There are many Lao bar girls, night girls, service girls, sexy working girls, or whatever you'd like to call them. Unlike in Thailand, where many of their working girls come from all parts of the world, nearly all the working girls in Laos have a Lao ethnic background with the exception of some Hmong girls. So whenever you visit a beer bar in Laos, the chances are the girl having a drink with you is a Laotian.
In a developing country like Laos where girls are not always afforded the same opportunities as guys, many Lao girls from rural areas come to the city and enter the world's oldest profession in an effort to make money to help their poor family back home in the countryside, but the trend has also changed to where some of them are using their earnings towards their education and the majority of them are blowing the money on entertainment with their friends, and personal necessities such as a new motorbike and mobile phone.
The main aim of someone who is employed as a bar girl is to keep the customer in their bar buying drinks and also to get the customer to buy her a drink. The girls earn their money from a percentage of the drinks bought on their behalf but there is a target to maintain so they can keep their job. If a bar girl wishes to leave during her working hours with someone then she has to pay a percentage of the money, more popularly known as a "bar fine" to the bar owner. In Laos the girls refer to their boss who is generally a female as "mae" (mum) because the bar owner takes care of her every day like a mum.
So for instance, if the amount payable to take a girl out for an hour of pleasure is 1,000 baht (about $30 US), the bar owner may keep 200 baht (about $6 US), and the girl receives 800 baht (about $24 US) for herself. In Laos, 1,000 Thai baht is usually the standard cost to take a girl out for an hour, but some places are cheaper or dearer. A girl can stay overnight with you at your place if she agrees, she won't get in trouble by the management if she declines. The cost for overnight is usually over 2,000 baht (about $60 US), but again different places will have different prices and sometimes can be negotiable.
Lao girls who sell their bodies do not have an easy life and sometimes you have to feel sorry for them, especially when they make the ever so hard decision to go and work in the bar industry. Calculated scamming and cheating often goes on, usually playing with men's emotions and lives when they fall in love with a working Lao girl. Think about this, they already lie to their family about their job, so for them to be honest with you as a stranger is slim.
Working Lao girls often see relationships with foreign men as a way to benefit themselves and their family. They may just choose one man who they feel can provide the best for them, or they may simply try and make as much money as they can by building up a group of foreign men to support them financially with regular overseas payments when they return back to their country.
On your next, or first holiday to Laos, don't go looking for the beer bar areas if they will offend you. But if you enjoy a few drinks at the bar with a working Lao girl, you can do just that. You don't necessarily have to take a girl out with you if you're not interested. Just remember to be careful though if you want to pursue a relationship with Lao girls who dress sexy or work in beer bars.
Love them or hate them, Lao bar girls will entertain you, drink with you, talk to you, smile with you and maybe even educate you about things you never knew about Laos and our beautiful culture. The working girls in Laos are not as bad as they seem.