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How to travel responsibly?

Being a responsible traveller is easy. It doesn’t require too much effort and in fact, it can make your experience much more authentic and real. Responsible tourism is all about leaving a positive impact, not only the environment, but also the people who live in the places we chose to visit and in yourself. The principle that we should only take only photos, leave only footprints when we travel is a fantastic ideal and it applies to all responsible travellers.

You travel to be amazed. You travel to learn. And you travel to fall in love with our world every single time. Because we have been lucky to see wonderful things and as a responsible traveller, we would like for others to be able to see those things too. So how can you travel responsibly?

The following actions are based on the World Tourism Organization’s guidelines for responsible traveller:

Before you book your holidays:

  1. Find out about the company’s policy for responsible tourism. Most companies that are conscious about this topic will have it in their website. If not, ask for them. You are entitled to know this information before you decide to book accommodation or tour with them.
  2. Plan your trip to minimise carbon emission. We know that most international trips will require to take a plane which is not the most environmentally friendly option. However, once you are in the destination try to ask for alternative options such as bus or train to minimise internal flights. If there is no other way but flying, then book direct flights. Also, if you are feeling a bit guilty about your carbon emissions, some airlines may offer the option to offset your share of carbon emissions for a few extra dollars which goes direct to carbon offset projects.
  3. Read the principles of Leave No Trace. This is basically common sense, but we wanted to mention it because sometimes people have no idea about their footprint. Fer example: when you are walking around in a nice beach leave shells where you find them. This is a simple action you can take to leave no trace.

Before you travel:

  1. Understand local cultures. Try to learn a few simple phrases such as a Good morning, Please, Thank you, and use them as much as you can. You will be amazed how far Buenos dias, por favor and gracias will get you. When people see you trying to speak their language, they will be more likely to meet you halfway. Also, do not forget to understand local customs it is just as important. Learn as much as possible about your destination and take time to understand the customs, norms, and traditions. Avoid behaviour that could offend the locals!
  2. Remove all excess packaging: Be aware that in many places, recycling or waste disposal is complicated. So, leave packaging at home and consider buying some things when you are at the destination, this will support the local economy.
  3. Ask about a local conservation or social project that you can get involved with while travelling to the destination. But please, do not get involved or support visits to orphanages on holidays. That is just not okay, period. To know more why, please click here or here.

While on holidays:

  1. Hire a local guide. When hiring a local guide, you will get to experience the destination with someone that knows what is like to live there, the culture and everything that destination is all about. It is also an excellent way to support local economy.
  2. Shop with a conscience. Avoid products that are made from endangered species and do not take things out of their natural environment. Try to buy locally-made and traditional handicrafts as it is a good way of providing both economic and cultural support for small communities. If you are bargaining, please do not get carried away; the goal is to find a fair price for both ends- not the lowest possible.
  3. Respect people and cultures. This may sound obvious, but we need to be reminded because not every culture is the same. You may think that is okay to take endless photos without asking, or being unnecessarily noisy, or dress certain way and so, it is important to keep in mind that you are in a different place and there are codes you need to respect. Think how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. If you are not sure, ask our consultants and they will guide you on what is okay and what is not depending on your destination. For example, always ask first if you can take somebody’s photo and respect their right to refuse.
  4. Use public transport. It is a great to meet local people on their own terms and of course, reduce pollution and carbon emission, plus you will be helping the local economy.

When you get back:

  1. Write any comments or feedback about your holiday to your travel company, hotel, or tourist board. Any suggestions on reducing environmental impacts and increasing benefits to local communities are always welcome. For any serious issues regarding human rights abuse or wildlife exploitation for tourism, you may want to contact relevant charities or organizations.
  2. If you’ve promised to send photos or gifts to local people, remember to do so!
  3. Enjoy your memories and reflect on your experience and of course, start planning the next adventure.

Contours Travel is committed to building a more sustainable tourism industry. If you want to know more about our community projects, click here. Alternatively, ask one of our consultants how you can engage with a social project on your next visit to Latin America. If you have more questions about how you can travel responsibly, please get in touch!