10 ways to be a more responsible traveller

10 ways to be a more responsible traveller

Here are some old and new practices I will be adopting and continuing to do during my travels and which I sincerely hope others will be inspired to consider too in order to make a positive impact on the places we visit.

We can all help make a big difference by simply being more mindful and educating ourselves to make the right decisions when travelling and being more ethically conscious.

1. Learn more about the destination beforehand

When planning for the next big trip, alongside researching the top places to visit, take the time to learn and understand more about the destination you’re visiting, for instance, reading up more on historical sites before you visit them, or learning more about the culture and learning a few words in their local language.

Watching documentaries are my favourite way to do this and I usually find a few on YouTube or record them on TV if they happen to be on. This really helps put into better context to what to expect and leads to a better experience when there.

It also means a lot to the locals as you have taken the time to learn about what is important to their history and culture and are able to converse with them a little better. Don’t go abroad expecting locals to always speak to you in English.

2. Buy directly from local stores and support local businesses

If you are looking to purchase snacks whilst away, pop into local shops rather than big supermarkets where possible. Its so much nicer knowing that the money you spend in these small stores are going straight into the pocket of the locals.

When choosing restaurants, adopt a similar approach and try and dine in locally run restaurants and cafes. This also has the bonus of being more authentic and you may try new dishes, ingredients and and have amazing experiences closer to the local way of life.

I particularly love visiting food markets when abroad as well as other markets, and they are a fantastic place to find great artisan produce as gifts for family and friends too.

3. Clean up any rubbish you come across

Whenever you happen to spot any trash dumped on beaches, hiking trails, roads, in buses, trains, cars etc do try and make it a point to pick it up and dispose it in appropriate bins wherever possible. Just because its not your rubbish don’t leave it lying there. Every little bit makes a big difference.

In 2o19, I will be packing cloth bags in my suitcase to fold into my handbag and take with me to be able to do this and then dispose off the rubbish responsibly.

4. Researching extensively before booking a tour

When booking tours in 2019, I will be making an extra effort to find those which have additional benefits of directly supporting local communities and that promote sustainable, non-exploitative practices.

TripAdvisor reviews are a great place to start as any horror stories are usually documented here.

5 Avoiding and reporting Animal exploitation

This is very important to me and I have written a blog post on Being mindful about animal exploitation and animal welfare when travelling.

I urge you to avoid booking:

  • Any trips which visit zoos or wildlife parks without researching their authenticity beforehand. Some places may make claims that they are “sanctuaries” but they are principally tourist attractions where the animals are held in captivity with the purpose of attracting visitors.
  • Wildlife performances, animal rides, the use of animals as photographic props, swimming with dolphins or sea lions or cuddling and playing with wildlife.

Whenever I find these activities being offered I will be reporting them and you can do this here. https://www.bornfree.org.uk/report-animal-suffering

6. Give positive feedback

If you’ve booked with a local business, eaten at a local restaurant or come across some great community initiatives, be sure to leave positive feedback as publicly as possible. Where possible I try and leave a nice TripAdvisor comment as it leads to more business for the local places.

7. Be careful what you buy.

Avoid buying products made from endangered species or ancient artefacts. Shells and coral should be avoided too.

8. Reduce waste

When preparing for your trip avoid printing paper tickets and use mobile boarding passes. If you’ve bought new products to take on your trip, remove the packaging beforehand.

Always turn off the lights at your hotel room when leaving  the room and turn down the thermostat. Where possible, reuse towels and take a re-usable water bottle rather than using the plastic bottles provided in the room.

Check if the hotel toiletries are bio-degradable and if not use your own.

Straws are a big one and I will be purchasing bamboo and paper straws and keeping a stash with me and asking for my drinks without straws where plastic straws are clearly in use.

9. Research the local customs.

Things to do in Delhi

To avoid any cultural faux pas and to be more respectful, learn about the destination’s cultural ways so that you can adopt them when there, such as how to make eye contact, how to greet people, how to express gratitude and how to dress appropriately.

10. Research and avoid slum or orphanage tours

When travelling I have seen an increase in ‘slum or orphanage tours’ being offered. Please remember that the people living in these slums are humans with feelings and so even though you may be curious about their way of life, it can be extremely demeaning for the people who live there and they are not a tourist attraction or exhibit.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some genuine tours on the other hand sometimes available where a portion of the tour cost goes towards the people so if you really want to visit a slum, try and book a tour where the money goes back to the people living in the slums.

I feel the same about orphanage tours unless you are visiting them to give gifts or to volunteer your time. I urge you to research them in advance for authenticity as I have read about cases where fake orphanages have been set up to get donations from tourists and the kids are actually mistreated. One such case is in Cambodia which you can read about here.

Those are my suggestions of being a more responsible traveller. If you have any to add to my list be sure to comment!

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Binita Shah-Patel

Hi, I’m Binny – a writer, dreamer, serial wanderluster and travel addict. I am originally from Kenya but now live in London. I set up this blog to share my experiences eating out as well as travelling.

I love packing my bags and going off on adventures as one of the best things about travelling is the ability to just get lost in it. To set aside the maps and itineraries and just see where the road takes you, learning and evolving and living in the moment along the way.

It’s my goal to get swept off my feet as often as possible.

Find me on: Web | Twitter

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15 Comments

  1. January 1, 2019 / 11:22 am

    Such great ideas for more ethical and sustainable travel.

  2. January 1, 2019 / 8:19 pm

    Yes yes especially plastic, supporting local business and most important respecting the culture. I have never been so embarrassed to be British as at a mosque in the UAE where people turned up in shorts and skimpy tips and thought they were dressed… To travel is to understand

  3. January 1, 2019 / 8:51 pm

    I’m huge on sustainability and responsible travel so can resonate with everything you have mentioned! Being culturally aware is very important. Here’s to a fab year of travels Binny. Happy New Year.

  4. January 2, 2019 / 8:46 am

    It’s so important to be mindful of where you’re going. I hate being a ‘tourist’ so always try to look out for local shops and fit in where possible!

  5. January 2, 2019 / 2:22 pm

    These are definitely top tips I want to be thinking about when I travel – this year and beyond. I’m a massive animal lover and so basically want to pet anything furry, but not at the cost of animal welfare or exploitation. Hope you have a fantastic 2019!

  6. January 3, 2019 / 12:17 pm

    I love reading your blog, I follow closely all the tips, Thanks for sharing these tips, so that we can have the best tour. Glad to read this post and really very useful it is. I wrote home one of the tips for my next trip.

  7. January 3, 2019 / 6:29 pm

    These are such good tips! I think I try to do the biggest of those, but could really use with doing some of the small one like giving more feedback (though i hate tripadvisor so it’s difficult) and definitely buying more local!

  8. January 3, 2019 / 9:51 pm

    I really love this list of tips – I would like to work on understanding more about the history of places I go, when I don’t already… and to keep on remembering to refuse those pesky plastic straws!

  9. January 3, 2019 / 10:05 pm

    Great ideas! We’re going to South Africa in March and there are so many wildlife parks/sanctuaries that I’d love to visit but I’m having to do so much research into them to find out if they’re actually ethical and if the animals are treated well. It’s a little disheartening and so sad!

  10. January 4, 2019 / 1:20 pm

    I hope everyone takes on these great points x

  11. January 5, 2019 / 1:01 am

    Thank you for sharing this list, Binny. You have some great ideas, particularly about how to avoid tours that may exploit people or animals. I’m definitely going to keep them in mind as I try to travel more responsibly in 2019.

  12. January 6, 2019 / 7:53 pm

    Sustainable and ethical travel is a must, some great ways to implement it

  13. January 7, 2019 / 11:17 am

    A great post! I always research any wildlife places before visiting but didn’t know how/where to report anything suspect so thanks so much for the Born Free link – I’ll be saving that. #Travellinkup

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