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How to go local responsibly
How can I help the local economy?
First and foremost, travel locally, using local guides and services such as the ones listed on www.leaplocal.org/locals/map/. This is the best way to make sure the money you spend stays in the local economy. Review the services on the website so that future travellers have more choice of and confidence in the services offered and so that more local people can benefit. Try to minimise the number of internal flights you take and travel by land, especially by public transport, where possible. Choosing a couple of areas you particularly want to see and exploring them slowly and in depth with a local guide will give you a more satisfying and interesting trip than ticking cities and sites off a list, keeping you off the tourist trail and therefore spreading the money you spend to people who don’t normally see so many travellers. Respect the local culture by having an open mind to other customs and cultures and showing appreciation of their dress, language, customs, food, etc. If someone asks you a word in English why not ask what it is in the local language? Read up what you can about the culture before you go and be a good ambassador for your own culture, always patient, polite and friendly. If you have a guide, ask him or her about the culture and how to act in situations you are not sure about. Always ask before taking a photo of a person. In more touristy places in Peru some locals expect a small tip in exchange for taking a photo.
Should I barter over a price?
In some cultures it is reasonable to barter but there is no need to leave the vendor with virtually no profit margin. In Peru, it is usual to barter for crafts or other souvenirs (try starting at about 60% of the first asking price), and sometimes for lodging but not for food. With guides and other services on the Leap Local website, if a price is really way out of your budget and you just cant afford it, it may be that the local has stated an unrealistic price or can find economies for your trip so you could try asking the local whether he or she could offer a lower rate. However, remember that organisation takes time and that agencies are usually much more expensive because they charge for their admin as well as profit for the owner. Be aware too that the prices on the recommendations are guide prices only, and may have changed or be different from those stated.
What should I give to local people?
Whilst it is very important to pay directly and fairly for services provided, think carefully before giving out handouts from someone who has done nothing for you in return, because it creates a culture of dependency or begging. Reciprocity is fundamental to many cultures and if you don’t respect this you undermine the principle. This is not to say that you should not be generous, just that if you give indiscriminately be aware that you may doing more harm than good. If you want to take a present to the children of family you stay with in addition to the payment made to the adults, you might want to take fruit or stationery to the children rather than sweets or money for example. If you wish to give money try to find a responsible organisation that works locally to improve people’s lives. Big aid organisations like Oxfam also work with trusted local partners if you cant find a local organisation you trust to donate too.
How should I react to people pestering me in the street with goods to sell?
Just a simple No Thank You (preferably in the local language) if you don’t want the goods. It can get frustrating but just think how much more frustrating the lives of the people trying to sell to you might be and that should help you feel less irritated.
If trekking, follow the Leave only Footprints guidelines:
Bag litter and take it out with you
Dont disturb Flora and fauna
Light no fires.
Beware of the many terms used to market tours that are not at all responsible. “Ecotourism” is often used to describe tourism in a natural habitat but this term does not guarantee that the operator or guide is responsible or sensitive to the effect taking people to that habitat might have on the ecosystem.