Travelling is a fantastic experience. Whether it is viewing the sunset at Halong Bay in Vietnam or snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, soaking up local culture and what our planet has to offer can be enriching, inspiring and something to tell your kids one day. Ethical travelling is something that all of us should practice. Before you set off on your next adventure we have come up with 15 things you should do to be a responsible traveller.
1. Avoid elephant rides
Animal welfare is a big problem in many countries and a quick half-hour ride on an elephant in Thailand can help fuel a lifetime of misery for the animal. Avoid tourist traps that feed off animal exploitation.
2. Practice waste management
Just because you see a lot of rubbish lying around in some cities or towns doesn’t mean you need to add to it. If you can’t see a bin then hold onto your trash until you do.
3. Don’t give money to child beggars
As difficult as it can be, avoid giving money to any child beggars. These kids are often exploited and taken out of school to beg and giving them money only heightens the problem. Make a donation to a local NGO that helps disadvantaged children instead.
4. Shop locally
It might be tempting to eat at McDonalds or shop in international chain stores when abroad but is it helping the local economy? Eat and shop in local outlets as many often rely on tourism to keep them afloat.
5. Cut down your carbon footprint
A 2-hour plane journey or an 8-hour bus ride? The first option might sound more appealing but using local bus and train services is not only better for the environment but you will see so much more of the country too.
6. Ask permission before taking a photograph
Not everyone likes their picture taken and in some places it can be downright distrustful to take a photo of someone or a religious site without permission. Ask before you snap.
7. Keep your hands off the coral
Half of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral has disappeared in the last 30 years. It might be tempting to keep some as a souvenir or to see what it feels like but you are only adding to the environmental problem and helping to destroy one of Earth’s wonders.
8. Ditch the lion walking
Like the elephant riding in Thailand, avoid lion walking at all costs. A unique experience for you contributes to an endangered species being exploited and abused for entertainment.
9. Dress appropriately
Some religious sites or tourist attractions require you to be dressed correctly. Even some countries have strict laws about how you should dress. Respect local customs and read up on what you should/shouldn’t wear.
10. Use resources sparingly
Many countries have massive problems with water shortages or a scarcity of resources we take for granted. Ditch the 30-minute shower in the morning and be more conscientious of what you use.
11. Be careful with your souvenirs
Avoid buying souvenirs that are made from flora, fauna or animal products. They might look great but you are only helping to fuel an often illegal trade.
12. Respect local laws
Did you know that in Zimbabwe it is illegal for civilians to wear camouflage clothing? Even your shorts can land you in trouble. Respect local laws.
13. Haggle, but not obsessively
Haggling is an art in many places around the world and locals will expect you to negotiate a price especially in markets. Practice your haggling but don’t get obsessive over a few pence.
14. Bring your own chopsticks
It sounds strange but there is a real problem with chopsticks causing harm to the environment. China is estimated to throw out up to 80 billion chopsticks annually. Bring your own to avoid causing more damage to forests – they don’t take up much room!
15. Do your research before you leave
Finally, before you head off on your travels research, research and research again. There is a wealth of information online for practically every destination and a few hours reading up about local customs and what to avoid will make you an ethical and responsible tourist.