To learn more about how your travel is impacting the environment and how to be a responsible tourist, see Environmental Considerations.
• Buy locally produced products and services. Don’t bargain too much over an extra dollar or two that will go a lot farther for your seller than for you.
• Go Local. Stay in locally owned accommodations, eat at locally owned restaurants, and hire local guides. Usually, smaller equals better. If you decide to go on a guided tour through a tour agency, ask about their sustainability practices (e.g., what do they do with garbage generated, who do they employ, who is the agency owned by?)
• Contribute something to the place or community you are visiting, beyond just the money you are spending to get what you want. Donate some money to a good and relevant cause either before, during, or after your visit. Plan ahead to contribute some time, and volunteer at an organization that you deem worthy. It would be wise to research what organizations exist and contact them to inquire whether they receive volunteers before you leave.
• Choose destinations based on their demonstrated commitment to sustainable practices including their human rights record, environmental conservation record, commitment to peace, etc. Check out Ethical Traveler for more information.
• Research your destination. Learn about its history, political situation, current events, cultural groups and intercultural dynamics, religion, geography, cuisine, transportation, etc.
• Learn at least a few basic phrases in your host community’s language. Learn how people greet each other and practice that greeting. Body language is also important. Be astute and adapt your body language appropriately.
• Find out about local taboos and customs by asking people who have traveled before you, by consulting guidebooks etc., and then respect them.
• Dress appropriately. Respecting the dress code where you are is very important, especially around religious sites.
• Be snapshot savvy. Don’t experience your entire trip through the lens of a camera. Ask locals before taking photographs of them or activities they are involved in.
• Learn about something you’re interested in while you travel. Do you have a passion or hobby? Find out how people in another culture approach or deal with the same theme.
• Get off the beaten path. Look for events going on that are not mentioned in guidebooks and seek places that are not overcrowded with like-minded tourists. Go where the locals go; however, use your discretion and don’t infringe on people’s private activities and spaces.
• Bring small, thoughtful gifts from home if you know that you are going to be spending time with a local family or in a community.
• Beggars. In many cities in the world you will encounter both children and adults begging. Generally speaking, giving money to children is not a good idea. Depending on you where you are, the implications for giving to beggars are different. Search the Internet and local travel guides for local rules and recommendations.
Sustainable Travel Tips
• Be Safe! Never compromise your safety. Be aware and use good common sense. Whenever possible, travel with someone else.
• Be flexible, patient, open-minded, and light-hearted. Learn to see the humor in your mistakes and in moments when you feel frustrated.
• Be mindful of others by keeping your voice down and practicing your listening skills. Learn to be quiet.
• Ask for help and you’ll probably get it.
• When you return home, donate money, volunteer, or get a job working with worthwhile causes in the regions you have visited or with the issues you have encountered.