Theravada Buddhism is a dominant influence in Lao culture. It is reflected throughout the country from language to the temple and in art, literature, performing arts, etc. Many elements of Lao culture predate Buddhism, however. For example, Laotian music is dominated by its national instrument, the khaen, a type of bamboo pipe that has prehistoric origins. The khaen traditionally accompanied the singer in lam, the dominant style of folk music. Among the lam styles, the lam saravane is probably the most popular.
Sticky rice is a characteristic staple food and has cultural and religious significance to the Lao people. Sticky rice is generally preferred over jasmine rice, and sticky rice cultivation and production is thought to have originated in Laos. There are many traditions and rituals associated with rice production in different environments and among many ethnic groups. For example, Khammu farmers in Luang Prabang plant the rice variety Khao Kam in small quantities near the hut in memory of dead parents, or at the edge of the rice field to indicate that parents are still alive.
Sinh is a traditional garment worn by Laotian women in daily life. It is a hand-woven silk skirt which can identify the woman who wears it in a variety of ways. In particular, it can indicate which region the wearer is from.
Polygamy is officially a crime in Laos, though the penalty is minor. The constitution and Family Code bar the legal recognition of polygamous marriages, stipulating that monogamy is to be the principal form of marriage in the country. Polygamy, however, is still customary among some Hmong people.
All newspapers are published by the government, including two foreign language papers: the English-language daily Vientiane Times and the French-language weekly Le Rénovateur. Additionally, the Khao San Pathet Lao, the country's official news agency, publishes English and French versions of its eponymous paper. Laos currently has nine daily newspapers, 90 magazines, 43 radio stations, and 32 TV stations operating throughout the country. As of 2011, Nhân Dân (The People) and the Xinhua News Agency are the only foreign media organisations permitted to open offices in Laos—both opened bureaus in Vientiane in 2011.
The Lao government heavily controls all media channels to prevent critique of its actions. Lao citizens who have criticised the government have been subjected to enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and torture.
Internet cafes are now common in the major urban centres and are especially popular with the younger generation.
Since the founding of the Lao PDR only very few films have been made in Laos. One of the first commercial feature-length films was Sabaidee Luang Prabang, made in 2008. Australian filmmaker Kim Mordount's first feature film was made in Laos and features a Laotian cast speaking their native language. Entitled The Rocket, the film appeared at the 2013 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) and won three awards at the Berlin International Film Festival. Recently a few local production companies have succeeded to produce Lao feature films and gain international recognition. Among them are Lao New Wave Cinema's At the Horizon, directed by Anysay Keola, that was screened at the OzAsia Film Festival and Lao Art Media's Chanthaly directed by Mattie Do, which was screened at the 2013 Fantastic Fest.
The martial art of muay Lao, the national sport, is a form of kickboxing similar to Thailand's muay Thai, Burmese Lethwei, Malaysian Tomoi, and Cambodian Pradal Serey.
Association football has grown to be the most popular sport in Laos. The Lao League is now the top professional league for association football clubs in the country. Since the start of the League, Lao Army FC has been the most successful club with 8 titles (following the 2007–2008 season), the highest number of championship wins.