10 Simple Ways to Be A More Responsible Traveller
Travelling opens eyes, minds and hearts to unique and beautiful places. We can relish different cuisines while experiencing vastly different cultures or perhaps notice the subtle nuances of those not so dissimilar to our own. As a responsible traveller, you likely know that tourism offers immense scope for positive economic and environmental impacts for people and destinations. However, the opposite can also be true which is why it is integral to continuously look towards making small improvements in our choices.
Responsible travel is not just about being culturally, socially, and environmentally aware; it is also about acknowledging and understanding our effects on the places visited. So, here are ten straightforward ways to be a more responsible traveller.
Research the Destination
A simple Google search made long before packing bags can do wonders for increasing the overall enjoyment of travel. First, research the country, its history and the unique places. By doing this, the reality of the destination will better align with expectations.
Secondly, learn about the local customs, language, dress code, and traditions. If you can’t find anything relevant online, reach out to your African travel planner or choice of accommodation. Africa’s Eden members are always happy to help before, during and after your trip.
Choose accommodation wisely
Many accommodation providers within Africa’s Eden network do not have specific eco-ratings; however, this doesn’t mean they are not knowledgeable about social and environmental best practices. If in doubt, reach out and ask. Many smaller operators live and work within their communities and are avid custodians of their destinations.
Respect the culture of the country
You may not always agree with some of the local customs; however, remember that you are a guest of the country. Undoubtedly, there are reciprocal customs that the local people may find odd or aberrant from your own culture. Therefore, rather than being dismissive or argumentative, attempt to find common ground and forge a mutual understanding.
Again, a little research can go a long way. Check for local customs, such as gestures during prayers, eating traditions and greetings. If possible, try to learn some key phrases of the local language, which is sure to ignite a welcoming smile.
Buy local souvenirs
Many of us love to buy souvenirs to take back home as memories of our travels. Opt away from mass-produced trinkets, and attempt to purchase quality artisan gifts from the source that support local artists and businesses. Although it should go without saying, steer clear of souvenirs that include animal products on the CITES list.
Do not over bargain
As you shop for local souvenirs, always remember that the local business people have responsibilities and deserve to make an honest living. In places where haggling is expected, ask a tour guide or a local what a reasonable price for the items might be if you are unsure. In Southern Africa, market haggling is more friendly conversation and polite banter and never argumentative.
Do not litter
We hope you wouldn’t litter in your own backyard; therefore, please don’t litter in anyone else’s. Many tourist destinations rely on their natural beauty, and it is unfair to allocate the burden of cleaning up to someone else. Conversely, be mindful that recycling centres are not as prevalent in Southern Africa as in the Global North. Remember that the emphasis should first be to reduce consumption, then to reuse and lastly, to recycle.
Follow instructions at the sites visited
When you go sightseeing at parks, temples or historical tombs, always remember to follow instructions about the conduct in that particular place. Please speak to a tour guide, accommodation provider, or local person for tips if ever in doubt. Open up a conversation about the best time of day to visit or any precautions to be taken.
Do not feed animals
Feeding wild animals is a big no, whether inside or outside a national park. When animals become habituated to humans, they are more likely to attack or wander into urban areas, which may result in their demise. You may think that you are offering a treat, but the lack of conservation knowledge could result in their destruction in the long run.
Engage with locals
Would you want a random stranger to take a picture of you or your child without asking? When visiting other places, respect everyone’s right to privacy and choice. Before taking a picture of anyone, always ask for permission. If you’re going to take photos, engage with the people, chat with them to make them at ease, and only take a picture of or with them if they are comfortable. In addition, as a responsible traveller, please engage with others around you to do the same.
Hire a local tour guide
Try to hire locally to get the most out of your travel experience and ensure the most significant impact on a destination. In addition, this is usually the best way to learn more about the culture, people and some lesser-known spots to eat, relax and hang out.
If you are interested in volunteering, donating or seeing how you can help a particular destination or cause, please check out our extensive list of NGO Affiliate Members that are doing fantastic work each and every day. However, charity is only one piece of the puzzle. We hope that we have shown how small, incremental steps lead to incredible journeys with broad-reaching positive social, environmental and economic impacts. So, start asking questions and open the conversation about creating your expedition to Africa’s Eden.