Safe & Eco-Friendly Travel in Asia Respect Ancient Sites By Staying Green

Traveling to Asia is popular for many businessmen, cultural enthusiasts, and avid historians all around the world. Not surprisingly, U.S. News’ list of the top 30 best countries to travel to this year included several Asian destinations, including Bali, Hong Kong, and Phuket.

If you’re planning a trip to Asia, you will need some tips on making the best of your vacation and making your trip eco-friendly. With ancient and sacred sites such as temples and forests, it is especially important to travel respectfully and help to preserve the areas you visit. You can do your part with some simple preparation and tips to keep you safe and reduce your carbon footprint while on the road.

Paperless Travel

When traveling, there are a million different moving parts to your journey, and almost all of them involve a paper receipt of some sort. At least that used to be the case, until the rise of smartphone technology allowed us to go paperless in many ways.


eco-friendly travel in Asia
Beijing’s Temple of Heaven. Credit: Johannes Plenio, Pixabay

Just as many banks offer paperless banking, you can skip paper copies on your trip. For example, Laos has recently joined a handful of Asian countries — including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar — to enroll in an electronic Visa program for recreational travel. This will allow eligible travelers to skip their paper Visa and have an easier time getting through immigration control.

Online Check-In

Similarly, many airlines allow you to check in online 24 hours before your flight, meaning you don’t need to print out a ticket. Instead, you simply pull up the barcode on your smartphone for airport personnel to scan. It also means you can skip checking in at the airport, and if you don’t have any luggage to check in, you can head straight to the security line.

Digital Photos

Cameras on smartphones and digital cameras in general have enabled the domination of digital photos over print, thus cutting the need for every picture to be printed out at the store before deciding which ones are keepers and which get thrown out. Making a digital photo album instead of printing out pictures saves paper and reduces waste.

Though travelers should enjoy being in the moment more than trying to get the perfect shot, it’s good to document the memories of your trip. If you want to avoid coming home to hundreds of photos — with many of the same shot with a slightly different facial expression — you can organize your photos as you take them. To do this, simply review your photos once you’ve taken them. If there is a picture you don’t like, delete it right away. If you find a picture you love, add it to your favorites so it is easier to find later.

Water Scarcity and Sanitation

A report on the public health landscape across the world sheds light on two facts that are especially important for people planning to travel internationally:

  • 3 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation facilities.
  • One third of the world population doesn’t have access to safe drinking water.

There’s a broad spectrum of landscapes in Asia, ranging from places packed with towering skyscrapers and harboring the latest in modern technology, like Tokyo and Hong Kong; to humble areas, vastly untouched by the modern world — and everything in between.

You’ll have to plan according to your chosen destinations, but you can stay prepared for any situation with two simple items: hand sanitizer and a water-sanitation device. While doctors recommend against constant use of hand sanitizer, temporarily taking up its use when traveling can help ensure that your hands stay clean to prevent sickness. Plus, it can reduce your use of water while abroad.

A water-sanitation device, such as a LifeStraw, can give you the peace of mind you need to know the water you are putting in your body is clean. Of course, you won’t need one when you’re in a city environment any more than you would need it at home, but you can take it with you if you plan to venture beyond the city.

Eco-Friendly Transportation

For a Westerner, transportation in the cities of Asia can be overwhelming as motorcyclists often dominate the road and drivers follow vastly different safety rules. Getting used to the road conditions may take a few days. In the meantime, you can try to avoid peak travel times and give yourself extra time to get from one place to another.

Of course, if you are trying to be eco-friendly, you will likely opt for public transportation rather than rent a car or take a taxi. Each city will have its own transportation system, so whether you plan to take the bus, the subway or tram, the ferry, or anything else, make sure to do your research. You won’t want to figure everything out as you arrive, only to find yourself jet-lagged, tired, hungry, and unable to navigate the system. So, you should get as much information on the transportation system as you can before you leave. Also, it’s best if you can purchase travel cards for busses and the like, such as the Octopus Card in Hong Kong, ahead of time.

Of course, many eco-friendly travelers prefer to walk when possible. Just keep safety in mind. Travel to any country has its own dangers, but using common sense can typically keep you away from most of them. Like any other city, the larger a city is, the higher the chance there is of crime, such as theft. For this reason, you should keep your money and travel documents safe and away from easily-targeted pockets, be aware of scammers taking advantage of tourists, and stay with your group at all times.

When traveling to a different country, always keep respect at the forefront of your actions. Respect the culture and respect the environment. Small actions of conservation add up to make a significant impact on the world, especially when traveling to such meaningful places as those that exist in Asia.