We are living in complicated times.
The pandemic, climate change, disenfranchised local communities and damaged heritage and beauty spots make us uncertain about how we should be travelling in the modern world, or perhaps whether we should be travelling at all.
Yes, we know we shouldn’t fly on private jets (I wish!) and adhere to the mantra – ‘leave nothing but footprints’, but here are seven alternative tips to consider when you next venture to another country.
A nice start. Guidebooks are great, but everyone has them and they tend to focus on the same places, where you meet all the other tourists. Ask a local to pick a neighbourhood and just wander. You will become the guidebook.
Boot, bus, boat or bike
We know we should travel by air less, but picking alternatives to the car once you get there definitely makes for a richer experience. Some of my most memorable journeys have been shared on the back of a horse or in a packed bus.
That carpet, woven scarf or vase costs a fraction of the price back home. Negotiate where it’s part of the culture, but don’t be the person who is trying to extract the last 50p in search of a bargain. Relatively speaking, compared to travel and hotel costs – you can afford it, but it might be a meal to the vendor.
Don’t record it – experience it
People spend so much energy in framing the perfect Instagram picture, or composing the perfect tweet, they forget to lift their heads from the camera viewfinder or the phone screen, and look at the real thing. Visiting Machu Picchu, Venice or Petra is as much about sound, smell and texture as it is visual gratification.
Have a bucket list, but don’t let it limit you
Yes, visit the Taj Mahal or Gaudi’s Cathedral, but while you are there take a look at the Mughal Gardens opposite Shah Jahan’s famous tomb, or enjoy some of Barcelona’s incomparable modernist heritage.
Accept the invitation
Acknowledging individual tolerance to risk, there’s something magical in accepting the generosity of others to watch a ceremony, eat a meal or meet the family, events which will stick in the memory long after you have thrown the tacky souvenir in the bin.
By the way, I break most of these rules on a regular basis, including my final one, which is… don’t tell everyone your travel tips…
How To Be A Good Tourist…
We’re all looking forward to going on holiday - Christmas, New Year and into 2022. But how do we enjoy ourselves while still travelling responsibly? Intelligence Squared is hosting an exciting event in partnership with the World Monuments Fund Britain on how to be a good tourist, exploring sustainable tourism and ways to protect the environment and communities of popular destinations. Speakers include explorer Benedict Allen, travel writer Abigail King, and sustainability editor at Condé Nast Traveller Juliet Kinsman. The event is taking place on Monday 22nd November from 7-8pm at Central Hall, Westminster, with optional dinner afterwards. Tickets start from only 4.99. Go to intelligencesquared.com/wmf to purchase tickets.