Going local, for the locals

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Travelling in a responsible way doesn’t need to be difficult; simply being careful about where you spend your money makes all the difference in the world. Choosing accommodation, guides, tours and souvenirs that are sustainable for the local community may require more research and forward planning, but you’ll be helping your hosts while having a truly priceless travel experience for yourself.

Tourism accounts for about one in ten jobs globally and, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, can disproportionately benefit those less well-off in society. With those powerful statistics in mind, there are many ways to ensure you make a positive contribution while immersing yourself in local culture and making incredible memories.

Opting for homestays over hotels puts money directly into the pocket of the community. And if you’re concerned about overtourism, organisations such as fairbnb.coop (operating in Europe) will help ensure your holiday rental has a positive influence. If you need someone to show you around, choose a guide who lives in the area for unbeatable local expertise.

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Being a sustainable traveller means staying away from the global restaurant chains and dining at independent venues you won’t find anywhere else. It’s one of the easiest ways to make a difference, and what could be more enjoyable than discovering a destination through your taste buds? It’s also worth considering what you order from the menu. Often a destination’s regional specialities use local ingredients instead of imported, meaning your money has double the positive effect (and you have a delicious meal). The same goes for drinks; independent craft breweries and wineries can turn a good meal into a great one. Try it all and you’ll come home with plenty of local knowledge while leaving a meaningful legacy behind.

Ceramic art pieces from Uzbekistan make for great souvenirs
Ceramic art pieces from Uzbekistan make for great souvenirs
Image courtesy: ©Shutterstock/Freda Bouskoutas

Carefully chosen souvenirs are a slice of culture you can take home with you. Best of all, buying something made in the area supports artists and craftspeople and can provide an economic incentive to continue plying a trade or craft at risk of dying out. Kutnu silk weaving from Turkey, ceramic art in Uzbekistan or colourful woven kunaa mats from the Maldives are just some examples of unique pieces you can treasure forever.

GUIDED BY LOCALS

With a little help from technology, it’s never been easier to meet people. Get advice from the real experts by using these platforms to make connections with local residents.

EAT WITH

Local hosts in over 130 countries will feed you in their own home (or sometimes rent a unique space). They’ll often sit down to dine with you when the cooking is done, sharing their expertise.

TOURS BY LOCALS

This website connects tourists with friendly local guides worldwide. You can browse tour itineraries they’ve designed themselves or work with them to create your own bespoke one.