Ethical travel tips for summer
Summer is in full swing and it’s time to head off to new and exciting locations for new experiences, but it’s also important to put on your ethical hat and research the region so you support the area in the right way and don’t step on any toes. In this article we dive into the best ethical practices for heading off to a tourist destination this summer.
Respect local culture
When you head off on vacation there is a certain feeling of freedom and abandonment. You cast off the responsibilities of your life for a short period and jet off with the intention to have a fun time and to make new and lasting memories. But this can pose some issues in certain places.
You might think it’s okay to snap some picture of an orthodox Christian Church in Moscow or Wear your shoes in the Buddhist temple in Japan, but these actions will seriously offend the people there – as will rude or lewd behaviour.
Wherever you choose to travel, research the area and the customs first and take steps so you and your group don’t offend anyone accidently. There may be a stereotypical tourist from your part of the world but you don’t have to conform to it.
Enjoy local culture
Broadly, there are two types of travelers. There is the kind that love to live the tourist lifestyle, they love to sit by the pool and sip cocktails or spend their money in the local nightclubs. Then there are others who love to engage with the local culture.
Both types of tourist are fine but if you want to travel ethically you need to be away from the impact you have on the local areas and people living there. If you’re a regular beach goer, for instance, remember to take all your waste away. Culture vultures should always respect the places they visit.
Often local people both like and loath tourism. Tourism brings in money and supports the local economy, but it also harms the local environment and creates urban centers crowded with strangers. Remember you are visiting a place where people live.
Some places you travel to, especially places in Asia, will have markets where you can Bargain with local sellers. This is a fun part of the tourist experience and you can get authentic items at reduced prices, but you need to remember to bargain ethically.
If you go to a market chances are the sellers will expect you to Bargain with them since most people do. Because of this their prices will be a little higher than normal and they will expect you to haggle them down. If you want to be ethical about it you will go for the fairest prices for the item, not the cheapest.
Remember that people in these countries operate on different economic scales. Your money is probably worth more than there is, which makes a difference when bargaining. The good news is you should be able to settle on a price that benefits you both.
When you travel to a new city or country it’s easy to shop in familiar department stores and restaurants with brand names you recognize. The advantage of globalization is that you have a familiar standard wherever you go. The trouble is that spending here doesn’t benefit the local economy.
When you eat in big brand restaurants that you know from home the money goes to a multinational corporation instead of the local area you are visiting. This means that your tourist money doesn’t have the effect it should and doesn’t support the local community.
There are further benefits to choosing local places to eat and shop in. You not only get to meet the friendly locals but you get to try new foods that you might not have heard of before. Isn’t that what you travel for anyway?
Support ethical businesses
These days there is a big movement towards ethical lifestyle practices and businesses. You will see this more and more when you travel as well. Many hotels and hostels now have carbon reduction badges to show customers that they adhere to the best practices to reduce the effects of climate change.
If you want to be an ethical traveler this summer you need to research the most ethical places to stay at your destination. If you are staying at a large hotel find one that supports ethical practices like reducing carbon and support for local communities.
Another way you can support businesses ethically is by choosing the local hostels and hotels to stay in, learn more about La Posada. When you stay in a local b and b for instance, you know that your money goes to the right place and supports the local economy.
Respect dress codes
As with respecting local customs and practices, it’s also important to respect the local dress codes, especially when you go to visit religious sites in countries like Japan, Thailand, Russia, and Cambodia. This applies to the clothes you wear and how your cover-up.
In some orthodox countries you might not be allowed to show your midriff or any tattoos, other countries might require you to take off shoes or wear clothes that cover your legs and arms. It will be extremely rude and possibly illegal in some places if you don’t adhere to these rules.
To be an ethical tourist you need to research the culture of the wraps you are traveling to and find out about the dress codes. You can try to buy suitable clothing for your trip before you travel or wait until you arrive at the destination where the right clothing is available.
Engage with culture
Too many tourists travel without engaging with the local culture and language. This is not only rude but it leaves you with a less rewarding experience of the place you want to explore and discover. It’s a better ethical practice to engage with the local culture.
You probably won’t be able to learn much of the language before you go and since you will only spend a week or two in a place you probably won’t need to learn it either, but taking a phrasebook with you and having a go shows the locals that you respect their country and culture.
This practice comes with many benefits. Firstly you get to try out your language skills in a real-world setting which is a rewarding and progressive experience, but you also get to engage with the local people which is fun, friendly, and surprising.
Leave no trace
Whether you are staying at a luxury resort like La Posada, camping, hiking, or traveling through, you must show respect and leave no trace that you were ever there. Too many tourists are responsible for leaving waste around that looks unsightly and damages the environment.
Tourist waste is one of the reasons local people don’t like tourism despite the money it generates. Tourist waste tarnished the beauty of a unique destination and shows disrespect to the local area and people. But a leave no trace attitude is a good thing to have.
With a leave no trace attitude you will always be aware of the waste you will generate on a trip to the beach or the countryside. Always thinking about what you will do with your waste is a good starting point when planning your tourist excursion.
Be a nice person
When you head off on your vacation you tend to let your inhibitions go which can result in negativity sometimes. You might find yourself judging or criticizing a new place because it’s different from what you expected or because you find yourself in an unusual sort of mood.
This is something to be aware of when traveling to new places, you don’t have to abandon your critical faculties altogether but if you have something negative to communicate try to do it discreetly so you don’t offend any of the locals. There’s nothing worse than loud and obnoxious foreign tourists.
Also, remember to treat the people you meet with kindness and respect. Whether it is the teller at your hotel or the local tuk-tuk driver, remember they are not on holiday like you and are working hard for their families and local communities.
Reduce carbon footprint
The planet is getting warmer every year, the ice caps in the North and South are melting and our sea levels are rising. This effect is set to displace millions of people and precipitate unusual and catastrophic changes to global weather patterns. It’s easy to forget this is happening when you jet off on your holiday.
Awareness of these climatic changes doesn’t mean you have to abandon your plans to go on vacation abroad but it’s worth keeping in mind at every opportunity. You might think that one person can’t make any difference and small changes to individual attitudes can have a collective impact.
If you fly, consider taking the train instead or offset your carbon by investing in a charity or switching to a vegan diet. When you arrive at your destination why not cycle around instead of taking cabs, this way you get to see more of the local area as well.