As tourism is increasing in Vietnam, more pressure is being put on the country. In 2018, it was estimated that a whopping 15.5 million international visitors came to the country. If you compare it to Cambodia for example, the neighbouring country, 6.2 million travelers came in 2018. That means Vietnam receives almost double the amount of tourists. Although it’s certainly great for the economy in many ways, it also affects other aspects such as the nature.
Traveling responsibly is becoming more important as the world is facing climate changes and other challenges. And as a traveler, we have just as much of a responsibility of taking care of the planet as anyone else. When we travel, we have the power to affect more than we think. Traveling sustainably and responsibly is one way. The UN defines sustainable tourism as:
“The need to support sustainable tourism activities and relevant capacity building that promote environmental awareness, conserve and protect the environment, respect wildlife, flora, biodiversity, ecosystems and cultural diversity, and improve the welfare and livelihoods of local communities.”
It’s more important than ever to to think green and be conscious about our actions. It doesn’t mean that you can’t travel or there’s a bunch of rules you need to follow. Instead, just follow these guidelines and you’re well on your way of becoming a more responsible traveler.
1. Pack lightly
The lighter your bag, the less emissions you’ll release. So pack, unpack and repack at least once so you can go through your things to see if you really need to bring this and that.
2. Offset your flight
Flying far away is generally a no no if you want to be more green, but if you must fly, make sure that you offset your flight. It usually doesn’t cost much more, but it makes a huge difference.
3. Choose an eco-friendly accommodation
When you arrive to Vietnam, make sure that you do your research and check in to an eco friendly hotel. If you’re unsure, you can always ask the staff and see if they practice what they preach. Be careful of so-called “greenwashing”, where companies take advantage of the sustainability practice and use it more as a way of marketing their company. For example, they encourage you to shower less and not change your towel as much. This sounds good in paper, but it’s also a way for the hotel brands to save money. It’s not much about sustainability.
4. Buy local
Support local souvenir shops, eat as much locally as you can and make sure that you contribute to the country’s economy. One of the most important things to consider if you want to be sustainable is to buy local.
5. Say no to single use plastic
You’ve probably heard this many times before, but try to skip single use plastic as much as possible. Vietnam is a country that unfortunately uses a lot of plastic (like many, many other countries in the world!), but there’s way to avoid this. For example, always bring your own reusable bottle that you can refill with water, bring your own cutlery and lunch box if you’re buying food to go, and use your own bag instead of all the plastic bags. There’s so many simple steps you can take to decrease the use of plastic.
6. Don’t engage in any animal activities
Most often, animals used in any form of entertainment purpose is being treated poorly. Riding elephants is one example that should be outdated by now, but is still very much intact. It’s well known that the elephants are not treated good and going through immense distress for our own entertainment. If you’re visiting an animal sanctuary, make sure that you do research thoroughly before going there. Some animal sanctuaries have been found to not be ethical.
7. Walk it or bike it!
It’s often tempting to just hop in a taxi, especially considering how cheap it is in Vietnam. But we also know how bad emissions is for our environment, so why not rent a bike instead and experience Vietnam in a different way. You should also consider walking more. Not only is it good for your health, it also enables you to travel slower. You’ll be able to walk inside every little cute shop you see and be able to gaze at the beautiful architecture surrounding you in a completely different way.
8. Educate other travelers
One thing you can do while traveling is to educate others about these issues. While many travelers probably wants to travel more responsibly, some simply don’t know how to. Give them information and guidance on how they can be a more ethical traveler by showing them this list for example,
9. Leave no trace
Leave the place cleaner than when you came. Beaches is a great example of how important it is to keep a natural place clean. No one wants to visit a beach that looks like a dumpster, not to mention how incredibly unfair it is to leave a place dirty for the locals to clean up. So make sure that you leave the place as clean, or cleaner, when you leave. It’ll benefit not just you, but all other travelers who comes afterwards, the locals, and most importantly, the nature.