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7 ways to be a responsible tourist this summer

August 13, 2020

By Lottie Gross

Responsible tourism has taken on a whole new meaning in 2020. Rather than just focusing on saving the planet, we now all have to think about saving the population, too, as we all do our best to stem the spread of the virus.

But how does this translate into being a responsible, respectful tourist this summer? Can we travel responsibly without risk this year, and if so, how? Here’s everything you need to know about being a good global citizen on your holidays in the next six months.

1. If you’ve been exposed, stay at home

stay home, stay safe

It should go without saying, but if you’ve been exposed to the virus you need to stay at home. It doesn’t matter if you’re due to fly tomorrow, and even if you don’t think you’ll come into contact with other people on your journey.

According to the Scripps Research Institute, up to 45% of people are asymptomatic, so even if you’re not feeling unwell, you might still be carrying the infection and you could still transmit it.

2. Wear your mask

traveller wearing mask at airport

They’re hot, itchy behind the ears and generally uncomfortable, but there’s also a reason we’re asked to wear face coverings. “The bottom line is that any mask that covers the nose and mouth will be of benefit,” reads an article by the University of California San Francisco. This is because the use of a mask helps stop the person wearing it from potentially spreading the virus.

If you’re flying for your 2020 summer holiday, you’ll need to wear a mask in the airport and on the plane, so abide by the rules to keep your fellow travellers safe. There might also be face covering rules in the destination you’re travelling to, so read up on that and don your mask when necessary – there might be hefty fines if you don’t.

While it’s largely an uncomfortable experience, wearing a mask doesn’t have to be that bad. If you need to wear one all day – on your travel day, for example – bring multiple face coverings to change every few hours. A bit of breath freshener wouldn’t go amiss, either, as there’s nothing worse than smelling your lunch for hours after you’ve eaten. And think about the type of mask you get – reusable cotton face coverings are more breathable and better for the environment.

Finally, remember: you don’t wear it for your own benefit, it’s for the benefit of others, so mask up and carry on.

3. Respect social distancing

1.5m social distancing reminder

Wherever you go this summer, there are likely to be rules about keeping your distance. In the UK, there’s a “one-metre-plus” rule. It’s the same in France, while Germany and Spain are observing 1.5 metres social distancing.

Regardless of whether you’re worried about getting close to strangers, others might be worried about getting close to you, so be respectful and keep your distance where possible. Find out the rules for your destination and follow them – if you don’t, there might be expensive fines to pay.

4. Pack for the pandemic 

mother giving hand sanitiser to young son

Your usual packing list – sunscreen, swimsuit, hat – still applies. But you might want to consider a few extras for travelling during a pandemic. Plenty of hand sanitiser is the most obvious, but you might also want to consider packing sanitising wipes too to clean any areas on public transport or planes before you sit down.

If you’re flying to your destination, or will be on public transport on your travel day, it could pay to bring a laundry bag with you so you can gather all your ‘contaminated’ clothing and masks in one place. Wash them as soon as you can (ideally on a high heat) and they’ll be safe to use again.

5. Follow the FCO advice

mani, greece

Foreign Office advice is changing weekly, and it can be a little complicated to understand. There are two key lists you need to keep an eye on: the travel corridors list, and the list of countries exempt from the travel ban. The former is a list of places you can travel to without having to self-isolate when you return home, while the latter is a list of places the Foreign Office has lifted their ‘all but essential’ travel ban on. The destinations on the first list don’t all appear on the second list, so to find out whether you can take your holiday, you’ll need to cross reference both lists.

The key thing to remember is that if your destination doesn’t appear on the list of countries exempt from the travel ban, your travel insurance is invalid and you really shouldn’t travel.

6. Go somewhere off-piste

Tallinn, Estonia

This is the summer of social distancing, and there’s no better way to ensure you can keep your distance than by going somewhere without mass tourism. Forget city breaks in Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam. Head to some of the lesser-visited destinations that won’t suffer from overcrowding.

Estonia, for example, has had some of the lowest Covid-19 cases in Europe and is currently on both of the government’s travel lists. Capital city Tallinn has one of the best-preserved Hanseatic towns in the world, and a host of sandy beaches on its coastline. Further south, Slovenia is a small but spectacular country with stunning mountains, pretty shingle beaches and historic wine producing regions – plus a dynamic capital with a medieval castle and gorgeous parkland.

Not only do these lesser-visited countries need your tourism, but it’ll also help you keep safe if you’re not having to battle the crowds.

7. Be kind

takeaway during coronavirus

Remember that we’re all getting used to these new rules, and the bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels you visit are also adapting and learning as they go. So when something goes wrong, try to be kind and understanding – leaving bad reviews now won’t help these businesses get back to normal later on, so patience and empathy are key.

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Staying safe abroad

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides valuable up-to-date travel advice for British citizens abroad. It is the best resource for reliable safety and security information. You can also find other important details, such as local laws, passport information and visa requirements. Stay safe abroad – check the FCDO before you travel.

For the latest FCDO advice, follow @FCDOtravelGovUK and