Ethical travel in Thailand requires a little bit of extra effort and awareness but it’s not impossible.
It’ll make you feel better about the impact you have on another country and who knows, you might inspire some travelling companions to be responsible travellers too.
Here are some simple ways you can be an ethical traveller while visiting Thailand.
1. Say no to elephant rides
In 2016, it was estimated that 13 million tourists had taken part in rides provided by the 4,000 captive elephants in the Thailand.
According to World Animal Protection (WAP), more than 3/4 of them live in cruel conditions. Asian elephants are also considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
If you really want to get close to these gentle giants, try helping out local NGOs such as Save Elephant Foundation instead.
This foundation’s aim is to care for mistreated elephants rescued from tourism.
They wont let you ride the elephants, but you can feed them fresh fruit or watch these intelligent animals at play.
2. Say no to fish pedicures
Fish spas – where tourists and locals alike come to have their feet nibbled on by supposedly eager Garra Rufa fish – are commonplace in Thailand.
In 2014, it was reported that there were 1,341 fish spas registered with Thailand’s Interior Ministry and an estimated 3,000 unregistered spas running.
Before you think of dipping your feet into a tank of friendly ‘Doctor Fish’, PETA claims that these fish are not nibbling on dead skin because it’s part of their normal diet; they do it because they are starving.
Even though it is hard to find corroborating evidence online, what has shown up repeatedly are reports of potential health risks and hygiene standards.
Consequently, fish spas have been banned in 15 states in the US, along with Canada and Europe.
So when you walk past a fish spa next time, consider how the fish may be suffering or whether you really want to risk your health. Choose a human pedicurist instead.
3. Bring your own shopping bags
Most of the time when you shop in Thailand, chances are your things will be packed into a plastic bag.
Do Mother Nature a favour and bring your own reusable shopping bag. Recycling bins are difficult to find so your trash will most likely end up in landfills.
What doesn’t may end up in the ocean.
According to a survey by nonprofit Ocean Conservancy, Thailand is one of the top five Southeast Asian countries responsible for more than half of the 8 million metric tonnes of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans annually.
So if you happen to be visiting any of Thailand’s islands, don’t leave your rubbish there; bring it back to the mainland for proper disposal.
4. Don’t use plastic bottles
Do bring your own water bottles when you’re island hopping or sight seeing.
Clean drinking water is usually available at hotels or hostels so fill your bottle up before start your day.
Not only are you reducing your plastic waste, you can save on your drinks budget as well.
5. Watch what you eat
Support local farmers and eat locally sourced food.
Choose eateries which are likely using local produce.
Most importantly, say no to exotic meats. Pangolins, rat snakes, and turtles are protected animals.
Read more about travelling in Thailand