Common Sense Responsible Travel

Responsible travel is hugely important. You are in a position of privilege, most people can’t afford to travel around their own countries. Don’t forget that you are a guest and, no matter how small, your visit will leave an impression on that country. Make sure it’s a good one. Follow our common sense guide and you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

Common sense photographs

We can’t stress this enough. Always ask permission from the person you would like to photograph before doing so.  Most of the time people say yes, or may ask for a small payment, but it can be intrusive and offensive if you don’t seek permission first. When visiting tribes or villages take some sweets, pens or generic medicine and give these to the elder/head of the family that you are photographing. Don’t just snap away freely, you are not in a zoo, you are visiting people’s homes.

Meekong Villagers (c) O.Boundy

If you promise to send a photo to someone take a careful note of their address and do send it. Don’t leave a legacy of bad impressions for other travelers who follow you.

Common sense respect local customs

There is opportunity to visit hill tribe people in South East Asia and mountain tribes in South America who live in a traditional way, from dress, rituals to their beliefs.  It is fascinating to learn how other people live but you must remember to respect their customs if you choose to visit them.

Bolivian Independence day celebrations (c) O.Boundy

Common gaffes are inappropriate clothing, displays of public affection (even holding hands can offend in some places). In most of South East Asia not removing shoes before entering a home (only if invited in) is very rude indeed. Feet are considered to be the dirtiest part of the body. Never point at anything with your feet, step over someone or touch someone else’s head. All of these are considered to be the height of bad manners.

Common sense souvenirs

We have met people on our travels who have bought family air-looms and precious possessions from tribal people because they liked what they were wearing, or thought their hair pin would look nice on a dressing table.  Don’t let your greed get the better of you.  Instead of offering money for these items, ask permission to photograph them, or ask to try them on and give a small amount of money for the privilege. The traditional dress you bought probably took years to make,  the materials bought with the little money they had and will probably never be made again.

Common Sense haggling

Vietnamese woman haggling (c) O.BoundyHaggling is a way of life in South East Asia and India. Don’t forget that even if you are a budget traveler you will most likely have far more money than the people you are visiting. Don’t haggle over very small amounts.

We have witnessed a lot of tourists trying to negotiate the best deal when buying goods to the point of haggling over the equivalent of 10p.  Is it really worth it?

We have also noticed people being quite aggressive whilst haggling. Keep your cool, keep it good natured, smile and you are far more likely to get close to the price you want than if you are getting hot under the collar.

The chances are you are getting a good deal anyway and that 10p is far more valuable to the vendor than it is to you.

Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Common sense lightening your load

We found some of our clothes were getting too big as our journey progressed, we also didn’t need our warmer clothing in South East Asia and India. We wanted to free up some more space in our bags and lighten the load so we donated what we no longer needed to local charities.  Your guest house should be able to help you, or check your guide book for any recommendations.

Common sense ablutions

ablutionsWe saved toothbrushes and shampoos provided by guest houses and hotels to give to children in India.  It is best to give items like this to either an organisation who can distribute them or a school or senior community member to avoid promoting begging and to try and stop them from being resold.

Common sense responsible tours

If you book a tour on your travels it pays to do some research into the tour operator.  On the few occasions we booked a tour, we looked for companies who work with a local community providing aid, and education and those who respect the environment.  There are a lot of companies who only provide tours to make money and little or no thought is given to the environment and people who live in the area.

Good tour operators with a social conscience are usually slightly more expensive but this is money well spent.  Think about how your trip impacts on the people who live where you are visiting.