Being a responsible traveller is all about being conscious and culturally aware when visiting a new place. This could include considering how you interact with local people during your visit, being mindful towards the environment, or openly embracing the cultures and traditions of the place you are visiting.
At Explore, we take action to ensure that our company, our Explore Leaders and those who travel with us each year become more responsible, by promoting and practicing sustainable travel etiquette.
Our guide to travel etiquette explains some of the helpful things you can do while travelling abroad. Read on to find out how you can enjoy new experiences on your Explore holiday, and be safe in the knowledge that you are helping the local communities and their economies develop, so that they can continue to welcome visitors from around the world.
Learning the language
While no-one expects you to become fluent in Swahili or Tamil overnight, it is considered respectful to learn a handful of words and phrases to help you communicate during your trip. Before travelling to your destination, carry out some research on the language and discover how to say helpful words and common phrases such as 'hello' and 'thank you'.
Our Explore Leaders will also equip you with some snippets in the local language, so that you can hold a basic conversation. If you are staying with a family in one of our homestays, this is a great opportunity to practice your new-found phrases and learn a new language straight from native speakers.
Be mindful of privacy
Customs and manners surrounding photographing people and sensitive sites are different across the world, and while artistic photographs and Instagram snaps may be encouraged in one location, other countries may expect tourists to ask permission before clicking away. Always consult with your Explore Leader before entering a site to check whether it's okay to take pictures, as some religious monuments may have specific rules regarding photography. Similarly, if you wish to take photographs with local people, always ask permission first. If it's not permitted, accept this as a great opportunity to live in the moment, and enjoy your surroundings with your own eyes.
Treat the local wildlife with respect
With Explore, you can embark on many trips which will take you into the heart of nature, allowing you to see verdant rainforests, eerie desert landscapes and untouched glacial mountains in all of their natural beauty. As part of these trips you may also have the opportunity to see endemic wildlife up close. As the ecology of these locations can be fragile, with many species already endangered and/or protected by government initiatives, it is important to be respectful of wildlife so that this is not impacted or damaged by your presence.
This means that feeding, or attempting to touch the animals (unless instructed otherwise by an authorised wildlife guide) should be avoided. Steer away from disturbing natural habitats such as coral reefs or birds' nests by refraining from touching or tampering, and don’t take cuttings or clippings of local plants. In a number of more exotic locations, it can be illegal or even dangerous to do so. Instead, enjoy the view and allow your guide to talk you through the experience.
Bring appropriate clothing when packing for your trip
It goes without saying that you'll need to pack for the weather when embarking on a trip, but what about packing respectful clothing which is suitable for the cultural expectations of the country you are visiting?
This is especially vital to consider when visiting religious or cultural sites, so pay close attention to signage and the advice of leaders on what is appropriate to wear. You may be asked to remove your shoes at a number of the Buddhist temples we visit across Asia, for example, while many religious sites in Turkey and Morocco will ask that legs, shoulders, and in some cases hair, are covered when visiting mosques and other religious sites. Bring a spare shawl, t-shirt or scarf with you on day trips, just in case you're required to cover up, and seek advice from your Explore Leader on whether to opt for trousers or long skirts in place of shorts when wandering around cities and rural villages.
Get clued-up on local customs before you go
Depending on the country that you're visiting, there may be a number of local customs that you're not aware of, which should be followed in order to gain the welcome and respect of local people. For example, did you know that it's impolite to leave your chopsticks upright in your rice when in Japan? Or that you should always bring a gift to your Russian hosts when invited into their home?
Whether you want to know how much to tip in a restaurant, which hand gestures you should avoid or other common tourist faux pas, be sure to talk to our Explore Adventure Travel Consultants about any local customs you should adhere to during your trip, so that you can follow their lead and become a more polite and conscientious traveller.
Be considerate to the environment
Tourism has a large impact on the amount of waste produced by a country, so when travelling to a new destination, be mindful of your own contribution to litter and pollution. Explore advises careful packing with refillable bottles for drinking water and toiletries so that you don't leave behind disposable plastics that cannot be recycled. You could also opt for products like eco-friendly soap and solid shampoos and conditioners, to help to prevent water pollution in streams or rivers.
Making sure you take all your litter with you is imperative. There are a number of incentives to clean up litter from beaches and walking trails, but in some cities, you may find that both locals and tourists will drop litter. Just because others are doing this, this doesn't mean that you should contribute further to the issue.
If you have any questions about local customs ahead of your trip, get in touch with the Explore team today.