How to be a responsible traveller

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The year 2017 was known as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. But that doesn’t mean sustainable travelling is not necessary anymore. On the contrary, being a responsible traveller is more important than ever and all those who like to roam the world have a major responsibility, to make sure generations to come can explore the same, beautiful planet that we are currently enjoying.

Travelling and tourism can have quite a negative effect not just on local communities, but on the entire planet, so it should be practiced in a responsible manner. In addition to trying to diminish the negative effects of tourism, the goal is to take advantage of this fast-growing sector and utilize it to make positive changes, such as diminishing poverty, contributing to gender equality and protecting the planet’s biodiversity. This is why the United Nations 70th General Assembly has declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, which should contribute to changing attitudes as well as policies, resulting in a more sustainable tourism sector. This requires collaboration from governments and corporations, but most important, from travellers themselves. There is so much travellers can do on an individual level to make sure the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals are achieved.


To raise awareness about these important goals, the Travel Enjoy Respect Campaign was created. They provide some guidelines on how to be a responsible traveller and maximize your own experience, as well as of those around you.

  • First and foremost, you need to inform yourself. You need to take care of yourself first, and do research on medical and safety precautions, know how to get into contact with your embassy and emergency services.
  • Second, be cautious when it comes to voluntourism and try to choose a responsible travel agency if you are going on an organized holiday.

There are many responsible travel agencies and tour operators, such as Intrepid Travel, Geckos and Really Wild Challenges if you are in for a challenging adventure. They all support the local economies by hiring local tour guides who know the place like the back of their hand and thus give you the best experience. If you are going solo, make sure you are a solo, but responsible traveller. Familiarize yourself with the laws and local customs. Be sure to respect any dress codes or other rules that might be in place. It is a good idea to learn a few words of the local language, especially if you are travelling to a place where English is not spoken very well. It will also enhance your experience, as you will connect with the local community more easily.

If you want to take photos of anything or anyone, ask first. Respect people’s privacy and be prepared for the fact that you might not be allowed to use your camera or at least your flash in some places. Try to support the local economy by buying local products and be sure to pay a fair price. Do not buy sketchy products or ones that might be prohibited by any laws, national or international. A lot of people want to bring exotic mementos, such as snake wine back from Thailandinfo-icon, but it is unethical to say the least. In some cases, depending on the snake that’s in the bottle, it can also be illegal. Cobras are not allowed, because they are an endangered species, so be sure to purchase ethical and sustainable products.

Aside from street vendors, you might spot beggars, especially children, when you are walking down a busy street or market. You can’t be sure what the money is going to be used for and who it will really go to. Instead of giving to beggars, think about supporting a community project. Rules about respect and sustainability also apply when going into the wild. Respect the nature and make sure you don’t endanger the wildlife. Refrain from accessing restricted areas and only visit places open to visitors. And remember, only leave your footprints behind.

It is not difficult to do this and can be quite fun. When in doubt, just look up these tips again to stay on course. The Travel Enjoy Respect Campaign appreciates all your efforts. In fact, they are so thankful that they created a competition. The winner got to go on a month-long trip to six different destinations in three regions of the world. Talk about motivation! During the trip they had the chance to truly immerse themselves into the local culture, enjoy the nature and show off their sustainable traveling skills that won them the prize. The 2017 competition is closed, but keep an eye out for any future competitions. A nice prize can keep anyone motivated in their efforts to become or keep being a responsible traveller.


It takes a whole travel community to change their ways to pull this off, so make sure you spread the word. Brag about being a responsible traveller and how it can actually enhance the whole experience. Share your journey on social media and make sure it is accompanied by #travelgoals or #vacationgoals. Because, let’s face it, those need to be our #goals now, not countless selfies in front of tourist sights.

Natasha Car freelance content writer at
Travelling is the best way to broaden your horizons. We all overestimate our knowledge about the world, until we start exploring it.