Just don’t be a dick.
It’s easy to be a “good traveller”. Here’s a few ways on how you can make sure you are one.
Respect local traditions and customs
When visiting somewhere that is a world away from your home country, remember to acknowledge and respect their traditions and customs. It may be very different from back home, but it’s the only way to travel. For example, when visiting the magnificent, beautiful, spellbinding temples in South East Asia, remember to wear covering clothing to be respectful. This rule particularly applies to scared and spiritual places (which I can guarantee will capture your heart and open your mind), but also to day-to-day activities, from walking down the street to driving cars.
If you’re not sure on the local customs of your destination, read up online about what other travellers have had to say about their experiences there, or, if you’re already there, politely ask the concierge or local guide about what is okay. Most often than not, they’ll be delighted to educate you on the customs and traditions of the local area, as long as you ask in a respectful and interested manner.
Support local businesses
When visiting a destination, try to soak up as much of the local world as you can. Stop off at small local shops instead of 7/11s – you can meet some amazing people, and they’ll almost always be cheaper than the chain stores – and head down to local restaurants and ask the chef about the local delicacies. Support the local economy and adventure into the local world, and don’t just eat food at the hotel that you could get at home. Be adventurous, get involved in local culture and give back to the community.
Stop acting like you know
Everyone from your taxi driver to the concierge has a wealth of local knowledge that the guide book can only dream of. Instead of telling them where you want to go, why not ask them? They’ll know where to get the best pad thai in town, or drop you off at exactly the right spot to watch the sunset. Taxi drivers are the best people to get local knowledge from; ask about anything and everything, from local political events to other regions, they’ll give you an unedited, unsponsored view into everything that your destination has to offer.
Every local you meet will be able to guide you in ways that you won’t have expected; ask the waiters what dishes they truly recommend, let the bartender surprise you with the locals’ favourite cocktail, ask people what their favourite sites in the area are and allow yourself to become absorbed by the story telling of the guide at the local museum. There’s so much to learn about every place you visit, and the locals are often the only way to gather these experiences.
Take chances in conversations
As long as it’s safe (obviously), take chances with conversations that you have with everyone you meet. Take people up on their offers to show you around or give you a list of the must-visit places; people are often more than willing to share their love of their home town/country in exchange for absolutely nothing. Heartfelt generosity is now pretty hard to come by in this world, and the people that do offer up their time and energy to give a lost traveller a little guidance are true gems.
Read Up On Tipping
If it’s respectful and expected that you tip, then tip. If it’s insulting to tip, then don’t. Check the guide book to see what the local rules are, and keep them in mind when at restaurants, bars, hotels and in taxis.
While travelling itself isn’t that environmentally friendly, there are lots of things you can do to make sure your carbon footprint is as small as possible. A few things you can do are: recycle all your waste, never leave anything behind, make sure you don’t litter, refill your water bottles, take public transport where possible and leave any animal-based souvenirs, like coral or ivory, behind – it’s probably come from evil poachers and we need to do everything we can to put them out of business and stop the illegal ivory trade.
Ultimately, be respectful to everyone and everything, and if in doubt, ask.
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