Bloggers share Responsible Travel Tips

Responsible Travel Tips from Travel Bloggers - post

With so many varying opinions and sources about how to travel responsibly these days, we thought we’d go straight to the source and get some responsible travel tips from travel bloggers who live and breath the life of travel. These are people who make it their mission to become educated on sustainable practices of tourism, and share those learnings to the world. Here are some of their top travel tips to help you plan the most enjoyable holiday, with the minimum impact on the people and the planet your are visiting!

Responsible Travel Tips: Cultural Sustainability

Alex Martin - Responsible Travel Tips in India

Alex hanging out with Tibetan refugees in Northern India

Alex a is travel educator with 10 plus years experience developing and facilitating international recreational and educational trips in various countries in Asia, working in multicultural environments, and service work focused on sustainable development.

“It’s important for travellers to check their sustainable travel methods frequently. What you might consider responsible in one place might not be the same in others. Travellers need to understand that their actions have different affects based on the culture they are visiting. What works in one country or even community might not necessarily work in another.

To have a lasting impact, responsible travel must also be culturally sustainable and tailored to the area you are visiting. This can be done by learning from and supporting projects that are ran by locals and supported by their communities. This can only work by opening up a dialogue between these communities and travellers based on mutual goals and respect and not on blaming and shaming. Before approaching an issue in a certain country, you have to make the effort to really learn about a culture. Do your research by reading books, spending time with locals, and trying to understand why things are a certain way in a place. Understand the cultural undertones of different issues and how communities try to solve them.”

Responsible Travel Tips: Support local economies with ecotourism

Bret Love - Responsible Travel Tips - Rwanda's Iby'iwacu Cultural Village

Bret and Mary in Rwanda’s Iby’iwacu Cultural Village

Bret Love is a journalist/editor with 21 years of print and online experience, whose clients have ranged from the Atlanta Journal Constitution to Rolling Stone. Along with his wife Mary Gabbett, he’s the co-founder of ecotourism website Green Global Travel and Green Travel Media.

“In theory, responsible travel and ecotourism provide a remarkable source of revenue to fund a given destination’s conservation initiatives. But in practice, these initiatives rarely prove successful in the long-term unless locals are given a financial stake in their success. To be sustainable, the “eco” in ecotourism should reflect benefits to both the ecology AND the economy.

Travellers can do our part by making sure that the hotels and tour operators we book trips with are owned (or, at the very least, staffed) by locals, and that tourism attractions benefit the local community first and foremost. Great examples we’ve visited include Dominica’s Kalinago Barana Aute (a cultural village owned and operated by the Kalinago People) and Rwanda’s Iby’iwacu Cultural Village (which provides alternative revenue sources for around 1000 ex-poachers, drastically reducing the number of mountain gorillas caught in snares). By ensuring that the majority of the money we spend stays within the local community, we can ensure that our travel supports rather than exploits the people who call a given destination ‘Home’.”

Read more of Bret’s Ecotourism Tips here: 10 Simple Steps To More Sustainable Travel

Responsible Travel Tips: Voluntourism

Ehtan Gelber - Responsible Travel Tips - uganda-inspired-escapes-voluntourism-water-project

The Inspired Escapes water safari engages in a local clean water project, shadowing local residents as they build clean water wells in their community. Photo courtesy of Inspired Escapes

Ethan Gelber agitates for responsible/sustainable travel practices, a focus on keeping things local, and quality and relevance in publishing and destination marketing. Among many other things, he is the founder/editor of The Travel Word, a website showcasing responsible, sustainable and local travel.

“Voluntourism has hit a lot of turbulence in recent times. Deservedly so. What begin in the early 2000s as a simple way for gap-year students to put interesting experiences on their resumes has developed into a lucrative market driven as much by egoism as by altruism. Profiteering and mismanagement charges have followed as the whole industry is now seemingly driven by traveller supply and demand, not community need.

So how can we see through to better times? First, we need to steer well clear of the tendency either not to find fault where it lies or to criticize without offering solutions. That is what Adventures Less Ordinary, is about — an ebook anthology of analyses and suggestions I edited, commissioned from an ensemble of two dozen experienced experts who have been working for many years to improve (#MendNotEnd) the volunteer travel space.

We know we’re dealing with a very complex issue, one often oversimplified in the media, but we strongly believe in anyone’s desire to do good, and that it should be honoured, even emboldened. The real trick is to channel that magnanimity away from detrimental initiatives — like those involving most orphanages or animal-petting programs — and champion practices that have a demonstrable history of achieving beneficial ends for everyone involved. So we look at HOW to help people make a difference by modelling best practices. We’re not interested in crushing goodwill or showcasing worst practice, not in paint with too broad a brush about the dark underbelly of something that is, at heart, so good.”

Ethan was the editor and lead hand behind a collaborative book on Responsible Tourism. Read more about it and download it for free here: Adventures Less Ordinary: How to travel and do good!

Responsible Travel Tips: Volunteering

Jules and Christine - Responsible Travel Tips

Jules and Christine sharing their Responsible Travel Tips

Jules and Christine write at the travel blog Don’t Forget To Move, where they help promote and inspire responsible, ethical and culture focused travel around the world. With a lot of crazy adventures in between!

“If you’re thinking of volunteering abroad there are a number of factors to consider if you want to be a responsible tourist. Although most people have the selfless goal of giving back to the community they’re visiting, often it can result in negative affects down the line for the culture, environment or animals of the destination.

As a general rule of thumb the best question to ask yourself when want to volunteer is, what can I offer that will genuinely help the situation? Volunteering is supposed to be fun and rewarding, but the biggest beneficiary should be the people or place that you want to help at.

Do your research, find legitimate organizations working in the area and see if your skills match what they need help with. If not, ask them if they know any other organizations that might be looking for some assistance. This is by far the best way to go about finding organizations that you can really help make a different at. Also, if find an organization that suits your skills your impact will be much greater. At the end of the day, that should be your biggest goal.”

Read more about Jules and Christine’s responsible travel tips here: How To Travel Responsibly (and Why You Should Care)

Responsible Travel Tips: Animal Tourism

Diana - Responsible Travel Tips with Elephants

Diana hard at work with the Elephants of Save Elephant Foundation

Diana Edelman is the voice behind d travels ’round, which focuses on travel narrative, solo female travel, responsible tourism and tips on living as an expat. She is a responsible elephant tourism expert and the co-founder of the Responsible Travel and Tourism Collective.

“Riding elephants! Cuddling baby tigers! Swimming with dolphins! All of these things sound like really incredible ways to spend time with wild animals while on travels. It is important to remember that, while these sound like they are amazing, in reality, they are not. Sadly, activities like this mean a jail sentence for these animals. It is essential to remember that if an animal is in captivity, they aren’t free at all, and their quality of life is — at best — barely decent. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if an animal is being used for your enjoyment, then the animal is not enjoying it. There are ways to see animals up-close without compromising their lives. Observation can be a highlight of a trip and one that provides lasting memories for you and a far better life than one being exploited for the animals.”

Read more about Diana’s experience with Elephant Tourism here: The Truth About Riding Elephants in Thailand

Responsible Travel Tips: Support begging kids without giving money

Gianni and Ivana - Responsible Travel Tips in the Philippines

Gianni and Ivana supporting families in the Philippines.

Ivana and Gianni are a digital nomad couple. They’ve been full time on the road since 2013. On their blog they focus on ecotourism, responsible travel and travel photography.

“Kids begging, dancing or selling souvenirs on the streets make travellers feel more compassionate, sensitive, and generous, too. But, our charitable intentions aren‘t always as beneficial as we assume. Unfortunately, giving cash directly to the begging children creates a vicious cycle.

It only prolongs the time they spend on the streets and supports their idea that they‘d be able to survive only by asking for money/food from strangers. In worse cases, baby “beggars“ will be given drugs so they don’t cry while their mothers sit with them on the pavements.

Your money will only encourage the families to continue exploiting their children instead of sending them to school or being responsible and looking for a less harmful solution.

You can help the kids by donating money directly to the organisations that protect children, support their education, provide necessary supplies to families in social need or help parents to be involved in economically sustainable communities. In case you decide to help a family directly, make sure you know what exactly they need money for.

Do your research about the trustworthy organisations in the area you travel to instead of feeling pitty for little humans on the streets. In this case, not giving mindfully is much more than giving something blindly.”

Read more about Ivana and Gianni’s charity tips here: Why and How to Help Locals When Travelling

Responsible Travel Tips: Dressing Appropriately

Brian and Noelle - Responsible Travel Tips - dress appropriately

Brian and Noelle – Responsible Travel Tips – dress appropriately

Brian and Noelle are an adventurous Irish couple who live to travel. They left Ireland in 2009 to teach English in South Korea and have since become digital nomads. They have visited over 30 countries, across 5 continents and have no plans to stop anytime soon.

“Being a responsible tourist can start with something as simple as how you dress. In many countries, modest dress is important. Dressing appropriately shows respect for the local culture, the local people, their traditions and their country.

It doesn’t take very much effort on your part to take action with how you present yourself. In fact it’s often more comfortable to dress as a local than it is to dress like you might want to. As a general rule of thumb, stay clear of tight, revealing and/or provocative clothing. Keep your shoulders covered, cover your legs at least as far as your knee and leave the crop-tops at home. Remember to pay particular attention when visiting places of worship, royal palaces, burial sites, national monuments and local festivals.

Of course from country to country there are going to be major difference in what is deemed appropriate or respectful. The beaches of Brazil have a very different dress code to the kovils of India. When in doubt, look at what the locals are wearing and take your lead from them. If you’re unsure, ask. Taking the time and effort to understand and respect the local customs will be appreciated and will make your visit even more enjoyable.”

Read more on Brian and Noelle’s tips for dressing respectfully here: Dress Respectfully

Responsible Travel Tips: Reducing Environmental Impacts

Ian Ord - Responsible Travel Tips - Bang Saphan Noi

Ian enjoying the clean, unspoiled beaches of Bang Saphan Noi, Thailand

Ian Ord, founder of WSE Travel, has been a long term ambassador of Responsible Tourism initiatives. He is actively involved in many projects and organizations which strive to protect destinations and promote sustainable travel practices. Ian’s favourite superhero is Captain Planet – are you a Planeteer?

“We now live in a world of ‘convenience’. Everything is available when we want it, though often this convenience comes at a cost greater than the affordable price-tag. It is not a new concept that our disposable society is causing waste buildup faster than ever before. Plastics have already started to be restricted and discouraged in developing nations, where one is encouraged to bring their own reusable shopping bags, or pay a per-bag penalty to obtain a disposable one.

Sadly, in the regions with the highest concentrations of people (predominantly Asia with more than half the world’s population), most do not have similar initiatives. Plastic is accumulating at exponential rates, and it will be around for thousands of years after we’re gone.

One of the easiest ways to do your part while travelling is to carry a light weight, reusable shopping bag, and a Nalgene water bottle (or similar durable and reusable bottle). Always insist that store clerks just put your purchases in your reusable bag. You may get some funny looks, but you’d be amazed how many bags you’d otherwise accumulate! Also, make an effort to refill your water bottle with clean water wherever possible – not only is it good for the environment, but it will be about 90% cheaper for you than buying bottles!

Of all my own personal responsible travel tips and mantras, this is one I find exceptionally easy to do no matter where I am travelling to!”

For more responsible travel tips from Ian and his responsible tourism colleagues, check out the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective he is part of, and join the weekly #RTTC Twitter Chat to have your voice heard!

Do you have your own Responsible Travel Tips you’d like to share? Add them to the comment section below! We’d love to hear them!