The following telephone numbers should work in most areas of the country where there is telephone service:
Fire : 190
Police : 191
Ambulance : 195
Legal Matters
Revolutionary Laos established its first national legal code in 1988, followed by a constitution two years later - the reverse order of how it's usually done in other nations. Although on paper certain rights arc guaranteed, the reality is that you can be lined, detained or deported for any reason at any time, as has been demonstrated repeatedly in cases involving everything from marrying a Lao national without government permission to running a business that competes too efficiently with someone who has high government connections.

Your only consolation is that Lao officials generally don't come after foreigners for petty, concocted offences. In most cases you must truly have committed a crime to find yourself in trouble with the law. However, as documented by Amnesty International (and corroborated by local expats), you could easily find yourself railroaded through the system without any legal representation.

The message is clear: stay away from anything you know to be illegal, such as drug possession or prostitution. If detained, ask to call your embassy or consulate in Laos, if there is one: A meeting or phone conversation between Lao officers and someone from your embassy/consulate can result in quicker adjudication and release, though these are by no means guaranteed. On top of not wanting. to hassle foreigners for' misdemeanors, the Lao are not anxious to create international incidents by treating tourists unkindly.

Sexual Relationship
Sexual relationships between foreigners and Lao citizens who arc not legally married arc not permitted under Lao law. Permission for marriage or engagement to a Lao citizen must be submitted in, a formal application to Lao authorities. Penalties for failing to register a relationship range from US$500 to US$5000, and possibly imprisonment or deportation. See also Marriage Permits earlier in this chapter.

Business Hours
Government offices are generally open Sam to I 1.30am or noon and from I pm to 5pm Monday to Friday. Some offices may open for a half day on Saturday but this custom was generally abandoned in 1991 when the official two-hour lunch break introduced by the French WIIS reduced to one hour. Doc this mean you can expect to find Lao officials back in their offices promptly at 1pm Probably not. Shops and private businesses open and close a bit later and either stay open during lunch or close for just an hour. On Saturday some businesses are open all day, others only half a day. Just about every business in Laos, except for restaurants, is closed on Sunday.

Public Holidays & Special events
Festivals in Laos are mostly linked to the agricultural seasons or to Buddhist holidays. The general word for festival in Lao is bun (or boun). See the boxed text 'Lao Festivals & Public Holidays' for dates.