From putting your money in the pockets of local businesses to steering clear of unethical tours and activities, it's simple to improve your travel habits for the better.


Tourists on safari Photo © Getty Images / Ishara R. Kodikara

Traveling better isn't just about packing and planning smarter – it’s about leaving a place in a better condition than when you arrived. As travelers, our choices and behaviors can contribute to positive social and environmental change if we each do our own small part.

1. Steer clear of international chains

Travel is all about embracing unique experiences – so ditch the fast-food joints and chain hotels in favor of local digs.

By shopping in local markets, dining in hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and staying in accommodation that supports the local community, you’re guaranteed a more authentic trip.

What’s more, you’ll sleep more easily knowing you’re supporting the local economy, not lining the pockets of multinational chains.

2. Tour locally

It can be tempting to book the majority of your trip beforehand online, but organizing tours when you arrive is a far more responsible practice.

Why? By booking directly with a local tour agency, you not only get a cheaper deal – not an inflated internet price – but you cut out the middle man or international tour agency. As a result, you boost the economy and keep local guides in jobs.

3. Avoid wildlife exploitation

When face-to-face with a fluffy – but probably sedated – tiger, or caught up in the thrill of anaconda hunting in the Amazon, it can be easy to forget that wild animals shouldn’t be used for our entertainment.

It’s reassuring to see wildlife exploitation being condemned by the travel industry, and you can help make it a thing of the past by only visiting sanctuaries run by registered NGOs, and avoiding tours that allow you to touch wildlife. 

4. Don’t haggle too hard

We all want to get a good deal when traveling on a budget, so it’s tempting to haggle when buying souvenirs and tours to get rock-bottom prices.

Although this might be standard traveling practice in parts of Southeast Asia and northern Africa, before you drive a hard bargain, consider the impact of shaving a few dollars from your purchases.

This small sum of money might not mean much to you, but could be a significant amount for the vendor. Always barter with a conscience, and be aware of who’s potentially losing out on the deal.

5. Minimize your water impact

Drinking tap water can be a big no-no in many developing countries, but relying on a steady stream of expensive bottled water results in a huge environmental footprint. These bottles either end up in landfills or as part of the 13 million tons of plastic that leaks into the oceans each year.

Luckily, a filter that can zap the nasties out of water is a far kinder option – for both your wallet and the planet. 

6. Volunteer and give back

There’s nothing quite like the experience of volunteering to get under the skin of a country and allow you to leave a bigger footprint than you can as a tourist.

Finding responsible projects that’ll make use of your skills requires research, but it’s worth the effort. By supporting an ethical organization that works directly alongside a community, you can help show how tourism can have a sustainable, long-term, and ultimately positive impact. 

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  • rick baldwin said

    I hate buying bottled water & only will under the most dire of circumstances.

  • Cristian Gorrino said

    Hello, just a typoo your site. Should be 13 tons not 13 tones of plastic ????. Awesome tips btw! Thanks

  • Keith Crane said

    I'm using a bottle with a filter using tap water in Vietnam. Highly recommend it.

  • Matthew Pavelich said

    I agree with these tips. I avoid bottled water as much as possible, at home and on the road. I eat locally. I avoid wildlife exploitation. But I am still inclined to arrange tours online. I also prefer Uber to taxis. These tips were written, obviously, by someone who’s never been ripped off — charged the “gringo price” or watched a taxi meter race like crazy, with the driver holding your bags hostage unless you pay the outrageous fare.

  • J said

    Well said Matthew. We (my husband & I) were held hostage in a "taxi" in Saigon a couple of years ago and only escaped by chucking some money at the driver whilst kicking the car doors (locked) and screaming very loudly.

    As for bottled water, it is a problem but not only for tourists... the locals also rely on it not only for drinking but as a means of earning a living.

  • rick be said

    Tap water in my bottle with 2 drops of iodine was my usual way to avoid any nastiness.

  • Hoov said

    I use a steripen on the local water I find either from the tap or lakes or rivers for the past 5 years with no problems in all of my international travels and hiking in the Pacific NW area. It costs from $50 to $100. Some use batteries and some use a micro USB connection to recharge. I am now on my second one. I figure for a one month trip, avoid buying over 30 liter plastic water bottles. Save money and save the environment.

  • Shawn said

    I've been a devoted water filter guy for years. 1st inspired by watching hotel staff filling & sealing "bottled" water from a city tap. Plus reduce plastic & time searching for water.
    I don't have stock in or get anything from "Mountain Research Co" except I used thier ceramic pump filter for years. Great but bulky to pack. Now using their new micro filiment squeeze bulb filter. Love it's small size & functionality. ;-)

  • John V said

    I refill my bottle from the 5 gallon dispenser at my local VN homestay. The locally produced water costs US$.09 a gallon, $.45 or 10,000 VN dong/5gal bottle. So my 16oz of water is a little more than a penny. (A gallon yields 8 bottles.) All water, no guilt.

  • Mike Weinberg said

    I'm sold on the Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System. It's essentially a plastic squeeze bag with a filter. It collapses when empty and comes in 0.6 and 1-liter sizes:

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