With travel opening up again and the expectation that from July 2022 tourists can enter with ease, have you wondered how you can travel more responsibly?
Tourism can benefit local people and places, leading to much richer experiences for us travellers; but we all have a part to play. As well as benefitting communities, we must reduce our carbon and increase the positive impact we have on nature as we travel. Here are ways you can be a responsible traveller sourced from Responsible Travel and customized for Laos travel.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Transport – plan to minimize carbon emissions.
Flights booked? Then pack light; every item on a plane increases the carbon emitted. Also consider your mode of transport once you will arrive. While Laos does not have buses it does have a brand new train that opened in Dec 2021. You can also hire bikes or walk. The town is easy to walk and walking around Luang Prabang will perhaps be one of the highlights of your trip as you soak in the atmosphere and laid-back culture. You are more likely to meet local people this way too. Electric tuk-tuks are gone but you will find more and more e-bikes and electric scooters available from some places.
If it’s not too late; avoid internal flights. We need to take fewer holidays with flights – and stay for longer – if we are to make our holidays count for nature, communities and the climate. Most travellers will see Luang Prabang and Vientiane and if you have time stop at Vang Vieng on the way. Now you can do all this on the new train.
WHILST YOU ARE THERE
Support the local economy – and local environment – with every purchasing decision. Choose ethnically diverse, local gift shops, artisan sellers and markets; all a great way to meet different people and ensure your money directly benefits. You have a lot of opportunities in Laos for this as most of the crafts are locally made and you buy direct from the person who made it. You should not see any, but avoid products made from endangered species. And don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bag and water bottle (or buy some for the night market). Most places will not use plastic straws. There are initiatives in Laos to reduce plastic bags, bottles and straws, however be aware that at local markets bags are commonly used until better alternatives become available. If you don’t need a bag, please tell the seller.
Activities – low on carbon, big on nature
Choose low carbon activities such as kayaking, cycling, horse riding, walking and swimming that allow you to get closer to nature. Tiger Trail has many local projects in rural communities near Luang Prabang that directly support the village people. Research day trips that contribute to protected areas and help restore habitats. Be aware of excursions that involve wild or captive animals such as some (but not all elephant camps/sanctuaries).
Hire local guides – you’ll discover more about the culture, the landscape and the wildlife. Plus, more of your money will go back into the local community.
If you’re choosing accommodation as you go, seek out places that use renewable energy as much as possible. While Laos has only electricity, do try and reduce energy use: avoid using the air conditioner or heating (in Dec/Jan) too much; be sure to turn off appliances and lights; and choose shorter showers.
WHEN YOU GET BACK
Be an activist
Write to your travel company with feedback, including suggestions for reducing environmental impacts and do leave a review. One of the review questions we ask our customers is “Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?”
For serious issues regarding human rights abuses or wildlife exploitation, you may want to contact relevant charities or indeed the Ministry of Tourism in that country. Use social media to speak out too.
For more details on the history of responsible tourism, the big issues and debates, see the in-depth responsible tourism guide at Responsible Travel.