The most crucial sustainable tourism etiquette. How to choose sustainable ways to travel, limit our footprint, and respect and support local communities.

What sustainable tourism etiquette is

Sustainability has a crucial role in our modern social etiquette. On many occasions, behaviors that can harm the environment are no longer accepted.

Sustainable tourism etiquette is the set of rules to respect the local communities and limit our footprint while we travel. Such rules help us avoid behaviors that may lead to a negative environmental or societal impact. They include:

  • Choosing sustainable modes of transport and accommodation.
  • Respecting local communities and ecosystems.
  • The behaviors to avoid.

Every traveler should follow sustainable tourism etiquette to limit environmental footprint and avoid behaviors that may be disrespectful, unsustainable, or even harmful.

sustainable tourism rules to limit footprint and respect local communities

Sustainable tourism etiquette rules

1) Prevent over-tourism: travel off-season and alternative

Over-tourism is the most significant sustainability risk posed by the tourism industry. A location suffers from over-tourism any time it receives several visitors beyond its capacity.

First, over-tourism can severely impact an ecosystem. Some natural areas are fragile and cannot sustain massive foot traffic or increased organic waste. Second, over-tourism can significantly impact the local daily life, cost of living, and quality of life of a town or city. An unsustainable number of visitors over time can drive residents out of their town, with consequent societal impacts.

To avoid over-tourism, try to travel off-season. Avoid peak-season months. Instead, visit the most popular destinations during low season months, or avoid the weekends.

During peak season, such as the summer months, travel to alternative destinations instead of the most popular ones. You will help prevent over-tourism in top destinations, discover hidden gems, and even save on vacation costs.

2) Choose sustainable modes of transport

Transportation can have a high footprint. Sustainable modes of transport can limit your vacation’s footprint. When possible, choose the train or bus over the plane. Even better, consider a cycling tour or a walking trip.

Another option to limit our footprint is to prefer local and regional travel destinations. By shortening our travel time, we lower our travel footprint from transport.

3) Choose sustainable accommodation

Many hotels, B&Bs, and hostels are adopting green and sustainable practices. Such as limiting their waste or the consumption of resources like water or electricity. If you can choose between multiple accommodation options, it is best to prefer those that adopt sustainable practices.

Furthermore, some forms of accommodation, such as camping or eco-lodges, can significantly limit the individual footprint.

4) Respect the local culture and ecosystem

Every region and every community has its own culture and customs. Before you travel to a location, it is the appropriate tourism etiquette to get some information about the local communities, customs, and ecosystems. It will help avoid any behavior that can disrespect locals or harm the environment.

5) Support local communities

Sustainable tourism etiquette calls for supporting the local communities. Choose accommodation, restaurants, and service providers that are owned and run by local residents. Try the local foods. Visit the local museums and cultural centers, that promote and support the local culture. Consider buying traditional items or products to support the local artisans or producers.

6) Avoid bad tourism habits: littering, pollution, damages

Tourism is sustainable when tourists do not leave any traces. In other words, an external observer should not notice that some tourists visited the place. Thus, sustainable tourists should avoid any form of littering, pollution, or damage to the local natural and cultural heritage.

When visiting a location or an attraction, we should follow the indicated path. Avoid venturing outside of pathways or in restricted access areas. Be careful and respectful when taking pictures, eating or drinking around, or visiting heritage sites.

sustainable tourism etiquette worst mistakes

Sustainable tourism etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst sustainable tourism etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Not respecting local communities.
  • 10/10. Not respecting local ecosystems.
  • 9/10. Damaging the local cultural or natural heritage.
  • 8/10. Choosing unsustainable modes of transport.
  • 8/10. Littering.


  • World Tourism Organization – Sustainable Development: