The ethics of travel

You’re finally in that exotic locale you’ve always dreamed of visiting. The sights, sounds, aromas all tickle your fancy and increase your desire to get out and explore. 

It’s a whole new world with very different rules, regulations and cultural practices. Does it occur to you that your choices while touring may have a detrimental affect on the local society?

These insights are shared without judgment. I have been guilty of some during my own travels. I simply mean to enlighten the reader as to their perception of seemingly harmless actions while travelling abroad.

Giving to beggars

It’s hard to not be moved by the plight of the poor in countries such as India. How do you say no to someone asking for so little? 

Giving to beggars perpetuates the cycle of poverty and encourages children to stay out of school. Keep in mind as well that the children are exploited by organized groups that groom them for illegal activities. 

If you really want to help, be sure to do some research prior to arrival and then donate to organizations dedicated to education and helping the local community.

Haggling for goods

My personal motto is that you haggle with humour, not a hammer. It should be a fun experience and not about the money. 

The amount you pay makes not a difference to your way of life, but may seriously equate to half a day’s wage for the person you are dealing with. 

Treat tuk-tuk drivers and street vendors with dignity and respect how hard their day’s work really is.

Riding elephants and petting tigers

OK, I get it! Where else on earth will you have this opportunity?  There has been worldwide controversy about the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand (now closed) and the practices of unethical elephant trekking camps. 

Do your due diligence and educate yourself as to the realities of these so-called “rescue efforts."  In the end, it is up to you. 

My advice would be to utilize the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries site as a guide. 

Orphanage tours

Cambodia is home to a disconcerting implosion of “orphanage tourism.” Unsuspecting tourists are encouraged to visit local orphanages under the guise that your donations are helping the plight of the children’s welfare. 

The reality is that few of the children are orphans. They are at-risk children being forced to fraternize, perform for and cuddle with visitors who have paid for the benefit of these one on one encounters. 

Sadly, sounds like visiting a zoo. 

Though most tourists are well intentioned, they are unaware that the orphanage is run as a business and that little to no money is spent on the education of the children. 

There is much online information in regards to this subject. Be sure to familiarize yourselves as to the pitfalls of such practices. 

Eating exotic foods

Sampling local delicacies is all part of the cultural immersion but should you eat food that’s banned in your own country just because it’s available there?  For instance, whale meat is available in Japan and Iceland. 

Your tourist dollar is an almighty source of change. If the demand for certain attractions and tours lessens and the income derived from exploitive forms of employment shrivels then the practices themselves become less lucrative. 

There’s a wonderful old saying “take nothing but pictures … leave nothing but footprints.”


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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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