Top 6 tips for travelling responsibly in Africa

9 April 2021

The experience was all that mattered when it came to enjoying a holiday somewhere special. Now, it’s about having the time of your life while keeping the wellbeing of the environment and the local community in mind, too.

Here are a few tips from the Flight Centre team on how to travel responsibly going forward, particularly when other regions of South Africa and countries on the African continent are your destinations of choice.

Local is lekker

Whether you’re travelling to South Africa, the Maldives, Zanzibar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Kenya or Mozambique, you’ll find small businesses everywhere. From a quaint coffee shop along a quiet road or a street vendor selling handmade wire art or fruit and veggies, make an effort to scope entrepreneurs out and support them. If you’re not sure where to start looking, it’s always worthwhile to chat to a manager at your hotel or guesthouse for guidance and recommendations. Or, better yet, strike up a conversation with a local while you’re out and about doing some exploring.

Consider visiting the farmers’ and craft markets while you’re in town. These markets are always brimming with small-scale producers selling a broad variety of wares. It’s certain to make for the perfect responsible travel day out.

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Fill your itinerary with ethical, eco-conscious activities

There are a few considerations to keep in mind when planning your itinerary:

  • Do your best to support small businesses
  • Make sure that all activities are conducted ethically, especially when an activity involves an animal interaction of any kind.
  • Make sure that the activity provider has prioritised sustainability.

A few fantastic options to keep in mind include signing up for eco-safaris, walking safaris, hikes along scenic trails as well as going kayaking, cycling, and doing a little bit of volunteer work during your time away.

Re-assess your daily habits

While you’ve probably already tried to keep your carbon footprint to a minimum in your everyday life, heading off on vacation somewhere in Africa is a great time to take your efforts one step further.

Most importantly, pay special attention to your water usage while on holiday. Millions of people across the African continent don’t have easy access to safe, clean water. In short, water is a valuable resource and it’s vital for everyone to use it sparingly. So, take short showers, request to re-use your towels at your hotel rather than having them washed and replaced daily, wear your clothes more than once if they’re not dirty, turn off the tap when brushing your teeth, etc. These small changes make a big difference in the long run.

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Respect and embrace the local cultures

One of the best parts of venturing further into Africa is the opportunity to delve deeper into the local cultures. There are many travel suppliers offering authentic experiences that allow travellers to immerse themselves in the local way of life, and these experiences also help to support local communities.

Just remember to treat the local people like exactly that – people. Always ask before snapping photos of anyone else (particularly when touring a local village, somebody’s home and when children are involved) and travel with an open mind and be open to new experiences – whether it’s trying a different food or activity.

Get clued-up on local customs

Some cultures and tribes across Africa are more conservative than others and it’s important to remain sensitive to this fact. South Africa is arguably the most progressive and ‘modern’ in this regard. However, in countries like Uganda, women are not allowed to wear shorts or skirts above the knee. In counties like Seychelles, men should wear long trousers and women are encouraged to wear more formal outfits, particularly in the evenings. In other countries on the continent, travellers are encouraged (and sometimes obliged) to cover their heads and or take off their shoes when visiting certain religious sites. In order to be considerate and avoid any potential issues during your travels, it’s always worthwhile to conduct some research surrounding this topic before your scheduled departure.

If you’re keen to make a great impression, take the time to familiarise yourself with other important customs. For example:

  • Elders are deserving of the utmost respect across most African countries.
  • Only ever eat with your right hand when dining at traditional restaurants or in a local’s home. The left hand is reserved for those unsanitary tasks that usually take place after enjoying a meal!
  • Avoid discussing heavy topics during mealtimes. Small talk is permitted, and long silences are commonplace, so don’t let them make you uncomfortable.

Tip whenever you can

Finally, a generous tip when it’s well-deserved can go a long way towards making you a responsible and pleasant traveller. You’ll find that your kindness is always greatly appreciated and can make a huge difference when it comes to supporting the local community as a whole. If you can’t afford to tip every service person with whom you come into contact, a big smile and a hearty ‘thank you’ (bonus points if it’s in the local language) should suffice.

Ready to embark on your African getaway? Don’t forget to get in touch with a Flight Centre Travel Expert for up-to-the-minute advice, unmissable travel deals and peace of mind when making any booking.