Wherever we go, Discovery Indochina takes a responsible attitude along. That means travelling in a way which both respects and benefits local people, their culture, their economy, and their environment. While Discovery Indochina has adopted a 1+1+1 charity distribution model, we would also like to help our clients become more mindful and culturally aware travellers as well. Here are some tips to help you to be a more responsible traveller on your trip to Southeast Asia.
1. Educate yourself
While your tour guide will surely be a wealth of local knowledge, it is always a good idea to have some basic information about the countries you are visiting. Before leaving home, learn as much as possible about the countries you are visiting – the religion, culture, and the local rules and values. Make sure that your sources are credible as well and look out for any statements that seem exaggerated or sensationalized, just to capture a tourist’s attention.
2. Get down with the local lingo
Learn some of the local language and don’t be afraid to use it – simple pleasantries will help break the ice. Keep practicing, and show the locals that you are making a special effort to learn their language. They’ll appreciate it!
3. Know your customs
Learn the appropriate behaviour (including body language!) in the country you’re visiting. Think along the lines of the concept of “saving face” in Asia, or giving the thumbs up in western or central Europe.
4. Go local in everything you do
Support locally owned businesses, hotels, restaurants, and other services. Eat local food and drink local brands and brews. Use public transport, hire a bike, or walk where convenient – you’ll meet local people and get to know the place. Use our local travel practices as a guideline.
5. Know what you’re supporting
Think first. It’s best not to eat in restaurants, shop in stores, or visit local shows, markets, or zoos that promote cruelty or exploitation of endangered species. Always be aware of where your money is going as you travel.
6. Shop smart
Shop from traditional artisans for locally made products, helping keep traditional crafts alive, and favour local products over imported items. Bargain if that is a local practice, but bear in mind that a small amount to you could be extremely important to the seller.
7. Dress appropriately
Dress respectfully with an awareness of local standards. Dress modestly at religious sites and check what swimwear is suitable for pools and the beach.
8. Always ask permission for photos
Always ask first before photographing or videoing people, particularly children. (If you are having trouble communicating verbally, use Google Translate or gestures) If you want to go that extra mile, send them back copies of photos to help make it a two-way exchange.
9. Support the local community responsibly
Be wary of giving gifts or money to beggars, children, and people you have just met. Supporting the community through a local school, clinic, or development project may be more constructive.
10. Leave only footprints…
Take care of the environment as you would your own home. Use alternatives to plastic and say no to plastic bags, reuse, refuse, or recycle wherever possible, and try to keep your use of disposable utensils as low as possible. Always keep any trash or waste with you if you cannot find a proper way to dispose of it in the area you are touring- take the effort to find a garbage bin or recycling area if possible.
11. Help from home
After returning home, think about how you can support programs and organisations that are working to protect the welfare, culture, and environment of the places you’ve visited. Choose your words and photos carefully when sharing your story, in person or online, as you never know what sort of impact your stories might be to those who listen and to those who are included.
The traveller who wishes to have a happy and successful trip should keep as calm, cheerful, and friendly as possible. A smile is an international sign of warmth and friendship, so if in doubt – smile!