There are plenty of things to buy in Laos, especially if you’re looking for quality handicrafts produced by the country’s ethnic tribes. Silks, paintings, home décor, jewellery, and weavings dominate the local markets, and buying these from fair trade shops will help support Laos’ still-growing and fragile economy.

    You can also find hill-tribe embroidery, wall hangings and quilts – this traditional art form of weaving dates back to the 14th century. If textiles aren’t to your liking, Laos also produces quality coffee in the Bolaven Plateau. Check out our guide on what to buy in Laos.



    From the simple and mundane to the aesthetic and highly spiritual, Lao craftsmen can carve a wide variety of attractive pieces from wood, bone and stone. Like most Laotian arts and crafts, religious imagery and figures such as Buddha provide the subject and source of inspiration.

    You can buy authentic opium pipes in Laos as long as they’re for ornamental purposes, but refrain from purchasing ivory carvings. If found in your luggage, the carvings will be confiscated by authorities and you’ll probably be fined for buying them. 



    Lao women wear sinh - a wraparound skirt worn with a silver belt. Produced by many ethnic groups across the country, this silk skirt with ornate embroidery is regularly worn by university students and government office workers. It’s one of the best things to buy in Laos – markets and fair trade shops in Vientiane sell sinh with unique patterns and textures. 

    photo by Kuruman (CC BY 2.0) modified



    Jewellery stores can be found in many cities, especially Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Local craftsmen have been creating quality décor out of gold and silver since the 9th century, though it was mainly for royalty and aristocrats in Laos.

    The majority of jewellery shops trade primarily in silver and gold, which offer relatively low prices compared to Thailand. Laotian gold is 99.99% pure and is sold at a set price per gram. You can get various gemstones, gold and silver ornaments and jewels, making it a good place to design and customize jewellery.


    Laos Coffee

    Laos is one of the largest producers of coffee in Southeast Asia – the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos has elevations of up to 1,300 metres above sea level, resulting in temperatures that are ideal for growing coffee. You’ll often find Arabica and Robusta coffee beans sold in many markets throughout Laos. Local cafes, roadside stalls, and restaurants usually serve Laos coffee with condensed milk.

    photo by Kris Martyn (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Weaving Silk

    The art of silk weaving is still very much an ethnic practice in Laos, with designs varying from province to province. Weavers weave intricate patterns on silk or cotton cloths using a traditional wooden frame. The Hmong, Yao, and Sino-Tibetan ethic groups are known for textile weaving and dyeing their own clothes, such as sinh (wraparound skirts) and pha biang (ceremonial shawls).

    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveller

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