As a traveler, you can do a lot to help ensure that tourism remains a positive experience for travelers and hosts alike. The following guidelines offer suggestions for low-impact and culturally sensitive travel:
Respect Cultural Differences
Local customs and traditions may be different from our own. Take the time to learn what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. For example, when entering temples in Asia, wear long pants or skirts and keep your shoulders covered.
Take Photos with Care
Always ask permission to take photos of people and respect their wishes if they refuse. If you do take a photo, offer to send copies back to them and make sure to follow through with your promise.
Learn a Few Phrases
Take the time to learn about the country you are visiting. Learning about the customs and a few words in the local language can go a long way and is appreciated by the local people. It also makes your interactions more meaningful and memorable.
Buy Gifts Locally
If bringing gifts to a host family, school or community, choose items that will have a lasting impact. Items to consider include books or sporting equipment. When bringing items like soccer or basketballs, bring a pump too so that the gear can be enjoyed again and again. Also think about purchasing such items locally to support the economy.
Don’t Pack Packaging
Limit product packaging and bring re-usable containers for things like toiletries rather than one-time use travel size containers, which just add to waste in foreign countries.
Recycling is extremely limited or non-existent in most developing countries. Avoid products with excess packaging; opt for beverages in glass bottles as they tend to be re-used. Bring a reusable water bottle and be sure to fill it whenever possible and think about bringing purification tablets to reduce waste from plastic, disposable bottles. Pack rechargeable batteries, a battery charger (and plug adapter if necessary). Batteries are incredibly toxic and many places do not have proper disposal facilities. Rechargeables are best but if this is not possible, bring any used batteries back home with you for proper disposal.
Protect Local Water Systems
Often available at camping or outdoor stores, biodegradable products make a big difference when visiting fragile and pristine parts of the world. When camping try to stay at least 50m away from waterways when brushing your teeth.
Stay on the Trail When Hiking
Straying from the trail while hiking can cause erosion and other environmentally harmful impacts, not to mention often putting you in danger.
Respect Endangered Species
Do not buy products that exploit wildlife, aid in habitat destruction, or come from endangered species.