Wherever we go in the world, we take a responsible attitude with us. That means travelling in a way which both respects and benefits local people, their culture, their economy, and their environment. If you’re not familiar with it, sometimes it’s hard to know what people mean by the words ‘responsible tourism’. So, to give you a bit of a step in the right direction, here are 12 tips to help you to be a more responsible traveller on your next trip.
1. Educate yourself
Before leaving home, learn as much as possible about the countries you are visiting – the religion, culture, and the local rules and values.
2. Get down with the local lingo
Learn some of the local language and don’t be afraid to use it – simple pleasantries will help break the ice. Keep practicing, and show the locals that you are making a special effort to learn their language. They’ll appreciate it!
3. Know your customs
Learn what’s appropriate behaviour and body language in the country you’re visiting. Think along the lines of the concept of “saving face” in Asia or giving the thumbs up in western or central Europe.
4. Go local in everything you do
Support locally owned businesses, hotels, restaurants, and other services. Eat local food and drink local brands and brews. Use public transport, hire a bike, or walk where convenient – you’ll meet local people and get to know the place. Use our local travel practices as a guideline.
5. Know what you’re supporting
Think first. It’s best not to eat in restaurants, shop in stores, or visit local shows, markets, or zoos that promote cruelty or exploitation of endangered species. Always be aware of where your money is going as you travel.
6. Shop smart
Shop from traditional artisans for locally made products, helping keep traditional crafts alive, and favour local products over imported items. Bargain if that is a local practice, but bear in mind that a small amount to you could be extremely important to the seller.
7. Dress appropriately
Dress respectfully with an awareness of local standards. Dress modestly at religious sites and check what swimwear is suitable for pools and the beach.
8. Always ask permission for photos
Always ask first before photographing or videoing people. If you want to go that extra mile, send them back copies of photos to help make it a two-way exchange.
9. Support the local community responsibly
Be wary of giving gifts or money to beggars, children, and people you have just met. Supporting the community through a local school, clinic, or development project may be more constructive.
10. Leave only footprints…
Take care of the environment as you would your own home. Use alternatives to plastic and say no to plastic bags, recycle wherever possible, and try to keep your waste as low as possible.
11. Help from home
After returning home, think about how you can support programs and organisations that are working to protect the welfare, culture, and environment of the places you’ve visited.
The traveller who wishes to have a happy and successful trip should keep as calm, cheerful, and friendly as possible. A smile is an international sign of warmth and friendship, so if in doubt, smile!