How NOT To Be the Ugly American When Traveling


Sustainable travel means acting as a conscientious tourist, careful with the environments you explore and respecting the communities you visit. Two overlapping components of sustainable travel are ecotourism and ethical tourism. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES)( defines ecotourism as respon­sible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. TIES suggests that ecotourists follow these principles: 

  • Minimize environmental impact
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation and for local people
  • Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates
  • Support international human rights and labor agreements

While much of the focus of ecotourism is about reducing im­pacts on the natural environment, ethical tourism concentrates on ways to preserve and enhance local economies and communities, re­gardless of location. You can embrace ethical tourism by staying at a locally owned hotel, shopping at a store that employs local workers and sells locally produced goods, and hiring a local guide whenever possible. Some other things to take into account are dress (in many countries, modest dress is important), behavior (asking permission before entering sacred places, for example), taking photos or video (always be sensitive and ask first), paying a fair price (not engaging in overly aggressive bargaining for souvenirs or short-changing on tips), and being careful about what you purchase (never buy crafts that may have been made from protected or endangered animals).

Responsible Travel ( is another good source of sustainable travel ideas. They even feature a carbon calculator on the site where travelers can calculate the carbon emissions from their flights and consider offsetting them by investing in carbon-reducing initiatives around the world.

–Taken from The Language Educator, October 2009, pages 16-17.

Habla Language Services’ Spanish immersion program to Costa Rica is ecofriendly. We really on locals for housing, cultural trips, and wherever else possible. Check out our page to find out more about learning Spanish in Costa Rica this summer!

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