8 ways to revise your travel code of conduct

The adage “leave only footprints; take only photos” is probably well known to most of you, but it’s always worth revisiting those lessons for being a responsible traveller. Here are eight quick ways to revise your code of conduct for good travel:

backpacker on a hike

Learn the language – If you can at least muster a “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Please” and “Thank you” you’ll get far as people will appreciate your attempts to communicate. If you can go one further and try a “My name is…” or “Your country is beautiful”, even better. We sometimes kid ourselves that we’re doing very well because we’ve picked up a few key words, but chances are your local hosts will be attempting to hold more of a conversation with you, in your native tongue. Learning more than the basics and you’ll really be impressing!

Check your body language – Before you go on your travels spend some time reading up on local gestures. An innocent hand motion in the UK may be the height of bad manners in Japan. Showing the soles of your feet is incredibly offensive in many Asian countries so think before you relax and put your feet up.

Dress appropriately – You may be in a hot country but depending on local religion or customs, it may not be appropriate to wear skimpy clothing (this is for both men and women). In Muslim countries it may be better to wear a T-shirt when swimming (this also saves you from a sunburnt back!). Visiting churches and temples usually requires clothing that covers knees, shoulders and sometimes hair.

Don’t take natural souvenirs – That shell, stone or flower may look pretty on your mantelpiece back home but (as my parents always said), if everyone took one, there would be nothing left. Take a photo if you’re really taken with that piece of nature. Similarly, when shopping for souvenirs in the local shops and markets, always ask what they’re made of, especially if you’re unsure. Sadly, rare woods or derivatives of endangered animals are sometimes used to create souvenirs. If in doubt, buy something that’s clearly ‘safe’.

Avoid exploitative attractions – It’s all too common to witness animal cruelty wherever you are in the world. Whether it’s badly-run zoos, tourist-heavy safaris, circuses and performances, even exploitative animal attractions dressed up as conservation projects, you will need to be on the look out for poor welfare and always ask ‘is this OK?’. Check out an attraction’s animal welfare credentials online or ask them in person. A general rule of thumb, if an animal is displaying unnatural behaviour, it’s a sign that all is not well. Don’t patronise these outfits and even report any bad practice you see to the authorities, your tour operator or WWF.

Use resources sensitively – Those living in remote, rural areas are often used to conserving any limited resources such as water or energy. Don’t be the one leaving the lights on or the tap running unnecessarily – a lot of work goes into obtaining those resources so use them sparingly and sensitively.

Tread lightly – You may find yourself in locations where humans are rare and the environment belongs to the local wildlife. Keep that in mind and try and have as little impact on your surroundings as possible. Keep to the existing paths, don’t touch or damage the flora and if you meet any animals, remember it’s their home first and foremost!

Smile! – Don’t forget to smile; it transcends language barriers and needs no translation. You’re a visitor in someone else’s country, or even home, so show them that you’re grateful, happy and enjoying it!

Do you have any more tips to add to this code of conduct? Let us know in the comments below, or via Twitter @Goodtrippers

This post was originally published on Frontier’s Gap Year Blog

Top 10 Tips for Responsible Travel

We love to hear your ideas for how best to enjoy responsible travel. Here Gemma, Placement Manager at PoD Volunteer, a leading non-profit volunteer agency, shares her top tips for travellers.

PoD volunteersVolunteering is a great way to get to know the local community and a fantastic way to travel responsibly by helping local projects. However, when you are travelling abroad there are extra steps you can take to avoid your actions causing offence or harm to the local environment. Here are top tips from PoD Volunteer (www.podvolunteer.org) that can help you become the best ethical traveller!

1. Buy locally – This way you get to explore the markets and shops, sights and smells, plus try new local delicacies (which can be quite an experience!). By buying directly from the farmers and small businesses you are helping to ensure they are paid a fair amount for their goods.

2. Haggling- We all like a good bargain but there are right and wrong ways to bargain when travelling abroad. Top rule is to be friendly, smile and remember it’s all about compromise (but don’t show that you like the item too much!). Remember. you can always walk away if the price isn’t right and don’t worry if you ended up paying 10% too much- you wouldn’t even notice this extra mark up when shopping at home.

getting involved

3. Understand and respect local customs- The last thing you want to do is offend locals when you arrive so it’s good to check out what is socially regarded as rude. In Malaysia it is rude to point with a finger (you should use your thumb), in Thailand the head is the most sacred part of the body so you should not touch anyone’s head, and in India when eating with your hands you should not eat using your left!

4. Use water carefully- Clean water is very valuable in many countries so try not to waste water by taking long showers or leaving taps running.

5. Ask before taking a photo- In certain societies around the world people believe that taking a photo takes their soul too so it’s always polite to ask before talking a photo of someone. They may want to see their photo on your digital camera once you have taken it.

herd of elephants6. Carefully think about the souvenirs you buy- When buying items it’s good to carefully consider purchases and make sure you are not supporting activities that damage the environment or are a result of illegal activity. Make sure you are not buying a souvenir made from ivory, endangered hard woods, ancient artefacts or endangered animals.

7. Use refillable water bottlesMany countries do not have recycling facilities so each plastic water bottle you throw away will end up on a rubbish heap. Use refillable water bottles wherever possible by filling up with water from clean water dispensers or use water purification tablets.

8. Respect the environment– When trekking keep to the well-walked paths, do not damage coral when diving and do not remove anything from its natural environment. Read and follow local national park rules and regulations.

9. Travel Green– Explore the country by using public transport, bike or simply walking when it’s convenient. It reduces pollution and carbon emissions plus it’s a fun way to meet locals!

10. Get involved with local communities- The best memories can be made from joining in with local communities but don’t forget to ask first before entering a holy place and make sure you respect local cultures, traditions and are dressed appropriately (many religions prefer visitors to have covered shoulders and legs before entering certain building or areas, if in doubt just ask).

And an extra one for luck!

11. Hellos and Thank Yous- It’s easy to learn two words before arriving into a new country. A smile and even a badly pronounced “hello” or “thank you” will get you a long way and they will respect you for trying!

At PoD Volunteer we want to ensure that a volunteer’s impact is always positive and never damaging so we advise our volunteers on our social, economic and environmental policy in our project information booklet when volunteers apply for a placement overseas.

If you would like to explore the world and volunteer you can view a range of project options from PoD Volunteer here: http://www.podvolunteer.org/Type-of-Volunteering/

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