Travel is such a wonderful thing. Most of us do it with the right intentions and really want to experience different cultures. However, we aren’t always well equipped with the knowledge we need to practice responsible tourism. Responsible tourism can essentially be summed up as, “First, do no harm.” Here are some tips to make sure that you do no harm to the people, animals, and nature of the world.
1. Support local trade
When buying souvenirs, food, or even going on tours, shop local first. Big corporations and international chains don’t need your money. The locals do.
2. Learn local customs and values
Research to the best of your ability so that you can be respectful. Learn how to greet locals, appropriate body language, and anything that is considered rude or offensive. Also keep in mind that there may be some rules and laws that you would never have guessed.
3. Dress appropriately
Modesty is very important in many cultures and countries. Find out how much you should cover up in different situations, such as visiting local temples.
4. Leave no trace
Don’t litter. Try to reuse things and avoid papers and plastics, as many developing nations will not have an abundance of recycling bins. Instead of buying water bottles, you can refill your own thermos by using a water sterilization tool.
5. Don’t patronize businesses that treat people or animals inhumanely
This includes riding elephants and taking photos with drugged animals. Also avoid “attractions” that exploit people, like orphanage tours.
6. Don’t buy from children
Don’t support child labor. You don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes nor where that money’s really going.
7. Don’t give money to beggars
Like the above, you don’t know where that money is going. Plus, it helps perpetuate the cycle of dependence on the “white savior.” Instead, donate money to established organizations that work to create sustainable self-reliance within the country.
8. Ask permission before taking photos of locals
They’re real people living their lives. They’re not there for your amusement. It’s demeaning and voyeuristic. That’s not to say you can’t ask. I found the majority of people were excited to be in my photos.
9. Be responsible about volunteering
First off, you should not participate in voluntourism. It’s extremely harmful to local communities. However, if you have an in-demand skill, like nursing, do your research before setting off.
10. Don’t buy ivory products
Also consider reporting it. Selling them is illegal in most countries.
11. Look out for your fellow travelers
Everyone’s out of their element. Many people are traveling on their own. Look out for them and help them stay safe.
12. Negotiate, but be fair
In many countries, bargaining at markets is part of the culture. But it’s important to keep in mind that this is how people make their living. What’s chump change to you could be a lot to them.
13. Don’t step on, or touch anything while snorkeling
With the coral reefs and many ocean species in danger, it’s so important to respect sea life.