Ethical Travel in Vietnam: Here are what you may need to know

As Vietnam’s tourism industry continues to grow with every passing year, it is more important than ever for travelers to think about their impact on the country. This means being aware of how tourism can affect the environment as well as the local communities and their culture. Travelers can make a conscious effort to travel responsibly and mindfully to preserve Vietnam’s beauty for future generations to enjoy. Read on to learn more about how you can practice ethical travel in Vietnam and leave a positive footprint behind.

Vietnam’s Wildlife and Nature

When it comes to enjoying wildlife such as elephants, tigers, or any other exotic animals in Vietnam, it is best to view and enjoy them in their natural habitat when possible. We encourage you to avoid any animal tourism experience that puts animals in danger, including any trained animal show and the purchasing of souvenir products made out of animal parts. Souvenirs such as sea turtle shells, bird feathers, seashells, and corals might seem harmless at first glance, but you must be mindful of how these items were acquired. Snake wines and other types of reptile wines fall into the same category of animal souvenirs as there is no indication of how they were made. The best thing to do is to avoid animal-related products and experiences to not contribute to wildlife poaching from their natural habitat and any cruelty towards captive animals trained for entertainment purposes.

When it comes to ethical travel in Vietnam and animal tourism, here are a few tips to avoid leaving a harmful footprint:

  • Always look for reviews by other travelers when thinking about visiting a particular animal destination such as zoos.
  • Never participate in riding an animal such as elephants as they are more than likely being forced to do so by their handler using negative reinforcement to control the elephants. Elephant riding is slowly becoming obsolete in the Central Highlands and many organizers are looking to drop the activity.
  • Like animals’ riding, photo opportunities with animals such as tigers are also a bad idea as it will generally involve heavily sedated animals.
  • Avoid animal shows where trained behaviors are exhibited (such as painting elephants) as the methods used to prepare the animals are typically violent.
  • In order to see wild animals in Vietnam ethically, we recommend that you go on a wildlife-watching tour, a guided jungle trek, or by visiting an animal sanctuary.

Vietnamese People and Culture

When allowed to experience the lifestyle and culture of Vietnam’s local ethnic minorities, we wholeheartedly recommend that you take advantage of it. Participating in an ethnic traditional homestay is an easy way to enrich your experience. When it comes to ethical travel in Vietnam and the local communities, engaging in ethnic activities (trekking, cooking lessons, etc.), whether it is traditional or not, will directly support the local population. By buying locally crafted souvenirs (or better yet, participating in a workshop and learning to make it yourself), you contribute to the improvement of the ethnic community. You will also have the opportunity to learn about the unique local culture and have a truly authentic experience.

Fortunately, many reputable ecotourism tour providers are dedicated to a sustainable and ethical enriching business practice in Vietnam. These companies set up programs that involve the local ethnic minorities to offer authentic experiences to travelers as well as a way to boost the economic potential of the local communities in Vietnam. Be sure to do your research on the company before booking a tour by checking reviews by other travelers and looking at their social media.

Ethical Travel Tips

  • Avoid the purchase of any animal items, especially endangered species.
  • When considering a tour of any kind (boat trip, jungle trek, etc.), choose an operator with a responsible tourism policy.
  • Consider hiring a local tour guide if possible, as this will directly benefit the local community.
  • Choose lodging that is committed to an eco-friendly mindset.
  • Shopping at local stalls and eating in local restaurants will support their income directly.
  • Avoid single-use plastic, especially in rural communities where proper waste disposal is inadequate.
  • Pack light and take along only what is essential to you during your travel.

Final Words on Ethical Travel in Vietnam

Regardless of your destination in Vietnam, it is essential to be aware of your impact on the environment and local communities. By understanding the negative impacts that traveling can have, you will be able to make a conscious decision to travel ethically. We hope you have found some insights in this short read on traveling ethically in Vietnam.


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