Updated: June 15, 2021 2:53:23 pm
Culture tourism has been gaining popularity in the last few years with many people wanting to avoid quintessential tourist destinations in exchange for experiencing local cultures and traditions first hand. Cultural tours expose travellers to historical and cultural wealth spanning centuries, encompassing small towns, festivals, unique rituals, and interactions with locals. Each tour has its own element of diversity that no other place can recreate, thus making it a more cherishable experience.
As is the case with every travel, here are some dos and don’ts when on a culture tour.
1. Pick the right tour guide
Your tour guide will be your window to the tour and picking the right one is extremely important. Tour guides need to go through rigorous training in languages, history, and geography for you to be able to gain the most from your tour through in-depth conversations, interactions with locals and finding hidden gems. So do find a tour guide you can trust and feel comfortable with.
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Research the culture and history, learn about the people and write questions that you want to find answers to. Learning more about the community is essential for intercultural communication and learning a few local greetings is recommended. It is also important you research the political atmosphere before embarking on a journey. Make sure you have transportation maps and have taken recommended vaccines.
3. Respect the culture
Remember you are a foreigner, things won’t always be to your liking. It is imperative that you respect the culture, people, traditions and rituals. It is important to dress appropriately and avoid using inappropriate language and gestures. Ensure that you take permission before taking anyone’s picture. Once you express your admiration for the culture, you are likely to gain more from the tour.
4. Contribute to the community
During your research, find out about local charities and communities you can offer contributions to (money, stationary, books, etc.). It is preferred that contributions are made to established organisations as they have a more long-term impact. Participate in any active campaigns or ongoing campaigns such as forest conservation, recycling, teaching etc.
5. Remember your safety is in your hands
Organise your tour through a reputed company, do external research and have contacts of emergency services handy. Remember to share your travel information with someone in your family. Arrange travel and health insurance and carry prescriptions. Avoid walking alone and always stay in groups. Travelling to hostile areas is not recommended; if you have doubts, inform your country’s high commission about your travels.
While you have done your research, avoid engaging in stereotypes and prejudices, not just towards the culture, but also with fellow international travellers. A cultural tour provides one with a great opportunity to enhance their intercultural communication skills, thus engaging in such offensive behaviours will not only impact your learning but also spoil other people’s experiences.
2. Exploit resources
Especially in remote areas, even basic resources such as water, gas and electricity are scarce so ensure you use them moderately. Locals may rely on renewable and non-conventional sources, so be sure to try them out. Carry your own spare set of batteries, power banks and torch. Carry personal trash bags and do not litter nature trails.
3. Disturb the flora, fauna and artifacts
Communities put enormous efforts to maintain their environmental surroundings; it is crucial to not pluck flowers or unroot any plants that would disturb their natural harmony. Hunting and attacking wild animals is a big no, not just for ethical reasons but also for personal safety. Don’t damage or take any artifacts, statues or historical pieces as it’s disrespectful. Don’t purchase prohibited animal products and antiques.
4. Drinking and drugs
Being intoxicated in unfamiliar surroundings can lead you to do embarrassing things, make you forgetful and put lives at risk. In the event of a mishap, medical assistance can be inaccessible as well. You should avoid consuming any local alcohol and drugs as you don’t know how your body will react.
You may have a lot of questions and ideas about your trip, but remember to be patient as cultural tours are more about immersion. When you’re calm and friendly, you will have smoother conversations with locals and they will show as much interest in you. Be curious and don’t hesitate to ask and clarify as it will help you build strong relationships with fellow travellers and locals.
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