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10 Ways to Embrace Responsible Travel

The experts from Rough Guides offer 10 practical tips to embrace responsible travel that’ll support the destinations you visit while giving you a more rewarding experience.

Whether you’re taking a trip to relax after a tough stint at work, or are looking for an exhilarating adventure of a lifetime, it’s true to say that travel rejuvenates the body and broadens the mind (forgive the cliché, but it’s one of those old chestnuts that definitely rings true). That said, one of the tricky things about travelling is how to reconcile all those enriching personal experiences with the impact you have on the places you visit, and the environment.

The short and simple answer to this conundrum is to travel responsibly, which is actually also pretty simple to implement. It essentially means making smarter choices about how you travel, from choosing to stay in locally owned accommodation, to feasting on regional flavours in local restaurants, to getting to know the places you visit through spending time (and money) in the likes of heritage sites, national parks, theatres and bars.

Read on to discover 10 ways to embrace responsible travel - practical tips from Rough Guides' experts that’ll support the destinations you visit while giving you a more rewarding experience. And we mean seriously rewarding, which sounds like a win-win situation whichever way you look at it.

2. Time Your Travel Responsibly

To lessen your environmental impact (and to experience places without all those annoying crowds), think about visiting out of season, or at least outside your destination’s high season. What’s more, travelling out of season also helps to alleviate an economic feast or famine situation for local communities - far better to have year-round income than for it to be concentrated into a couple of months.

For one example, while tonnes of people take trips to Mexico in December and January to escape winter chills, you could visit in November, before peak season hits. The same goes for European gems like Venice - visit in late autumn or winter to experience the city’s enchanting atmosphere beyond its overcrowded summer season, or consider exploring a lesser-visited area of Italy (like Sicily) in spring.

4. Eat (and Drink) Responsibly

No, that doesn’t mean you can’t imbibe the local tipple(s). In fact, eating and drinking responsibly means the exact opposite. It means indulging in fresh food in locally-owned restaurants. It means enjoying seasonal juices, and drinking local wine and rum. It means visiting vineyards, cocoa plantations, food markets and farm shops. How about a wine-tasting trip to Portugal, or Argentina and Chile? What about an immersive Mayan culinary experience in Guatemala, or sampling some of Spain’s exceptional food and drink during a bespoke trip to Seville? Wherever you go, you’re sure to find a feast of distinctive food experiences to keep you thoroughly (and finely) fed and watered during your trip.

5. Shop Responsibly

While travelling, few things beat the experience of visiting local craft markets, or galleries showcasing artists whose work presents their home in authentic lights. You’ll often get to meet the makers, too, and maybe see them at work to appreciate the skills that go into their creations. So, rather than buying the same imported souvenirs that are available the world over, look to buy locally-made products that uphold age-old craft traditions or support emerging entrepreneurs. This helps sustain the local economy while giving you something to treasure for a lifetime. Selecting a handcrafted Mayan mask in Guatemala’s Chichicastenango Market (for example) sure beats buying a plastic key ring, or one of those lousy “all I got...” t-shirts from a characterless mall.

7. Uncover culture and heritage

As with enjoying regional food and drink, and spending your hard-earned cash in markets and craft fairs, it’s hardly a hardship to visit heritage sites, museums and galleries during your travels, or to attend sporting and cultural events in the name of responsible travel, which is exactly what such activities are - taking the time to get to know your destination is a central tenet of responsible travel. And, as with visiting national parks, your entry fee means heritage sites are maintained for future generations. You could even consider taking a culture-focussed trip, such as exploring Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle or touring Thailand’s Golden Triangle.

Invariably, when it comes to visiting historic sites and checking out cultural events, there’ll be something for all tastes, whether you’re a sports fan (why not support the local football team while you’re in town?), art-lover, wannabe explorer, or just wanna have fun and dance until dawn. Talking of which…

9. Tread Lightly to Lesser-Visited Attractions

Where possible, try to use public transport to get around. Not only is this better for the environment, but it also gives a unique, real-life perspective on your destination. You could also look to join small tours run by local guides to cut down on unnecessary individual journeys. If you really need your own wheels, investigate electric car hire options, and look to hire a bike to explore the region in your own time, at your own pace.

Alongside being responsible about how you get around, consider exploring lesser-visited attractions rather than those that are firmly on the beaten track and swamped with tourists. That’s one of the beauties of Rough Guides' Tailor-Made Trips - they’re 100% customisable, which means a local expert can curate an experience that’s perfect for you and the places you visit.

10. Volunteer Your Time

The saying goes that travellers should leave only footprints and take only memories. But, in actual fact, travelling responsibly offers visitors opportunities to leave lasting positive impacts on places they visit, not least if you opt for a spot of voluntourism. Before you go, research volunteering opportunities in the area you’re visiting - maybe there’s a seasonal wildlife project you could get involved in, or you could look to book a trip that includes visiting a local school, community, or conservation programme.

If you feel inspired by these suggestions for travelling more responsibly, it’s worth knowing that Rough Guides Tailor-Made Trips are curated in collaboration with local experts who engage the expertise of local tour and nature guides, and are deeply engaged with local communities. Not only does this give travellers authentic, enriching experiences, but it also means those communities benefit from your visit. Choose from existing (fully customisable) itineraries, or if you‘d prefer to create your own trip from scratch, the Rough Guides team can connect you to a local expert who will personally curate an experience that’s perfect for you. Let Rough Guides' Tailor-Made Trips take the hassle out of planning your next adventure, so you can focus on enjoying it.