How can I be more responsible while I travel? It is a question with a unique set of answers depending on where you travel. Each country faces its own issues socially, economically or environmentally, which ultimately shapes the answer. After living in and traveling around Thailand for five years I have become well aware of some of the issues, which this country deals with. Here are five easy and actionable responsible travel tips for Thailand.
Say no to plastic bags
If you have been to Thailand, you will surely know about the love of plastic bags. Everything seems to come in a plastic bag. Sometimes, you even get a bag in a bag. It is very surprising when you are offered a bottle of Coca-Cola poured into a plastic bag with a handful of ice, just so that the vendors receive the glass bottle refund.
It is easy to break the habit. Simply say no to plastic bags. You might get a few confused stares that question why you do not want a bag. In some cases, even after saying no, you will still be given the plastic bag. Be persistent and refuse, you even hand the plastic bag back, it’s not rude.
One important line you can learn in Thai which makes a huge difference is “mai sai tung krub” which means ‘no bag, thanks’.
Clean rubbish as you go
Where do those thousands of millions of plastic bags eventually end up? In the ocean and on the beaches. The amount of rubbish that ends up on beautiful remote beaches in Thailand never ceases to amaze me. In fact, the more remote you get, the more discarded junk there seems to be.
Making a difference is actually really easy. Simply carry a roll of garbage bags in your backpack. If you arrive at a trashed up beach, spend just one hour cleaning up and you will make a huge difference. More often than not, you’ll get other people joining in to help you
Not only will you feel good about helping to fix the environment, but you will also have a beautiful beach all to yourself.
Pay the national park entrance fees
So many travelers complain about the split pricing at Thailand’s national parks. There is one price for locals and a separate price for foreigners, which is generally ten times the local’s amount.
Consider for a minute that this money is actually used for conservation. Every entrance fee is accompanied by a numbered National Park’s entrance pass. The staff are accountable for the funds collected, so it is not pocket cash for a bottle of whiskey later in the afternoon. The government in Thailand actually does quite a lot of conservation work in regards to national parks with these funds, such as rehabilitation of forests and removal of illegal buildings.
Want to support conservation in Thailand? Pay your national parks entrance fees. Be sure to check out a few great national parks in this huge Thailand travel guide by The Lost Passport.
Shop at the Ma & Pa stores
The 7/11 convenience store chain is primarily owned and run by Thailand’s mega consumer goods company CP Group. In recent times, it feels like 7/11 has taken over Bangkok, and other places around Thailand.
Why? Everyone buys their stuff because it is a few Thai Baht cheaper.
7/11 stores effectively push a lot of locally owned stores out of business. Small shop houses res that have been family run for generations, and quite often by old people aged 60 and above. In Bangkok, we commonly call these the Ma & Pa stores.
By spending a few extra Thai Baht, not even a dollar, you can keep these local businesses running and hardworking people employed.
Avoid animal tourism
Animal tourism is under the spotlight in Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia. In recent times, travelers have become more and more aware of the cruelty involved in the animal tourism industry.
Elephants are mentally “broken” over years to a point where they finally listen to their masters. Tigers are drugged up so that they can be safely patted by crowds of tourists. Monkeys are kept in tiny cages, feet chained to the floor and prodded with knives to perform tricks for a crowd.
If you do insist on seeing animals in Thailand, either go to a national park where you will see them in their natural habitat (from a distance), or visit a sanctuary where animals have been rescued from abuse in the tourism industry.
Do you know any other responsible travel tips for Thailand we should add to the list?
- 7 Easy Ways To Travel Respectfully In Southeast Asia
- 10 Travel Tips For Your First Time In Thailand
- If You Travel, Do It Right – Here’re 8 Ways To Be A More Responsible Traveler
- We Need To Start a Better Conversation About Sustainable and Responsible Tourism