We earn a small commission for our endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to products or services from this website. Your purchases help support our work of creating a more ethical world.
Travelling is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding experiences — meeting new people and experiencing new things broadens our worldviews and empowers us to become more tolerant and creative individuals. Although tourism can be very beneficial to local economies, it can also have many negative effects on the communities associated with those economies. By following these simple tips, you’ll help avoid contributing to those negative effects and ultimately become a better global citizen!
We know that as you may read this, COVID-19 restrictions are still in place. But we wanted to put this out there so you can get excited for what’s to come when restrictions begin to be lifted! Let’s dream a little…
- Bring Your Own Reusable Items
Traveling often feels like a good excuse to indulge in convenient single-use items like plastic water bottles and mini shampoo bottles, since you’re on-the-go and don’t want to lug around a bunch of stuff. But these items will pile up very quickly and most countries don’t even have a functional recycling program. Instead, you should opt for packing reusable items that can help you avoid contributing further to problems associated with single-use plastic and litter. Many of these products are designed for easy storage and will save you lots of money in the long run. Here is a list of some essentials with links: water bottle, coffee mug, eating utensils, straw, collapsible tupperware, reusable bag, shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste.
2. Eat Local
When possible, it’s best to avoid eating at tourist trap restaurants and fast food chains. Not only are you much more likely to find better food at local restaurants, but in many cases, it’s often much less expensive — it supports the local economy and discourages poor business practices. If you don’t like the local cuisine, you can even go to the grocery store or local farmer’s markets and try your best to create your preferred fare. In this case, try to stay at a hotel that has a kitchen so that you can cook!
3. Buy Gifts & Souvenirs at Local Shops
Like restaurants, it’s best to shop local and support the local economy rather than souvenir shops or airport gift shops. You’re more likely to find more authentic and unusual gifts and souvenirs and avoid cheap and useless items.
4. Observe & Respect the Rules
When it comes to popular attractions and activities, the rules have been established for good reason — if not for safety reasons , then for reasons of integrity. For instance, museums and parks might not allow flash photography because it could damage the art or harm animals. And if the sign says “don’t feed the birds”, then don’t! — their droppings can deteriorate historic buildings. You really don’t want to be that a-hole tourist, do you?
5. Be Considerate of Locals & their Culture
The effect that these popular travel locations have on the locals is far greater than the brief moments we may spend there as a tourist, so when these people share their beloved places with us, the least we can do is show our respect. Thus, when you’re expected to be quiet or dress in a certain manner — like cover your shoulders or remove your shoes — make sure you do so. Also be sure to research the bargaining and tipping standards of the place you’re visiting before you go — in some places, they’re expected, and in others, disrespectful. Or in some cases, you might find yourself in a poorer area where bargaining is typically the norm, but you could still pay full price as those people need the extra help. Lastly, travelling allows us to appreciate each other’s cultures, so don’t be afraid to try new things! Try to learn a few words in the local language, taste new foods, or engage in new experiences — you might discover your new favorite dessert or make a new friend.
6. Respect the Environment
The main reason why many of these scenic travel destinations are so scenic in the first place is their surrounding natural environment! That’s why you should always be very respectful of your surroundings when visiting these places. Everywhere from not littering or feeding wild animals, to obeying a country’s biosecurity laws is important. It’s also important to not support businesses that exploit local animals; if you are hoping to get up close to an elephant or swim with dolphins, research places that offer respectful animal interaction instead (check out this awesome list of ethically-vetted sanctuaries!). If your vacation involves swimming anywhere other than a pool, try to use reef-safe sunscreen, as normal sunscreen contains pollutive chemical ingredients that damage aquatic ecosystems and destroy coral reefs.
7. Avoid Big Resorts
Big hotel chains tend to be very wasteful and give little back to their local communities. Instead, you should try giving your money directly to the people. If possible, it’s best to rent directly from an individual or set up a home swap situation (this might sound a little scary, but it’s a great way to save money!), as even Airbnb can be detrimental to some communities — high implementation of their service drives out locals in certain areas and creates ghost towns outside of tourist season. Otherwise, you can opt to stay at smaller local or eco-friendly hotels.
8. Avoid Cruise Ships
An “all-inclusive” trip to your top 10 European bucket list countries might seem appealing, but we promise you — cruises are not worth it! Cruise ships are not only horrible for our oceans and seaside tourist destinations, but they ultimately contribute to the degradation of the same places that enable their operation. They heavily rely on the use of unsustainable fossil fuels, emit a ton of waste into the water (both human and otherwise), and are infamous for treating their workers poorly. They also do very little to help local economies, as passengers sleep and eat on the ship, then go ashore to crowd already popular areas to take pictures and leave litter. And if all this isn’t enough, the ships themselves create waves that can be very damaging to some areas. For instance, Venice, Italy has had many problems with large ships producing waves that erode its fragile foundation and create conditions that promote flooding. Like big resorts, cruises are bad for both the environment and other people, so it’s best to just stay away. Hopefully not for long though — it looks like we may be getting some more eco-friendly options in the near future!
9. Visit Lesser-Known Sites
Visiting lesser-known tourist spots or destinations reduces the strain on the more popular locations. Popular tourist spots are not only super crowded, but they also tend to be more dirty and expensive — all of which have negative effects on the locals in the area. By visiting and supporting other less popular sites, you can give back to the community and discover new gems instead. Besides, do you really want to wait in line for 2+ hours to take a picture of a monument or view of which countless other people have an exact copy?
10. Offset Your Carbon Footprint
Many methods of travel involve emitting greenhouse gases that harm our climate. Of course you should walk, bike, or take public transportation when possible, but if you do have to take a plane or go on a long car trip, you can then take actions to offset your carbon footprint! You can do this by making carbon conscious decisions like turning down your thermostat, hanging your laundry out to dry instead of using a dryer, planting a tree, etc. Or to make it even easier, you can use a carbon footprint offset app like offCents or Ecologi which fund climate friendly projects instead.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read? Here’s a little summary for ya..)
Basically, just be a good human. Haha, we are totally kidding. This is not about giving everything up or changing overnight, but if you can take up some of these little travel habits – every single one counts!