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What is responsible and sustainable travel?

Responsible and sustainable travel is travel with purpose. Apart from having a wonderful trip that you have always dreamed of, responsible and sustainable travel ensures that the money you spend benefits the environment and the local people at the destination you visit.

Any one can be a responsible traveller and any one can travel to care. Responsible travel provides a wide variety of options and is most of the time quite affordable. People of all interests, backgrounds, ages and incomes can travel responsibly and there are plenty of family friendly options as well.

Make well informed choices

Responsible travel starts with planning. Making informed choices before and during your trip is the single most important thing you can do to become a responsible traveller.

Look for websites specializing in sustainable travel, eco tourism, or sustainable tourism. Our website is a good place to start.

Read guidebooks with information on your destination’s environmental, social and political issues, and read before booking.

Contact local accommodations and tour operators who are based in the destination you plan to visit and have first-hand knowledge of the place you are considering visiting.

Ask questions and let tour operators/hotels know that you are a responsible consumer. Before you book, ask about their social and environmental policies. For instance: What is your environmental policy? What percentage of your employees are local citizens? Do you support any projects to benefit the local community? Do you support conservation? How?

While you travel

At the hotel: Ask about environmental policies and practices. Talk with staff about working conditions. Does the hotel support community projects? Does the hotel have accommodation and food arrangements for local drivers and guides.

On your tour: Check to see if your driver has comfortable sleeping and food arrangements while on the trip with you. Do they have medical insurance? Treat them as equals and with respect. Build trust and rapport, and you will have a safe, comfortable, and insightful holiday.

Language: Learn a few words of the local language and use them.

Dress code: Read up on local conventions and dress appropriately. In many countries, modest dress is important.

Social Behavior: Be respectful of local citizens’ privacy. Ask permission before entering sacred places, home, or private land.

Photographs: Be sensitive to when and where you take photos/video of people. Always ask first.

Environment: Respect the natural environment. Never touch or harass animals. Always follow designated trails. Support conservation by paying entrance fees to parks and protected sites.

Animal products: Never purchase crafts, clothing, furniture or other products that have been made from protected or endangered animals.

Pay a fair price: Don’t engage in overly aggressive bargaining for souvenirs. Don’t short-change on tips for services.

Buy local: Choose locally owned lodges, hotels and B&Bs. Use local buses, car rental agencies, and airlines. Eat in local restaurants, shop in local markets and attend local events.

Hire local guides: Enrich your experience and support the local economy. Ask guides if they are licensed and live locally. Are they recommended by local tour operators?

Treat beggars with dignity: Begging is widespread in Asia. So if you do decide to give some money, then do it with dignity for the beggar – ask them their name, give them yours, look them in the eye, smile and wish them personally; if you want to say no, then do the same using their name. This kind of interaction is far more uplifting to them than a coin.

Recommended Code of Conduct

  • Use local food cooked with locally produced ingredients wherever you can.
  • Don’t openly consume alcohol at religious destinations.
  • Conduct bargaining in a light-hearted and courteous manner.
  • Always ask permission before taking pictures of people.
  • Do not pose for photographs at religious sites, unless expressly permitted. Always ask before doing so.
  • Keep a respectful personal distance from local priests and religious people. Don’t touch them, unless they do so first.
  • Dress modestly in public places and religious sites and avoid topless sunbathing.
  • Don’t waste water – use showers; don’t leave taps running, re-use towels.
  • Don’t waste electricity – turn off lights and other electrical equipment when not in use and consider sleeping without air-conditioning.
  • Consider using public transport, especially the train, for day or overnight journeys.
  • Re-use plastic bags when shopping or buy and reuse a cotton shopping bag.
  • Only throw rubbish in litter bins that are obviously emptied.
  • Consider taking a bag when trekking to pick up litter.
  • Be wary when purchasing things that may not have been responsibly produced.
  • Do not buy seashells from beach traders or any artifacts that do not have approved paperwork from antique shops.
  • It is customary to tip drivers and guides if service is good.