Responsible Tourism – How to be a responsible tourist

responsible tourist

The tourism industry is at an all-time high, booming every day. No matter the type of tourism, or a peak season or off one, nothing is stopping tourists these days. Travelling in either of the seasons has its pros and cons. In some countries, tourism drives the economy and supports the locals. But the impact tourism is leaving on the environment is huge. Use of plastic, or overcrowding in some places, and the signs like carbon footprint cannot be ignored. So Today I am going to talk about Responsible Tourism and how to be a responsible tourist. And I assure you, I will not say words like – travel less, rather I’ll just give the alternatives. 

Responsible Tourism | Responsible Travel | Sustainable Tourism | Responsible Travel | How to be a Responsible Tourist #responsibletravel #responsibletourism #travel

What is Responsible Tourism?

We travel for different reasons, some for vacations, some for fun, and some are passionate about seeing the entire world. No matter what our reason is, one thing we should keep in mind is Responsible Tourism. This term is a hot topic in the current era, why? Because of the impact tourism leaves on this planet. The carbon footprint through the transport we use and excessive use of plastic is not doing any good for the environment. Various cases have come forward where the plastic dump disrupts ocean life. Responsible Travel is nothing but the ways to travel in a responsible way and not impact the environment in a negative way. 

How to be a Responsible Tourist?

In the recent past, organizations are coming up with ways to help tourists to travel responsibly. With the help of my fellow bloggers and travellers, I have compiled diverse ways how to be a responsible tourist – 

Carry a Reusable Bottle

How many of you buy a bottle of mineral water while travelling? I assume, a lot! Myself guilty of doing it until a few years ago. Being a mountain lover, I travel to the Himalayan range a lot and the natural water streams are as clean as purified water. It was my mum and dad who pointed out years ago that we can directly refill the bottle from that. I know this clean water is not easily available everywhere and especially in the coastal areas. Whenever we go, restaurants and hotels serve clean water, I always refill from there now. When on a road trip, carry an extra jug with (or without) ice cubes to keep the water cool. This is my number one tip on how to be a responsible tourist, don’t you agree?

I recommend this from Cello!

How to buy the best water bottle? Check out this guide & comparisons about buying the best filter water bottle.

Travel By Bicycle 

Clare Dewey at Epic Road Rides suggests exploring the world by bicycle. Travelling by bike is the most environmentally sustainable and responsible form of transport out there. 

Provence Copyright Epic Road Rides.jpg

It’s also a fantastic way to get to know a new place because you travel on roads and through places way off the beaten track. You get to see underneath the skin of a destination, past the glossy tourist attractions and into the heart of a country.

On two wheels you notice things you’d never spot from the back of a car or bus: brightly coloured hedgerows and verges full of birdsong and vivid flowers, the lively chatter of school children walking to school, the tinkle of cowbells on a mountainside.

Do it, travel by bicycle!

Suggested Read – Road Trip Essentials.

Carry a reusable shopping bag

Matilda from The Travel Sisters says One tip to be more responsible when you travel is to bring a reusable shopping bag with you. It is a very easy way to be more eco-friendly and avoid using plastic bags.  Instead of getting a bag every time you shop for groceries, souvenirs or anything else during your travels, you can use your foldable reusable bag to carry your loot. Bringing a reusable bag with you can also save you money in places where you are charged for plastic or paper bags plus reusable shopping bags are more durable so you don’t have to worry about flimsy plastic bags falling apart.

Shampoo Bars

Tasha suggests that over the last year, shampoo bars seemed to have soared in popularity. Not only do they smell amazing, but they’re also great for the environment. Instead of liquid shampoo in a throw-away plastic bottle, you can buy a round tin to put these shampoo bars in which can be used over and over. It has been said that shampoo bars could replace the 552 million shampoo bottles which are thrown away annually.

I buy mine from ‘Lush’ and would personally recommend the ‘Godiva’ and ‘Honey I Washed My Hair’ flavours. They smell divine! If you’re not already convinced, another reason to try them out is that you don’t have to worry about going over the 100 ml liquid limit for hand luggage on flights, they also reduce your carbon footprint as they are lighter than liquid shampoos. Overall, swapping liquid shampoo for shampoo bars in reusable tins is a great way to cut your plastic pollution. This is a tip not known to many and is a great step towards responsible tourism. 

Support Local Business

Jennifer from The Rainbow Route has a wonderful take on how to be a responsible tourist. A great way to experience local food and culture while supporting sustainable farming is to shop at farmers’ markets. You can rest assured that you are buying locally grown produce that is in season and supporting small businesses. Chat with the vendors and get to know some locals while sussing out new and delicious foods to try. If you’re unsure what something is, even better! Let your taste buds have an adventure and ask the vendor for suggested recipes to get to know the culinary culture better. Cooking for yourself while on holiday can also help keep you on the budget – although, you might get so excited about how delicious the food is, you spend all of your money at the farmers market.

Treatment of animals

Nadia from The Nomadic Nerd says It hurts my heart to think about how I used to partake in activities that exploited animals. I don’t blame myself, I, of course, didn’t know any better, but my parents should have. It’s a funny thing, from a young age we are taught to enjoy looking at animals in confinement. It’s almost inhuman.

Almost yearly, I discover animals being mistreated for the personal enjoyment of humans, most of them being tourists. The drugged-up tigers are being poked and prodded by little kids. The frustrated elephants are either chained and unable to roam around properly or forced to carry up to 100 kg on their backs in the blistering heat when they can roam around finally. Most recently, the exhausted donkeys made to carry tourists and all their luggage up the stairs in Santorini, given little rest, little water and suffering blisters from the friction of the saddles.

Bad Treatment of animals
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

My responsible travel tip on how to be a responsible tourist is this: If you don’t know, don’t go. Meaning, if you don’t know exactly how the animals are treated if you don’t do extremely thorough research into safaris and if you have heard the slightest bad rumour about animal mistreatment, then don’t go there. Take the time to care, and take the time to find an ethical substitution.

Pro Tip – Take a safari in Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan & know how many tigers are left in the world before you plan your trip. 

Say No to Straws

It is estimated that 500 million straws are used and thrown away every single day in the United States (source)! This is crazy and what is even crazier is the impact that a simple change can make. How often do you use a straw, daily? Most of us use them several times a week. Imagine how much plastic you could save if you didn’t use a straw for an entire year! Deborah from 12By12Travel quotes, in my opinion, the easiest solution is to ask for no straws. This takes some getting used to and I still forget, but try your best. If you forget to ask and it is still wrapped, simply don’t use it. Either leave it on the table or return it to your server.

If you really can’t live without your straw there are several great alternatives to plastic. Many companies make metal, bamboo and glass straws. Buy one on Amazon to arrive before your next outing. Any of these alternative straws should last you a long time and often the set comes with a cleaning brush to ensure they are hygienic. The key is remembering to ask for no straws and packing yours with. So, let us all promote responsible tourism and sustainable living by giving up straws. 

Hotel Rooms

The hotel industry uses so much water! Nowadays it is common practice for hotels to only change sheets every couple of days. Deborah fully supports this change! At check-in, ask how often your hotel changes sheets and request them to extend that to 3 or 5 days or however long you feel comfortable. I bet that will make the housekeeping staff happier and in turn, your stay will be even more enjoyable. Do the same with your towels. At most hotels, they leave the towels that are hung up and will replenish the ones lying around, so take a few extra seconds and hang up your towels. I have stayed at several hotels that offer extra points in exchange for skipping your daily clean towel and linen change. That sounds like a win-win situation to me! It’s easy to do your part in cutting down on water usage.

Smarter Souvenirs

Deborah doesn’t think there is anything wrong with buying souvenirs but do we really need a souvenir for every trip? If you find something you love, get it. But stop buying souvenirs to simply have something from the trip. Our main souvenir is now a cribbage board we carry with us. This board has travelled with us for over 5 years, every time we are somewhere new we play a game and write the city onto the board. The board is now filled with cities from all over the world. It has a use when we are at home or travelling. This fills our desire to have something to remember where we have been and is very useful on long layovers. When we do buy souvenirs we try to get something functional that represents the country, such as a teapot from Morocco or a silk tie from India. We take the same approach when buying souvenirs for friends and family. Rather than buying useless knick-knacks, we try bringing them a consumable gift. Some great consumable ideas are local spices or speciality snacks from the area. Another gift alternative is to take them out for dinner or give them a gift card to their favourite coffee shop.

Use moon cup

Aside from being expensive and taking up valuable room in your luggage, pads and tampons are also a huge contributor to landfill waste. Suzie from The Wandering Linguist says there is an alternative! Using a moon cup will stop you from contributing to this problem, and it is also ideal for travelling as you don’t have to change it as often, and don’t even need to find a rubbish bin! The moon cup is by far the most convenient and most sustainable way to handle menstruation and becomes even more useful when you travel.

Take Fewer Flights

Each flight that takes off every day lets off a huge amount of carbon emissions. If you can, avoid flying and take a road trip or a train trip instead! If you’re travelling across oceans you might be excused. But if you are going somewhere within the same country or that is accessible by road, try not to fly unless you really have to. The Wandering Linguist Says you might be surprised by how much more you can see and learn by travelling this way. Travel slowly and steadily and enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

EXPERT TIP – Travel slowly and steadily and enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

Be a good guest to the heritage monuments

India is a country with more than 5000 years of history. The unfathomable timeline runs way back to history. There are traces of the mighty ruler and their sprawling kingdom. Once the bloodbath and invasion stopped, a few of the largest empire of human history was built in the land of Indus-Ganges-Bramhaputra. Time has hardly gnawed in many of the monuments. The creative excellence was of superlative stature.

Qutub minar India

However, the subcontinent is swarming with people these days. Some of them are supposedly bitten by the “wanderlust bug” and take pride in an increasing number count of the ticked-off bucket list items. In the process, they exhibit an extreme disregard for the monuments and heritage buildings that stand as the solemn witness of a time bygone. The corners are colours with Paan-spits. The walls are embedded with some enthusiast’s name and how he proclaims his love for a dear one! At times the stone carvings are stolen to be sold at a black market as a prized antiques. What a sheer waste of culture and our shared traces of civilization! 

To solve this burning issue, thankfully, many government laws have been crafted, sometimes imposed with a heavy fines. NGOs come up to increase awareness. The locals are taught about rich inheritance and the importance of protecting the same! Madhurima from The Orange WayFarer believes we need to teach our children the value of protecting these live pieces as and when we travel. The onus lies upon us as a society! Show them the grand remains and how beautifully people had created them, how respectfully people are protecting them and they will continue with the ownership in future!

Do you have any other tips which you think help in responsible tourism? Share it with me.

Also,  make sure to follow along on my Instagram account for the latest updates and adventures.

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– Shivani

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  1. […] in small family owned restaurants, where ingredients are supplied from local fishermen and farmers. Responsible tourism is something I want to promote on my blog and I am pleased to say this company cares about the […]

  2. Hey, Loved your blog. Responsible Tourism is so important and this is a great post to bring light to it. Thanks for sharing

    1. Shivani says:

      So glad you liked it.

  3. Great tips, we should all travel more sustainably!

  4. I love riding cycles whenever i get a chance on my vacations! Really loved your post. I just wish more and more people be aware and responsible towards nature and impact of their actions on it. Keep up the good work Shivani!

  5. […] range. Book nerds will love the hotel as they have an in-house mini library. If you’re a responsible tourist, you should choose the hotel, as they’ve constructed it using local materials. Click here to […]

  6. […] Zadar is also a nice city, a bit off the beaten path compared to other famous locations of Croatia. Here, you can sit by the Sea Organ, listen to the song of the waves and enjoy ‘one of the most beautiful sunsets off all time’, according to Alfred Hitchcock. There are so many things to do in Zadar that you won’t feel it’s off beaten. Also, travelling off the beaten path means, you get to be a responsible tourist.  […]

  7. […] have to buy a new one. That’s always my preferred means when I travel as it helps me to be a responsible tourist and do my […]

  8. […] city or connectivity nearby, taking a flight will save a lot of hassle. It might not be the most responsible way of tourism, but it is great for those who are new to […]

  9. […] Places like Hauz Khaz village, Pandara Road, Khan Market, Satya Niketan will give you amazing dine in restaurants and cafes (some of these are Instagram worthy cafes). If you visit any malls in Delhi, you find overwhelming options for restaurants ranging from Punjabi, South Indian, or simply international ones like Chilis as well. If still confused, try Zomato app to find a restaurant’s review by users and then choose accordingly. One more tip for Delhi – Only drink *sealed* Bottled water in Delhi. Most restaurants have water purifiers like Aquaguard or RO, which is totally safe to drink. So, when in a cafe or restaurant, request them to fill your water bottle with that. It’s nice to do a bit about responsible tourism. […]

  10. […] my own with a zeal to explore something new and also have a quick bite of the famous risotto. As a responsible traveler, whenever I eat out alone I always order less in order to waste less […]

  11. […] it before security and fill it up later. You stay hydrated, save money spent on water and also be a responsible tourist by not purchasing a single-use plastic […]

  12. […] rather spend looking out of the window of a metro than a car, what would you do? Also, as a responsible tourist, I guess it is a decision we all should go […]

  13. […] go hand in hand and as a professional hazard, we bloggers are exposed to hotels a lot. As a responsible tourist, I have taken this up to choose & promote only the hotels with visible sustainability efforts. […]

  14. […] Biotique. I hardly use such soap & shampoo in the throwaway plastic bottles as my steps towards responsible tourism. So, I used my own products instead. You don’t need to pack a dryer for a short trip to […]

  15. […] water bottle is also provided. Although I don’t prefer to use plastic bottles to try to be a responsible tourist and didn’t throw the bottle and rather used it on my trip. During my return on an evening […]

  16. I love these ideas! Nice reminders of the little things we can do to be better travelers, something we should all strive to do.

    1. Shivani says:

      So glad you liked the ideas. Thanks for stopping by and reading the post, really appreciate it 🙂

  17. […] found random travel a great way to put myself outside my comfort zone and it forces me to be a more responsible backpacker as a […]

  18. […] could still earn a living by operating in a responsible and ethical way. There will always be responsible tourists who want to see and interact with elephants even if they aren’t allowed to ride them. […]

  19. […] to travel in the most sustainable […]

  20. […] proud myself to be a responsible tourist and I always look out for places which do their part in sustaining in the hospitality industry. I […]

  21. […] The hotel boasts vertical gardens, solar panels for hot water and LED lighting as a part of their environmentally friendly initiatives. Apart from this, they also provide Airport shuttle and have an in-house bar, amazing, isn’t […]

  22. […] proud myself to be a responsible tourist and I always look out for places which do their part in sustaining in the hospitality industry. I […]

  23. […] highly appreciate the IBIS’s steps towards sustainable tourism, as they try to promote reusing the towels which save literally gallons of water otherwise […]

  24. Very well written Shivani. I try and follow all of these. Plus in many locations, like Leh or Spiti, or Jaisalmer, water is a scarcity. We carry our laundry back with us as much as possible not to strain the local water supply. By carrying reusable bottles I think I save on up to 50 plastic water bottles every year, at the very least.

    Thanks for this post. We all need to start talking about this.

    1. Shivani says:

      Thanks for bringing this to attention, yes there are a number of places where water is a luxury and we should do our best to try & save water. Thanks for stopping by, & reading, much appreciated.

  25. I’m with you on most of these especially straws & riding bikes. I try to carry a reusable bottle most of the time but sometimes you get into countries where the water is bad & your only option at the time is to buy a plastic bottle of something.

    1. Shivani says:

      I get your point, sometimes plastic bottle is the safest option, even in India. But I have found that most good restaurants serve purified/treated water, so sometimes asking in a dine-out restaurant can be a start 🙂
      Thanks for your comment, appreciate you stopping by.

  26. […] in small family owned restaurants, where ingredients are supplied from local fishermen and farmers. Responsible tourism is something I want to promote on my blog and I am pleased to say this company cares about the […]

  27. As tourists we should definitely raise our awareness regarding our practices and try to reduce as much as possible our environmental and social footprint. But a change must also occur among tourism professionals.

  28. Shampoo bars are the best! And one less liquid. So important to remember to be kind to our planet and treat it nicely. Thanks for a great share

  29. Love me some bar shampoo! It makes traveling so much easier, besides being more environmentally friendly.

  30. I loved this post, I’m really getting into sustainable travel lately. Brilliant tips. I love reusable items and feel lost without my stainless steel water bottle!

  31. Love this post! I really need to invest in a reusable straw and shampoo bars. Another tip would be to coordinate things like shampoo with other people you’re traveling with so you’re not each bringing a bottle of shampoo you can just take one and produce less waste

    1. Shivani says:

      I agree! These days I have started carrying my own small bottle of shampoo which prevents me from using the one at the hotel. That helps 🙂 Thanks for the tip.

  32. I’ve been trying to travel more sustainably recently so this post is brilliant! X

    1. Shivani says:

      So glad you liked it 🙂

  33. A good and important post. We need to be aware of our actions, especially when it comes to travelling because it has such a big effect on so many levels. Kudos!

    1. Shivani says:

      Yup, so true! Glad you liked the post!

  34. Responsible Tourism is so important and this is a great post to bring light to it. It’s not difficult to practice this and it really makes such a difference, especially in how the locals treat you. Really nice post! Thanks for sharing!!

  35. Such a great post with useful info! Although the part of taking less flights is not that easy unless you’re traveling full time. Thank you for sharing!

  36. This was so helpful! The bar that I used to work in completely stopped using straws and it’s such a small change to make but it can have such a huge effect! Looking forward to implementing more of these changes myself 🙂

  37. Chanelle says:

    It’s great that you raise awareness about responsible tourism and we should have more people like you ! But for your information, Lush isn’t green. Its the great example of a greenwashing brand. It’s still part of the conventional cosmetic industry using harmful preservative, parabens and not eco-friendly perfume. Check organic shampoo bars with labels, stop using Lush 🙂
    Still, great article ! Keep going on !

  38. Yas! No to straws! I’m attempting to go plastic free this July and it is hard. Agree with heaps of what’s be said here. Great post.

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