Pink Sakura flowers in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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Sustainable travel in Thailand

Airra Beatrice

Contributing writer

Sustainable and responsible travel is an increasingly important concept that recognizes the impact of tourism in Thailand as well as other destinations and aims to promote practices that preserve natural resources, cultural heritage, and local communities. 

Thailand, with its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant communities, is a destination that greatly benefits from responsible travel practices. By being mindful travelers, we can contribute to the preservation of Thailand's unique beauty and support the well-being of its people.

Overtourism in Thailand

Overtourism in Thailand has become a pressing concern due to the country's increasing popularity as a tourist destination. The rush of visitors has put significant strain on certain areas, leading to environmental degradation and challenges for local communities. 

To lessen the negative impacts of overtourism, make sure to seek out lesser-known destinations in Thailand. Instead of going to the most famous and crowded spots, you might as well consider exploring off-the-beaten-path locations.

This not only reduces the burden on popular tourist hotspots but also allows you to discover hidden gems and experience a more authentic side of Thailand. Here are some examples of popular spots to avoid due to over-tourism, along with alternative, lesser-known destinations that offer a similar experience:

  • Avoid: Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh - Maya Bay became overly crowded after being featured in the movie "The Beach," causing environmental damage to the fragile marine ecosystem.

    Alternative: Koh Lanta - Just a short boat ride from Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta offers a more relaxed and less crowded island experience with beautiful beaches and excellent diving opportunities.

  • Avoid: Patong Beach, Phuket - Patong Beach is known for its bustling nightlife and mass tourism, resulting in crowded beaches and a party-centric atmosphere.

    Alternative: Kamala Beach, Phuket - Located just a short distance from Patong, Kamala Beach offers a more laid-back ambiance, ideal for families and travelers seeking a quieter beach experience.

  • Avoid: Floating Market, Damnoen Saduak - The popular Damnoen Saduak Floating Market can be overcrowded and overrun by tourists, losing its authentic charm.

    Alternative: Amphawa Floating Market - Located near Bangkok, the Amphawa Floating Market is a more local and authentic option, where you can enjoy a traditional Thai market experience away from the crowds.

  • Avoid: Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai - Some animal welfare concerns have been raised about places like Tiger Kingdom, where visitors can interact with captive tigers.

    Alternative: Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai - Instead of visiting establishments that exploit animals, consider supporting ethical elephant sanctuaries like Elephant Nature Park, where you can observe elephants in their natural habitat and learn about their conservation.

However, if you wish to visit popular attractions, consider doing so during off-peak hours. Arriving early in the morning or later in the afternoon can help avoid the large crowds and spread out the tourist flow throughout the day. This simple adjustment can make a significant difference in reducing the pressure on these locations.

Environmental considerations

As responsible travelers in Thailand, it's essential to be mindful of our environmental impact and take actions to preserve the country's natural beauty. Here are some key environmental considerations and practices to adopt during your trip:

Water usage

Water is a valuable resource, especially in areas of Thailand facing water scarcity and drought. Areas such as Isaan in northeastern Thailand, parts of the Chao Phraya River basin, and some southern provinces experience significant water scarcity and drought. 

So, as a responsible traveler, always be conscious of your water usage and try to conserve it whenever possible. Simple actions like turning off the tap while brushing your teeth or taking shorter showers can make a significant difference in reducing water waste.


To reduce your carbon footprint, use sustainable transportation options. Use public transportation like buses, trains, or shared tuk-tuks to get around Thailand whenever possible. Some cities in Thailand also offer bicycles and electric scooters for rent, providing eco-friendly alternatives for exploring urban areas.

Supporting local and eco-friendly businesses

Supporting local businesses is an important part of responsible travel in Thailand. When choosing accommodations, consider staying at locally owned guesthouses, boutique hotels, or eco-lodges that prioritize environmental and community-friendly practices.

Many of these establishments actively engage in initiatives that support local artisans, employ local staff, and encourage cultural exchange.  By supporting local businesses, you preserve Thailand's cultural heritage and promote sustainable travel experiences.

You can also look for certifications or labels indicating their commitment to environmental responsibility. Here are some examples to look for:

  • Green Globe: This is a global certification program that acknowledges sustainable practices in the travel and tourism industry. Businesses with the Green Globe certification, including accommodations and tour operators, adhere to strict criteria in energy efficiency, waste management, water conservation, and community engagement.

  • Thai Green Label: The Thai Eco Label is a national certification system in Thailand that identifies eco-friendly products and services. Accommodations and tour operators with the Thai Eco Label have been evaluated for their eco-friendly practices and meet the country's sustainability standards.

  • Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC): The GSTC provides a set of criteria for sustainable tourism that covers environmental, social, and economic aspects. Look for accommodations and tours that adhere to the GSTC standards to ensure responsible and sustainable practices.

In addition to these global and national certifications, keep an eye out for local initiatives or labels that support eco-friendly practices. Some businesses may have their own eco-friendly programs or partnerships with local conservation organizations.

How to reduce your impact on the natural environment

Thailand's diverse natural environment is home to a wide range of wildlife. When exploring nature reserves or national parks, follow the guidance of park rangers and stay on designated trails to protect delicate ecosystems. Here are some ways you can reduce your impact on the natural environment in Thailand:

  • Feeding wild animals can disrupt their natural behaviors, lead to dependency on humans, and even harm their health. Maya Bay is just one of many spectacular places in Phi Phi Island that has issues with tourists feeding marine life, particularly fish and sea turtles. While snorkeling or diving, some visitors may be tempted to feed the fish, leading to unnatural feeding patterns and potential harm to the marine ecosystem. So, to avoid contributing to these issues, make sure to avoid feeding wildlife. 

  • Leaving trash behind not only damages the environment but can also harm wildlife that may ingest or become entangled in the waste. Always dispose of cigarette butts properly in designated bins or carry a portable ashtray for responsible disposal.

  • When enjoying picnics or outdoor meals, ensure that you properly dispose of any leftover food. Leaving food scraps behind can attract wildlife to human-populated areas, potentially leading to negative interactions and disturbances.

  • When snorkeling or diving, adhere to guidelines in marine protected areas to safeguard sensitive marine ecosystems and marine species.

  • Learn about the local ecosystems, wildlife, and environmental challenges in Thailand. OpenDevelopment Thailand provides some interesting information regarding Thailand's environment and natural resources. Share this knowledge with fellow travelers to collectively promote responsible and sustainable travel practices.

Choosing ethical tours and experiences

Choosing sustainable and responsible tours and activities is important for reducing our environmental impact and helping local people in Thailand. Try and avoid participating in activities that exploit animals or negatively impact the environment.

Instead, support tour operators and experiences that prioritize animal welfare and environmental conservation. Family-run businesses and small enterprises are excellent options to consider, as they are more likely to care about the environment and the local economy. Here are some local initiatives that promote sustainability and responsible travel:

Some activities to avoid in Thailand include:

  • Tours or activities that involve animal exploitation, such as riding elephants or visiting animal attractions that prioritize entertainment over animal welfare.

  • Water activities that harm marine life, such as feeding fish or disturbing coral reefs.

Volunteering and Giving Back

Volunteering offers a unique way to connect with the destination and make a positive impact.

If possible, consider giving back to the local community through volunteering opportunities. Many organizations in Thailand such as Wildlife Friends Foundation, CARE International Thailand, and Caritas International Thailand work towards environmental conservation, community development, and wildlife protection. 

Keep in mind that the project you’re volunteering for should not take away job opportunities from locals. Instead, it should complement and support the efforts of the community. Projects should prioritize involving and training locals to lead and sustain initiatives.

Respecting local culture

Thai culture is deeply rooted in traditions, customs, and social norms that have been passed down through generations. When visiting religious sites, such as temples or sacred monuments, it is important to dress modestly as a sign of respect.

Both men and women should avoid wearing revealing clothing and should cover their shoulders and knees. Removing shoes before entering certain areas, as indicated, is also customary at many religious sites.

If you plan to visit rural or indigenous communities, make sure to be respectful and considerate of their way of life. Always seek permission before taking photographs of people, especially in sacred or private spaces.

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Airra Beatrice

Author - Airra Beatrice

Airra is a Filipino Gen Z, travel content writer driven by wanderlust. She started writing about her journeys for extra income, but stumbled upon an undiscovered passion for writing along the way.

She has travelled all over her cherished homeland, the Philippines, and was intrigued by Thailand, where she totally fell head over heels for mango sticky rice! She inspires others to explore the world's wonders and embrace the beauty of life's journey.

Last Updated 24 September 2023

Long boats on the beach at Maya Bay in Thailand


Thailand is a land of flavours, cultures, and landscapes. However, there's more to Thailand than just postcard-perfect sights