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Ecotourism Code of Conduct for Travellers
by A. B. Petropoulos, Editor, ECOCLUB
under constant construction & refinement

About: Beyond our basic ecotourism principles, we have hesitated many years to offer a fixed set of guidelines, as we generally choose variety over conformity, debating over dictating, and constant improvement over holy infallibility. However others, less involved or informed have not hesitated. Therefore, in the context of our September 2007 decision to move towards an Ecotourism 2.0, a more political, potent and practical Ecotourism, we have decided to take the risk and offer a general framework for Ecotourist conduct, as well as a rating process for Ecolodges. This code of conduct is not ground in stone and we aim to constantly improve it with the assistance of our Members around the world. The code is broken into three main sections, so as to be slightly easier to remember: "Before", "During" but also "After a Journey - At Home" as Ecotourism like Ecology (Oikos + logos) starts and ends at home, our private home and our common home, Earth.

(Before setting out on your journey)

1. Study before you travel: history, culture, environment, basic phrases, health precautions.
2. Plan your itinerary to maximise enjoyment and minimise unnecessary transport.
3. Seek eco-friendly hotels, community-owned hotels, family-owned hotels and ecotours online.
4. Discuss with fellow eco-enthusiasts who have been there or live there, online or offline.
5. Try booking direct so as to save money to spend at your destination.
6. Pack appropriate items for your destination, travel light.
7. House - check utilities, remove power plugs, cords, water the plants drip irrigation, empty fridge - foods to relatives, friends, neighbours.
8. Consider bringing gifts for people you are planning to meet - gifts that promote cultural exchange, eco-products (organic, vegetarian, non-violent, appropriate for destination). Do not bring items that may offend, such as clothes, unless you are visiting a really destitute area. Chances are that money is more useful.
9. Go to your airport, train or bus station using public transport. Travel economy, save money to spend locally.
10. Think twice before carbon-offsetting your journey. Consider if the offsetter is a reputable one and investing in transparent, relevant social and environmental projects. Consider that you can pay this money directly to a cause or project of your choice in your destination, or by making an extra effort to use eco transport and eco accommodation.

(During your journey)


  • Prefer public transport. Share private transport with locals (rides) and other travellers. Be cautious but not hysteric with personal safety.

  • Instead of immersing yourself in your book, try interacting with other passengers, it may prove the most enjoyable and educational part of your journey.

  • Do not show off expensive items (if you have taken with you) avoid generating jealousy.

  • Give up your seat on a bus. Nothing more annoying for local people to see young foreigners taking up the seats for elderly people.


  • Conserve electricity and water.

  • Avoid chemicals to avoid mosquitoes and other bugs, opt for natural products, and nets.

  • Try explain to your hosts why you picked their hotel (due to their endorsement of ecological principles) offer them realistic ideas on how to improve the guest experience, if they are eager to listen. Write polite but honest reviews in guest books.


  • Remain on trails, keep far from wildlife, be silent, wear natural colours, do not take or introduce anything to the environment.

  • In protected or archaeological areas, do not disrupt scientists at work.

  • Be appreciative and genuinely interested to learn new things, do not try to outsmart local guides or impress them with your vast knowledge and travel experience.

  • Stop your guide if they try to do something inappropriate to wildlife for your amusement, and politely explain why tourists are no longer interested in such gimmicks. Do not insist on watching wildlife in case your guides go overboard to satisfy you.

  • Do not constantly compare your country with your destination, relax!

  • Try to immerse and pace yourself - keep a balance between Museums, cultural events, meeting people, visiting protected areas, monuments.


  • Prefer the local family shop to the multinational chain.

  • Buy local products for necessities. Don't carry everything with you.

  • Do not buy items made from endangered plants or animals.

  • If bargain is tolerated, do not bargain excessively

  • Support local publishers, buy local guides - offer detail.

  • Support traditional, locally-made crafts when buying gifts for loved ones back at home.


  • Prefer local food to international cuisine. Choose in season dishes, try vegetarianism.

  • Pay attention to hygienic conditions but do not overdo it, treat food as part of your exploration. Taste is one of the 5 senses through which you will perceive your destination.

  • Prefer fresh local juice to imported condensed one.

  • Respect alcohol-related laws.

  • Use a thermos (& purifying tablets if needed) rather than plastic water bottles.


  • Wear appropriate clothes at all times. Your target is to feel comfortable. When in Rome dress like the Romans.

  • Have nothing to do with the sex tourism industry. Avoid sleazy areas and opt for high quality, genuine cultural events.

  • Avoid insulting local sensitivities relating to morals, politics or traditions.

  • Share experiences, information and rides with fellow travellers but not only with them, interact with local people, seek ecological organisations and movements.

  • Pay a visit (and money...) to local projects that support local society, environment, economy.

  • Observe violations of environmental laws, human rights (abuse to women, children, minorities), animal rights (cruelty to animals). Speak up only when it will not put you in an unsafe situation, or better report to an appropriate local or international organisation. Take a picture if possible to substantiate your claims.

  • Do not correct locals when using your own language incorrectly unless they ask you to do so.

  • Similarly do not barge into the homes of locals in tourist sites, respect their privacy.

  • Do not photograph locals without asking, and don't over do it when they accept. Offer to delete a photo you have taken if the person was for some reason offended or changed his/her mind. Be sensitive about religious, cultural or security sites.

  • If the destination you are visiting does not have suitable recycling facilities, take your rubbish (plastic, batteries) with you. For the same purpose prefer reusable items - razors, rechargeable batteries, thermos instead of plastic bottles.

  • Do not encourage children to expect sweets, money or presents from foreigners, nor their parents to use the children so as to sell products or services to tourists. Child labour in Tourism is not a sacred local tradition or custom that you necessarily need to respect.

  • If you promise something to people you meet (sending a picture, a letter), make sure you can keep your word!

(At Home, remembering, not forgetting)

  • Consider organising a slide-show for good friends and relatives to increase interest knowledge and dispel misconceptions about the wonderful place you have just been to.

  • Keep your promises to people you have met.

  • Send a thank you note by email, or a postcard to your hosts.

  • If you were satisfied, recommend these hosts to your friends.

  • Try linking up with people from the country you have just visited and happen to live in your city. Visit an ethnic restaurant, a cultural centre, a shop. Tell them how much you liked their home, and they will love yours.

  • Keep up to date with news developments in that country, and check to see if news reports in your country correspond to what you have just observed. If not, protest!

  • Re-read the guidebooks and contact authors to correct errors, especially those about cultural and environmental issues.

  • At home, keep reducing, reusing, recycling, using public transport, and being as kind to your fellow citizens and neighbours, as to exotic strangers. Ecotourism starts at home!

  • Unlike bureaucratic & know-it-all documents, we choose to end with Ithaka (Ιθάκη) the famous
    C. P. Cavafy poem that advises travellers far more eloquently...

C.P. Cavafy - " Ithaka " (1911)
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.


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