Tips to be a More Ethical Traveller

Amy Rutter - Oct 20, 2021 - Inspiration

Following on from our recent post about how to be a more responsible traveller, we thought we’d share a few more tips. This time, we’re focussing on how to be a more ethical traveller. 

At Adventure Tours UK we are incredibly passionate about responsible, sustainable and ethical travel. We believe that travel shouldn’t cost the earth and we’re doing everything we can to ensure our tours are as responsible as possible.

From working with small local businesses in order to support our community, to reducing our carbon footprint, to planting a tree for every single guest on our tours.. we’re always looking for new ways to be the most responsible tour operator we can be.

If you want to be a more ethical traveller, you’ve come to the right place!

By staying informed and aware, making good choices and making a conscious effort to be more responsible and ethical on our travels, we can make a difference.

What do we mean by ‘Ethical Travel’?

Ethical travel and responsible travel mean trying to have a minimal impact on the planet and the places you visit when you travel. Or better yet, having a positive impact.

It’s all about considering the consequences of your actions as a tourist on the environment, local community and local economy. In a nutshell, ethical travel means travelling more consciously and trying to avoid things that could have a negative impact.

11 Tips for More Ethical Travel

1) Support Social Enterprises

A group of ethical travellers exploring north wales on their adventure holiday

Social enterprises are businesses that empower local communities and improve people’s quality of life. The idea is that they reinvest the profits they make back into the local community. That might mean employing people from impoverished or migrant backgrounds, training staff to ensure they can always find work or selling goods and handicrafts made by local craftspeople – and paying them a fair share for their work.

Seek out social enterprises when you travel and you can help benefit and support local communities. Plus you’ll often get a far more authentic and valuable experience.

2) Seek out Less Crowded Destinations

Over-tourism can place an enormous burden on the places we love. It can price out residents, alter the local culture, cause environmental damage and put a huge strain on infrastructure.

Avoiding crowded destinations can help take some of the strain away from these places and give you a chance to explore more ‘off the beaten path’ destinations.

Snowdon is a great example of this. As the best-known mountain in Wales, the peak and trails are often very crowded, especially during peak summer season. But there are dozens of other mountains in Snowdonia, all of them just as thrilling to climb. Climbing any of the others can feel like even more of an adventure, because you won’t have to share the path with as many other tourists. You might even have the summit all to yourself!

It’s a great example of how avoiding crowded destinations can benefit both your own experience and the local area.

3) Be careful when booking Wildlife Encounters

Wildlife encounters can be one of the most exciting things about travel. But unfortunately they are too often unethical.

“If you can ride it, hug it or have a selfie with the wild animal, the chances are it’s a cruel venue” says Alyx Elliott from World Animal Protection. They make it easy to avoid animal exploitation with a variety of tools to help you assess if wildlife sanctuaries or animal based experiences are ethically run.

By staying informed and being on the look out for signs of poor animal treatment, ethical travellers can avoid supporting animal cruelty. And you can still enjoy those memorable, awe-inspiring animal experiences – just making sure you do it in the right places.

4) Avoid Animal Cruelty when you eat

A team of ethical travellers cooking food on a glamping site

Trying local food is one of the joys of travel – but make sure you know what you’re eating and that you’re not unwittingly supporting animal cruelty. It’s important to be aware of any unethical dishes or ingredients, especially if you’re consuming meat.

Avoid eating meat from endangered animals at all costs and steer clear of any restaurant serving it. If you’re not sure, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Ethical travellers might also consider how humanely their meat – if they eat it – has been killed or hunted. Different countries have different standards and practices and some are less ethical than others. Knowing where your food comes from can guide you.

5) Respect Local customs and Beliefs

Ethical travellers should also show respect for any local customs and beliefs. For instance, in some cultures covering your shoulders in places of worship is a must. Remember that you’re a guest in these cultures and respect any beliefs, even if you don’t share them.

6) Take photos with Sensitivity

A woman in pink shorts paddles along a tree-lined canal on a SUP on a UK adventure holiday in Wales

Be mindful when you’re taking photos, especially photographs of people.

Always get permission before snapping a shot of somebody. Remember that you probably wouldn’t want someone to come and take a photo of you whilst you were at work, or praying or simply walking down the street – so locals in the places you visit probably don’t want you to either! 

In places of worship, an ethical traveller should stay out of the way of actual worshippers and make sure your camera doesn’t cause too much disturbance. Tourists are usually welcome in these places, but if it’s still an active place of worship you don’t want to take away from the experience of actual users.

7) Beware of Voluntourism

Volunteering on your travels can be a great way to give back to the community and forge some deeper connections with locals. But many unscrupulous operators see voluntourism as a way to make some easy profit from travellers filled with good intentions. Ethical travellers should seek out projects that have a valuable, sustainable impact. 

Make sure that the projects you work on aren’t taking jobs away from local people and that you only take on work you are qualified and skilled to do. Find out where the money you have paid to volunteer is going: the majority of your donation should be put towards the cause you are working on, not generating profit for the organisation’s leaders.

8) Learn a bit of the Language

You don’t have to be fluent, but even a phrase or two of the local language will go a long way. Saying hello to somebody in their native tongue is always a good way to start an interaction.

Learning words like ‘hello, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ will allow you to be more polite in all your interactions. While phrases like ‘where is the bathroom’ and ‘do you speak English’ will go a long way in helping you get by!

9) Support Local Business

Ethical traveller climbing the 14 peaks in Snowdonia

We’re big fans of supporting local businesses – we are one ourselves after all. From tour companies like us, to restaurants, accommodation, taxis, shops… you name it, supporting local businesses can have a hugely positive impact on the local community and economy.

When an ethical traveller buy something from a local business, an actual person feels the impact of it. The money you spend at a local business will likely stay local too, helping give the economy a boost.

When it comes to souvenirs, many of the ones you find in a hotel and airport gift shops are mass-produced on the other side of the world. An ethical traveller should seek out locally made handicrafts at markets or in artisan workshops instead and you’ll have something much more authentic and special souvenir to remember your trip by.

10) Seek out ethical tour operators and holiday providers

Ethical Travel Tourism operator in Scotland

Ethical travel becomes a whole lot easier if the companies you purchase from are practicing good travel ethics on your behalf! Look for tour operators who are supporting local businesses, helping their local communities, making ethical choices and doing the right thing for the environment. 

Responsible tour operators will usually have their brand ethics highlightes on their website and promotional materials – like our Adventure Promise. Seek out and support businesses who are doing the right thing and hopefully that will encourage other travel companies to follow suit.


Nobody is perfect and all travellers make mistakes from time to time. Being a responsible and ethical traveller is all about trying. Try to be more conscious and more informed, and make the right choices whenever you can. Try to have a minimal impact on the places you visit.

And try to positively impact the local community, whether that’s through spending your money in the right places or simply making the effort to be more respectful and polite.

If we all make small changes, together we can have a big impact!