GIC Argentina Responsible Travel
Who doesn’t love all the learning, challenges, and adventures that traveling brings? But however fun it is to explore a new place, it is always important to think about the impact that your actions as a traveler will have on the place you are visiting. Here are some tips, based on the website www.responsible-travel.org, for thinking about how to make your experience culturally appropriate, personally enriching, and environmentally sensitive:
Read up on the culture, customs, and recent history of the place you are traveling!
How do people greet one another? In Argentina, for example, people greet one another with a kiss on the right cheek, even between men (although men also frequently shake hands). What is the local language and how do you say the basics – hello, please, thank you – in the language? What is the political system and who is the political leader? What major things have happened there recently?
Use your money to support the local economy.
Choose artisan handicrafts sold directly by the artisan over goods sold in big stores or hotel lobbies. Try to eat where the locals eat instead of favoring tourist complexes or McDonalds. Stay in ower-run bed and breakfasts or homestays rather than international hotel chains. Use local tourist companies rather than international ones. Buy goods produced inside the country rather than imported goods.
Do as the locals do.
If you’re ever unsure what’s appropriate to do or say, take a cue from the locals. How do they dress? Is it rude to show certain parts of your body? What’s considered good taste? When in doubt, ask the opinions of locals to find out what is culturally acceptable. You certainly will have your own feelings about local customs, but try not to belittle the ways of others. You may even find that participating in local customs gives you a different outlook on the world! This of course includes finding out about local laws and respecting those laws, even when they are very different from the laws in your home country. In the major cities of Argentina like Buenos Aires or Córdoba, the cultural differences will be fairly superficial – but if you travel to more rural areas of Argentina, you may find these differences to be much greater.
Seek out opportunities to give back.
Instead of giving change to people begging on the street, think about ways to make a broader impact. Can you volunteer your time to a meaningful organization? Can you donate money to a good cause? Always favor supporting organizations that create opportunities for marginalized communities, rather than those that create new relations of dependence. This is especially true in indigenous communities where tourism has become a new means of subsistence, but at the cost of local autonomy and development.
Be conscious of the resources you are using.
Don’t let the water run, leave the lights on, or litter the street. If you have the option to choose something with little packaging, do so. Find out where you can recycle!
Treat natural areas with utmost respect.
Argentina is blessed with countless natural wonders: the tallest mountain in South America, the astonishing Iguazú falls, the fertile wine valleys of Mendoza, the pristine rivers and lakes of Córdoba, stark deserts of Salta, the pampas, the whale breeding grounds of Puerto Madryn, the region of Patagonia… these wonders rightly call the attention of thousands of tourists every year. Nevertheless, the impact of so many people entering and leaving these natural environments changes their balance and strains the local ecosystem. This doesn’t mean you should miss out, but it does mean you should favor low impact tourist activities over higher ones, use eco-tourist agencies when possible, stick to marked trails and be responsible for your trash. Also, remember it is often prohibited to remove anything from national parks, so don’t take any natural keepsakes with you!
By keeping these tips in mind, you can make your trip a mutually beneficial experience for yourself and for the places you visit!