Basic Laos Phrases for Travelers in English

Basic Laos Phrases for Travelers in english

Learn a few basic words and phrases in Lao to enhance your travel experience in this charming and friendly country. Trying to engage in conversation with the locals by uttering a few sentences or simply saying “Sabaidee”  can be a rewarding memory!

Essential Laos Phrases in Common Situations

This section will cover essential Lao phrases and  words to use in everyday and travel situations. Learn these basic expressions before your trip and practice them once you arrive. You will be surprised how much you can communicate with just simple Lao sentences.

Greetings and Basic Phrases

Greetings are an important part of Lao culture. The standard Lao greeting is the phrase “sabaidee” which means hello, good day, and goodbye all rolled into one.

“Sabaidee”: Hello, good day.

For formal occasions, use “sabaidii bpen yang” instead. The proper response is to put your hands together in a prayer-like fashion, bow slightly, and return the “sabaidee” greeting. Handshakes are also commonly used when meeting someone. Remember to smile and maintain eye contact to show interest and respect. The Lao people are known for being very genuine and friendly, so greeting everyone you interact with in Lao is a great way to break the ice and have meaningful exchanges during your travels.

Laos greetings
Laos greetings
Laos English
Sabaidee Hello
Sabaidii bpen yang Hello (formal)
Khop chai Thank you
Mee kam sai I’m sorry
Mai sai Never mind/No problem
Khao thot Goodbye
Chan chaa Yes
Mai chaa No

Focus on learning these basic Lao greetings, courtesies, and responses first. You will gain confidence to have simple conversations by mastering these essential Lao words and phrases.

Getting Around

Navigating a new place in a foreign language can be challenging. These essential Lao phrases will help you get around Laos, ask for directions, inquire about prices, and overcome language barriers.

To pronounce “Go to…” in Lao, you would say “pae…”.

For example: To say “Go to the market”, you would say “pae ta laat”, to say “Go to the hotel” you would say “pae hong haam”.

Laos English
Pae… Go to…
Ta laat Market
Hong haam Hotel
Lot sai nam Where is…?
Yu tee nai How much is this?
Tao rai? How much?
Mai ao kap I don’t understand
Paak lem lai Speak more slowly, please
Tuktuk- a common way to get around in Laos
Tuktuk- a common way to get around in Laos

With these key Lao travel phrases, you will be able to find your way to destinations, ask locals for help, understand prices, and interact with taxi/tuk-tuk drivers.

Food and Drink

One of the joys of visiting Laos is experiencing the amazing local cuisine. Use these key Lao phrases at restaurants, markets, and street food stalls to easily order food and drink.

Here are some popular local foods to try when visiting Laos: Larb (salad), tam mak hoong (green papaya salad), khao poon (sticky rice with pork), sin dad (minced pork patty), mok pa (grilled fish covered by banana leaves), or lam (grilled corn cake), laap kai (minced chicken), khao niao (sticky rice), Laos beer,…

Larb - A spicy meat salad made with minced meat, herbs, rice powder, and fish sauce
Larb – A spicy meat salad made with minced meat, herbs, rice powder, and fish sauce
Laos English
Gin khao jai I’m vegetarian
Mai ao khaow I can’t eat gluten
Gin nam deum Water, please
Gin bia Beer, please
Khaaw Rice
Larp Laos salad
Yu tee nai How much is this?

Mastering these essential food-related words and phrases will help you get exactly what you want to eat and drink in Laos. You will be able to specify dietary needs, ask for recommendations, and order local Lao dishes like a pro.

Shopping

Shopping at local markets and boutiques is one of the best ways to find unique souvenirs and gifts during your time in Laos. Use these key Lao shopping phrases to ask about products, negotiate prices, and interact with vendors.

Laos English
Tao rai ti sala? How much is this bag?
Pom mok gan lai I’ll just look, thanks
Tao rai ti nen? How much is this?
Khaw kha thae puen Can I try this on?
Night market in Laos
Night market in Laos

There are many night markets operating in Laos (Luang Prabang night market, Vientiane night market), where you can find unique souvenirs.

Numbers in Laos

In addition to common words and phrases, it might be helpful to learn the numbers 1-10 in Lao. You will use these for quantifying items, telling time, converting currency, haggling prices, and more.

Number Laos
1 nueng
2 songs
3 sam
4 si
5 ha
6 hok
7 jet
8 paet
9 kao
10 sip

Mastering these basic numbers will allow you to count items, state quantities, ask about or tell time, specify amounts when ordering, and discuss pricing in Laos. Carry this Laos numbers cheat sheet with you to markets and shops.

Tips for learning and using basic Laos phrases

Learning a few basic Laos phrases before your trip can greatly enhance your travel experience. Here are some tips to help you effectively learn and use these phrases:

  • Practice pronunciation: Pay attention to the tone and pronunciation of each word. Laos is a tonal language, so subtle tone changes can alter the meaning of a word.
  • Use language learning apps: There are several language learning apps available that can help you learn basic Laos phrases at your own pace. Some popular apps include Duolingo and Memrise.
  • Engage with locals: Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with locals. They will appreciate your efforts to speak their language and may even offer helpful tips or corrections.
  • Carry a phrasebook: Consider carrying a pocket-sized phrasebook or a language translation app on your phone. This can be a handy reference when you need to communicate in certain situations.

Resources for learning more about Laos

There are many resources available to continue building your Lao language skills:

  • Lao Language and Culture course on Coursera
  • Lao phrasebooks like Lonely Planet’sLao Phrasebook & Dictionary
  • Free language learning apps like Duolingo, Memrise, and Mondly
  • Audio language courses such as Pimsleur Conversational Lao
  • YouTube videos teaching Lao words and phrases

We hope this starter guide helps you learn key Lao phrases for traveling in Laos. With some practice of basic words and phrases, you will be set to interact with locals, order food, get around, and go shopping during your time in amazing Laos. Let the language-learning adventure begin!

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