Top 10 Tips for Responsible TravelVOLUNTEERING & TRAVEL ADVICE / 17 April 2013
Volunteering is a great way to get to know the local community and travel responsibly, but there is also lot more you can do!
Here are some tips that will help you become a more ethical traveller:
By buying directly from farmers and small businesses you are helping to ensure they are paid a fair amount for their goods. This way you get to explore the markets, shops, sights, sounds and smells whilst trying new local delicacies (which can be quite an experience!).
We all like a good bargain but there are right and wrong ways to get one when travelling abroad. A top rule is to be friendly, smile and remember it’s all about compromise. 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!
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 locally 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 never use your left!
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.
Use of refillable water bottles
Many countries do not have recycling facilities so each plastic bottle you throw away will end up on a rubbish heap. Use refillable water bottles wherever possible.
Ask before taking a photo
It’s always polite to ask before talking a photo of someone in order to no invade their privacy. In some cultures around the world people believe that taking a photo takes their souls - this is certainly something you want to avoid!
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.
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.
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.
Many communities that you will come across have a more conservative style of dress than at home. It's important to do your research and dress as the locals do. This is especially true in holy places, where you should keep legs and shoulders covered.
Hellos and Thank Yous
And an extra one for luck! 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 - you will gain respect just for trying!
If you would like to explore the world and volunteer you can view a range of project options from Pod Volunteer here: www.podvolunteer.org/projects