We want to be responsible adults, responsible citizens, but what about responsible travelers?
Are there things we can do that protect us and those around us? That will make traveling fun and safe for all of us? That will allow us to be a responsible traveler that we know we want to be?
We’re here to tell you - there is! What are the unwritten rules? Let's dive into our list of 11 proven ways to be a responsible traveler.
But first of all, what is responsible travel?
Travel is always a buzzy word, and lately, we’ve seen words like sustainable travel, ecotourism, voluntourism, wildlife tourism, and more. Each of these addresses a different topic, however, all are important in our world today.
Responsible travel simply follows the idea that we act responsibly for all aspects of life that we come across while traveling. It means having a constant awareness that the decisions we make can have either a positive or negative impact on the places and communities that we visit.
There are a variety of decisions that we make as we are planning and executing our journeys around the big beautiful earth we live on. These include but are not limited to choosing where to stay, choosing what kind of transport you’ll take from each destination, your interactions with locals, as well as companies or groups you support along the way.
At the end of the day, it means traveling with respect for the people and places around you and trying to lessen our economic/ecological impact on these places.
Respect the locals and their culture.
We don’t see the world’s cultures every day. We don’t come across people wearing interesting garb, singing traditional music, or eating other kinds of foods we wouldn’t normally consider edible.
However! It is so important that when you come across a new place with traditions you haven’t been exposed to before, that you show them respect.
There’s room for everyone to travel and learn about the world’s cultures and traditions. Show them respect when they are in your presence and keep your eyes open for the beautiful lessons you’ll learn! First, learn how they greet each other.
Learn how to greet like a local.
Before you arrive at your destination, research how to greet in your destination.
Not everyone greets each other the same way, and in some situations, they might greet even more different than normal. Knowing these small details will help you gain locals' respect in your destination.
Support ethical non-profits.
When you’re planning your next trip, it’s a great time to research local non-profits and see the projects that they are up to.
There might be some non-profits that align perfectly with you or that you can contribute to, even in small ways. Research if there are products to buy and consider making a donation.
This is one small way that we can travel responsibly and leave a positive impact on the places that we visit.
Bargain, but be fair.
We’re not telling you to stop bargaining, but we are recommending that you try your best to be fair.
What may seem like just a few dollars to you can mean much more to someone else. For instance, feeding their family that night or making sure their water stays on. These people are working for their money just like we all do. Don’t lowball them.
And here are the unwritten rules of travel:
Know where, when, and how to tip.
This shows another huge sign of respect for those employees that work for tips. Tipping is not the same in all parts of the world, make sure you know before you go.
For instance, some places expect bathroom attendant tips, but not waiters, while other places might recommend you tip everyone.
Attempt to learn the basics in that language.
Learn the basics of their language. Or at least try to. There are tons of websites and apps that can help you through this, or better yet, watch a quick video on Youtube!
If you can try to communicate in the country you’re in, the locals will appreciate that so much. It makes it feel less like you are stopping by and more like you are hoping to stay and understand the culture.
Wear the appropriate attire when necessary.
Depending on the destination, the culture may follow strict rules in the ways that they dress.
It’s a huge sign of disrespect in some places if you don’t attempt to follow these rules, but in others, you’re simply seen as a tourist. However, it is strongly advised that in places of worship that do require long dresses, no open-toed shoes, or headdresses, you follow these rules.
In most places, you will not be allowed inside, but if you are and you are not wearing the proper attire, it is seen as disrespectful.
Be respectful of holy places, spiritual grounds, temples, and historical spots.
Treat these special places that you visit the way you would want your hometown or your own home to be treated.
Unless it is encouraged, stay away from climbing to places so you can get a picture or for any other reason.
Be aware of who is around you when visiting holy places, spiritual grounds, temples, and historical spots. We are all so connected and oftentimes we are connected to our families or our ancestors via these incredible destinations, temples, churches, battlefields, etc.
There may be people around you that have a strong connection to this spot - one that you will not understand. Be respectful of these people - try not to bump into anyone, try not to disrespect the places, and keep to yourself. If you choose to take photos, limit the number of flash photos you take. Don’t be obnoxious!
Follow the rules.
Follow the rules of the museums, exhibits, tours, and monuments you are visiting.
If they ask you not to touch anything, don’t! If photos are not allowed, then please respect this rule. These protocols are almost always put in place to preserve these items.
By following the rules you are making it a better experience for everyone in the moment and in the future.
Be mindful of where you bargain.
While we know that bargaining is accepted in outdoor markets and street stalls in many destinations, this does not mean it is accepted in all small shops or brick and mortar shops across the world. It’s not.
Enjoy yourself, but be smart.
Alcohol is one of life’s many pleasures, and we’re not going to tell you not to enjoy yourself while you’re traveling!
Of course, you’re going to enjoy a beer in Germany, vodka in Russia, and tequila in Mexico, it’s part of learning and enjoying another culture. We do want you to be mindful of partying in a new destination and who you are partying with. Know your limits!
Now that you’ve seen our list of ways to be a responsible traveler, what do you think? Did we miss anything? Leave us a comment below!