Tourism brings prosperity to previously impoverished areas of the world and provides locals with a way to make money and provide for their families. However, as travellers, it’s responsible of us to be aware of how our presence effects the local communities we come into contact with.
The basis of responsible tourism is, very generally, concerned with respecting the places you visit, minimising the impact you have on the surroundings as you pass through, and giving something back to the local communities.
You can find out more about how we at STA Travel are doing our bit towards becoming a more responsible travel provider on our website.
Small considerations we make while travelling can make all the difference to the communities we encounter on our trips and to the local environment.
Here are our top 10 ways to become a more responsible traveller
Buy from the Locals
Visit the little, local shops and restaurants; you’ll be giving straight into the hands of the locals rather than the fat cats who run the big chains, meaning the money stays in the local area and directly benefits the people who live there.
And, if you’re visiting a restaurant, you’ll be sure to taste some of the best, most authentic, local food around!
Buy from the locals to give directly back to the communities you're visiting.
Leave no trace – whatever you bring, take away with you. No plastic bottles in the gutter, no beer bottles in the sea and discarded flip flops in the sand.
Keep the places you visit as they originally were, for other travellers who will come after you but, more importantly, for the locals who live there and have shown you such hospitality.
Don’t Give Money to Child Beggars
As heartbreaking as it may be to walk away – you really shouldn’t give money to child beggars.
Giving money to child beggars provides their desperately impoverished families with an incentive to keep the children working on the streets, which not only keeps them out of school, it puts them in great danger.
Some children aren’t begging for their families either, they may be orphans who have been sent out to work by criminal gangs and traffickers, meaning any money you give them actually goes straight back to the bad guys.
If you’d like to help, it’s better to research registered charities that go out and actively help street children, and make a donation to them instead.
Where possible, try to travel overland. Obviously for those bigger journeys, this isn’t really possible, but if you’re considering adding in a shorter or domestic flight, consider how you can reach your destination overland instead.
It will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but it’s also way more fun! For example, there are heaps of ways you could get from Bangkok to Hong Kong other than flying, or from Sydney to Cairns, or from New York to LA. Did someone say road trip?! Exciting.
Travelling overland where possible is better for the environment- and more fun!
Take Your Own Chopsticks
If you’re heading to China, Japan or South East Asia why not take your own chop sticks? They barely take up any space in your bag, they’re lighter and more portable than knife and fork (and they won’t get you stopped at customs!).
In Asia, they devour entire forests-worth of disposable chopsticks every year, so by not using the disposable ones, you’ve done your little bit to save the trees – imagine the impact if everyone did it!
When travelling, especially in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the way you dress is important, and while locals maybe used to tourists and the alternative western culture they bring with them bear in mind that the way you dress can cause offense.
For example, while it’s not necessary for girls to wear a sari in India, it’s not appropriate for them to wander the streets in a bikini either – no matter how hot it is! Bring some clothes with you that are light weight and can cover your shoulders and tops of your legs when needed, to avoid disapproving looks.
Bring a Refillable Water Bottle
Take a refillable water bottle with you on your travels especially if you are visiting Australia, USA, Canada or New Zealand. It will save you money (you can fill it up for free in public water fountains) but you’ll also be doing your bit to cut down on the use of plastic.
Bring your own refillable water bottle to minimise plastic waste where possible.
Don’t Flush Your Toilet Paper
If you’re travelling almost anywhere through central and South America, Asia and Africa you’re going to need to put your toilet paper in the bin.
Generally, the sewage systems in these parts of the world aren’t strong enough to cope with an excess of paper being passed through them, so to avoid being the cause of a bathroom flood put your paper in the bin provided.
Research Local Customs
Brush up on the local customs of the country/countries you’re visiting before you arrive to make sure you don’t inadvertently cause offence to the locals.
Something that’s not considered rude here may be interpreted that way elsewhere. For example, in Thailand pointing the soles of your bear feet at someone is considered rude (as the bottoms of your feet are usually dirty), so watch out for this when you are visiting temples etc, and in Saudi Arabia giving a ‘thumbs up’ to someone is as rude to the locals as flipping the V’s is here in the UK!
Help on Holiday
If you’d like to spend some time on your trip make a difference to those less fortunate in small communities around the world. A volunteering trip is the perfect option.
Whether you have 2 weeks or 2 months to spare you can visit small communities across the world and choose to help with a huge amount of important aspect of community life including conservation, construction, and the education of children.