A guide to respectful travel – My five key tips

I have just arrived home from the market where I go for my weekly supply. Instead of fuming as I too often do after such occasions, this time I decided to share a few words about how we could make our visit to a foreign place and space a pleasurable experience not only for ourselves but for our temporary hosts too.

There are preferred markets where I usually go, all in the centre of Budapest. I like one of them because it’s filled with fresh products sold directly by the producers. The other has a vibe that I enjoy, often accompanied by live music, although because of its popularity among tourists, its focus is becoming more and more on offering alcoholic drinks and snacks. And it’s always crowded. These are Sunday markets and the buildings that host them, turn into ruin bars for the rest of the week.

It’s a weekday so this morning I went to the market closest to me. You will inevitably hear about the Central Market Hall during your visit to Budapest, a shopping hub for both tourists and locals. On the ground floor, you mainly find vegetable and fruit stalls, and the second floor offers souvenirs and food. The first few days of the week are relatively quiet so I try to schedule my shopping accordingly but the rest of the week is challenging in terms of navigating the space. It’s packed with wandering tourists who pay no attention to those who are there to buy the ingredients for the day’s dinner.

This lack of consideration of the reality of locals is typical when we are abroad so here are my five tips for you to make sure that you will feel welcome even on your second visit to your favourite country.

Be aware of your body’s dimensions

There are close to 8 billion people in the world so unless you are in the seclusion of your home or lost in a jungle, accept that the space you occupy must be shared with others. Your sightseeing is no more or less important than the time of those who hurry to grab some lunch in the early afternoon.

Your culture is not the only one in the universe

When you visit a country that is more conservative than yours, follow the rules, be they written or unwritten. Do your research if it’s a new space you are entering. Those from financially more prosperous societies often expect full integration from visitors and immigrants. Why couldn’t we ensure we also respect the customs that we find on crossing our borders? Leave those bras and thongs for the beach.

You are not entitled to be understood in English

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone speaks English. If you deep-dive into relevant research, you will see that only about 6% of the world’s population are native English speakers. Keep this in mind when you approach someone during your travel. Learn a few basic words and sentences. Please and thank you, with a touch of humility, can work wonders.

Respect the environment as much as you respect people

Or even more, depending on your general attitude regarding humans. You don’t litter in your home, so don’t do that in others’ either. I’m mean, and when I see tourists casually throwing their garbage or cigarettes on the street, I point to the nearest trash can. There is usually one. The same applies if you visit a national park or an undisturbed forest. Leave only your footprints behind.

Support local businesses

Small shops, artisan products, and food stalls are all there for you to get a little closer to another culture. They provide an intimate insight into the way of thinking and values of local communities. Appreciate that you are privileged to get a taste of a brand-new world. International chains may seem like a safe choice in a foreign environment, but then why pay for another flight?

+1 Stag dos and hen dos

Congratulations! I’m so happy for you. You have found the love of your life and you are ready to tie the knot. But when you decide to organize your stag do abroad and let loose as if it there is no tomorrow, consider whether your loved one(s) would appreciate seeing you, as an adult, roaming the streets wearing nothing more than nappies, or a swimming ring. Locals might raise an eyebrow, believe me. Yes, I have seen it all.

Travelling respectfully is not only about following the rules. It might feel restrictive if you live in a society where individualism is above all but in reality, it’s about embracing a mindset of appreciation and empathy. Feeling connected to another culture will inevitably generate changes in our lives and enrich us in ways we didn’t expect. It challenges our preconceptions, leading to a more profound understanding of one another.

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