How to Be a Responsible Tourist: Things to Consider

How to Be a Responsible Tourist: Things to Consider

by Cassidy Kearney

Anyone who has been given the opportunity to travel abroad knows what a fantastic experience traveling can be. Meeting new people, experiencing unique cultures, and seeing sites you’ve only seen in movies are all part of the fun. With today’s new and improved technology and booming economies, traveling has never been easier. However, this new power comes at a price. Many popular tourist destinations have become swamped with tourists. This can erase the original culture and push locals out of once-desired areas. Air travel has huge environmental impacts. Huge masses of people can hurt local environments due to waste, vandalism, or trampling of local fauna. While traveling is certainly a worthwhile experience, understanding your impact before traveling abroad is an important step in becoming a responsible tourist.

Palace Versailles France King France inside travel abroad paris tour

Be a Responsible Tourist and Don’t Join the Crowds

If you’ve been to any of the big-ticket stops while traveling abroad, you’ve without a doubt seen the crazy amounts of people that some cities and sites attract. The sheer volume of tourists I saw while in Venice for a single day is indescribable. I crammed into a room in the Palace of Versailles with another 200 tourists. I squished myself into the Eiffel Tower’s elevator with another 20 sightseers while we oh so slowly crept to the top. The point is global tourism is at an all-time high. Understanding your impact on the local industries and economies is important. While tourism can be a huge boost to local economies, you have to consider what kinds of goods, sites, or restaurants tourists are buying or visiting to become a more responsible tourist or traveler.

While that cheap souvenir may be the perfect knick-knack, maybe there’s a local store off the beaten path that offers something better. Supporting small business owners and artists by purchasing unique goods rather than mass-produced ones can go a long way. Visiting restaurants that are actually authentic rather than watered-down versions of the real thing is disappointing for everyone involved. Wander around off the easy road. Look for a place where you know you’ll have to point at the menu for something at least once!


Although Airbnb and other home-share apps are both convenient and affordable, make sure to consider their impacts to marketplace demands. An oversaturation of home-share apartments may raise the local rent, which could leave local residents stranded or misplaced.  

A responsible tourist might try out foreign language skills while exploring the city abroad. While it is convenient that so many tourist hot spots can speak English, it can also diminish the local culture. The founder of the company I work for recently returned to visit his home country of the Netherlands and found that many of the young people living there no longer spoke Dutch, but only English. He felt crushed that he couldn’t speak his native tongue to many of the people he came across in his home country!

traffic congestion

Travel Green

Overcrowding has become a serious issue for tourist destinations abroad. This can cause backed-up traffic and general degradation to local environments. Beautiful natural landscapes can be trampled if too many people go to visit. If there’s a site that has a high fee or requires a permit to reach, take it seriously and remember that it’s a tactic that has been put in place to try and preserve the natural landscape. Sometimes these restrictions are put in place for your safety — I’ve seen countless news articles about people falling to their deaths trying to capture the perfect selfie. Try to use public transportation as much as possible. Ride-share apps and other taxi services may be fast and convenient, but it could lead to traffic congestion that hinders locals more than visitors.

Responsible Tourist

Understanding your mode of transportation when traveling to the city is also important. Flight has revolutionized tourism abroad. However, as of now, airplanes are rather inefficient in terms of fuel economy per passenger. Some tourists prefer traveling via cruise ships, but these also have their downsides. Cruise ships can damage the local marinas and bays, and the sudden influx of tourists – especially tourists who don’t buy souvenirs, stop at restaurants, or stay in hotel rooms – contribute little to the atmosphere or local economies. In fact, cruise ships became caused such an environmental and overcrowding problem in Venice that protests erupted all over the city. Venice has now banned cruise ships from sailing through the Grand Canal or docking near the historic center.

Remember to Be Open and Respectful

While traveling abroad can be a great learning experience and is incredibly fun, it’s important to recognize that you are a guest in whichever country you are visiting. It’s not fair to expect locals to help you. This is especially so when many locals only feel the negative impacts of tourism (vandalism, overcrowding, traffic congestion, etc.). Go into every country you visit knowing basic, polite phrases: hello, good-bye, thank you, excuse me, I’m sorry, etc. Don’t expect everyone to be able to (or want to, for that matter!) speak or understand English. Being kind, polite, and understanding when interacting with locals will go a long way. The golden rule of treating others the way you wish to be treated applies around the entire globe!

Furthermore, be respectful of things that are different from your own culture. If people do things differently, don’t try to argue and grow frustrated. Remember to go with the flow and have a good time! You’re there to experience something different from your own culture. If you’re uncomfortable in a certain situation, try to make light of it and laugh at yourself. If this doesn’t seem reasonable, politely excuse yourself and gather your thoughts elsewhere. Think of yourself as a stranger in someone else’s home: because that’s what you are! Traveling is a great experience, but part of being a responsible tourist is being aware of your effect on locals. It is not only incredibly important for preserving the welcoming atmosphere that locals have created, but for creating a nice environment for future tourists as well.

best tourist landscape


30 thoughts on “How to Be a Responsible Tourist: Things to Consider

  1. Some really interesting points here, thank you. Especially good for me as I’m now starting tentative travelling with my children (4,3, and 1) and I want to teach them some sustainable and respectful habits. I’ve always been a languages person, and I’ve found that even putting in a little effort to learn the basics truly delights locals – even if you end up butchering pronunciation. It’s the trying that makes the difference – and opens up dialogue and experiences. Which is all the point, isn’t it?

  2. This was a very interesting article with some points that I had never really considered when traveling. I have been a huge proponent of Air BNB and VRBO of late as they seem to be so much less expensive than an entire home but I hadn’t thought of the impact on the economy. I often times wonder off the beaten path to buy something from a local shop and steer clear fo the souvenir places. Living near NYC I laugh at the amount of people that will buy these silly knick knacks that you know will be thrown out soon after. Do you really need a statue of liberty salt shaker? The same for restaurants. Don’t go to some silly chain, try a local place to get a real feel of the city. And be green everywhere. We need it.

  3. This is a very important topic and one I think more people should consider! I really enjoyed reading this, it was well written and I agree with all of your points.

  4. I haven’t done as much travelling recently, but I’ve travelled in the past to be part of humane/environmental causes, and they really do try to get you to respect the local culture and get to know the “real” local communities as opposed to just the touristy areas. One thing I’d add to the list, certainly doesn’t apply to everyone but it’s still a big global problem – don’t go to a country for the purpose of doing something that is illegal in your own country. This is how human trafficking, the drug trade, etc thrives.

  5. It’s never fun visiting overcrowded tourist destinations. I try to travel in the off peak season if I can or during busy times I visit attractions late at night when it’s quieter.

  6. As a resident of Amsterdam, I get where your friend is coming from, but you mostly get the English culture in the city center, outside Dutch is still the prevalent language (perhaps aside from some heavy immigrant areas, but that’s a different subject). It annoys me too whenever I go there: when I travel I don’t mind trying to decioher the language. And it’s also a fault of the locals themselves for catering to it.

    Here are some things you should be wary about:
    – Airbnb is creating very skewed house prices. Stick with a hotel or hostel.
    – Don’t view the city as a theme park to drink booze and smoke weed. It’s Amsterdam, not Sodom and Gamorrah. We get really tired of all the drunk and stoned tourists.
    – Don’t even think about trespassing on private property. We get people invading our flower fields, trampling everything in the process, and then trying to get away with it by sheepishly claiming “oh, I did not know that”.

  7. very interesting points! I love traveling and I always try to stay as respectful and as green as I can. I have to admit both my husband and I rarely go for more than ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ for foreign words (on the other hand my hubby and I share 5 foreign languages for use so it’s often proper language spoken during the trip). My favorite trips are bicycle trips so I get to see a lot and less crowded and it’s as green as it can be

  8. It’s always sad when tourists act like they don’t care as nobody knows them and will never see them again. I really like all your tips, some languages can be very challenging to learn but it’s definitely worth the effort, even if you just learn all the basic phrases such as “hello” “how are you” and “thank you”

  9. This is a great post. I think tourists need to really keep all these tips in mind. Visiting an unfamiliar place, and just being aware of your surroundings, different cultures, etc is very important.

  10. All touring agents and schools should pay you for this piece! You have basically said what they need to say very often. Often time, we see tourists become unruly and end up behind bars on foreign soil….something that shouldn’t have happened! Thank you.

  11. There are some really fab tips here for sure. I think the key is deffo to travel green for sure

  12. I think we’ve all experienced tourists who don’t seem to knowhow to behave properly. Hopefully, some of them are reading this.

  13. Reading travel blogs always makes me want to book my next ticket! Your tips on responsible travel are important. I had not thought of the impact of VRBO/Air B&B to local rental prices. We should all continue to be respectful when traveling and in general.

  14. I love the idea of supporting local businesses instead of larger cooporations. Even if the corporation is from that foreign country you’re visiting. That’s a way to be a responsable tourist.

  15. Those are some really good tips. One thing I think is important is being aware of your surroundings and obey the local traffic laws. Especially as pedestrians. Don’t keep your eyes on the phone/camera the whole time.

  16. I think its so important to be mindful of the culture of the place you visit. I also really like the idea of supporting locally owned businesses

  17. There will be some culture shock moments when you travel, but you’re right. You need to be open and respectful about different cultures.

  18. wow. i had no idea about the downsides of cruising. thanks so much for sharing all these highlights of how to travel green. joy

  19. So many helpful tips for traveling. It’s so important to be respectful and courteous whe traveling, both to the people and nature. I especially think we need to put more thought into traveling green in this day and age. Such a great point to share!

  20. great information. we love to travel and we really try our best to be as green as possible when we travel.

  21. every tourist must be aware of this. interesting points you presented here. we should really try our best to be responsible because it also speaks more about ourselves as a person…

  22. You have brought up some really good points to consider as a tourist! As a tourist, I prefer to blend into the culture and see it for what it is, the culture and customs are what make these places so unique! I like learning the language (at least the important stuff) and riding transportation! It really lets you experience the place!

  23. My thoughts are very similar to what you talk While traveling we need to respect the culture, interact with and understand from people about their values and respect the environment. Also be responsible travelers.

  24. These are some interesting views. I found the anecdote about local language extremely fascinating. Even in India I see this happening, in a small way, where local languages seem to take a backseat.

  25. This is a great post. I think respect is the first thing for tourists to consider. Some tourists who visit my country are not. They bring a wrong impression.

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