ Tour Operators

While the following highly recommended tour companies cater primarily to gay men, most welcome lesbian travelers.

LGBTQ Friendly Mainstream Tour Operators

The following mainstream river cruise companies extend a warm welcome to LGBTQ guests.

  • Pandaw offers luxury small ship river cruises in Asia. The manager is openly gay and the staff is gay-friendly.

  • Aqua Expeditions offers luxury cruises on the Mekong River and is known for excellent food, service and a focus on sustainability.

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