RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL GUIDELINES FOR DRAGOMAN TRAVELLERS
The general principles here are valid throughout the world, and should be seen as guidelines to everywhere by travellers, staff, local guides and anyone involved in a Dragoman trip.
- Always treat the local people, flags and images of the head of state with respect.
- Always ask before taking photographs.
- Respect property and surroundings. Leave any place you visit as you found it, or even better than you found it.
- Learning a few words of the main local language or dialect is greatly appreciated by the people you meet and can help you get far more from your travel experience. E.g., in Latin America, try some Spanish or Portugese; in West Africa, some French is very useful; in East Africa, Swahili; in the Middle East some Arabic; and in India the odd word of Hindi.
- Using services of the local people, for example for clothes washing or as guides, helps to bring money into the local economies and hopefully minimises the need for begging.
- The laws of the countries we travel through should be respected and obeyed.
- You are not allowed to bring drugs or firearms on the truck under any circumstances.
- Always respect the local customs, cultural beliefs and religions.
- Observe the dress code of the areas you are travelling to (e.g. cover up in holy places). If you are not dressed according to local customs, it can cause offence and attract unwanted attention.
- Be aware of the differences in social behaviour and behave appropriately.
- Standards of acceptable behaviour vary greatly from place to place, and people of developing countries can often be easily shocked by “western” behaviour. E.g., in Muslim and Hindu societies it is impolite to use your left hand to eat with or to touch any common food or water, or for any unnecessary contact with others such as patting a child on the head, shaking hands or handing over money or a gift. Displays of intimacy are often not considered suitable in public.
- Acceptable physical contact and body language varies in different destinations. Knowing the social norms in the destinations you are travelling through will help you to avoid embarrassing situations and enhance your chances of meeting the locals.
Local Produce and Economy
- You will be confronted by extremes of wealth and poverty. Beggars are a fact of life – some are genuine, others are trying to cash in on the tourist trail. Whether you give money or gifts is a personal matter, but it is strongly encouraged to only give to a local charity or school.
- Tipping can form the base of the local economy. Some people rely solely on tips.
- When bargaining for goods, please bear in mind that 10 cents is nothing to you but might be a lot to the vendor.
- Avoid buying items made from any of the following: ivory, coral, certain shells, conches, rare animal hide, rhino, turtle or tortoise.
- Do not be tempted to buy ancient artefacts such as pottery, which were possibly stolen from graves or unexplored tombs etc. Purchasing such items is not only irresponsible, but is most likely illegal and could get you arrested.
- Do not squander water, especially where it is in short supply. For example, in deserts you will be asked to keep water for washing to an absolute minimum.
- Always ask permission before using a well or pump in a village, and do not wash at such places unless the locals are.
- When using a lake or stream to wash in, in order not to pollute the locals’ drinking water please use a bowl and wash at least 20 yards away from the water source.
- Do not fish from lakes or rivers where it is known that there are depleted stocks, e.g. Lake Malawi.
- We do not collect firewood in areas where there is a shortage of such fuel (e.g. desert and sahel regions). Elsewhere, when fires are used, wood should not be wasted by having huge fires. Unnatural fires can cause great destruction, so take care to put out a fire well if you are the last to leave it.
- A truck full of travellers causes a surprising amount of waste. We ask that you all do as much as possible to minimise this.
- In general, truck rubbish should be disposed of in the following way: paper would be recycled, biodegradable items should be buried, and containers etc. should be recycled or given away. This is not always possible everywhere, but your leaders will advise you further concerning this matter.
- All our trucks carry shovels and small spades for toilet stops, so please make sure that all waste is properly buried or disposed of.
- Rather than using plastic bags for shopping stops, please use reusable, longer-lasting bags.
- It is better to buy drinks in returnable glass bottles wherever possible rather than in cans, which must be disposed of.
- Our trucks have large tanks carrying water which we keep constantly purified. It is far more environmentally-friendly to use our tanks as your water supply than to continually buy bottled water, leaving a trail of plastic bottles behind us.
- Smokers – please don’t leave your butts behind!
Flora and Fauna
- In all National Parks and Reserves, noise should be kept to a minimum so as not to disturb the animals, or any other game-watchers.
- When travelling in the open roof seats this should be particularly noted. Drivers, local or otherwise, should not be encouraged to drive off tracks to get closer to animals. Driving off tracks has a detrimental effect on the environment.
- Throw nothing from the truck at any time (e.g. rubbish, food, etc.)
- Animals should not be touched, goaded, fed or generally disturbed in any way.
- Try not to damage any plant life which you come across. This includes such things as picking flowers (which may be rare) and touching live coral while snorkelling or diving.
- There is an illegal trade in wild animals in many countries we travel through and it should be strongly discouraged. On no account should you be tempted to buy a live animal from the wild, whatever the story from the salesman.
- Strictly follow the rules given by your tracking guides.
- Do not remove rare items from their surroundings (e.g. stone roses in the Sahara Desert).