Top tips for responsible travel

Tourism has the potential to do so much good. It can benefit local people and places, leading to much richer experiences for us as travellers; but we all have a part to play. As well as benefitting communities, we must reduce our carbon and increase the positive impact we have on nature as we travel. Here are nine ways you can be a responsible traveller.

Before you leave

Transport – plan to minimise carbon emissions
Flights booked? Then pack light; every item on a plane increases the carbon emitted. Do also consider your mode of transport once you will arrive. Choose public transport (buses and trains), hire bikes or walk. You are more likely to meet local people this way too. Electric taxis are becoming more popular and many places now have electric vehicles to rent.

If it’s not too late; avoid internal flights. We need to take fewer holidays with flights - and stay for longer - if we are to make our holidays count for nature, communities and the climate.

Read wisely
Read up on local customs and learn a few words of the local language - travelling with respect will earn you respect. Think about what you are reading too. If we all flock to the same places, recommended by writers of a similar age, gender and ethnicity to us then we’re missing out. Our travel guides, all written by expert travel writers will alert you to responsible tourism issues in particular places.

Give a child a day out
Every time you book a holiday with us, we will fund a child from a disadvantaged background, to go on a day trip. We call this our Trip for a Trip. Just simply let us know you’ve booked.

Whilst you are there

Conscious consumption
Support the local economy – and local environment - with every purchasing decision. Choose ethnically diverse, local gift shops, artisan sellers and markets; all a great way to meet different people and ensure your money directly benefits. Buy less of the products that are not always nature-friendly: beef, leather, soy, timber, rubber, palm oil, cocoa, pulp/paper and plastic. Avoid products made from endangered species, shells or coral. And don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bag and water bottle. More tips here on reducing plastic when travelling.

Food glorious (plant based) food
We know that our holiday diets can be carbon-intensive and have an impact on biodiversity too. Choose plant-based foods, avoiding meat and dairy as intensive agriculture requires vast amounts of land. Opt for locally sourced, seasonal produce and shop in local markets, avoiding international supermarkets and the associated food miles. In big cities, eat in local, minority-owned cafes and restaurants in districts away from the centre, for some of the tastiest food around.

Remember, a third of our food is wasted. Stay clear of all-you-can-eat buffets and if self-catering, shop wisely.

Activities – low on carbon, big on nature
Choose low carbon activities such as kayaking, cycling, horse riding, walking and swimming that allow you to get closer to nature. Ask about local conservation or social projects that you could visit (we do not support visits to orphanages on holiday). Research day trips that contribute to protected areas and help restore habitats. Be aware of excursions that involve wild or captive animals.

Local guides
Hire local guides – you’ll discover more about the culture, the landscape and the wildlife. Plus, more of your money will go back into the local community. In many countries, from Kenya to Sri Lanka, poachers have become conservationists and guides, and the more we support them, the better.

Again, keep diversity in mind – seeing a place through the eyes of a local woman could be a very different experience from travelling with a male tour guide. Even more so if they are from a minority community.

Renewable energy
If you’re choosing accommodation as you go, seek out places that use renewable energy as much as possible. Do try and reduce energy use: avoid using the air conditioner or heating too much; be sure to turn off appliances and lights; and choose shorter showers instead of baths.

When you get back

Be an activist
Write to your travel company with feedback, including suggestions for reducing environmental impacts and do leave a review. One of the review questions we ask our customers is “Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?”

For serious issues regarding human rights abuses or wildlife exploitation, you may want to contact relevant charities or indeed the Ministry of Tourism in that country. Use social media to speak out too.

You can read more about how to reduce carbon emissions whilst on your holiday as well as our tips for nature-positive holidays.

For more details on the history of responsible tourism, the big issues and debates, see our in depth responsible tourism guide.

Written by Justin Francis