Practical Advice for Participants
Where environmental issues are concerned, we ask that you support us in protecting to the best of our ability the eco-systems through which we travel.
- Keep to designated trails
- Do not take any natural ‘souvenirs’ – eg coral, shells, flowers, insects, etc. Sometimes coral or other protected and endangered natural products are sold to the tourist market – please do not support this by buying anything.
- Do not approach wild animals too closely as it narrows their escape route and may alarm or disturb them – and therefore harm you.
- Dispose of any rubbish properly during the day or within camp. Even biodegradable matter takes years to decompose in many mountain environments so please don’t just leave it. The best way to dispose of it should be made clear by your tour leader – if it isn’t please ask.
- Cigarette butts in particular take hundreds of years to decompose – if you smoke, please take them with you.
- Sometimes local communities are slow to protect their own environment – they often have more immediate issues concerning them. But please look after your rubbish even if they do not do the same.
Interaction With Different Cultures
Part of the fun, and reward, of discovering new countries and cultures is in meeting local people and communicating with them – whether with simple smiles and gestures or a few words of the local language. Passing through villages or meeting individuals on remote trails may create a level of interest not witnessed by tourists touring in vehicles, which can provide some fun interactions!
You are certainly more likely to see ways of life which are more traditional and untouched by going on our type of trip. In some cases you may pass through villages or nomadic settlements which have very little contact with other tourists. Most people you will meet will be incredibly friendly, but all cultures are different, so please be aware of the following points to ensure that you do not unwittingly cause offence. If in doubt at any time please just ask your Discover Adventure tour leader or local guide.
Dress: Remember that what you would wear on a hot day in the UK is not necessarily acceptable in countries of different cultures. Women in particular should be modest in dress - avoid tight or ‘strappy’ tops in favour of regular T-shirts. Shorts should not be too short, and trousers are preferable in rural areas. Men should wear a top at all times. Remember that as well as people you meet along the way, the local support crew will have the same cultural views and while they may be more used to tourists, may still be offended by inappropriate dress.
As well as shocking local sensibilities and creating offence, in some cultures you (women in particular) will experience hassle from the local people if you are dressed inappropriately by their standards. Some men will not view you as someone they should treat with the same respect they accord their own women. Please do not add to the perception that women from developed countries are ‘fair game.’ Women out alone at any time, especially in towns, should dress in order to draw as little attention to themselves as possible.
In other cultures people are incredibly polite towards tourists and will not show that they are offended, but do not take this to mean that they do not care.
Displays of Affection: For the same reasons, in many cultures you should tone down any displays of affection in public, especially in rural, more traditional areas, to holding hands – anything more may raise a few eyebrows or make local people feel uncomfortable. In many countries people hold hands with others of the same sex – this does not signify a homosexual relationship but is quite normal among friends.
Alcohol: Usually in camp we have some kind of (primitive!) bar system, and sitting around camp with some local wine or beer is a great way to relax after a long day’s trek and to get to know your fellow trekkers. Please though do keep it fairly moderate – behaviour does tend to become less controlled when drinking (!) and not only will you find it harder-going the next day if you drink too much, but drunken behaviour may also offend or confuse the local guides and crew. Bear in mind when celebrating at the end of the trip that towns and cities are not necessarily safe places in which to lower your defences.
Haggling: It is expected in many countries that you will haggle for prices. You are not ripping locals off if you knock their prices down, but you will risk damaging the structure of their way of life and economy if you do not. It is also great fun and a good way of interacting with local people. A good rule of thumb is to offer a third of the asking price and meet somewhere in the middle. Learn some numbers in the local language for more successful shopping!
Photographing Local People: Always ask before taking photos of local people; do not point cameras in their faces. They may look very authentic and traditional, but they are still ordinary people who may or may not wish to be photographed – some cultures have superstitions about being captured on film, others may simply be shy or reluctant for other reasons. Some people more used to tourists may ask for payment in exchange for a photo – it is entirely up to you whether you do this or not, but if you agree to pay them, please don’t then break the agreement. On the whole we don’t encourage paying for photos as it does encourage begging from tourists.
Begging: Please do not give money, sweets or pens to children, however cute they look, as it encourages them to beg and creates problems for future travellers. It also encourages parents to take their children out of school as they can bring in more income through begging. A long-term view of education is hard for families who are struggling with poverty. Giving sweets, moreover, leads to dietary and dental problems which parents cannot afford to deal with. What seems like generosity is not. If you feel you would like to give something, make a donation to a local school or hospital - your tour leader or local guides may be able to suggest a way to do this.
Language: It is well worth learning a few words of the local language, such as ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, ‘sorry’ and a few numbers, as well as a few basic items such as ‘water,’ ‘beer’, ‘bananas’, and so on. Something as simple as being able to greet a local person in their own language makes a huge difference to the way they will view you, and you may be surprised by the warmth of their response. Don’t worry if you aren’t very good at languages – if you get it wrong you will be appreciated for trying, and being laughed at is a very good ice-breaker!
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