Ever since our first experiment with AirBnB (where we snagged a New York City...
First, do no harm.
It’s an oath sworn by physicians and a pledge that every traveler should make as well. As guests in the places we visit the very least we can do is respect our hosts by not hurting their country or their people.
Unfortunately such pledges are easier made than kept. That’s especially true in areas of the world that lack strong regulations protecting vulnerable populations. It’s not uncommon to see plenty of exploitive activities marketed to tourists. And sometimes those activities are even cleverly disguised to prey on our very desire to do good.
Visiting and volunteering in a children’s orphanage in Cambodia, for example, sounds like a good way of directing your travel dollars to a worthwhile cause. That is until you learn about the fake orphanages that separate children from their parents for the sole purpose of separating tourists from their money.
So how do you travel ethically when unscrupulous tour operators do every thing they can to hide the truth of their operations? Here are some suggestions.
If you’ve ever had the sneaking suspicion that online booking sites are messing with you, that’s because they are. They know where you’ve been. They may very well know your buying history and your preferences. And they’re increasingly using all of that information against you.
One thing we’ve found particularly egregious is something we’ll call “locational pricing.” That’s when different people in different locations are charged different prices for the same exact thing. Mostly we’ve found that locals get better rates than travelers even when buying stuff online. It’s an extension of the Vagabond Tax we’ve commented on previously. But at least this one you can beat.
Machete-wielding workmen once hacked their way through dense jungle, toting supplies and construction equipment up a steep mountainside. Their backbreaking efforts began in 1383 and produced Wat Phra That, a gleaming Buddhist temple that’s hard for visitors to Chiang Mai to miss. Perched high on Doi (Mount) Suthep, it’s visible from the city and appears on every list of must-see highlights in the area.
Take a comfortably familiar environment complete with western style cafes and jazz clubs, add a dash of the exotic, a splash of perpetual summer, a sprinkle of the affordability common throughout South East Asia and you’ve just cooked up something approximating life in Chiang Mai, Thailand.