What Are the Best Tips for Responsible Travel?

Alex Tree
Alex Tree
Responsible travelers should learn about the local culture.
Responsible travelers should learn about the local culture.

Tourists can practice responsible travel by learning about the local culture, purchasing lodging and food locally, and refusing to buy items made from endangered creatures. If a traveler is visiting a foreign country, the locals may dress differently and find the traveler’s wardrobe offensive. In this case, 10 minutes of research can save travelers from embarrassment or an outright shunning. Also, buying an overnight stay at a hotel or food for the day can be done locally to provide the maximum benefit to the local economy. In addition, travelers can help the local government and endangered animals by refusing to purchase products made from heavily poached animals.

To avoid offending locals, travelers can research respectable ways to dress and communicate before arriving at the destination. For many people, especially people who have never traveled outside their own country, there can be a significant amount of culture shock. Suddenly, the traveler dresses oddly and receives glances of worry or disapproval because he or she is doing things no local would ever do. These things can be avoided with minimum research on responsible travel to the specific country, and locals may even respect the traveler a bit more for taking the time to learn their ways.

Responsible travel also means protecting the community from threats not always easy to identify. As a foreigner, a traveler might be tempted to eat at large but familiar restaurant chains and stay at luxury hotels. While these actions benefit the local community some, travelers can do more. The best way to practice responsible travel is to stay at locally owned hotels and eat where most locals eat. Not only does this put more money into their pockets, but the traveler experiences the place in a more genuine way.

Learning about what types of items are widely available but illegal to have can be useful. In some regions of the world, people hunt and kill certain animals to the point of their extinction, but the government does not actively enforce laws against it or is overwhelmed by the amount of poachers. Locals make sunglasses, rugs, and other souvenir items out of the animal’s body parts and sell the items to tourists. In many cases, tourists do not know these items come from endangered animals and might not be allowed through airport security with them. To practice responsible travel, travelers should learn what kind of items might be hawked to them that should be rejected.

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Discussion Comments


I would imagine that traveling to just about any Middle Eastern country and wearing revealing clothing could be physically dangerous for a woman. She might be arrested and beaten for what they would consider indecency.

My female friend recently traveled to a country over there with a reserved dress code, and she took care to cover almost her entire body. She wore one of the robes that most women over there wear, and only her eyes and nose were showing.

She thought this was the safest way to walk through the town unnoticed. She did not want to stand out, and she definitely didn’t want to offend anyone.


@orangey03 - Most countries have websites with sections detailing what is illegal to bring into their nation. The official sites usually contain “.gov” somewhere in the URL.

I was about to go visit friends in Australia, and I checked a site with detailed descriptions about what you can and can’t bring with you. My Australian friend had visited me last summer, and she had loved the orchids I had growing at my house. I wanted to bring one to her, because you can’t get them in Australia.

However, the Australian government’s website strictly prohibited bringing certain plants into the country, and the orchid was one of them. They want to protect their ecosystem, and by bringing in a foreign plant, I could potentially alter it.


@kylee07drg - That is crazy! I never would have thought possession of pepper spray could land a person in jail!

I do know that the stuff can cause a lot of pain, though. My friend accidentally sprayed himself in the face with it, and his face burned and swelled up. The next morning, he could hardly see!

This just makes me wonder how you could possibly check for every little thing that might be illegal before entering another nation. Your friend probably never would have thought to research the legality of pepper spray.

I wonder what the best way to check up on things like this is? Can you call the border patrol and ask them about what they prohibit?


You should also learn what is illegal to bring into another country before you visit. My friend never dreamed that her pepper spray would cause such a ruckus when she tried to cross the border from the United States into Canada.

She always kept it in her purse when she traveled alone as a means of protection. It turns out that in Canada, it is illegal for anyone other than law enforcement officers to carry mace or pepper spray, because these are considered illegal weapons.

Instead of just confiscating the pepper spray, they arrested her! Once she convinced them that she had no ill intentions and no knowledge of their law, they let her go. Now, she checks up on a country’s laws before attempting to enter it.


@Sara007 - I think that ecotourism is a great way to encourage countries to promote their resources in a sustainable way. I am a big fan of adventure travel, as long as I am doing things that aren't putting a strain on the country I am visiting.

I usually check out Trip Advisor to give me the information I need to make good decisions on which tour companies to use. I am still doing student travel, but I think that you and your husband will have no trouble with finding a socially responsible tour that educates you about the country you visit and still lets you have fun.


Do you think that ecotourism is a good way to encourage sustainable travel that really helps the country you are visiting?

My husband and I are looking at a travel agency in our city that promotes socially responsible travel and we're quite curious as to what this would mean for our vacation. As we usually go on package tours to resorts, the ideal of dealing with travel companies that encourage you to be more aware of what is really going on in the countries you are visiting is appealing. I think both my husband and I are looking to see what the real story is behind the places we visit, instead of remaining so sheltered.


One of the things about responsible tourism is learning what you should and shouldn't do when dealing with the various people who will invariably try to sell you things and ask you for money. I was surprised to learn that the authorities in some countries warned strongly against giving child beggars cash because it encouraged the practice and kept them out of school.

I suppose that the poorer the countries are the more likely it is that you are going to run into child workers, and doing your best to not encourage the practice of begging and the selling of poorly made goods is important. No matter how cute the kid is.

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    • Responsible travelers should learn about the local culture.
      By: adisa
      Responsible travelers should learn about the local culture.