We all love travel because it’s an escape from the everyday drudgery of life, but don’t forget to be a responsible tourist and remember why you wanted to travel in the first place.
It estimated that by 2020, over 1.5 billion people will be traveling across borders each year. That’s a lot of people, but if we all travel with a bit of insight, we can look after the world and learn about it at the same time. Open your mind to other cultures and traditions to get the most out of your time abroad.
Research your destination a little before you go to ensure that you know any dress code or customs that the local people may follow. If you make the effort to learn just a few words of the local language or dialect, it will transform people’s opinion of you and allow you a clearer insight into local life. Look around at how the local people behave and try and follow their lead. For example, if the local women dress modestly and keep covered up, then don’t flaunt your body in short skirts and low-cut tops.
Familiarize yourself with local laws before you go so that you do not inadvertently commit any criminal act. You should also research the country’s political situation to be sure that you are not putting yourself into any unnecessary danger. Remember that prostitution is illegal in some places and that the sexual abuse of children is always illegal.
Some hotels have written policies for environmental impact, cultural policies and employment. If you research well, you could be helping out the environment while you sleep. You can minimise your impact on natural surroundings by offsetting your carbon footprint or taking public transport rather than hiring a car. Be responsible when throwing away garbage, especially plastic products and batteries. If you can take them back to your own country to be disposed of properly, it will be better for the environment.
If you choose to buy locally made products, you will be contributing to a sustainable economy. But ensure that you ask about the product’s origins first. Respect the local environment and do not buy products that are made from endangered animal or plant species such as ivory or teak. Although bargaining can be fun, avoid doing it too aggressively. Remember the value of the money you are bartering with and try not to offend people.
By hiring a local guide you will be contributing to the local economy and giving someone a job as well as enriching your own experience of a place. When following nature trails or visiting National Heritage sites, don’t steal biological or archeological articles. Leave them there for other people to enjoy in the years to come.
Sustainable tourism: is a mode of travel concerned with reducing the impact a traveler has on resources at the destination. Above all, sustainable tourists want to ‘do no harm’ while they’re on vacation. While traveling, these tourists look for sustainable businesses like restaurants that deal with local farmers, hotels that offer recycling programs and use energy-conserving appliances and tour operators that work to conserve the environment and promote local cultures.
Low carbon travel: has become increasingly important in the modern age. Travelers in this niche are working hard to reduce the carbon footprint of their holiday. Low carbon travelers favor close-to-home excursions over world tours that burn massive amounts of fuel. In this mode of travel, buses, bicycles and old-fashioned walking trump taxis and hire cars.
Eco tourism: has cultural and environmental conservation at its core. Eco tourism forsakes luxury and convenience in favor of sustainable practice and cultural respect. While on holiday, eco travelers recycle, get involved in the local community, cut back on carbon emissions and try to make meaningful connections with people and the environment along the way.
Climate change and travel: is an important issue facing today’s travelers. Airplanes emit roughly the same amount of greenhouse gases per mile as cars. The problem is that affordable airfares enables travelers to tackle exceedingly longer distances in the same time frame. Travelers concerned with climate change are mindful of the carbon footprint of their holiday, favoring public transportation (especially trains) over airplanes and close-to-home getaways over world travel. Carbon offsets allow travelers to compensate for long-haul flights.
Respecting Other Cultures
It’s good travel sense to respect foreign cultures and different religions; local people take their beliefs and ways as seriously as you do yours. Also, travelers can get into serious trouble, and even legal trouble, for disrespecting religions and cultures. Ignorance is no excuse, and if you cause offense you may find that more than your holiday is ruined.
Respecting Buddhism: In Buddhism the head is considered the ‘highest’ part of the human body and patting a Buddhist on the head or ruffling their hair is considered very rude. The feet are the ‘lowest’ part of the body and should never be pointed at another person or worse, at a Buddha image. You need to remove your shoes before entering a Buddhist temple, and when you sit, tuck your legs under you so your feet are pointing away from who or what ever you are facing.
Respecting Hinduism: Food is sacred in Hinduism and you should always eat with your right hand only – the left is used for cleaning the body and eating with your left hand will be interpreted as dirty. Many Hindus are vegetarian but even meat-eating Hindus never eat beef as the cow is worshipped as a mother deity. Likewise, leather products are shunned. Hindu temples are sacrosanct – exercise due respect and reverence at all times if inside the temple.
Respecting Islam: While in an Islamic country, you need to be aware of dress codes, especially if you are female. Strictness varies from country to country, but topless bathing is always a no-no. In general, follow the example of the locals to avoid causing offence. During fasting periods Islamic hosts won’t be able to accept your offer of food or drink and alcohol in general is not consumed by Islamic people. This means that drunkenness or rowdy behavior tends to be frowned on.
If you want to go on an extended holiday, there are a few ideas that you may want to utilize to give something back to the environment and culture you are visiting:
- Volunteer on a social project
- Volunteer on a community project
- Book yourself onto an eco-tour
- Donate money to worthwhile causes and charities