13 ways travellers can give


So you’ve saved up, booked your flights and you’re soon taking off on holiday to embark on fabulous experiences in amazing new destinations. And amongst the excited anticipation it dawns on you: Aren’t I lucky to be able to do this? To travel to new lands…to have the disposable income to be able to make this choice, knowing that half the world doesn’t have this option.

So are you selfish? You could be. Or you could make the choice to include more give, less take, into your travels. Now we don’t mean randomly handing out cashola to relieve the guilt trip. We’re talking about making some smart travel choices with thought to greater consequences. Here’s 13 helpful tips on how your travel ‘investment’ can be a whole lot more giving, enriching innumerably more lives than just yours!

1. Sleep easy – accommodation can be one of the bigger slices of your travel expense pie, so if you choose to stay in hotels, guesthouses and lodges that are owned and operated by local people you will directly benefit their lives and the local economy.

2. Real life experiences – seek out how the local folk spend their recreational time, and join them, rather than restricting yourself to ticking off the popular tourist sites. Whether it be an evening stroll in a piazza in Southern Europe, playing cricket in India, tai chi in the early hours in China, dancing in the streets in Latin America – being relaxed, spontaneous and open to whatever is going on – can bring you the most memorable moments in travel when you can meet local people, and make friends.

3. Transport me – choosing local transport services, particularly public transport is a great way to support the local economy, travel the ways the locals do and make new friends along the way. Take the train or public bus for fewer carbon emissions.

4. Shopping with intent – purchase gifts and souvenirs from local artisans, independent shops, or social enterprises, rather than from the mass market. Pay the vendor a fair price, helping them earn a decent wage. If bargaining is the norm, keep the process friendly, positive and polite, aiming for a balance that suits both buyer and seller. Bear in mind that a small amount of money to you, may be the value of a meal to the stall holder.

5, Making friends – offering your hand in friendship to the people you meet, can be the greatest gift of all. Respecting and thanking hosts for their welcome, taking the time to learn and understand more about their culture and sharing insights into your own life, family, hopes and dreams – can bring out the common humanity. If we all took the time to understand each other better, perhaps world peace would be possible!

6. Material stuff – clothing, books and medical supplies may be needed in your destination, but do your homework first before carrying stuff to donate. There are several organisations now which work to link travellers and their spare luggage capacity to local NGOs. Number one rule though is not to take items that haven’t been requested!  Effective material aid can be complex! For more information on this subject see our story: What helps most – stuff or money?

7. Photos – get permission, verbally or non-verbally, before photographing someone. But better still be present with people and interact with them first. Share the digital image on your camera, and where it would be appreciated and its possible, send back copies.

8. Youth training projects – in many developing countries there are terrific restaurants, cafes, bars and bakeries where young people from disadvantaged backgrounds can gain hospitality skills and better their lives through learning to prepare and serve delicious food. There are many across Asia – for more details see our story: Eating out for good

9. Child wise – don’t buy items from children, or give them handouts or money. You may well be contributing to keeping them out of school. Share your time, a game, a song or some fun – and if you really want to give something meaningful for their future – do this through an established well run organisation – The Intrepid Foundation has some great suggestions.

10. Beggars – it’s complicated! It’s always best to get local advice on the true situation for people begging in a particular location. If they’re elderly or have disabilities – is there any social welfare, or might this be their only means of survival? In some major tourist sites, beggars may be part of a bigger mafia or organised crime unit. Child beggars – see point 9.

11. Be a locavore – seek out the food and drink that’s locally produced, in season and fresh. Not only are you supporting local producers, and no doubt savouring their local specialties, but you are also reducing the emissions from long haul transport and storage.

12. Volunteer at home – supporting an international development organisation from your home country, can be a great way to give and continue to keep in touch with some of your amazing developing country destinations.

13. Effective donations – donate to reputable organisations, addressing needs in a destination. Intrepid can suggest organisations in 25 countries working in the areas of health care, education, human rights, child welfare, sustainable development and in environmental and wildlife protection through The Intrepid Foundation. And Intrepid Travel can match your donation!

Photo by Candice Sunney in India.

About the author

Jane Crouch - Jane is a responsible business guru who writes about all aspects of how travel can bring positive environmental, social and economic benefits. Informed through travel on seven continents, leading Intrepid trips through SE Asia, work in outdoor education, energy conservation, international development, philanthropy and climate change action, plus a big love of walking, mountains and world music.

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Very good article with handy hints.

While recently in Cambodia, I bought 24 pack of bottled water. I’d carry a few around in my back pack each day. If I felt the tuk tuk driver was honest in his price and was friendly, along with the fare and tip, I’d give him a bottle of water.

I also gave bottles of water to people who were working hard like the two guys who were picking rubbish up off the streets in sweltering 35 degree weather and putting it in a push cart. The cart was full, and they were drenched in sweat. So I smiled and gave them a bottle of water each and they smiled back and were very thankful.

There was also a lady cutting the grass in a park, using just a pair of scissors. She had a long way to go, I hope the water helped her do her job that day.

It was my second time to Cambodia, I’m in love with that country and know I’ll be return again in the future.


Thanks for sharing your uplifting experience Steve. I suspect what these local people responded to most was your friendly engagement with them, your acknowledgement of their good and hard work and your smile. You recognised and appreciated their efforts.

Your intentions are obviously very kind-hearted, but one thing you might want to consider is not giving ‘things’, and preferably not bottled water for environmental reasons. It can be a tricky situation when we’re in developing countries, but when there’s a business transaction, like with the tuk tuk driver, a small tip is often greatly appreciated. And with the others…a good test of an action is the universal question: “What if everyone did this?” or “How would I feel if someone did this to me?” With the workers you passed, a smile and positive, encouraging body language speaks volumes.

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