Responsible travel benefits both you and the communities you choose to visit around Asia. With a little thought put into the everyday decisions you make during your holiday, it is possible to make a positive impact long after your trip is over.
1. Think local
One of the biggest things you can do as a responsible traveller in Asia is to always ‘think local.’ This means supporting local businesses, eating local food and using local transport wherever possible. Beware of Western tour agencies who reap in huge profits but pay the local guides a comparative pittance. In addition, you might consider visiting tourist attractions that donate a portion of their entrance fee back into the community.
2. Respect local cultures
Part of being a responsible traveller is carefully respecting local cultures and etiquettes. This means that you should dress appropriately and be mindful of anything that could be deemed offensive to the local culture. For example, visitors to a Buddhist temple should always wear conservative clothing and take off their shoes before entering. Remember to be mindful of other things too, like getting permission before taking photographs and respecting worship by locals.
3. Think carefully before giving to beggars
Anyone who has visited certain parts of Asia will be all too familiar with the droves of beggar children who persistently approach tourists selling souvenir items. While this can be upsetting to see, the sad reality is that buying goods from them is only keeping them on the streets, and it is almost certainly keeping them out of school. For as long as tourists continue to give them money, they will continue to be in the same situation. Those wanting to really help the children should instead consider donating to a local organization.
4. Shop Responsibly
Wandering through one of Asia’s bustling street markets is something every traveller should experience, but it’s also important to be mindful of where the goods on sale have actually come from. Avoid souvenirs made from things like ivory, turtle shells, bird feathers, crocodile skins, and other animal products, and remember to never buy anything unless you’re completely sure about what materials are used and where it was made. As mentioned previously, always buy locally, and preferably from the original producer where possible.
5. Beware of elephant tourism
Riding on an elephant might seem like a fun activity, but the sad reality is that these poor animals are often severely overworked and mistreated. Responsible tourists should instead consider visiting ethical sanctuaries that provide elephants with a peaceful and restful life. You can get more information from organizations like the Save Elephant Foundation.
6. Research travel companies
Being a responsible traveller begins from the moment you first start planning your trip. Whether you are buying an all-inclusive package or booking each part of your holiday independently, it is a good idea to do some research on the eco-friendliness and sustainability of any company you are booking with. Schemes and initiatives from organizations like the Global Sustainable Tourism Council aim to promote travel companies that meet high standards of social and environmental responsibility, so look out for providers that carry relevant accreditations and memberships. For example, you might want to consider hotel properties that are part of schemes like Green Globe.
As well as looking after the planet, you should also be sure to look after yourself. This means taking out adequate travel insurance, which is something that is also compulsory for certain destinations including Thailand. You’ll find many different policies that will provide protection for your trip, so be sure to spend some time researching the right one for you.