The basic premise behind responsible tourism is that travellers should do all they can to minimise any negative effects of tourism by taking responsibility for their actions and behaviour to ensure that their visit to an area is mutually beneficial both for them and the local people. As responsible travellers, your commitment to low-impact travel will certainly help to ensure that future travellers can enjoy similar wonderful experiences.
Please note that although the following guidelines offer suggestions for low-impact and culturally sensitive travel, it shouldn’t, by any means, be taken as an attempt at lecturing our guests on things which otherwise is, after all, a matter of commonsense.
Your first step to being responsible traveller is to take the time to learn about the place you are visiting. This will prepare you to anticipate as well as appreciate our cultural differences. Learning some of the local language and reading about the local history, religion and culture prior to travel will greatly enhance the quality of your experience and your appreciation for our cultures.
Respect cultural differences
It is important that the visitors respect the local customs, traditions, etiquettes and sensibilities which may be different from their own. Please make sure in your dealings with local people you accept these differences and not try to change them for your own benefit or comfort. If it was the same as home you probably wouldn’t come.
Keep Your Sense of Humour
It is considered the height of bad manners to lose your temper and you will almost never see people here losing theirs. You are not at home but in a land where things are done differently and where concepts of time are simply different from your own. See the funny side of your predicament, there will always be one.
Dress and Behave Modestly
Although people here are too polite to openly rebuke you for wearing revealing clothes, it is respectful, nevertheless, to wear clothing that keeps both men’s and women’s legs, back and shoulders covered all the time. Dress and behave appropriately at religious sites. Nude bathing or sunbathing is not appropriate.
Making new friends will be one of the greatest joys of your travels. By taking the time to chat with the locals you will learn about their daily lives, culture and attitude to life, plus have a very enjoyable time and a few laughs. It may also help to instill some local pride when you express a genuine interest in their things and explain why you have come all this way and spent all that money to visit their country.
This is a chance for them to learn about yourself and your culture too. We ask you not to be affronted by questions like- “What’s your name? Where are you from? How old are you? Are you married?” – questions you may consider personal or rude. It’s usually genuine curiosity, friendliness or a desire to practice their English. A little bit of patience and a sense of humour goes a long way in coping with such situations.
Taking the time to learn a few key words and phrases in the local language can also go a long way and is appreciated by the local people. It also makes your interactions more meaningful and memorable. After all, wouldn’t it be a bit presumptuous to assume that the locals should speak nothing but English to you?
Take photos with care
Locals here get just as annoyed by people peering into their lives as you do. It is a common courtesy to ask for permission before taking their picture and respect their wishes if they refuse. One should avoid paying for the right to take a photo as this has been found to encourage a begging mentality. If you do take a photo, offer to send copies back to them (through your local leader) and make sure to follow through with your promise.
Be Modest With Your Wealth
However poor you think you are at home, by the locals’ standards you are obviously very wealthy. Don’t flaunt your wealth – use discretion with jewellery, cash and techno-gadgetry!
Support local businesses and traders
We ask you to ensure as much as possible that your money goes directly to local businesses and traders. An excellent way to support this initiative is to buy locally made products – arts and craft, etc – from market stalls and shops. You may also ask your Trek Leader for recommendations about where to find local markets, stores and cooperatives.
Bartering is a way of life and is an acquired skill. Don’t haggle too aggressively when you are bartering over the price of an item you are purchasing, Pay a fair price that reflects what you think the item you are buying is worth to you.
No to Prostitution
Prostitution is a gross infringement of human rights, as women and children are either sold into the industry by their families or pimps, or forced by circumstances. Many end up with drug problems and sexually transmittable diseases. We strongly condemn anyone who supports prostitution.
Drugs, no thanks!
It must be understood that possessing or using illegal drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Be advised that you will probably be approached by peddlers when you are in towns or cities but we hope that they will be discouraged.
Material progress- yes or no?
We ask you to remain open minded about development and poverty in local areas, and respect that the local people may wish to develop economically and gain access to material possessions that you may take for granted. While this undoubtedly changes villages and makes them less ‘unspoilt’ for travellers, it is something that a traveller should respect.
A role you can play is to share some of the realities of your culture, and point out what they’ve got which your society lacks. You can help dispel some of the wrong notions about money bringing happiness and make people understand the negative influences that come with it. Assist people to achieve a balanced view of development.
It is common for villagers to approach trekkers for medical treatment. Even if you are an experienced medical practitioner it is not wise to give more than a band-aid to villagers. Most have never taken Western medicine and may react unpredictably or may not follow dosage directions. Encourage them to wash cuts with soap and boiled water, and to see the closest clinic or health post for medical treatment. You might give porters or staff with whom you are travelling mild antidotes such as aspirin, ibuprofen or cough drops but only if you can check up later.
Hallo, mony please!
Begging is a harsh reality in this part of the world where the gap between rich and poor is becoming more apparent. Cheap charity breeds beggars but does not solve their basic problem. Therefore, do not encourage beggary by being benevolent. Handing out pens, balloons, sweets and money to children in villages and towns- while it may seem like a good idea and borne out of good intention-only decreases their respect for foreign visitors and is strongly discouraged. Previous tourists, unaware of the damage that they have done by giving gifts, have created a situation that will take many years to defeat. Please do not contribute to the problem.
Donations to a charity project, health centre or school is more constructive. Pens, note books and other items for children are usually best distributed via a school teacher or community leader. Your leader would be happy to help distribute these items.
Be environmentally aware
Travellers should do everything they can to minimise the environmental impact of their travel on a country. It is important that guests follow environmentally acceptable trekking procedures while travelling in the fragile mountain environment as it is being damaged by careless or ill-informed trekkers.
Stay on the trail
Impacts on wildlife, soil and vegetation can be minimised by walking on constructed trails that are already highly disturbed and in many cases have been designed to endure heavy use. Straying from the trail while trekking can cause erosion, gullying and other environmentally harmful impacts.
Do not litter
Before leaving for trek (preferably at home), repack items to avoid unnecessary packaging. Pack food in biodegradable containers. We ask that the guests take an extra plastic bag to pick up any rubbish that they see to improve the area and for their own rubbish. Even if you see a local person littering, set the example by disposing of your garbage appropriately. Tampons and sanitary pads should be disposed of the same way or in the toilets at the lodges, if any. Take all batteries/cells away with you to be disposed of in your own country. The golden rule is: if you packed it in, then pack it out.
Pollution and waste management is a huge problem here. Disposal systems are inadequate and recycling of plastics is limited or non-existent. Avoid products with excess packaging and take along your own bag when shopping. Bottled water is common, but unfortunately there are few facilities for recycling of the bottles. Please try and minimise the waste of plastic water bottles. Opt for beverages in glass bottles as they tend to be re-used. Note that we provide boiled and treated water on the trek.
Protect local water systems
Keep local water clean. Do not use detergents and pollutants in streams and springs on the trek. Use only biodegradable soaps and shampoos. If you are bathing or washing clothes, fill a bowl with water and do so away from the stream.
Where there are no toilets be sure you are at least 20-30m away from the water source and bury or cover waste.
Ideally suited to the environment, we encourage the use of small composting toilets (Nepali-style) wherever available along the trail. The end product is one of the best fertilisers around for organic agriculture. Remember to kick some earth or dried leaves into the hole when you have finished. Please remember to not throw toilet paper, tampons or sanitary towels down the hole.
Make no open fires and discourage others from making them. Deforestation is the Himalaya’s biggest environmental problem and we use kerosene for cooking on all of our treks as an alternative to wood. Limit use of water heated by firewood (though use of dead wood is permitted to some degrees even in conservation areas).
Respect other visitors’ need for solitude
When travelling in backcountry, care is required to minimise disturbance of other visitors. Others will appreciate the solitude.
Respect the wildlife
By travelling quietly you will be more aware of your environment and wildlife will be less disturbed. Respect birds’ and animals’ needs for undisturbed territory. After all, the backcountry is their home. Viewing animals from a safe distance is fine; touching, feeding, or cornering them is not. We ask you not to purchase products that exploit wildlife, aid in habitat destruction, or come from endangered species.
Leave what you find
Allow others a sense of discovery by leaving rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them. Please do not take cuttings, seeds and roots whether or not it is illegal in the areas you are visiting.
Basic Common Sense!
When you are visiting a country the basic common sense rule is not to do anything you wouldn’t do at home and leave everything as you found it. If you follow these simple rules your visit should be a positive experience both for you and the local people you meet on your travels.
For more details on Responsible Traveller’s Code and Etiquette Tips, please see our Trip Note prepared for specific trips