Responsible travel recognises ways you can travel whilst causing minimal negative impact during your journey and locally at the destination. It’s not just leaving a destination as you found it but leaving it even better for future generations to come while creating a positive impact on both the local economy and the environment.
Responsible travel is broken into 2 categories – social and ecological. Social relates to the local communities and cultures while ecological relates to the environment, wildlife and ecosystems;.
Travel is the one thing that will make you richer but it has both positive and negative impacts on the environment and local communities. To become a responsible traveller, you must engage in responsible tourism.
There are plenty of ways that you can make a huge difference to the people of the world simply by being more mindful and educated about the decisions you make while travelling.
Start here by following these simple 12 tips that can help you make a positive impact both socially and culturally by understanding the effects you have on the places you travel and the people you meet.
Being a responsible traveller isn’t just about being conscious of your impact on the environment, but it is also about being considerate of the local customs and cultures that influence the local economy. Before you travel, take the time to study the customs of where you are travelling to ensure you have a better cultural understanding and don’t inadvertently offend anyone. As responsible travellers, it’s important to use your common sense at all times. Common sense dictates that local laws and rules are to be respected no matter what
Be mindful and aware of local standards and follow the dress code by dressing respectfully. Wearing short shorts or singlets may be considered inappropriate. In some countries, you must be covered appropriately, keeping your shoulders and knees covered. As a responsible traveller, it’s important to show respect for local customs and traditions when we travel. At religious sites make sure you observe dress codes and ensure you dress modestly. Check what swimwear is suitable for pools and the beach. A great suggestion is to keep a sarong or scarf in your day pack. This can easily be used to cover your shoulders and legs and is lightweight to carry.
Take the time to learn some of the local languages and key phrases which can be used when communicating with local people such as hello, goodbye and thank you. This shows appreciation of culture and your effort to learn more about the local people. Research local customs such as greetings, gestures during prayers and eating etiquette and make sure you follow them while travelling. A great suggestion is to purchase a phrase book or download an app that can help you with translations such as google translate.
Avoid capturing photos of local people while travelling, especially without permission. Ensure you are respectful of the locals and their privacy. Before you take a photo of anyone, a responsible traveller would ask first if they are comfortable with you taking a photo of or with them. Remind yourself how would you feel is someone took a photo of you without your permission. In some places such as The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, The Red Light District, Amsterdam, The Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt and so on photography has been banned, restricted or even illegal and in some cases considered a criminal offence. Always be mindful and check before you click.
If you want to experience a destination and learn more about the culture and people, the best way to do so is to hire a Local Guide. They can tailor a tour to suit your needs and tastes. A local guide will take you away from the tourist traps and into the unexplored streets providing you with a unique travel experience. They have first-hand knowledge of cultural and historical information and can take you to some of the best places to eat that are not just popular tourist spots. A responsible traveller would hire a local guide as it’s an easy way to learn more and connect with the country you are visiting while supporting the local economy and its people. Most importantly it’s the perfect way to make a new friend.
If you are searching for an in-depth understanding and want to experience authentic local lifestyles, customs and cultures. Broaden your knowledge and experiences by visiting local markets, restaurants, museums and connect with the locals. By seeking a deeper cultural experience and understanding you enrich your own experiences and engage with others on a different level.
As a responsible traveller, your money has an incredible impact and spiral effect on the local community. When buying souvenirs consider purchasing from local street vendors. Besides creating a more authentic experience, this ensures your money will directly impact the local community and it helps to create a better life for locals by supporting small businesses.
If you visit wildlife enclosures, unethical sanctuaries and wildlife parks, you are indirectly encouraging and financially supporting the capture and ill-treatment of the animals. A responsible traveller does not participate in tours that promote animal cruelty such as pictures with tigers and other wild cats, dolphin shows and riding elephants, camels etc. A wildlife encounter should not encourage the touching or feeding of animals and should observe sustainable and responsible practices that are in the best interests of the animals. Most organisations think more about profits than the well-being of the animals. By engaging in these activities, you are contributing to a lifetime of distress for the animal.
A great way to be a responsible traveller and engage in a great cultural experience is to stay in a village or book a homestay with a local. Community-based tourism offers a unique experience that cannot be matched by hotels, by inviting travellers to visit local communities with the opportunity to stay in overnight accommodation. This provides the chance for local people to earn an income and give you authentic experience and insight into the local way of life. By supporting community-based tourism, your money is invested into the local region as you directly support rural, poor, and marginalised communities.
It’s unbelievable what people try and steal and name as a souvenir. Please do not take parts of the destination home as a “souvenir”. Whether it is rocks from Machu Picchu or Uluru, sand and sea shells from Hawaii or coral from the Great Barrier Reef – it’s both illegal and disrespectful to take home part of the destination with you. In some countries, you can be fined and charged with a criminal offence by doing so.
A simple way to be a responsible traveller is to avoid the use of single-use plastic items such as plastic bags, plastic straws and containers. Pack with you a reusable bottle, water filters, coffee cup, cloth shopping bag, cutlery, straws and containers. Taking these items with you saves money, and the planet and using single-use plastic. This is the easiest way that you can be a responsible traveller. Plastic can take thousands of years to decompose and is a danger to local wildlife.
Ensuring you do not leave your rubbish behind if one of the easiest things you can do help the environment. As a responsible traveller, when you have something that belongs in the rubbish bin, place it in your bag or pocket until you find one. If the rubbish bin you find is full, wait until you find another one and dispose of your rubbish respectfully.
One of the greatest rewards we can have when travelling is to learn about different cultures and religions. These choices ensure you travel responsibility and that your impact is as minimal as possible. Remember your choices do not just affect your trip, it ripples to the well-being of both the environment and local people around you. Each one of these tips can only make a small difference but each one contributes to the big picture of being a responsible traveller.