Tips for being a responsible traveler in Asia

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.

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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.

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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.

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7. Avoid Wastage

While this is a dictum in any part of the world, it’s more so in Asia thanks to many a congested metropolis and lax wastage management rules. Zero waste policy is something that you can do as a small step towards a better planet.

8. Use Eco-Friendly products:

The use of eco-friendly and native products not only is beneficial in encouraging local economy, but it also helps one leave behind a smaller carbon(and plastic) footprint. Always try and use recyclable or even better natural and bio-degradable products when possible.

15 thoughts on “Tips for being a responsible traveler in Asia

  1. That’s such a wonderful post. I agree that we should travel responsibly and work towards least to no wastage of any kind. With increase in population we are going berserk instead we should think about sustainability. Only when we feel accountable, we will able to do all things in a responsible way. Love your article. Kudos.

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  2. I love this! Hopefully more people will take notice of your tips and apply them when they travel. We will always ‘buy’ locally whenever possible, especially on cruises where it seems the small tour operator in the country always misses out. What makes me sad is that the beggars are children that are used by their parents to obtain money from selling souvenirs. Whilst in Peru, after trekking, we donated our sleeping bags and heavy clothing to a mother and child who lived on the street. We did not see our goods the next day but we knew they were sold for money for food (well, we hope so anyway!).

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  3. Those are all great tips. We need to do our part in being responsible travelers. It is important to research travel companies and try to go with local eco friendly ones whenever possible. Also animal tourism is a big no for me so I totally agree with you on the elephant tourism – its a BIG NO and I hope others stop doing this as well. We all just need to educate ourselves more and be more responsible.

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  4. Those are all great tips. We need to do our part in being responsible travelers. It is important to research travel companies and try to go with local eco friendly ones whenever possible. Also animal tourism is a big no for me so I totally agree with you on the elephant tourism – its a BIG NO and I hope others stop doing this as well. We all just need to educate ourselves more and be more responsible.

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  5. I have travelled the world a fair bit but what remains to be my favourite part is without a doubt Asia. You have hit the nail on the head with some of the main points you have to keep in mind when travelling specially South East Asia and a lot of travellers don’t think about these. Respecting cultures is one thing I see a lot that causes people pain points. Try and work with locals and get to know ablaut them , this can get you far I have experienced. Wasting is something that we in Europe don’t think much about but a trip to some of these places is a real eye opener. Some great tips here and thanks for sharing

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  6. You have some great points that are applicable not only to Asia, but anywhere abroad. When we went to Zanzibar, a primarily Muslim region, I was very careful to wear clothing that was conservative and respectful.Anywhere you go, it is important to recognize that you are a visitor in that home country and we must respect their customs and traditions.Thanks for pointing out some of these important tips.

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  7. I truly agree on each and every point mentioned by you for being a responsible traveller in Asia. Respecting local culture is my priority and Asia has amazing culture. Again think local and buying from local vendors us again a big step to responsible tourism.

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  8. I agree with every point you made! I always try not only to live by these rules but also suggest others to do so as well. The internet needs more article like this one- keep up the great work!

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  9. Thanks for sharing these points for travelling responsibly in Asia. Respecting the local culture is quite important and so is the zero waste policy. From the tourist point of view, it is very important to research the travel agents. There are so many now and many of them do not provide a good service. All these tips would certainly help both the travellers and the locals.

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