As more people explore the world, those privileged to do so should be become more responsible travellers. But what does this mean? Travelling responsibly means respecting local cultures, looking after the environment and giving back. 2017 was declared the year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the UN. As we move forward into 2018, here’s our tips for travelling more responsibly.
Know before you go
Take a little time before you go to understand the local customs, religions and cultures. Just a couple of hours of research will help you avoid any faux-pas with local people. Things to look for are dress codes, eating habits and gestures. You’ll have a far more fulfilling adventure and stop yourself having any embarrassing moments.
Learn some of the language
There are few things as respectful as learning another culture’s language. Being able to say a few words makes the world of difference when helping to connect with local people. It takes just a few minutes to learn how to say “hello” and “thank you” – you’ll be surprised at how much it is appreciated.
Support local as far as possible
While large corporations dominate the travel industry, you can still make a huge difference by choosing who you book with. At least once in your trip, try to steer clear of the big chains and book a night’s stay at a local-run hotel. Look for tour companies which help support the local communities.
Shop till you drop, just do it locally
Go ahead and shop till you drop, but instead of sending your money to the large global companies, try and spend your money with local artisans and shops. The products may not come with a warranty, but they’ll likely be better quality. You’ll return with something unique and be injecting money into the local economy.
Ask before you snap
Think about it like this. If a foreigner was in your country and started taking snaps of you while you’re eating your lunch, how would you feel? Thought so. Next time you want to take a photo of someone, ask their permission first. They may likely say yes, but if they don’t there’s no harm done.
Dress to impress
Before you travel, it’s worth checking the dress codes. Whether it’s religion or culture, many customs around the world dictate a certain way of dressing. If you are at all in doubt, your best bet is covering up. You may find out later that you didn’t need to, but it’s better than turning up in shorts and flip flops when you shouldn’t.
Be careful about who you give your money too
It’s hard not to give a little to someone who looks in need, but by offering money to beggars or children, you may very well be doing more harm than good. Instead, look for appropriate charities or organisations and support them. Your donations will be directed in a much better way. If you do want to get involved instead of handing over money, consider volunteering with local initiatives. Try the LATA foundation.
Dispose of your rubbish appropriately
It goes without saying that you should dispose of your rubbish appropriately. Even if you see locals dropping their waste, there’s no excuse not to hold on to it until you find a place to get rid of it. If possible, ensure you drop anything recyclable into the right bins. Try to avoid taking plastic bags unless you really need them and bring a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic bottles.
Think carefully before you book a wildlife activity
Wildlife is one of the biggest draws for travellers. Few things are as magical as seeing a jaguar stalking along the river bank or dolphins playfully jumping out of the water, but before you book, ensure that it’s with a responsible operator. Just a few hours of entertainment could be leading to the suffering of animals. Be wary of any attraction that uses captive animals.
Reduce your carbon footprint
If you want to travel, you’ll most likely have to fly which causes a huge carbon footprint. There are several projects out there which help you offset your carbon omissions. Your donation will typically go towards forestry projects to absorb the carbon or investments in renewable technologies. One of the best is Climate Friendly.
If all else fails, just smile
If everything else fails, a simple smile will go a long way in helping you connect with local people. It costs nothing but will mean an awful lot.
Ready to go explore responsibly? Call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 to start planning your trip or email us here.