From extensive travel and talking to others interested in the same thing, the LiLi team have put together a short summary of advice and tips for responsible and minimum impact travel.
Why do we have these guidelines?
We believe that we are guests of the local people and are privileged to be able to visit these communities and places. As responsible travellers, we want our type of tourism to be sustainable for the areas we visit. To minimise detrimental effects to the culture and place so that future travellers can enjoy similarly wonderful experiences.
With a few simple ideas it is possible to make a positive difference to the effect that you have on an area. We are not talking about saving the world here, nor are we giving unrealistic advice. We are simply trying to minimize the negative effects and maximise the positive effects of our stay for the local people and the environment.
Try to learn a few words of the local language where you are travelling. It is remarkable how warmed many locals are to a traveller when they make an effort to say a few simple words in the local language.
Respect Cultural differences
There is a huge range of beliefs, religions and cultures worldwide. Respect others cultural and religious beliefs and do not try and force your own ideas and opinions upon them. Try and read up in advance of the trip about traditions, religions and polite conduct in the country you are visiting.
Be discreet with wealth
Flaunting wealth (money, cameras, etc.) builds up a barrier of wealth between travellers and locals. This encourages locals seeing travellers as people to exploit, which leads to theft, ripping off and corruption. All these things make it difficult for any interaction with the locals to be without monetary motives.
Pay the proper price
Whilst it seems petty to haggle over what seems like not much money, paying way over the price simply encourages people to try even harder to rip off tourists next time. Again promoting the line of thought in the local community that tourists are there to be exploited as much and as hard as possible... this soon leads to theft and an inability for tourists to interact with the locals genuinely. The best way to do this is to find out the prices of goods and services before you buy them – either from other travellers or from westerners who live there. It's much easier to haggle when you already know the price!
Spend money in local markets, stalls and shops instead of in chain stores and multinational corporations.
Many local languages in the third world are relatively primitive and tenses and niceties do not exist in the same way as they do in western languages. This can pass over to when locals speak English and can come across as rude... for example 'Give me this', 'You... go there!' or simply 'No'. In fact, the intention is not to be rude or abrupt, it is simply said as it is. You should also be prepared for lots of direct, sometimes personal questions from relative strangers ... How old are you? What is your name? Where are you from? Are you married?
Read up and ask around about etiquette in an area you are visiting. There are many examples worldwide of things that are considered normal in western society but very rude or confusing in certain cultures. For example, showing the soles of your feet to someone else is considered very rude in Thailand. Shaking your head in Bulgaria means 'yes' and nodding means 'no'.
Kerb your anger
Getting things done can be frustrating. People in the third world love unnecessary bureaucracy, waiting and stalling. Getting angry is very detrimental to getting anything done, even when you are frustratingly in the right. A common response to anger is to completely shut off. They are embarrassed, not of you but for you - people rarely show anger in public in many third world countries (not true in all by any means!). Instead, be firm, insistent, do not allow people to palm you off and keep at it. It will take time and patience to get what you want.
Read up before hand or ask around about the appropriate dress code in the country you are in. Many countries have considerably more conservative views on what is appropriate to wear. Exposing shoulders or knees is considered rude in many places.
If you want to take a photograph of someone or with someone in it, be sure to ask their permission first. Mostly this is a common courtesy, however there are places in rural Africa and some parts of Asia that believe that a photograph steals part of ones soul when taken. Avoid paying for the right to take a photograph as this encourages a begging mentality. One option far better is to return a print out of the photo if possible or at least to show them the photo on the camera screen – locals in many countries get a great buzz from seeing themselves and their friends in photos. This promotes a sharing rather than begging mentality towards photography.
Don't take any crap
If you're sure you are getting shafted, stand up for yourself! Many people spend there first few weeks in Africa (or other third world countries) being very polite, getting palmed off and ripped off. Were not saying be rude, instead be persistent and firm and do not be scared to say your part - but do it politely and even making a joke of it if you can. Giving in and getting ripped off only encourages people to do it again and worse next time.
Things happen... eventually... probably... if you are lucky. Fixed times and living life by the clock as in the western world is an alien concept that is new to many cultures. That is just how it is, expect delays, lateness and the 'slowly slowly' attitude and occasionally you will be pleasantly surprised when something happens on time.
Plastic bags are offered for everything and in excess. Do not be shy in suggesting that it isn't needed. In many cases in the third world, waste is not even an issue that comes into consideration.
This is perhaps the least pleasant thing about the third world. Corruption is basically the people in power exploiting that power for personal gain. It is rampant in the third world, it ranges from the top government officials to the local chairman of a village. Wherever humanely possible, do not give in to corruption. Quite often, whatever situation you are in, you are only in it because the official wants a bribe. They are only trying to get a bribe because they have been so successful in doing so previously. Almost always the best way of avoiding a bribe is to be polite, patient and normally some sort of poor sob story about not having any money will do you good if you can. A great tip for avoiding a bribe is insisting on an official receipt before handing over any money.
Shopping and Food
Try to buy crafts, carvings and art directly from the makers in the villages or the street stalls.. not from the western tourist shops. Try the local culinary dishes, do not simply search out western foods and snacks, this helps your money support the locals and not western chains. Trying and enjoying the local culinary delights is part of the joy of travelling! It will also undoubtedly save you money – and give more money directly back into the community.
Giving / making donations
This is a very difficult situation for a tourist in a third world. Giving local kids sweets or anything is a very satisfying and rewarding experience. The pure joy and delight of the child or person receiving something relatively unimportant to you. However, this only has to happen a few times before that child, and all the others, start to see white people as things to be exploited instead of a friendly novelty. The classic example of this in action.. the waving hand and smiling kid 'how are you? how are you? then a year later the same child..the upturned hand 'give me money mzungu (white man)'. This attitude, with excessive exposure to tourism is the stepping stone towards begging, pick pocketing and a bitterness stemmed from the difference in wealth. This is not a healthy atmosphere for the child to grow up with. Why would he bother getting any sort of job or responsibility if he can earn more money begging from the tourists? If you want to donate something to the children, buy school books, pencils or games and give them through schools or orphanages.. that way the children benefit significantly without the detrimental effects of the upturned hand.
Pass on some of these simple messages to other travellers... pass this page on to people about to go on a trip or simply lead by example.