Whether your traveling in Laos or any other country in the world, it’s always very useful to know the basic words and phrases of the language spoken there.
If you’re going to Laos, the basic Lao words can really come in handy in a variety of situations.
So many times we’ve had to eat very spicy food because the locals didn’t understand our “not spicy” in English.
Or you can’t order a vegetarian dish, just because they couldn’t understand “no meat” in English.
And trust us, if you know the basic Lao phrases like how to say thank you in Laos or how to greet people in their language, that will always get you a warm smile in return.
So get ready to learn these 35 essential Lao words and phrases, to feel super confident during your Laos trip.
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10 MOST IMPORTANT BASIC LAO WORDS
If you’re traveling from Thailand to Laos, you might be surprised when you’ll hear the language spoken here.
When we arrived in Luang Prabang for the first time and I saw the Thai people from our bus talking to Laotians normally in their own language I was surprised and thought to myself – What language is spoken in Laos?
As it turns out Laotian language is a lot like Thai and people from both countries can understand each other quite easily. But that doesn’t help the rest of us who don’t speak Thai, so here are the basic Lao phrases that you should start with.
Hello – Sa bai dee
How are you? – Jao sabaidee baw?
Goodbye! – La Gon
Thank you – Khop Jai or Khop Chai
You’re welcome – Than nyinditonhab
Excuse me – Khaw Toot
Yes – Doi
No – Baw
I don’t understand – Khoy Baw Khao Jai
Don’t have – Baw Mee
LAO PHRASES TO ORDER FOOD
In our experience of traveling in Laos, this is the most important section of words and phrases to know for your trip. Ordering food and receiving it just the way you want it to be might be a challenge.
So to make it a breeze, these are the phrases that we used the most and got the best out of every restaurant or street food stall visit.
I would like… – khoi yak…
Not spicy or a little spicy – Baw Pet or Pet Noy Nung
I am vegetarian – Khaphachao vegetarian pen
I am allergic – Khaphachao koedoakan aeph
No sugar – Baw Sai Nam Tan
Water – Nam
Beer – Bia Lao
Bon appetit – soen saeb
The bill, please – Chèk bin, kalounaa
It was delicious – Sèp laaï
Cheers! – Ne se traduit pas
USEFUL LAO PHRASES FOR GETTING AROUND OR TAKING A TAXI
Another great time when learning the Lao language will pay off is when you’ll be trying to get around the area, looking for directions that your offline map is not helping you with or talking to Taxi drivers. As taxis antuk-tuksks often are the only means of transportation in Laos, these phrases might become quite useful.
Where is the bathroom? – Hong nam yu sai
I would like to go to… – Diak…
Turn Left/ Turn Right – Leo Sai/ Leo Kua
Stop – Yuut
Go – Pai
I would like to rent … – Khaphachao tongkan thichahai seoa…
Motorbike/ Car/ Bike – Lot chak/ Lot keng/ Lot thiip
LAO PHRASES FOR MAKING FRIENDS
If I’ve learned something during my travels it’s that whenever you are able to say something kind in a local language, locals totally love it and are way more open and friendly towards you.
Making an effort is the most important thing. Therefore I’m sharing with you 3 easy Lao phrases that will do the trick.
What’s your name? – jâo seu nyãng?
Good luck – sok dee
Have a nice day! – mi van thidi
LAO PHRASES TO USE IN MARKETS
Going to markets in Laos will most like be something you’ll be doing at least a few times. When you’re looking around the markets, it’s acceptable to haggle a bit with the vendors to lower the price.
But don’t be very aggressive about it, as the discount of 10% – 15% is what usually should be expected. Also, when buying street food, these phrases and knowing the numbers will help you a lot.
How much does this cost? – Laka tao dai?
That’s expensive! – Phaeng lai lai
Can you lower the price? – Lud dai baw?
0 – Soon; 1 – Nung; 2 – Song; 3 – Sam; 4 – See; 5 – Ha; 6 – Hok; 7 – Jet; 8 – Paed; 9 – Gao; 10 – Sip; 100 – Loï; 1000 – Phan
EXTRA TIPS TO LEARN LAO LANGUAGE
If you’re just visiting Laos for a short while, you should be able to get by with these basic Lao phrases as people in the most touristic areas do speak a little English.
The sign language works pretty well too, but being able to speak the local language is way better, as that’s how you avoid misunderstandings and other unexpected things.
Apparently, there are no quality English – Laotian books that will provide you with decent materials to learn the Lao language. Most of the times you’ll get Thai language instead of Lao. So your best bet is to find a person who speaks Lao to teach you.
If you’re already in Laos, it’s not difficult to find a local who would want to teach you Laos. But in most cases, they might just be looking to benefit more from you teaching them English instead. So it can be a win-win situation.