Responsible Travel

This course will focus on culture, local interaction and responsible tourism.

Cross Cultural Differences

Cross cultural differences details

Below are some considerations to make when living, working and traveling indifferent countries.

Meeting someone for the first time Many western cultures like to shake hands.  This would apply to most of the above nationalities however many European countries e.g. France, Italy, like to greet with a kiss on both cheeks – even if they have never met before! 

Eating with others In many Asian countries eating is an important activity of the day and meals can be very much a shared experience with everyone taking food from common bowls. This is also true for many European nationalities and more and more for Australia and NZ where eating together is seen as a social occasion.  Often English and American people may not like the idea of sharing many dishes and like to have their own meal.  Americans are used to very large portions.  In the west we eat with a knife and fork and it is acceptable to put the fork in your mouth.  Very different to many Asian cultures where only the spoon is used, or chopsticks or even the hands! 

Talking to someone more “senior” than you A wonderful aspect of Asian cultures is the respect shown to older people.  This is not always the case in the west although if you show respect to older clients they will be happy.  It may also mean that sometimes you will have a younger client on a trip who does not show you the respect you would expect from a younger person of your own culture.  It is not that they are intending to be rude, just that they have not grown up with these expectations. 

Talking to someone more “junior” than you In western cultures people usually treat someone younger than then as an equal, unless of course they are a child.  A way to win over teenagers on a trip is to treat them like an adult but being the careful not to overstep their parent’s authority. 

Asking someone for a date In most western cultures it is usual that the boy ask the girl on a date.  Permission from parents is not required and they are usually free to go our on their own.  Girls are also free to ask the boy on a date but this is not so common. 

Touching someone / personal space English and New Zealanders are usually quite conservative in touching people and like a lot of personal space.  Americans, Australians and Europeans are often much more “touchy”, a hand on your arm as they talk to you, a hug good bye at the end of a trip.  Touching between male and female is also accepted but within reason.  Touching an arm is OK, touching a leg is not! In most western cultures (except for Europeans) men do not touch each other except for a handshake of “slap” on the back.  The head is not considered sacred like it is in most Asian countries. 

Dress Code  Can need to have your head covered in some countries, temples etc. Also modestly dressed – long sleeves and trousers, both men and women.  As a leader you must be aware of both your passengers and where you are – set the example 

Religion  This can be a difficult topic, some people do not like to discuss it. You must try and be accepting and non judgemental of all religions and encourage this with all your pax.

What are some considerations to make when encountering many different cultures?

Special days for our passengers

Special Days for our passengers 


25 Dec Christmas Day  

31 Dec Years Eve  

26 Jan Australia Day  

25 April ANZAC Day (this is a day in memory of war veterans) 


As above expect instead of Australia day they celebrate Waitangi Day 6 February (this is a national day to commemorate when a treaty was signed between the British and Maori people) 

4th July - Independence Day  

31st October Halloween   

Thanks Giving Day 4th Thursday in November 


25 Dec Christmas Day  

26 Dec Boxing Day  

5 Nov Guy Fawkes Day (traditionally a day of lighting fire crackers)

Some passengers will appreciate you celebrating these events. Others will have come away from home specifically to miss them. You must be sensitive to your passengers feelings about these days.

Match up these dates with the corresponding celebration.

  • 26th January
    Australia Day
  • 5th November
    Guy Fawkes Night
  • 4th Thursday in November
  • 4th July
    Independence Day
  • 31st October

Culture Shock

Contributors to culture Shock   

Cleanliness and hygiene standards (toilets or lack of them)  

Food – not knowing what they are eating  

Fear of getting sick  

Reactions from locals i.e. staring and lack of personal space  

Language barriers  

Poverty and local living standards  


Witnessing a cremation or carriage of a body  

Recognising Culture Shock  


Not participating in activities  

Staying in hotel  

Not eating 

Complaining "it's not like this at home"  

Sad / crying / angry  

Assisting clients with Culture Shock  

Being sympathetic  

Reassure them, things will be fine once they get used to the new environment  help them to see the bright side e.g. they might not like the food but at least they are not having to cook   

Teach them some local language  

Inform them about local traditions  

Sometimes clients need a small dose of something “western” such as food or an afternoon resting in their room and watching English language TV 

It is important to note you may have some very experienced travelers with you. It is important not to talk down to them regarding this matter. 

What is a good way of helping a passenger with culture shock?

  • Reassurance, support and home comforts
  • Tell them to get a grip and enjoy themselves

Local Interaction

Local Interaction

Local Interaction

 Having contact with local people  

Initiating a conversation with a local  

Making a new local friend  

Getting in touch with the local culture or traditions  

Speaking to locals, whether in the local language or just using gestures  

Communicating with local guides, vendors, taxi drivers, hotel and restaurant staff  

Connecting with someone from another culture  

Talking with people you meet about your own countries  

Relating to how things are done in the destination and to the people you see and meet  

Getting involved in what local people do each day  

Participating in every day local life, special events or festivals  

Taking part in organised activities like workshops  

Visiting local businesses, friends or organisations  Making a local laugh or them making you laugh  

Joining in games and asking locals to join you  

Taking interest in what ordinary people are doing around you  

Contributing to understanding your cultural differences 

 Sharing what you have with others around you, such as a snack on the train, sunscreen when it's hot, a phrase book to help you communicate



Make sure you discuss at the first group meeting how our trips try to include lots of opportunities for meeting and getting to know the locals  

Remind pax that everyday they are having the OPPORTUNITY for local interaction but it is up to them to take those opportunities  

Start the trip with a very "local" experience - dinner at a local restaurant for example  

When out and about with your pax show point out things like the local grocery store (and how to buy things), what some street signs mean etc so they start to feel like a "local" as well as landmarks and other useful places  

Use the expression "meeting the locals" or "making local friends"  

Don’t be shy yourself.  It might feel a bit strange to you but remember why you are doing this - you have chosen to be a group leader to also experience and learn about the culture.  

If your clients are approached by a local person who does not seem to have good intentions or perhaps is intoxicated, then be sure to be polite when you ask them to move along - don’t appear to be rude to a local.  Distract them if you can so the clients can move on.



All trips should have a basic language lesson - Use simple local language in front of the pax to set an example and to give pax confidence to have a go themselves. Carry a phrase book and lend to pax as they need it, copy needed phrases out for them.    

Encourage pax to learn useful words and expressions right from day 1. For example you could ask a different person to order the drinks each night. Once pax get past their initial fear of not being able to communicate most relax and their holiday becomes much more exciting and enjoyable. Get locals to help with your pronunciation.  

Encourage pax to break the ice and start talking if they don't know the language or the local doesn't know English. A lot can be communicated even without a common language! Making the locals laugh is also interacting J  

Lead by example - the more you make the first move and interact the more the pax will too.   

Be careful not to become a wall between the locals and the clients.  When asking a local person to explain their produce or demonstrate a handicraft skill, ask the person to explain themselves, rather than you as the leader speaking for the local.



At restaurants don't do all the ordering - help pax to work out what they need to say and order themselves  

Don't have too many group meals - pax will interact more if they go off in smaller numbers and try places independently.  One at the start and one at the end is normally enough.  

Invite local operators, guides and friends to join you for meals. Remember to integrate them into the group, not just sit at one end of the table with you.  

Shop at markets for snacks & supplies. Encourage your group to talk to the locals, bargain, ask about produce etc. 

When out and about


Identify special interests of locals that pax can join in - soccer with local kids, swimming in the lake, frisbee in the park, cards etc.  

School visits - we do not visit schools, orphanages or children's homes 

Introduce pax to our local guides/operators/friends. Make sure that pax know their names! Encourage pax to ask local guides about more than just the sights 

Make friends with local people yourself and find out things about them and their lives that you can pass on to pax - this is especially important at home stays. The more pax see you interacting with the people that we work with them more likely they will be to join in  

Include experiences of how locals make their living or preserve local traditions. Watch fisherman, search out local craftsmen and support traditional industries  

 Learn what locals DO in a normal day and do it too - where they eat, hang out, worship, play etc  

Festivals - participate in local festivities or special days.  

Using local transport - suggest group split up during free time and use the local transport system.  Encourage them to sit next to local people  

If pax take photos of locals (*always* with permission!), encourage them to get their address so they can send them a copy. If locals have a camera with them, offer to take a photo for them too

At homestays


Play with the kids and have them show you around the village  

Have a sing-a-long, learn some local songs and teach your hosts some of your own  

Spend time in the kitchen, ask to learn how a certain dish is made, make your own contribution towards the meal and help with the dishes afterwards  

Help out with the household chores, such as fetching water or wood, cleaning up after meals, feeding the animals etc

At the end of your trip


At the final night dinner reflect on the people that you met, talk about the friends that you made and the great local experiences that were had  

Collect any photos or gifts that pax might have for local friends or guides that you might meet again on your next trip to pass on 

Remind pax about completing feedback

Complete the sentences below.

An important part of local interaction is  local people. If you enter an establishment with your group you should try and speak as much as possible. You should passengers to join in with local activities.

Responsible Travel

Take only memories, leave only footprints

Responsible = Ethical / Sustainable / Environmental / Eco-concious. 

Responsible travel means all of these things.  It means thinking about the way we operate and do business.  

Can we really genuinely claim to be “responsible” as a tour operator running diesel-guzzling trucks?

Top Tips

Top 12 Responsible Travel Tips  

  1. Learn as much as possible about the country you are visiting – the religion and culture, the local rules and values.  
  2. Learn some language and don’t be afraid to use it – simple pleasantries will help break the ice.  Keep practising.  
  3. Learn what’s appropriate behaviour and body language.  E.g. poking your tongue at a stranger is welcoming in Tibet but at home it might get you some funny looks!  
  4. Support locally owned businesses, hotels, restaurants and other services.  Eat local food and drinks.  McDonalds can wait until you are home.  
  5. Shop from traditional artisans and for locally made products, helping keep traditional crafts alive.  Bargaining is the way in most places.  Keep it light and bright and remember, 10 cents to you may be a bowl of noodles for the vendor!  
  6. Dress respectfully with an awareness of local standards.  Covered thighs and shoulders is the norm in many countries.  Dress modestly at religious sites and check what is suitable swimwear.  
  7. Always ask first before photographing or videoing people.  Send them back copies of photos to help make it a two-way exchange.  
  8. Be wary of giving gifts or money to beggars, children and people you have just met.  Supporting the community through a local school, clinic or development project may be more constructive.  Intrepid has lots of project suggestions!  
  9. Leave only footprints…take care of the environment as you would your own home.  Take out all you take in, to areas away from the cities.  Drink truck water (cuts down on plastic bottles) and say no to plastic bags. For cigarette butts, an empty film container makes a perfect portable butt bin.  
  10. Try not to raise your voice or display anger. The concept of being “polite” is often very important.  
  11. After returning home think how you can support programs and organisations that are working to protect the welfare, culture and environment of where you’ve been lucky to visit.   
  12. Smile!  The traveler who wishes to have a happy and successful trip should keep as calm, cheerful and friendly as humanly possible.  Remember to have fun!

Name 5 top responsible travel tips.

Key points of our responsible travel policy

Key points of Dragoman RT policy / guidelines    

Section 1: Environment “Leave only footprints”  Reuse, reduce, recycle  Energy efficiency / conservation / sustainability    

Section 2: Communities “Partners for good”  Support small, locally owned businesses & organisations  Ensure our visits are directly benefiting host communities    

Section 3: Responsible Tourism Projects  Long term commitments to promote positive change Visits/activities included in itineraries, supported by Dragoman & pax donations made via kitty    

Overall: Involves us all – pax, crew, office, local suppliers

If you would like to read the entire policy you can find it on the crew website.

Core Value

Responsible Travel is a core value at Dragoman and  always has been. For this to continue we need our  crew to champion this cause.  



•Be Active  


You are out there on the ground. If you see a great project that you think Dragoman should be involved in, let us know! Equally if you believe our contribution is having a negative let us know and we will re-evaluate how we contribute to this area.

Who do we need to champion our Responsible Travel ethos?

  • Crew
  • The office dogs