Responsible travel is simply treating others with the same respect you would ask for in your own community.
Earth is our homeland and responsible travel is the way to go.
Whether you are planning the trip of a lifetime, a gap year abroad or just a holiday break, you can make a difference when you travel, not only for yourself but for the people and places you visit.
Tourism has its downsides but it doesn't have to be this way.
Responsible travel is not only respecting local people and the environment, it's about traveling with your eyes and ears open and making sure your visit has a positive social, environmental and economical impact.
Here are some useful tips to help you become a responsible traveler...
Before you go:
Learn something about the countries you want to visit: culture, religion, geography, politics and local customs.I strongly recommend to get a good travel guide such as Lonely Planet guides. They are very useful before and during your staying.
Try to speak at least a few words of Spanish and Portuguese. You will make a big impression by doing it and it's also a show of respect and interest on your part.
Visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website for current updates about places and countries you want to visit, particularly the Know Before you Go campaign.
They have teamed up with Lonely Planet to produce a nice little e-book called Travel Safe, that you can download at no cost.
You will need Acrobat Reader to read a PDF file, click here for a free download.
Respect local customs, traditions and culture- always ask before photographing local people.
Pay special attention while attending church and religious ceremonies.
Be aware of the appropriate dress coding.
Try to support the local economy by buying local products for your grocery needs and locally produced handicrafts.
Never buy products made from endangered species such as coral, shells, feathers, leather or ancient artifacts.
Don't be obsessed with getting the lowest price when haggling. A few pence to you may be a bid deal for the seller.
Give a fair economic return to local families.
When eating out, choose small local restaurants so you will benefit individuals instead of companies.
Please do not litter anywhere. Your holiday waste should be taken home with you, particularly used batteries, one of the most damaging products.
Preserve water as much as you can. Use it sparingly.
You don't really need towels and sheets laundered daily, so ask for that in your hotel.
Conserve electricity by switching off lights, air conditioning or heating when you leave your room.
To learn more about this and other aspects of traveling, let me introduce you to this excellent compilation by Sherry Schwarz (Editor of Transitions Abroad Magazine).