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The Good Tourist: Leaving a Positive Footprint Wherever We Roam

Travel is an enriching experience, full of discoveries and connections. But how often do we pause to consider the impact of our actions and attitudes on the places we visit?

Here are some of our thoughts on what being a good tourist truly entails, and how each one of us might contribute to making travel a force for good.

Firstly, Preparing to Be a Good Tourist:
  • Learn the local customs – familiarize yourself with the social norms and practices of your destination to show respect and mingle better.
  • Read local literature – books by local authors to gain perspectives and understand the narratives of the region you’re visiting.
  • Learn basic phrases in the local language, which can help in connecting with community members and shows effort and respect.
  • Prepare to be an environmentally friendly visitor – pack or purchase reusable bags, bottles, and other items that help reduce waste while traveling.

Remember, being a good tourist is about creating mutually enriching experiences and positive impacts, both for the traveller and the host community.

Elewana Tortilis Camp Amboseli

Openness and connection are the heartbeat of travel

One of the most enriching aspects of travel is the opportunity to meet new people and immerse ourselves in different cultures. Openness to new experiences and ideas forms the foundation of meaningful connections. It’s about more than just snapping photos – it’s about truly experiencing the places we visit. Engaging in conversations with locals, participating in cultural practices, and appreciating the diversity of human experiences can transform our travel experiences from being merely observational to deeply immersive.

Learn the local greetings

Learning something as simple as, “Hello! How are you?” in the local language of the places you are visiting is a simple way to respect the citizens of the places you’re visiting.


Greeting Examples:
  • South Africa – in Xhosa: Molo! Kunjani wena? in Zulu: Sawubona! Unjani?, in Afrikaans: Hallo! Hoe gaan dit?
  • Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda – Swahili: Habari! Habari yako?
  • Mauritius, Seychelles – French: Bonjour! Comment vas-tu?
  • Mozambique – Portuguese: Olá! Como vai você?
Witnessing Africa’s wild beauty is a privilege.

Africa offers one of the last frontiers where you can witness wild animals in their natural habitats. This is a privilege that comes with a responsibility to respect and protect these precious ecosystems. The thrill of spotting a lion on a safari or watching a herd of elephants at a watering hole isn’t just an exciting holiday memory; it’s a poignant reminder of our role in preserving these magnificent creatures and their homes for future generations.

Respectful behaviour is the cornerstone of responsible tourism.

Acting respectfully while travelling goes beyond adhering to local customs and traditions. It also encompasses our attitudes and expectations. Remember, you’re a guest in another country. Be patient, listen more than you speak, and be open to different ways of doing things.

Let’s ensure that we treat everyone we meet during our travels with kindness and respect.

Essential Tips on How to Be a Good Tourist
  • Beyond just taking photos, immerse yourself in the culture by interacting with locals and participating in traditions.
  • Follow local customs, be patient, and practice understanding and respect towards everyone you meet.
  • Research the history of your destination for a richer understanding of its present culture and people.
  • Pay the conservation fees – in places like Africa, witnessing wildlife is a privilege. It comes with the duty to respect and preserve these ecosystems.
  • Travel with the expectation that you will learn and grow. Every journey offers lessons in sustainability, patience, and resilience, enhancing personal growth.
  • Avoid buying from big corporates. Rather buy local products and engage services to aid community livelihoods and contribute to the local economy.
  • Avoid overtourism by choosing lesser-known destinations to prevent straining popular spots and to support diverse local economies.
Being prepared to learn and grow is how travel transforms us.

Travel is also about personal growth and learning. Every trip presents opportunities to learn something new – about the world, about others, and about ourselves. Whether it’s gaining insights into sustainable living from a rural African community or learning patience and resilience while navigating travel mishaps, these lessons can profoundly impact our perspectives and ways of life.

Do we need an international tourist code?

The idea of an international tourist code is a topic that’s been gaining traction. Such a code could establish universal guidelines for respectful behaviour, environmental preservation, and support for local communities. However, it’s essential to remember that each destination is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the best solution. Instead, taking the time to learn about each destination’s specific cultural nuances, customs, and rules can lead to a more meaningful and respectful travel experience.


Take time to understand the history

To truly appreciate a destination, it’s essential to learn about its history. Understanding the past provides context for the present, revealing rich layers of culture, tradition, and resilience that might not be immediately apparent. For instance, Africa’s history is a tapestry of ancient civilizations, colonial impacts, and struggles for independence, all of which have shaped the continent’s unique cultural landscapes. By exploring this history, we can gain a deeper appreciation of the places we visit and the people we meet.

Choose small and local over big and global when you spend.

When we purchase local goods and services, we’re not just buying products or experiences – we’re supporting livelihoods, preserving cultural heritage, and contributing to local economies and families. By choosing locally owned accommodations, eating at local restaurants and buying artisanal crafts, we can ensure that our money directly benefits the communities we visit.

Make a difference through philanthropy and volunteering

Many travellers are embracing the idea of giving back to the destinations they visit. Whether it’s participating in conservation work, volunteering at local schools, or donating to community projects, there are countless ways to make a positive impact. However, it’s crucial to ensure that our efforts are genuinely helpful and not inadvertently causing harm. Always research and choose reputable organizations to collaborate with.


Get off the beaten track to help turn the tide of overtourism.

One way tourists can help to improve the destinations they visit is to curate itineraries that combine bucket list spots with areas that need more attention, conservation, development and tourist dollars. Become the tourist who gets the bragging rights of being one of the first to visit an area, rather than one of the millions. Some popular international tourist spots are having to clamp down on visitor numbers in order to protect important infrastructure and ecosystems. In a move to add to the cure for overtourism, Timeless Africa Safaris is helping to increase the tourism footprint of more overlooked regions and lodges in an effort to help boost more local economies and to help attract government attention to areas that need more protection. Good tourists should approach their travel managers with requests for lesser-known destinations and experiences to help share the love and spread the overcrowding load.

Ultimately, being a good tourist isn’t just about ‘doing no harm.’ It’s about actively contributing to the places we visit, fostering understanding and respect, and nurturing a sense of global citizenship. As travellers, we have the power to make a difference. Let’s use it wisely and leave a trail of positive footprints wherever we roam.

In this article
  • Introduction
  • Preparing to Be a Good Tourist
  • Essential Tips on How to Be a Good Tourist

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