Respecting the Local People on a Green Vacation

A good green vacation involves showing cultural sensitivity. You have a responsibility to be the best possible guest you can be. This not only includes green travel principles but connecting with the local people in a positive way, to enrich both your experience and theirs.

You make less of an impact when you try to fit in, and the best way to get to know a place is to do what the locals do. Start by researching the traditions and customs of the local people at your destination so that you can be sensitive to the culture while avoiding potentially embarrassing mistakes. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If English isn’t the primary language at your destination, invest in a conversational language class as part of your trip preparation. Knowing how to say hello, please, and thank you goes a long way to improving your welcome. (Not only will the local people appreciate the effort you’ve made, but knowing basics such as left, right, and the bathrooms are that way can make or break a day on the road!)

  • Dress appropriately. A good guidebook gives excellent advice about what to wear and, more importantly, what not to wear. Generally, dress as modestly as the local people do. For example, avoid skimpy or revealing clothing in conservative countries, and cover your shoulders and choose skirts or trousers when visiting religious buildings.

  • Always ask before taking photographs, and beware of taking photographs or videos in sensitive areas such as near military or transportation facilities. Many countries take a dim view of potential espionage activities!

  • Respect sacred or private sites by asking permission to enter and by following local customs such as removing shoes and wearing head coverings.

  • Check into local tipping customs so that you know what to expect and can avoid giving offense to restaurant staff and other service providers. Tour operators, guidebooks, and local tourism offices can provide tipping information.

  • Buy the local newspaper and tune in to some local radio and TV. Even if you don’t understand a word, the pictures and sounds give you a surprisingly good idea of local life.

  • Find out about the local environmental issues. After all, you are on a green vacation, and you may need to conserve water and energy, particularly in many remote or developing parts of the world.

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