Traveling to World Heritage sites is rewarding! It is about exploring unique environments, engaging with cultural splendors, experiencing a different way of life, and building lasting memories. Follow these great travel tips to enhance your trip AND benefit the World Heritage sites you visit.
Find out as much as possible. The more you know about a World Heritage site before arriving, the more the site will come alive. Look into the site’s history, culture, natural environment, customs, legends, advisory notices and more. UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre is a great starting point. http://whc.unesco.org
• Learn a few words in the local language. Making an effort to speak the local language allows you to interact with the people who know the site best. People appreciate your efforts and your interest in learning. Simple words like “Hello,” “Please” and “Thank you” can go a long way.
• Pack light. It is tempting to pack everything you think you might need, but remember to be smart about your necessities. Packaging items like the paper box to your film or the plastic wrapping of your new toothbrush simply consume space in your bag and can create excess trash for the World Heritage site.
• Lodging choices. Look for hotels that have a written policy covering their environmental impact, employment and cultural policy. The World Heritage Alliance Principles can serve as guideline criteria while selecting your hotel.
• Explore transportation options. Remember that traveling affects the environment. Wherever possible, try to minimize your pollution and impact on the environment by looking to alternative transportation and off-setting your carbon emissions.
Engage in local culture. The saying, “While in Rome do as the Romans” still applies today. Your trip provides a unique opportunity to explore a new culture and to see the world through a different perspective. Remember that eating local foods, shopping in local markets, and attending local festivals are all part of experiencing the culture.
• Buy local products and services. Choosing to support locally owned businesses, community tour operators, and artisans means that you’ll have a one-of-a-kind experience and your money will go directly to the community. Before purchasing goods, ask about their origin. Avoid buying products made from threatened natural resources and report poaching and other illegal activities to the local authorities.
• Refrain from aggressive bargaining. It’s often difficult to know your limits in bargaining so if you’re not sure, ask your local hotel for tips. Remember that the purchases you make directly affect vendors’ livelihoods, so decide if you really need to hang onto that extra dollar or if it could impact the vendor more.
• Hire local guides. Enrich your experience by choosing local guides who are knowledgeable about the destination. Ask local tour operators and hotels for good recommendations.
• Tread lightly. These destinations are World Heritage sites because of their exceptional natural or cultural splendor. Do your part to keep them that way by following designated trails, respecting caretakers, and not removing archaeological or biological treasures from sites.
• Respect the natural environment. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Even though you are just visiting and not paying the utility bill, disposing of your garbage properly and minimizing your consumption of water and energy will benefit the overall destination.
• Think of the Big Picture. While it is important to support local economy, certain tourist activities and souvenirs can damage a fragile World Heritage site. Say ‘no’ to souvenirs that are a piece of the site itself, and to tourist activities that may be harmful to a site’s longevity.
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