Tips for Responsible Travel

It is always tempting to want to give candy or small toys to kids when we travel. Oh, this little bottle of bubbles will be so much fun to watch them play with…gum is so easy and brings so much pleasure to kids who have never tried it…I have a big bag of superballs (this is actually true–I do have a big bag of superballs), maybe kids along our route would get a kick out of them…

Maybe we evolve to a new position…I could give out pens and coloring crayons to children we meet…

I, as much as the next guy, have considered, and indeed done, exactly this. Not always, and only at the suggestion of a guide or tour operator…but this (below) is interesting. If you have a planned visit to a school or orphanage, that is one thing, where someone in the community can guide giving in an equitable way. What happens when we act on our own and hand out a few trinkets, with the best of intentions, to a few kids, is that they go tell their friends, friends who don’t want to miss out on such a great opportunity, and the next day, twice as many kids meet the next bus or train or ship…and the next day even more. In some cases, kids will skip school with the hope of a few coins or food or play items. It’s hard to pass up. Below is a great list of things to think about next time you are inspired to pack giveaways, from the Travelers’ Philanthropy website–a great group discovering the best ways to support the communities we visit. It is great food for thought…

Responsible Travel Tips for Travelers

• Avoid giving gifts or money to panhandlers and children as it encourages begging. Instead, ask your hotel or tour operator how you can support the community through a local medical clinic, school, or community project in order to be more constructive. Give the items to the hotel, or to a local donation station to distribute. For discussion of this issue and other responsible travel guidelines that answer common questions from travelers, please see our downloadable compilation of expert “Dos and Don’ts”, available on our publications page.

• Think twice about giving sweets and candy to children, as this can create dental health problems.

• Although it is intriguing to visit schools and other day-to-day operations of a local village, be mindful that your ‘tour’ can be disruptive to local people’s work and should be kept to a respectful minimum. When visiting sensitive areas such as private homes and community spaces, be aware of how you would want to be treated in your own backyard.

• Bargaining may be appropriate in some areas, but should always be conducted with care. Ask your tour guides what local customs are like and what behavior is expected from you, and never act in a way that seems inappropriate to you. Even where it may be expected for a local to negotiate aggressively, similar behavior from outsiders could significantly affect the livelihood of craftspeople and vendors.

• Protect the natural and cultural heritage of your destinations- Do not purchase illegal plants or animal products under any circumstances. Purchasing these items encourages poaching and exploitation.

• Always ask first before taking photos or video of people in the host community, especially if what you are photographing may be something private or sensitive. If you promise to send back photos, make sure you remember to do so.

• Choose hotels and tour operators who are committed to conservation and supporting social programs in the areas where they operate. This is one important way to ensure that the authentic places you visit will remain intact for generations to come. See a wide variety of Travelers’ Philanthropy member projects HERE.

• Dress and act respectfully according to the local standards. Ask your tour operator about other specific tips for responsible travel in your specific destination. For instance, are you in an area where it may be frowned upon to enter a local cultural attraction in sandals, shorts, sleeveless tops or other revealing warm weather clothing?

• Tell your friends and family about your memorable experiences with a responsible tourism operator and encourage them to also travel in a sustainable way. Consider writing a review online to tell others of the important conservation and social development work done through your tour provider.

• Once you return home after a trip, support organizations like Travelers’ Philanthropy with a donation to help preserve these amazing places which hosted your memorable vacation.

One response to this post.

  1. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the continually interesting posts. Hoping to get in touch with you about a campaign we are just launching – aiming to build a word of mouth travel resource that supports local business, conservation projects etc and rewards genuine ethical practice.

    Hopefully of interest. If you drop me an email I’d love to send some more info to you.




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