Iconic travel, done better

We’re often asked what key things travellers can do to be more responsible on their journeys around the world. After all, few people actually go out of their way to be irresponsible - sometimes we just need a few reminders about how to get things right while on the road. So we’ve brought together some stories of the people that got it really wrong over the last couple of years, and a few of our top tips for more responsible trips. After all, travelling with respect, earns you respect.

Mt Kinabalu

Naked ambitions:

In 2015 four girls were arrested for posing topless on top of Mt Kinabalu, Borneo. They were also accused of causing a 5.9 magnitude earthquake. In the same year tourists getting naked at Angkor Wat, Cambodia led to deportations and heavy fines – and a change in the dress code policy for visitors to the sacred site. Whether the four girls did induce an earthquake by angering the mountain gods is a matter of opinion – but they did offend swathes of Malaysians who look upon Mt Kinabalu as sacred, the resting place of their ancestors. Here are our cultural tips:

  • Hire a local guide – not sure what local customs are, where you should cover up? A local guide can steer you away from cultural faux pas as well as taking you to places you might not find on your own.

  • Do some research before you leave home – Read up on local culture and learn a few words of the local language - it is amazing how far ‘asante’ (Swahili), ‘dhanyavad’ (Hindi) and ‘shukran’ (Arabic) will get you. Our travel guides are full of helpful tips.

  • Do it right, discover Angkor Wat or Borneo with an operator who cares about local culture.

Wild dolphin watching

Wild times:

In February last year we were chilled by news that a baby dolphin had died in Argentina after being handed around by selfie-taking tourists – is a photo really worth a life? It’s a question we hear echoed in lots of different animal encounters on holiday – from elephant rides to selfies with tigers in Thailand. Is a photo really worth the life of the animal in it? Here are our wildlife tips:

  • Go wild – the best place to see animals around the world is in their natural environment. And in many cases your trip will be helping to support communities to protect their local wildlife, and keep it wild.

  • Supporting sanctuaries – avoid captive animal facilities that allow unnatural behaviour or interaction, such as elephant rides or shows, lion-cub petting, or photos stroking a tiger. These rarely have conservation aims at heart.

  • Be careful what you buy – avoid souvenirs from endangered species, hard woods or ancient artefacts. Shells and coral should stay where they belong too.

Pyramids at Giza, Egypt

National treasures:

Possibly taking the biscuit for intentional irresponsibility is the teenager banned from entering Egypt for life, after climbing one of Giza’s ancient pyramids to take a selfie in 2016, despite knowing he could face a three year jail sentence. Egypt’s pyramids, along with the vast majority of the rest of the world’s iconic monuments are fragile, and have strict rules in place to keep them standing for generations to come. Here are our tips for visiting national treasures:

  • Leave no trace - it is amazing how many people travel with no sense of their footprint at all. From leaving wildflowers or shells where you find them, to hiking responsibly, there are good simple reminders on ‘Leave No Trace’s’ list of seven principles.

  • Support local conservation or social projects – ask your tour operator how your trip is contributing to the conservation of the place you are visiting, or how local people living nearby are benefitting from your stay. Here at Responsible Travel for every trip booked, when you opt in, we’ll fund a day trip for a local child so they have the opportunity to experience the wildlife and cultural heritage on their doorstep. Read more about our Trip for a Trip programme here.

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Photo credits: [Mt Kinabalu: Sylvia sooyoN]
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