Traveling the ethical high road

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Ethical travel. Responsible travel. These aspirations should come naturally to travelers on the road. Our heart may be in the right place, but often we don’t know exactly how to be ethical or responsible when we travel.  What exactly does ethical tourism or travel mean?

  • Be culturally sensitive and learn as much as you can about your destination’s cultural etiquette before you go. Try to blend in with the culture around you. Don’t be offensive, however much you value your ‘rights’ as an individual.  Make sure your tourist dollars aren’t just making multinationals rich. Engage in pro-poor-tourism and help make sure money stays in the local community, helping fight poverty.
  • Be destination-wise. Some destinations are more mindful than others – explore the meanings of dark tourism and disaster tourism before you make up your mind and choose an appropriate destination.
  • Learn to communicate in your host country’s language. No, you don’t have to become fluent in Mandarin but a few simple phrases like please or thank you will go a long way. So will “Can you help me” and “What is the word for…”
  • Buy locally. The closer to the producer you buy, the more likely local people will benefit.
  • Be sensitive when you spend. The art of haggling may be alive and well, but don’t bargain as though your life depends on it. It may be a few pennies to you, but a day’s food to someone else.
  • Be environmentally aware. Don’t waste water or food. Don’t litter or leave waste behind. Get rid of excessive packaging. If you’re considering climate change travel, make sure you’re not part of the problem. Offset your carbon emissions by using a carbon calculator. Learn the benefits of ecotourism.
  • Don’t give money to street beggars, especially children. They are often exploited by gangs and in the case of children, begging keeps them out of school.
  • Be open-minded. You can carry your opinions with you, but share them sensitively. You are not always right – not even close.
  • Think twice about travel to countries with dictatorships or regimes that flout human rights. For example, should you travel to Burma? You may decide to, but you do need to know what’s going on, and be clear about why you’re going.
  • Understand that working conditions in the tourism industry are among the worst in the world.

Following these rules won’t guarantee a completely damage-free trip, but it will show your hosts you are concerned and caring, and it will make a difference on the impact of your journey

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