Tips on ‘Responsible Travel’
by Vietnam Homestay
Instead of travelling in traditional path as mass tourists, many travelers nowadays choose themselves better practice. The ways of travelling, how travelers spend their money and time, their behaviors toward destinations and residents decide a lot on how their visit will impact on the communities and bring the change to the destination. Once they decided to bring positive influence to the communities, they engage in what we call “responsible travel”.
There is an idiom says “Travel broadens the mind”. Indeed, travelling is the best way to open up the doors to the world which is both amazingly joyful and desperately unfortunate. Whilst most of the people choose to concern more about their daily basis, how much money they can earn, when they can update smart phones,… somewhere in the world there are a lot of tragic lives happening.
Various ways can be found for travelers to help make a big difference to the people’s lives in the world. By simply open their minds, be more hearted and educated, travelers can bring remarkable changing wind to the destination visited.
Here are some ways to become responsible travelers as well as contribute to the improvement of others’ lives
Spending some of the time in travelling period to do volunteering jobs is really meaningful and also amazing, which bring one’s trip with memorable moments and wonderful experiences. There is a whole multitude of choices for volunteering jobs for both those who skillful and who are not highly qualified. Travelers with health care experiences, social care, or technical background such as engineering or architecture can find a lot more ways to use their expertise in good use to help the communities. Those who are not familiar with those aspects can also have many beneficial ways to contribute their time, for instance, teaching English in rural schools, helping locals with their jobs, repairing and decorating houses, or engaging in natural conservation projects available in visited destinations. Contacting local NGO is another good idea if travelers pursue to help.
In general, volunteering at the local is weighty and worthy, but travelers also should consider the purpose and effectiveness of the jobs they commit to do. If spending money to pay for the high cost in NGO in engage in community-based job is more effective than directly donate that amount to the local?
Localize the travel:
Most of rural and mountainous areas are still suffered by the poverty and residents there have few options for the job to improve their living standard. Thus, choosing how and where to spend the money can create massive impact to the local community. Simply buying local products, staying in local houses and having dinner in homestays of traditional shelters, travelers are helping to inject money into the local economy. This is way which not only generates benefits to the community, help local people improve their lives, but also help to create travelers with authentic and fantastic experiences.
Choose sustainable suppliers:
Deciding where to put down the head and which operator to take out for incredible experience can bring a world of change. There are thousands of options available for travelers to choose. They can find in almost all of places they visit businesses working with local communities and having sustainable practices in helping to protect wildlife and the environment. It may take a little bit more time for researching those organizations, but the efforts are worthy. One of the great examples of this ideal business model is Vietnam Homestay in Vietnam. This organization was established based on the idea of building a culture bridge that enables travelers to access authentic and interactive experiences while visiting the country.
This homestay network also aims to connect guests to homestay owners to help local people access income and employment from tourism while also contributing to local economic development. As any other community-based organizations, Vietnam Homestay only works with local residents as being hosts and guides for visitors, and also provides extra training to improve local people with basic background and skills. By working with such those businesses, travelers indirectly give a hand to local communities for better livings.
Respect local wildlife and culture:
Many travelers before their trip may always dream about riding elephant, swimming with dolphin, or taking picture with a tiger. However they do not recognize how those activities put burden on wild animals which deserve to be preserved and protected. If a traveler desire to visit animals, he or she would come to one that is registered NGO which is transparent in its business.
Wildlife is not the only thing a traveler must respect at the destination visited. All of us know that one of the greatest rewards in travelling is the opportunity to witness different cultures and customs all around the world which are diverse and full of amazement. Each country, each region and land has its own cultures, customs and traditions required to be respected.
For example, some of Asian counties have strict principle in outfit worn when visiting spiritual monuments, or gestures in different regions have different meanings in expressions. Do take a little time to learn a bit about the local customs can help travelers make sure they will not offend anyone, and also create closer connection with the destination they will pay a visit.
If you get a chance to take Vietnam homestays. Though most of the houses are rented out to our travelers for years, you should be mindful of the fact that this is more of a home than a hotel. In Vietnam, small neighborhoods tend to be closely-knit and people know each other well. They socialize often and keep watch of the streets and each other’s property. This gives additional security but also means that people notice what you do and how you act.
Always remember to follow local norms of decency and respect in and around your houses. Making noise late at night and being visibly drunk on your way home are heavily frowned upon and can cause embarrassment to your host family without you being aware of the fact. It is OK to have fun but please be aware that the social norms in Vietnamese society are different than back home, particularly when it comes to students. When in doubt, you can always consult us.
Importantly, when you want to have a small party at your house, you should always tell our hosts because the local police needs to be notified of foreigners staying at someone’s home after dark. This rule applies to your homestays as much as it does to local homes.
Learn and observe the local customs
In the Field :
One general rule: Dress appropriately in order to not cause offence to the locals!! Foreigners are guests and must behave thereafter. This is a very important point to remember. By dressing appropriately we can send out these signals to the local community as well.
Vietnamese have conservative dress codes and it is only in larger cities that these codes are relaxed. Due to the heavy flow of tourism in main places, many of the citizens are probably used to see foreigners in revealing western clothes.
It is also expected of you that you remove your shoes when entering someone’s house at the front door and when entering pagodas and temples. When visiting pagodas and temples it’s also good manners to leave a small amount of money on the altar or in the collecting box.
Many Vietnamese girls go swimming with their clothes on. Topless swimming is therefore definitely inappropriate!
Doing field work :
There are a number of rules of conduct when doing fieldwork. In Vietnam, research on ethnic minorities is especially sensitive and most often subject to the researchers having proper permissions. Spending the night at a Vietnamese family’s house is also subject to special permissions. If you don’t have this, the Vietnamese family can get into trouble. How to conduct fieldwork, research ethics and/or contact us.
Bargaining is a very common way to establish a price in Vietnam, whether it is for a mango or a hair band. The exception is meals as restaurants, items in shopping malls, super markets have set prices. In our experience, the bargaining and first price offered for items are more fair than say in Thailand or Bali where the starting price is often 100-times the actual price. In some tourist places however, the fixed price system is becoming increasingly common.
Small shopkeepers and restaurateurs will often charge you the local rate so try not to worry too much about this. Remember, if you are being over-charged it is likely to not be more than a few dollars. This is an important perspective to keep. If you return to the same shop a few times, the owner will know we are staying a long time and will probably offer you very reasonable prices.
As always, when bargaining it helps if you know some Vietnamese numbers and have a general idea of the going rate for the item. Otherwise, the trick is to remain friendly and be realistic. If you manage to reduce the price by 40%, you’re doing very well. In most cases it’ll be more like 10-20%. A common trick is to start moving away if you’re on the verge of agreement. But don’t bargain just for the sake of it – if your price is agreed, then you are honor bound to purchase. And always keep a sense of perspective: don’t waste time and energy haggling over what only amounts to a few cents.
Taking pictures and filming:
Always ask permission before taking someone’s photograph. If they indicate that they do not want you to, then abide to their wishes. Please do not push the issue or offer money. Also do not photograph military installations or anything else concerning the military. This can be seen as a breach of national security. If you travel to areas with ethnic minorities (especially the Central Highlands or the mountainous areas north of Hanoi, e.g. Sapa) also be sensitive when taking pictures of the people. Many of the ethnic groups believe you take their spirits away when photographing.
Partying and going out at night:
Although Vietnam is a safe city compared to Asian standards, you should always make precautions when going out after dark. Girls should never go out alone, and anyone going out should tag up with at least one other student.
You will quickly realize that the culinary traditions in Vietnam are outstanding. On a general basis, the food is healthy, fresh and not as spicy as in e.g. Thailand. Don’t hesitate to try new dishes. You are most likely to be pleasantly surprised! Make sure you wash your hands well before each meal and that you don’t drink tap water. Often a bowl of sliced limes will appear on your table as soon as you have ordered a meal. These are used as a sanitizer for your chopsticks. Rub the lime against your chopsticks before eating and you can be sure the chopsticks will be clean!
Food poisoning and other illnesses due to poor food hygiene (at least compared to other developing countries) are not very common in Vietnam, but it can of course happen.
Please Visit Vietnam Home Stay: http://vietnamhomestay.vn/
[Source: Vietnam Homestay-Media Relations]
[photo credits-featured image: Junk in the Halong Bay, Vietnam-By Thomas Schoch [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]
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[Video: Vietnam Homestay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHQvDeupqtQ
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