Tips To Be An Ethical Traveler

Maya Bingaman is a student at the University of Pittsburgh – Bradford. She is an ISA Featured Photo Blogger and is currently studying abroad with ISA in Cusco, Peru

With more than 2 weeks under my belt as a student in Peru, and as a previous traveler, I have come to learn the importance of being an ethical globetrotter. Not only will using ethical practices abroad save you from kicking yourself down the road, it will also help you add and maintain healthy relationships with the people in your wonderful host country.

Pay Fair Prices

Negotiating prices with locals can be fun and a great way to practice the local languages. Although you’re always told to never take the first price a vendor gives you, also keep in mind that they need a fair wage too. In Peru, the U.S Dollar is worth more (about 3 times the amount of a Sol) of the local currency, so it’s important to remember, is it worth negotiating 1 extra Sol with a taxi driver when in reality it’s only about 30 cents?

This is a handmade mobile some of the Uru people make to sell to tourists visiting the islands within Lake Titicaca.

Ask for Photos or Find Alternatives

Just think about how mortified someone would be in your hometown if a tourist came up and began snapping photos of them or even worse, their children. Although many people in Peru are used to being under the public view they deserve the same respect we would give anyone in our home country. It is beyond important to ask/and or pay them for their services. For example, throughout the city I’m staying in–Cusco, it is very common to see brightly dressed women holding alpacas for giddy tourists to hold and take photos with. Make sure you have a few Soles on you to pay after your photoshoot!

A woman at the Awana Kancha Farm works on weaving an intricate textile, but I was sure to only snap the photo after asking her permission in Spanish and gesturing towards my camera for extra clarification in case she only spoke Quechua.

And when in doubt, stick to safe subjects like animals and scenery.

After a delicious lunch my group and I wondered to the scenic yard behind the Tunupa Restaurant

“Do not Touch”

Part of being a tourist and studying abroad is discovering history and major archaeological sites. Although it’s tempting to want to take an old stone from an Inca wall home with you, it’s better left untouched. The environment and historical sites are already degraded enough by the traffic tourists bring everyday. Take photos, not physical remnants.

Stay Humble

My final piece of advice that will help any traveler navigate being an ethical tourist, is to simply stay humble. It is by the grace of the host country you visit that you are even able to be there, so don’t take advantage of what is being provided to you. Never see yourself as superior to locals because your way of life is different or because you think you know best. Differences are beautiful and what make it fun to visit new places. Instead of comparing and scrutinizing, try to learn and understand.

Within Lake Titicaca between Bolivia and Peru are a variety of islands handmade by the Uru people. They use reeds to build their own islands and homes.

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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