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On the Luce's guide to ethical travel

How to travel the world like an ethical warrior...


It's never been easier to see the world, but as travellers we have a huge impact on the places we visit. Everything we do – from the transport we use and where we stay, to what we eat and the souvenirs we take home – has an effect on the destination. So how can we make sure it's a positive one? Lucy Dodsworth from On the Luce is here to provide us with some simple tips to help you travel ethically, so that your trip is as good for the local community and environment as it is for you.

Spend locally

When you spend, think about where your money is going. Try to put as much of it as possible into local people's hands – stay in locally owned places rather than big international chains, eat seasonal local food, use public transport and drink the local beer rather than an imported one. This way local people get a much bigger cut of your money than they would from big companies, who often take a lot of the profits out of the country.

Try to resist the temptation to give money to children begging, and that goes for other gifts like pens or sweets too. It can be heartbreaking to see, but a lot of the time the money goes to criminal gangs rather than the children themselves. And even if it doesn't, by giving to kids you're encouraging them to beg rather than go to school. If you want to donate then you're much better off giving money to a charity that helps local people in need.

Shop ethically

That turtle shell necklace or Buddha statue might look like the perfect souvenir to take home, but think before you buy. Products made from things like coral, shells and ivory can come from endangered plants and animals. And statues or carvings can be stolen from archaeological sites. Buying these things helps keep the illegal exploitation going, so do some research into what you should avoid.

Haggling is a big part of the shopping culture in many parts of the world, and a great way to interact with local people. But it's easy to get carried away once you get started. Don't take it too seriously – pay what something is worth to you and keep things in perspective. That 50p price difference you're arguing over is worth a lot more to a local person that it is to you.

Be culturally aware

It might be hot and sunny, but that doesn't mean that wandering around in shorts or a bikini is acceptable. Even if it's ok on the beach, make sure you cover up when you head into town. Do some research into what is the right way to dress and take the lead from how the locals dress and behave. Be especially careful in holy places like temples or shrines – make sure you're covered up appropriately.

Think about your behaviour too, you don't want to accidentally cause offence – like you could by eating with your left hand in Morocco or patting a Thai child on the head. Most guidebooks have a few pointers on things to avoid doing or speak to your tour guide. And if you fancy taking some National Geographic style portraits of local people, make sure you ask first. In some cultures people believe photos steal part of their soul, and other time they might ask for a donation to have their photo taken.

Minimise your impact

In many countries the tap water isn't safe to drink, but getting rid of thousands of plastic water bottles causes a big environmental headache. Try to pack a water filter bottle that you can refill and keep other rubbish to a minimum – use biodegradable products and take a reusable shopping bag rather than using plastic bags. Think about what happens to your rubbish, make sure you don't litter and recycle wherever you can.

Also be aware that in some places resources like water and electricity are limited and tourists can put them under serious strain. Try and use only what you really need – keep your showers short, don't leave the tap on while you brush your teeth, reuse your towels and turn the air con off when you go out.

You can find out more about ethical travel from the charity Tourism Concern: and don't forget to check out more from On the Luce at

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