Responsible traveller and volunteer tips during volunteering and adventure

Travelers fully experience places, rather than merely observing them. To do this they must first accept them. Accept that Nepal is not that developed, that life is difficult here and sometimes out of their comfort zone and that life operates at a different pace, and that local people are fascinated by them and sometimes stare.

Stop making comparisons with home comforts or other holidays. It's not just holiday and traveling. You are choosing volunteering so that you could make some difference and real change to the places and people here. Just be. Only then can you truly observe new people and places and understand the dynamics which will help for your purpose here in Nepal.

Bis hajari taal( Twenty thousand lake)on Chitwan,Nepal. Nature walk and bird watching is fun here and thousands of birds migrate here from Siberia.

What is Responsible Travel or Tourism? For DAV Nepal it’s about delivering volunteer and travel programs that provide social, environmental and economic net benefits to our host communities/countries, while educating and inspiring our volunteers to make travel choices that minimize negative impacts of tourism. The principles of responsible travel are deeply established in DAV’s core values. We strongly believe in conducting our programs ethically and behaving respectfully and responsibly in the communities in which we operate.  Part of our organization’s mandate is to encourage and facilitate responsible travel behavior in our volunteers. We do this by:

  • Carefully selecting volunteer projects and adventure tour
  • Educating participants about their host country: awareness and appreciation of cultural and natural history, social development, economy, environmental challenges, and so on;

How do we try and encourage DAV Nepal volunteers about responsible travel?

  1. Prior to Departure: Providing country specific information and encouraging individuals to learn about the religion, geography, climate, environmental issues, social and economic issue etc., of their host country and the communities they would be working on
  2. During the Volunteer Programs: Running a group discussion specifically on the principles of responsible volunteering and  traveling to introduce some key concepts and get everyone excited about all they will do, see and learn on our programs
  3. During the Adventure Tour: Each day, DAV Nepal Tour Leaders give locally-specific information about the destination, its heritage value and/or environmental significance, keeping it lively and interesting. Participants are encouraged for more economically, socially and environmentally responsible travel.  Below are some general tips and guidelines that should apply to all travelers and volunteering experiences.

Trek on Annapurna conservation area, first conservation area in Nepal which covers an area of 7,692 sq. Km. and is home to 100,000 residents of different cultural groups. Rich in its biodiversity it is a treasure house for 1,226 species of flowering plants, 102 mammals, 447 birds, 39 reptiles and 22 amphibians).

Your Behavior

Respect the local law and culture – Always abide the local laws as you are bound by them when you travel in a foreign country.  Remember you are a guest in someone else’s country. You should show respect for the traditions and cultural behaviors of local people who may have different beliefs and practices than you.

Nick from USA enjoying local festival with his host family in Patihani, Chitwan, Nepal.

Dress Modestly – To respect the local culture, dress as the locals dress and/or perhaps dress modestly.

Drink responsibly (or not at all) – Always keep in mind that you are perceived as a traveler, and as an ambassador of your home country.
For your safety and for the safety of those around you, always drink responsibly and in accordance to the law.

Travel Lightly – Where possible, get around on public bus, foot, by bicycle. It’s a great way to meet local on their terms and reduce pollution and carbon emissions.

Speak the Language – Make an effort to learn a few words in the local language as the locals will appreciate it and respect you for your efforts. And it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Read the Signs! Ever notice signs along a nature trail? Take a minute and read them as they are designed to enhance your understanding and appreciation and maybe give you important safety advice.

Respect Nature – During tour and adventure stick to designated tracks and trails and think carefully about how you can minimize negative interactions between yourself, wildlife and local people.

Ask Questions – You will appreciate your travel more by learning about the local culture, history and environment.  Make the most of small interactions with local people, in markets, on the street and during daily life. Also remember that local people might have different ways of thinking and concepts of time, this just makes them different from you not wrong- develop the habit of asking questions.

Leave No Trace – Take only memories, leave only footprints should be adopted at all times.  And of course you could include photographs on memories.


Scherie Nicol from Scotland ready for preparing her new local dress from the local tailor in Nepal.

  1. Buy Locally Made and Fair Trade – Money spent here will contribute directly to the local livelihood so if possible find out exactly what you are buying and where it is made. Products (particularly fair-trade products) made locally help protect jobs and support local industry.

    Locally made products in Nepal can be used as souvenirs for friends and families back home
  2. Bargain/Barter ethically- Be careful not to exploit the poverty and need of vendors.
  3. Wildlife Products – Be careful to avoid any product made from an endangered plant or animal. By choosing not to buy these products you are helping to lower the demand for such illegal trade.  
  4. Customs Regulations –You may buy something special in your host country only to find out that you can’t bring it back home with you (for good reason). Many plants, animals, and other products harbor diseases, bacteria, and other organisms that are foreign to your home, and wherefore potentially harmful to the local flora, fauna, and ultimately your health. Always fill out your customs declaration cards honestly, and if in doubt, declare it!

Chitwan, Nepal : explore local shops, there’s no more ethical volunteering than encouraging local products and  local entrepreneurs

Eating and Drinking

1.    Eat Locally – Skip the fast food chains in city and packed foods in rural areas to have a real cultural experience by trying the local cuisine. Ask our local coordinator for some tips on wise and safe food choices from street and village markets.

Responsible Volunteering

For volunteers, responsible volunteering involves having an open mind, preparing yourself well      before hand, being ready to learn from the host community, respecting and taking time to understand those you work with and taking time to research and find a responsible volunteer organization.

  1. Do your research-  Take time to really learn about the organization you would like to volunteer with
  2. Ask lot of Questions- Don’t just book online. Pick up the phone and talk with organization or mail them and ask lot of questions about the project, the goals, involvement of the local people and where your money is spent.
  3. Pre placement preparation and in- country support- Any responsible volunteering organization should offer you the training and orientation before you start your placement. They should have some sort of support system during emergency and in need. Do check if you are provided with that or not.
  4. A few months is effective than few weeks-  it will take you some time to learn the language, settle in and get to know the people and the local need. So the longer you can volunteer the more effective your placement would be.
  5. Question your motivation for volunteering

Patihani, Chitwan: it is possible to discover another culture respectfully and positively.

We hope each of our volunteers have  fun, safe and meaningful journey with us and that this information will help encourage you to think about your impact as you travel and volunteer. We will do our best to make your journey meaningful and adventurous with DAV Nepal.

To learn more about DAV Nepal and our programs visit our website

Thank you

Cover Image: 
Shasank Sharma