• Find out as much as possible. The more you know about a World Heritage site before arriving, the more the site will come alive. Look into the site’s history, culture, natural environment, customs, legends, advisory notices and more. UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre is a great starting point.
• Learn a few words in the local language. Making an effort to speak the local language allows you to interact with the people who know the site best. People appreciate your efforts and your interest in learning. Simple words like “Hello,”“Please” and “Thank you” can go a long way.
• Pack light. It is tempting to pack everything you think you might need, but remember to be smart about your necessities. Packaging items like the paper box to your film or the plastic wrapping of your new toothbrush simply consume space in your bag and can create excess trash for the World Heritage site.
• Lodging choices. Look for hotels that have a written policy covering their environmental impact, employment and cultural policy.
• Explore transportation options. Remember that traveling affects the environment. Wherever possible, try to minimize your pollution and impact on the environment by looking to alternative transportation and off-setting your carbon emissions.
• Engage in local culture. The saying, “While in Rome do as the Romans” still applies today. Your trip provides a unique opportunity to explore a new culture and to see the world through a different perspective. Remember that eating local foods, shopping in local markets, and attending local festivals are all part of experiencing the culture.
• Buy local products and services. Choosing to support locally owned businesses, community tour operators, and artisans means that you’ll have a one-of-a-kind experience and your money will go directly to the community. Before purchasing goods, ask about their origin. Avoid buying products made from threatened natural resources and report poaching and other illegal activities to the local authorities.
• Refrain from aggressive bargaining. It’s often difficult to know your limits in bargaining so if you’re not sure, ask your local hotel for tips. Remember that the purchases you make directly affect vendors’ livelihoods, so decide if you really need to hang onto that extra dollar or if it could impact the vendor more.
• Hire local guides. Enrich your experience by choosing local guides who are knowledgeable about the destination. Ask local tour operators and hotels for good recommendations.
• Tread lightly. Destinations are exceptional due to their natural or cultural splendor. Do your part to keep them that way by following designated trails, respecting caretakers, and not removing archaeological or biological treasures from sites.
• Respect the natural environment. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Even though you are just visiting and not paying the utility bill, disposing of your garbage properly and minimizing your consumption of water and energy will benefit the overall destination.
• Distribute your responsible travel tips. In addition to telling family and friends about the wonderful memories you made, also consider sharing tips on how they too can positively impact the World while having an amazing journey.
• Share your photos. Pictures can say a thousand words.
• Explore more. Traveling is just the start of learning. Once you return home continue exploring and being involved with the issues or region that captured your attention. Build upon your knowledge and also learn about another fascinating place.
• Give back. Traveling often opens your eyes and heart to something new. You can continue to preserve our inspirational World Heritage sites for generations to come by making a donation to a local charity.
9 Responsible Travel Planning Tips by Linda Rivero
Travel responsibly with these 9 simple travel planning tips.
1. Know what responsible travel is. Responsible travel simply means traveling with not only your own needs in mind, but also the needs of your destination. Responsible travelers realize that when they travel, they are entering someone else’s home, whether they literally visit someone or not. Responsible travelers treat others as those people would like to be treated, and they care for the environment in their destination as they would care for their own home and community.
2. Think: What exactly do you want to experience? You’re about to travel, and you’re looking at an array of possibilities: new people, intriguing places, and the hope of memorable experiences. What are you interests? What do you love to see, feel, do, taste? Why have you chosen your particular destination? Whom would you love to meet? What would make this trip really memorable for you? Once you know that, you can create ways to get the most of those very special experiences out of your trip.
3. Go surfing – and read! Do some searching online for resources specializing in sustainable travel, or responsible travel, in your destination. You can seek out resources on ecotourism, too; just be aware of the pitfalls of “greenwashing.” (See Number 4, below.) Some guidebooks can be very helpful in your planning, as well. Rough Guides and Lonely Planet guidebooks (as well as others) are oriented toward sustainable travel, and they give you a great overview and starting point for your planning.
4. Reach out and ask key questions. Once you know where you’d like to stay and what you’d like to do, get in direct touch with the people providing the services. Tell them it’s important to you to travel responsibly and that you’d like some information about their property or service. Have they received any eco-awards? Do they have an eco-rating? What is their environmental policy? You can also ask if they’ve received any “green” certification. There are several certification programs such as Green Globe and the EcoGreen Award; many more have been created by communities and countries around the world. The standards of these programs vary, and as yet, there are no universal “eco” standards. However, just by seeking out a hotel, restaurant or tour operator who has taken some steps toward sustainability, you’ll be making a better choice. But watch out for “green washing,” the whitewashing of goods and services that are not environmentally sound to make them look as if they are. Remember: Although a tour company may seem responsible, its practices may not be environmentally or culturally responsible. You can find out whether a business is environmentally and socially responsible by doing a little research — and asking questions.
5. Choose carefully! Your decisions are important. All your travel decisions are important: they add up to your total impact on your destination, both environmentally and socially. Choose carefully. Some businesses are certified, and some are not. Even without certification, they can state their policy on responsibility and sustainability.
6. Plan with the environment in mind. As much as we travelers love the call of the open road, we also know our transportation, if powered by anything other than ourselves, is contributing to excessive CO2 in the environment, and thereby to global warming. Being responsible travelers, we don’t want to do that. So think about offsetting the carbon emitted by your trip by purchasing carbon-offset credits. In fact, think about offsetting the energy you use in everyday living. You”ll be supporting programs that neutralize our use of fossil fuels, thus helping to reduce global warming. One such well-rated program is My Climate. Others include Native Energy and terrapass. Check them out and see which you prefer. For more information on carbon offsets and how they work, visit the FAQ page of Sustainable Travel International by clicking here. And don’t forget the local ecology. For example, will you be hiking through natural areas? Of course, you’ll want water to drink. How about bringing just one water bottle and a supply of water purification tablets? They work just fine, and your thoughtfulness will be a significant help to a local area that may not have the infrastructure to take care of the thousands of plastic water bottles left by visitors.
7. Prepare yourself: Learn some lingo If you’re visiting another place, whether at home or abroad, you’re visiting someone else’s home. That’s the fact. And the more you remember that, the easier it’ll be for you to make friends and contacts. So learn some expressions in the local language. You don’t need to be fluent. But there’s no doubt that your trip will be far more exciting, and people you meet will be far more interested in you, if you speak some of their language. For tips on learning language for travel, check out my 5 Sure-Fire Tips for Learning a Foreign Language, available at www.peacethroughtravel.net.
8. Prepare yourself: Learn the basics of the local culture How do people prefer to be addressed in the country you’re visiting? Do they shake hands? Do they bow? Do they drink alcohol? How do women carry themselves? How are you expected to behave toward a woman? These are all questions that are worth taking the time to answer. Your understanding of how local people behave and interact will add fun, adventure, and plenty of social interaction to your travel experience. A note on clothing: We all like to be comfortable when we travel, and as Americans we’re particularly used to dressing as comfortably as we like. Abroad, however, responsible travelers keep local mores in mind. As a rule, particularly in developing countries, dress conservatively. If it’s important to you to connect with people you meet, it’ll help to leave the shorts and sneakers at home; they both scream “Tourist!” Wear lightweight shirts (not T-shirts), lightweight slacks, and comfortable walking shoes, instead. Women, for travel in rural developing areas, think long skirts and covered shoulders. At the very least, be sure to have a shawl. It’s important to balance comfort with respect – and avoid the blatant tourist tip-offs.
9. Prepare yourself: Rev up your sense of adventure! Use the web, use your books, contact professionals – and then tap into your own passions and creativity. Venture off the beaten path. Get yourself thinking the way local people think. Leave your usual routine at home. After all, that’s why you traveled, isn’t it? And always expect the unexpected! Yes, the a/c might break down. You may not like the meal you ordered. You might get lost. But if you’ve done your homework – you know the lay of the land, you know what safety precautions to take, you have your maps and books, and you know what to expect from the people you meet – you’ll be fine.
And just think: Oh, the stories you’ll bring home with you! To book responsible travel trips, visit adventurevietnam.com