Responsible Tourism

Responsible tourism is tourism which:

  • minimizes negative social, economic and environmental impacts

  • generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities

  • improves working conditions and access to the industry

  • involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances

  • makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage embracing diversity

  • provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues

  • provides access for physically challenged people

  • is culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence"

Cape Town Declaration, 2002

Tips for Responsible Travel in Ethiopia

  • Learn some local words: Ethiopians are usually surprised and enthusiastic if you make an effort to learn a few words of their language.  Even if you don't get the words right, it is often a good way of breaking the ice!
  • Be sensitive about gifts: Unfortunately, many Ethiopians do live in poverty and as a tourist, you are likely to encounter beggars.  Try to gauge your response from other Ethiopians around you.  For example, many Ethiopians will give small amounts (a few birr) to the elderly or disabled, provided they are not begging aggressively.  In general, avoid giving to children and hasslers, as this promotes truancy from school and a culture of begging.
  • Support local tourism: A variety of community tours are offered across Ethiopia which are locally run and provide valuable employment and income opportunities for local communities, whilst you receive a genuine and interactive experience.
  • Dress respectfully: Outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is still a very traditional country.  Particularly in the more rural areas, women are advised to wear clothing that covers their knees, chests and shoulders, so as not to risk causing offence.
  • Ask before taking photos: Some subjects will be honoured by your interest, some may be offended, and some may demand payment so always check before taking a picture.
  • Respect religious customs: Ethiopian Orthodox Churches maintain ancient customs, so on entering a church compound, men should remove any hats and women should cover their heads with a scarf if possible.  Men and women enter the church by separate entrances and both will be required to leaves their shoes at the door.  Do not smoke, eat, drink or speak loudly within the compound.  Photographing old manuscripts is also prohibited.
  • Bargain, but not too hard: Bargaining is common at markets and in handicraft cooperatives.  Before driving too hard a bargain though, particularly for hand-made items, consider the time and skill that has gone into making the piece.
  • Don't buy old artefacts: Ethiopia has sadly lost many of its priceless manuscripts and relics over the years through unscrupulous dealings.  Although it may be difficult to determine which pieces are genuine antiquities, if you are in any doubt, don't buy it.  There are severe penalties for anyone caught trying to smuggle old artefacts out of the country.
  • Don't drop litter, especially not in National Parks and rural areas.
  • Don't feed wildlife as it changes the animals’ natural behaviour.
  • Be aware that parts of Ethiopia suffer from water shortage: Try not to waste water by letting taps run unnecessarily and keep showers short.