Meg’s tips on sustainable and respectful travel

Travel leads you away from home and outside of your usual norms but there are so many things that you should keep in mind wherever you are in the world. Two important key words here are sustainable and respectful travel. 


One of the main aspects of sustainable travel is recycling. Something that can save so much plastic is using a reusable water bottle. You may not always be able to fill these up via the local taps but many places for example in Thailand will offer reduced prices to fill up a reusable water bottle. 

In general, you should try and make as little waste as possible. Rubbish and the disposal of waste is a very big world-wide issue. So, the less rubbish we can try to make, the better. This means not only using reusable bottles but trying to avoid buying things wrapped in plastic, perhaps even buy things in thrift stores and donate clothing rather than throwing it away as well as generally trying to buy products that don’t result in a lot of waste. 
Sometimes you may have to buy water in plastic bottles or other products with plastic or paper packaging. When you need to get rid of these, make sure you try and separate your rubbish and throw it away properly. 

You can be an additional help by picking up rubbish that you may not have produced yourself. This can be as small as throwing away a wrapper you find on a hiking trail or even a bigger matter such as participating in an ocean or beach clean-up session. Either way, the more we can help clean up, the better. In some places you may even have a slight benefit if you pick up certain recycling. In Germany for example there is a thing called “Pfand” which means you get some money back when you recycle certain cans and bottles in shops.


You can also try and be sustainable by being thoughtful of your transportation. Flying is already not really the best thing you can do for your carbon footprint, but we can try and make up for it at least a bit by being aware of the travel and transportation choices we make in the destinations. Try and avoid a lot of long-hall flights. Instead, maybe plan a long flight there and back but then try and take the time to visit multiple destinations close by and not fly to each individual destination on separate trips. This obviously depends on how much time you have for your trip but do consider this when planning your travels.

One of the best sustainable travel tips for transportation is using trains whenever possible. Trains are quick, interesting and definitely better for the environment than individual cars or planes. They aren’t necessarily very reliable when it comes to being on time so try not to plan anything for the hour you’re supposed to arrive at your destination but always try to consider trains as an option for short and long-distance travel. In general, public transportation is always worth looking into because it could be quite cheap and as mentioned, is friendlier to the environment than many other forms of transportation.

A great way to explore most destinations that is also very sustainable is simply on foot or if you want to be a little quicker, you can always rent a bike. Depending on which city you’re in, getting around on bike can be more or less dangerous. European cities like Amsterdam or Munich are particularly bike friendly for example. 


The last major point for sustainable travel is water consumption. This doesn’t mean limiting the water you drink or anything, but it does mean trying to save water where you can. Taking shorter showers can be a massive contribution here! Try and be aware of how long you are showering for and don’t go over what you really need. Don’t flush unnecessarily and don’t leave the water running when you’re brushing your teeth or after you’ve washed your hands.

Respect surroundings

Respectful travel is something I personally consider to be very important. This includes respect for the people and customs as well as respecting the natural surroundings wherever you are. A major point when it comes to respecting the surroundings is keeping your distance from the wildlife. This doesn’t mean you can’t explore various areas and view animals from afar but it’s usually not a good idea to feed them, pet them or generally get too close. Stick to paths when hiking in national parks and generally try to leave places the way you found them or even better. 


Enjoying new types of food is one of my absolutely favourite things about travel. It’s incredible how many different types of food exist and how different each meal can be! Definitely try the local cuisine wherever you go, even if it may seem unusual. This is also generally a good idea because for local dishes people tend to also use locally sourced foods rather than imported goods. 

A part of trying the local food is also at least attempting to use the correct utensils. This is pretty much just a fancy way of saying that you should give chop-sticks a go if that’s what they bring you. Most places will have knives and forks available for tourists if you’re struggling but the locals will certainly appreciate it if you give the local utensils a try first. Some cultures also eat a lot with their hands, and it is a sign of respect to eat this way too. This is often combined with eating on the floor. Many of these things may seem strange to those of us used to western customs but as mentioned before, try it first before passing judgment.


There is always a lot to learn about the local culture wherever you go but it’s a good idea to be informed on the basics before getting there. The basics in culture are pretty much what is the customary clothing when it comes to public places and religious sights and are there important traditions that tourists should know about. This can be something like taking off shoes whenever you go inside somewhere or that women are expected to dress a certain way when in public spaces. Remember, you don’t have to agree with a place’s customs, but you should still respect them. You are a visitor in someone else’s home and should behave appropriately.


Last but not least, a great way to show respect is by appreciating the local language. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you have to learn every language fluently. It merely means maybe attempting to say “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye” in the local language. Don’t worry about whether or not your pronunciation is perfect, the locals will really appreciate the fact that you’ve even attempted to say something in their language. Another thing that we English speakers tend to do is to assume that everyone will always understand everything we say in English. People are certainly more likely to speak English over other languages – especially in popular tourist destinations – but this is not guaranteed to be the case. Just be considerate and speak clearly to give people a chance. A smile and good manners can very often go a very long way.

I’m sure there are many more things that can contribute to sustainable and respectful travel but that was an overview of some of the most important key words. Try and keep this in mind as much as possible and remember we only get one planet (at least so far) and as much as borders may seem to separate us, we’re all in this together. 

If you’re interested in great holiday and backpacking spots around the world, packing tips or more general travel advice, check out some of my other posts and stay tuned for more! In case your questions aren’t answered here, or you have any comments or personal experiences you’d like to share, don’t be afraid to get in touch, leave comment and let me know. 

You can also follow @megsplaces on Instagram and Facebook for regular updates, pictures and stories!

Special thanks to Nick Keenan for these fantastic images!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sustain blog says:

    Tips for sustainable travel is a good idea. Thank you 😊


    1. megsplaces says:

      No problem! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sustain blog says:

        You are welcome!

        Liked by 1 person

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