At Travel Sense Asia, we believe in environmentally and culturally responsible tourism. We aim to ensure that our holidays create as little burden on the environment as possible whilst also ensuring both we and our clients are respectful of both the people and the cultures encountered.
We do this by adhering to our own responsible tourism guidelines and by providing comprehensive and accurate information to those that travel with us.
Responsible tourism is not just a buzz word; it’s an essential part of travelling today and reading some simple best-practise guidelines prior to departure can make a big difference whilst you are away.
We believe that the most sensible approach to being a responsible tourist is best achieved in three stages:
1.Before you leave
2.During your holiday
3.After your return
1. Before your holiday
Take some time to research the destinations you are travelling to before you leave home. Find out about the specifics, these could be ecological, cultural or religious and ensure you understand how best to respect the local sensibilities. One of good places to see these information is on our sites.
Caring for the environment starts at home . Often it's the little things that we forget:
- - Turn the fridge down
- - Cancel the newspapers
- - Turn off the hot water
- - Put lights on a timer rather than just leave on for security reasons
- - Unplug all unnecessary electrical items
When it comes to clothing, plan carefully and think about what may be considered offensive to others. When visiting temples and historical buildings it is essential that you cover your shoulders, sometimes your entire arm, and your knees. In all but the most touristy beach resorts it is never suitable to walk the streets or eat a meal in a bikini or just a pair of shorts. When packing try to avoid carrying products that are enclosed in disposable packaging - can you leave this packaging at home?
2. During your Travel Sense Asia holiday
Try to remember, the western 'way' is not necessarily always the right way.
Always ask before taking a photo of anyone. Pointing at your camera with raised eyebrows will usually suffice. Respect your subject’s wishes if they decline your request - put yourself in their position and it doesn’t take long to work out why some may say no.
Having said that many people are more than happy for you to take a snap if only to be able to admire the picture you have just taken of them…the wonders of the digital camera! If you get the opportunity, make an extra print and you’ve got a friend for life. It is not good practise to offer any payment for taking someone’s photo.
People, Customs and Etiquette
Wow, a minefield…Asia is overflowing with customs and peculiar etiquettes. Please try and adhere to these where possible and practical. In truth it’s half the fun of travelling in Asia and not only will local people feel respected, they will respect you in return, allowing you to enjoy a fuller travel experience. You are in their back yard remember.
Don’t be surprised if local people, especially in more remote regions, treat you with a touch of curiosity, even suspicion at times. Keep an open mind and learn from each experience. One of the great benefits of a Travel Sense Asia holiday is that you won’t be turning up with 15 other camera-wielding tourists and ‘taking over’ the village for half a day…as a private 'group' you’ll do a much better job of blending in!
Please respect local customs. Read up before you go and you can always ask your guide, or a local, once you are there. In all but the most remote areas, people understand that you come from a different culture and any errors you make will most likely be met with laughter.
Nudity, scanty or inappropriate dress often causes offence. Modest dress will help minimize the risk of sexual harassment, and will help to ensure both you and future visitors are treated with respect.
Formalities such as greetings can be quite different to what you are used to. It’s never a problem to offer your hand but it may be found very amusing – again, take your lead from the locals.
Please be aware that public displays of affection are taboo in many communities.
Try not to lose your temper in public, it is considered very rude by many Asian people and should be avoided at all costs. Save the argument for the hotel room.
Likewise, never turn bartering into argument - it will not benefit you. Throughout Asia a tradesperson will never be seen to lose face by buckling to the demands of an red-faced tourist.
Abide by all the laws of the country and community you’re visiting….they apply to everyone.
Caring for the environment
At your hotel:
- - Request that your towels are replaced less regularly. Most hotels have a system in place for this.
- - Switch off the lights and air-conditioning when you leave your room.
- - Unplug any devices that you are charging before you go to bed.
- - Try exploring the streets instead of a sweating it out on a running machine.
On the streets:
- - Take care to not litter; most developing countries do not have a refuse collection system.
- - Avoid buying items in disposable packaging. Do you really need a carrier bag for that t-shirt?
- - Show people that you are concerned. In the west we are often more informed on these matters than in Asia.
Try and learn a little, even just a basic greeting and thank you. You’ll find that people respond very well to this; the locals will appreciate the effort you are making and your attempts are often a great ice-breaker.
In most instances, we strongly recommend you do not give money or other ‘gifts’ to beggars, no matter how hard it is to resist. Children miss out on a basic education because they are forced to beg by their parents. In the most extreme cases, they may even be deliberately maimed to increase their earning potential. Special paying attention to this note this when you travel in Vietnam.
Your guide can point you in the direction of schools where you can make a more meaningful donation of pens or other equipment to. These donations actually reach the intended benefactors.
Monks receiving alms is not considered begging as the monasteries are supported by the local communities. Ask your guide or a local how to go about giving alms if you wish to.
An unfortunate by-product of travel in some developing nations is sex tourism. Travel Sense Asia wishes to advise all its guests to give anything of this kind a very wide berth. Enough said.
When bartering don’t try and squeeze every last penny out of the deal. You are expected to raise your initial offer at least once and in most cases several times. Make a game out of it and you’ll come to enjoy the experience. Give yourself a reality check every now and again and you’ll realise that you are probably sticking over $0.50…very little to you and I but a vital profit margin for the seller.
Visitors to religious and historic sites should pay particular attention to the following:
- - Be sure to dress appropriately and follow local guidelines
- - Be mindful of your manners and respect local etiquette
- - Never remove anything from religious or historical sites: this constitutes theft, not a souvenir.
You will find that the vast majority of drinking water in Asia is supplied in plastic bottles and it is important that you dispose of these responsibly. Asia is straining under the levels of waste that it generates but there are ample opportunities to recycle both cans and plastic water bottles.
Whenever possible, re-use water bottles by refilling from a safe supply such as from your hotel (if drinking water is provided). Alternatively consider purchasing a big multi-litre bottle of purified water and decant into smaller, re-usable bottles each day.
Wilderness and Wildlife
We appreciate that making absolutely no negative impact on the environment when travelling to Asia is simply not possible, however, we strive to minimise it. We rely on you and ask that you use common sense and follow local and international wilderness guidelines.
If you carry it in, carry it out – please don’t dispose of litter along the way. This includes cigarette butts and used matches, as well as paper, plastic, clothing and food scraps. Fruit leftovers may be biodegradable but they are unsightly and can take a while to decompose. Carry a plastic bag to collect your litter during the day and take it away with you. And if you're happy to set a good example; pick up litter left by other, less considerate individuals.
Don't feed wild animals - food scraps should not be considered ‘biodegradable’.
Be aware that rabies and other diseases are prevalent in many countries. Wild animals should never be touched, and we also strongly advise you to refrain from touching domestic animals such as cats and dogs.
When trekking and mountain biking you should stick to marked paths at all times. This is for your own safety and also helps to prevent unnecessary erosion.
Try to buy any basic products from the local communities you visit rather than carry them in. This helps to support the local economy in a small way.
The protection of water resources is vital. Please do everything possible to avoid polluting vital water sources when trekking and using home-stays. Ask your guide and locals to show you which water to wash and bath in.
Only use biodegradable soaps and shampoos that do not contain phosphates. Please avoid using soap and shampoo directly in any fresh water sources such as waterfalls or lakes.
If bathing or swimming, consider local sensibilities, both in terms of what you wear and the fact you are in ‘their’ water. Bathe downstream from water collection points and villages, and if you’re using shampoos and soaps, lather up and rinse well away from the water’s edge.
3. Upon your return
It’s all down to sharing your knowledge with others at this stage. Any information, hints and tips that you can pass on ensures that those following in your footsteps will be better educated and more responsible.
You may also want to make donations to groups and charities that work in the region you have visited. Above are the links to several organisations that we believe are truly making a difference to peoples lives and animal welfare, and helping to sustain communities. Your donations and help are always very much appreciated.