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Our promise to travel thoughtfully

No matter where your journey takes you, we believe the key to maximizing each moment is traveling like a global citizen: thoughtfully, responsibly, and respectfully. We’ve created this set of guidelines to help students and faculty learn about responsible travel before embarking on a program.

Supporting the community

People and communities are the heart of every destination, breathing unique life into a place. By taking time to understand a new culture and being thankful for its hospitality, you amplify the positive impacts of your adventure and forge deeper personal connections.

Take time before your program to educate yourself about your destination, its history, and its culture.

Learn a few common words and phrases in the local language. (“Please” and “Thank you” are appreciated everywhere!)

Remember you’re a guest in the communities you travel to and are there to understand and appreciate new perspectives.

Wear clothing that is appropriate for the community or surroundings you’re visiting, being especially respectful when visiting religious sites. (Your Field Director can help with specifics, such as wearing long pants or covering your shoulders.)

Support local businesses to ensure your money is invested back into the community.

Be aware of monetary norms (tipping and negotiating are at the top of the list) in your destination.

Shop at stores offering products made by local artisans—and pay fair prices.

Eat at locally owned restaurants, where the food is more likely to be locally sourced. (EF selects locally owned restaurants for group meals whenever possible.)

Talk to your Field Director about when it’s appropriate to take photos.

Ask people for permission before taking their picture, and if taking a picture of a minor, talk to a responsible adult first.

Gifts can have unintended negative consequences in local communities. Consult with your professor, Field Director, or EF beforehand for specific instances where it might be appropriate.

Remember to also always be respectful of the cultures, races, and viewpoints of those who are on your program.

Consider how to most thoughtfully tell the story of your experience—be careful about generalizing. Reflect on what you learned, how the program changed your perspective, and what you’re going to do with your new knowledge.

Protecting the environment

Regardless of your destination, the earth is our shared home. By taking care of our planet at home and abroad, we support our ability to continue traveling and discovering everything it has to offer. Even the smallest responsible travel practices add up to make a significant difference.

Bring a reusable water bottle, plus a water filter (or water-filtration water bottle!) if tap water isn’t drinkable in your destination.

Reduce waste by avoiding single-use plastics whenever possible.

To actively participate in conservation or reforestation efforts around the globe, consider participating in an EF Service Learning program for your next adventure.

Travel with a reusable water bottle.

Avoid extra printing by opting for digital documents whenever possible and recycle any necessary paperwork.

Bring recyclables and trash back to your hotel if you can’t find proper waste receptacles while out for the day.

Reuse hotel towels and turn the lights off when you leave your room.

Pack your own toiletries and grooming products.

Use environmentally friendly beauty products (soap, shampoo, etc.) that don’t pollute local water streams.

Apply reef-safe sunscreen when swimming in the ocean.

Bring your own headphones to use on the plane.

Respecting wildlife

We’ve got fuzzy and furry (and slimy and scaly) neighbors everywhere we look. Experiencing a destination should never mean harming the animals that call it home—that’s why we work with World Animal Protection to implement animal welfare guidelines on all our travel programs.

Photograph wildlife in the wild while respecting their space.

Don’t support businesses charging for photos with animals. The animals are often subjected to harsh conditions beforehand in order to be willing to pose with humans and are typically poorly cared for when not in public.

Feeding wild animals harms their ability to find food naturally, impacts their nutrition, and teaches them to get dangerously close to humans.

Enjoy wild animals in their natural surroundings, rather than in captivity, wherever possible.

Visit responsible sanctuaries and conservation centers. Not all zoos and sanctuaries are created equal, so do research to make sure you’re visiting genuine, responsible venues.

Avoid activities that involve obvious animal cruelty, like bullfighting, elephant riding, or crocodile wrestling.

Respect natural habitats by keeping them litter-free and causing as little disturbance as possible.

Don’t support the use of animals for soliciting money (like snake charming or posing for selfies).

Throughout all our travel programs, we work to implement animal welfare guidelines with the nonprofit organization World Animal Protection.

Wild animals aren’t pets. Holding or petting wildlife can be dangerous and is not in the animal’s best interest to survive in the wild, despite your best intentions.

Only ride domesticated animals such as horses, donkeys, or camels because they have been conditioned to work with humans over centuries. Always make sure the animal is well cared for.

Don’t handle, touch, or come into close contact with wild animals (even those in captivity).

Don’t feed wild animals as it alters their behavior to be dependent on humans and causes them to become aggressive.

Don’t visit any attraction offering performances or shows involving wild animals as the training they go through to perform is cruel and unnatural.

Don’t consume any endangered species, buy souvenirs made from their body parts, or purchase products that involve cruelty.

An approach that improves the world

At EF, we continually strive to amplify the good we put into the world—especially when it comes to sustainability. Through four key pillars, we’re strengthening our commitment of bringing sustainability to the heart of EF.