How to give back to local communities when you travel

Those of us who really like to travel, enjoy it because we actually want to spend time experiencing other cultures. Unfortunately, tourism can often do a lot of damage to local communities. So here are a few ways you can make sure your travel plans do nothing but good when you go on holiday…

Buy local

This probably won’t come as a shocker to you, but it’s so important that it’s worth being reminded of. In short, buying local means the money you spend on holiday stays in the local economy.

  • Look for locally-owned accommodation, and excursions using local companies and guides.
  • Try to buy locally-made souvenirs (avoid anything made from shells or endangered species).
  • Go to local bars, cafes and restaurants to eat local specialities (usually prepared with locally-grown fresh produce!)
  • Respect local culture, traditions and wildlife
  • Do a little background reading before you go on your holiday, to find out how to dress and act appropriately for the place that you are visiting.
  • Learning a few words of the local language (hello and thank you are a good start) is always appreciated.
  • It’s polite to ask permission before taking photographs of people.
  • Be wary of excursions that involve animals in captivity or interaction with wild animals (such as elephant rides or swimming with dolphins). Opt for wildlife tours with qualified guides where you can see animals in their natural habitats.
  • Also be wary of going to zoos.

Giving back

Lots of us want to do more than just ‘not damage’ local communities and wildlife. Many of us want to proactively give back.  Maybe there’s something we can give out, instead of money, as a donation, like giving schools pens and books.

  • Consider donating to a local charity that is involved in social or conservation projects.
  • Look for social enterprises to support. They’re local businesses that reinvest profits or make donations to address a social issue. Depending on where you go, they may not be big businesses or organisations.  So do some research in advance so that your support gets to where it needs to go.
  • Probably an obvious one, but volunteering is always appreciated. From teaching to beach cleanups, your support will always be welcome. Just make sure you’re doing it through a legitimate organisation.
  • At Pluto, we give back by supporting the Travel Foundation, a UK charity with projects in holiday destinations around the world. We donate £1 to the Travel Foundation for every policy you take out.

Find out more about Pluto here