Ethical travel: Meeting the neighbours

Other | Tuesday 30th April 2019 | Rose

The ability to explore the world is a wonderful gift, but it sometimes comes at a terrible cost. But it is possible to both see the world, and help to save it, by travelling a little more consciously and ethically. Interacting with locals is one way in which tourists and travellers can be mindful. Here’s how.

Learn a few simple words and phrases

Learn the words for ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ for each place you visit. It’s kind, polite and shows you acknowledge that you are visiting their home country, instead of assuming they should speak your language, which they may not know. In terms of respect between tourists and locals, a few words can go a long way. Even if you accept you will not be able to become fluent in the language of your destination in the time you will be visiting, it’s still important to be open to learning.

Abandoned waterpark, Hue, Vietnam

You might have a local tell you the word for something, have a conversation over Google translate and even just sit and point at things with local people. But knowing one or two key phrases, even if you pronounce them completely wrong, lets people know that you are trying to make an effort to interact, and you are doing it respectfully.

Doi Suthep National Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Don’t barter too hard

Haggling is typical for many things in some countries, mainly clothes, souvenirs and luxury items (generally not food, drinks and entry fees which tend to be a set price).

In less developed countries, or places where your currency goes further, accept a price that is fair and try not to push it too far. That is often people's livelihood; sometimes it's fine to pay a little more than local people would. Sometimes it’s necessary to accept your status as a tourist, and remember that prices are still cheap to you. If you can afford to be travelling there, even if it’s budget travel, you most likely can afford to pay the extra 50p more for the item you want.

Bai Dinh Pagoda, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

It is usually fair to negotiate down to a price that is roughly 75% of what the person originally said, but if the price is good for your currency anyway, sometimes it's best simply to pay it.

In terms of when not to take this advice, when you are genuinely being swindled, you usually get a vibe from people. Trust your intuition to help you understand who is being a clever salesperson or trying to rip you off. Just outside tourist attractions prices can be hugely inflated, and in these circumstances it’s fair to go way lower than 75% of the price. Another example is taxis from the airport, which are unfairly priced because people have no other option. If the salesperson is being pushy or aggressive, and you don't feel comfortable buying the item any more, kindly say no and walk away.

Whatever country you are travelling to, it’s import to maintain respect towards those who call it their home. Tourism can do many good things for local people, but it can also dramatically change the places they live. Showing respect to locals and their home is a way to build a relationship with the many interesting and friendly people out there.