When you visit another country, essentially you are a guest and should adhere to positive behavior and etiquette. We hope that you will respect the local cultures and values of the places that you visit. This means having an understanding that people live differently in different countries; they may eat different foods, dress differently, and react differently than you do to certain behaviors. Concepts of time, privacy, manors, and gestures can be very different to what you are used to at home.
Getting to know the country you are visiting by reading about the culture and religion will make your travel experience even more rewarding. Learn some of the local language, and some simple phrases. Take time to chat with the locals, and gain insight to their daily lives. This also gives them the chance to learn about you too.
Waste management and pollution are worldwide problems, and the standard of practice in many countries is still poor. In some countries, recycling does not exist and disposal systems are inadequate and outdated. Like many of us already do at home, take a re-usable water bottle with you, and avoid plastics altogether while traveling. Bring along a re-usable canvass bag for shopping (Select International will provide you with one, just ask!), and always dispose of trash in appropriate trash bins. Carry your garbage with you if necessary, until you have access to dispose of it properly.
Be conservative of the resources you use, and remember to turn lights, television, heating/cooling units, and any other electrical devices off when leaving your hotel room. Opt out of the free newspaper many hotels offer, and try not to use the disposable styrofoam coffee and water cups left in your room. When buffet-style meals are offered, try not taking more than you will eat. Before leaving home turn your water heater to “vacation” or adjust to the lowest setting. Turn off automatic ice-makers, and unplug all major appliances, which can draw up to 40 watts an hour when off but still plugged in.
Respect your surroundings. Do not take local wildlife from their natural habitats or cut flowers off from native trees and bushes. Not only does it disrupt the ecology, these items cannot be taken through customs on your way home. When visiting an archaeological site, do not take artifacts or remove them from the site if found.
Observe rules of behavior and appropriate dress and consider the clothes you are packing. Know where you are going and be familiar with the sites. Many tourist sites have rules and regulations posted upon entry, please read and observe them. Some of the places we visit are places of worship, and dress is very modest. By wearing inappropriate clothing, you may put a barrier between yourself and the people you want to interact or socialize with. Leave expensive jewelry at home, as it can attract unwanted attention and possible crime, and can stick out as a reminder of the differing standards of wealth, especially between the “western world” and developing countries.
Think about what you are buying. Do not contribute to the illegal or detrimental sale of endangered plant and animal products. Often products made from endangered flora and fauna are for sale in popular tourist locations. This could include items like wildlife specimens sold as artwork, items made from ivory and coral, and sea turtle products. Buy crafts and artwork from local villages when possible, and avoid large department-store emporiums. This helps to support and give back to the communities directly. You are also more likely to get a one-of-a-kind piece!
Bargaining is a fundamental part of shopping for many. Try to refrain from over-bargaining, as the social interaction is just as much a part of the process as the monetary outcome. Trying to get the lowest price can mean lower wages for the workers. Keep in mind that your purchases directly affect the livelihood of the vendors.
We encourage you to try the local ethnic foods, rather than seeking out the snacks and drinks you are familiar with from home. Buy locally grown produce and support local agriculture. Avoid the fast-food options available in major cities, instead eat at a local café or restaurant. Trying the local culinary traditions is a big part of the joy of traveling.
Be sensitive and ask permission before taking photos or video of people, and respect their wishes if they choose not to allow you. Minority groups are often unwilling to have photos taken, and you should not pay for the right to take a photo. This has actually caused “begging” by locals in some communities. If you must, suggest sending back copies and approach with a “sharing” attitude.