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Sustainable Travel Tips
Tourism at World Heritage sites can help support heritage management and local economic development, but it can also erode or destroy a site’s outstanding universal value. With tourism and the number of heritage properties growing, it is important to understand how to enjoy a trip to these places without damaging the awe-inspiring sites you are exploring. These tips will help you do just that.
Start Online Get leads on traditional food, handicrafts, or little-known archaeological sites. Read tips and blogs from other travelers and people who live in the destination.
Think Out of the Box Choose destinations off the beaten path. Stay at historic hotels or those with traditional architectural styles and furnishings. Is Bodh Gaya too crowded? Try Sanchi, Lumbini, or Paharpur. Similarly, avoiding the high season will mean less competition for accommodation, fewer jostling crowds, and more chances to interact with locals.
Go Sustainable Before you book a room, get the management to answer a few eco-savvy questions: Does the hotel recycle and buy local food? How does it deal with waste water? What has it done to help local people or protect the environment? Does it employ local people in positions of responsibility or provide training?
Words and Phrases A few sessions with a phrase book or online tutorial will help make you a part of the place you’re visiting. Language skills will also boost your confidence to bargain at a market stall or order at a neighborhood restaurant. Stick to basic phrases, but learn them well enough to use them with confidence.
Get a Good Book Dig deeper into your destination’s land and culture by reading up on its history. Then pack a piece of fiction that’s set in the area you’re visiting. A book about a place is like salt to a cook: it enhances the flavor.
On the Move
Archaeological Sites Ancient art and buildings are fragile. The fingers’ natural oils can destroy pictographs, and the touch of thousands of hands can erode petroglyphs and rock carvings. Climbing monuments can abrade building stones and sometimes dislodge them. Treat these sites as the museums they are and don’t touch.
Sacred Places Visit sacred sites by invitation or in the company of a responsible guide. Wear modest clothing, talk softly, and keep your camera tucked away. This is a time for quiet reflection.
Traditional Communities Explore a traditional village and maybe meet local residents, but be discreet and respectful of people’s privacy as they go about their lives. Don’t peer into houses or take photos of residents without their permission. Don’t pat children on the head.
Visit a Farm Check to see if local farms offer accommodations for visitors. Get a firsthand taste of rural life and real home cooking.
Think Small Big experiences often come in small packages. If a hotel has only six rooms, you will probably meet the owner and maybe even the owner’s family. If a restaurant has only eight tables, the food on your plate probably came from a neighborhood market.
Dress Appropriately The latest fashion back home may be inappropriate or even blasphemous in other cultures. Take your cue from the local people, but don’t fake native either. Save the lederhosen for admiring friends and family when you return home.
Lunch Break Little neighborhood restaurants crowded with families usually means good food and prices, and a true taste of the locale. If you can’t understand the menu, or if there is no menu, look around at what others are eating, smile at the server, and discreetly point.
Slow Down Yes, you can get to that must-see site and be back at your hotel for dinner. But why rush? Stay another day and search out treasures that others pass by. Any extra money you spend will end up in the local community.
Shopping Look for crafts and souvenirs in small shops, marketplaces, and cooperatives. If the proprietor is embroidering a blouse as you enter, so much the better. The shorter the distance between you and the producer, the more of what you pay ends up in the pocket of the artisan.
Insist on Quality A handicraft may be locally produced, but is it authentic? Is it a genuine expression of the culture, or an endlessly repeated copy? Did the artisan use natural materials or imported synthetics? Natural or chemical dyes? Gladly pay more for quality.
Get the Inside Scoop Inquire about local guides. They’ll have lots to tell about how community members live and how they interact with their heritage and each other. Your patronage supports their passion for heritage and the community’s commitment to conservation and stewardship.
Celebrations Be on the lookout for parades, fairs, and festivals of any kind. A community that dresses up for festivities is eager to show its pride to admiring guests. Benefits multiply when you buy local handicrafts, food, and lodging.