Basically we ask all our travellers to respect local rules and values. This means different things in different countries so be as informed as possible about the country you visit before you arrive – try to learn some of the local language and read about the religion and culture. This will improve your travelling experience. With a little effort on your part you will find yourself coming away with a greater sense of understanding of other cultures and feeling pleased to have left a positive mark on the country you visited.
The following general guidelines are standards of behavior we expect from everyone on an Ace the Himalaya trip.
Respecting Cultural Differences
The Nepali culture is markedly different from the Western culture. There will definitely be a few things that might come across as very intriguing and surprising, and occasionally uncomfortable, to someone unfamiliar to the Nepalese lifestyle. There is no doubt that these differences are exactly what we love to celebrate, and in the same light we expect our clients to get the most out of what only Nepal can offer.
There are a number of things to consider, from the clothes one wears, how one eats, the tone one uses while talking, to the proximity one maintains while communicating. Besides, as with any countries, Nepal operates on a different concept of time – things happen when they happen! The traveller who wishes to have a happy and successful trip should keep as calm, cheerful and friendly as humanly possible. Patience, courtesy and smiles are virtues that lead to many memorable moments during the trip.
Making new friends will be one of the greatest joys of your travels. Accept and enjoy offers of hospitality when you can. By taking the time to chat with the locals you will learn about their daily lives, culture and attitude to life, plus have a very enjoyable time and a few laughs. This is a chance for them to learn about your culture too. Consider ways to reciprocate hospitality – e.g. post back photos.
Be prepared for lots of questions. Just walking in the street you may be asked: “What’s your name? Where are you from?, How old are you? Where are you going?” – perhaps questions you may consider personal. Don’t be affronted or consider it rude or an invasion of privacy. It’s usually genuine curiosity, friendliness or a desire to practice their English. Respond with patience and in a cheerful manner. Concepts of privacy in some countries can be very different to your home country.
The sustainability of the tourism industry has increasingly depended on responsible tourism. Before the departure of our tours, we brief our environmental policies to our clients, as they are important elements of every Ace the Himalaya trip. We encourage programs and frequently participate and/or initiate clean up campaigns to promote awareness as well as to maintain a clean and healthy living environment. Our dedication continues to source further ways in which we can conduct responsible tourism.
How you can help
Pollution and waste management is a huge problem throughout the world. In some countries, particularly in Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and in India, disposal systems are inadequate and recycling of plastics is limited.
We suggest avoiding plastic packaging where possible and take along your own bag when shopping. Plastic bags will be offered for everything – don’t be shy in suggesting that it isn’t needed. Don’t be fooled by the rubbish bins on public transport as they may be emptied straight out the window! Collect and dispose of at the next town or hotel.
When trekking, many travellers take an extra plastic bag to pick up any rubbish that they see to improve the area and for their own rubbish. In many cultures it is not appropriate to put rubbish in the cooking fire. Rubbish may have to be carried until a suitable disposal opportunity in the next town.
Bottled water is for sale in most towns, but unfortunately there are few facilities for recycling of the bottles. Please try and minimize the waste of plastic water bottles. Consider packing a water filter, water purification tablets or iodine to purify drinking water. At some of our hotels there are large water ‘bubbler’ dispensers where you can refill your bottle with purified water for free or for a small fee.
The natural environment is also very important. If in the bush we need to make sure our human waste is buried away from waterways. Burying or carrying out used toilet paper is a must. Tampons and sanitary pads must also be taken out of the area and disposed of appropriately. Minimize use of soap or shampoos in rivers and lakes – your group leader will let you know when using soap is unsuitable.
There is little education on environmental awareness in many towns in Himalaya, so many locals are unaware of the implications of littering. Our aim is to educate by example, rather than through lecturing. You will notice that our guides are generally very good on their environmental impact when in national parks and remote areas. Please join in if we have a beach, trail or reef clean-up.
Make sure your porters are treated fairly
We’ve all heard the stories of porters left on the mountainside or freezing outside tents while travellers revel inside. Our travellers, though, know that Ace really is treating their porters fairly. Here’s a quick run-through of our company’s policy in this regard:
- Insurance: All our porters are insured well and covered for medical and rescue / evacuation services.
- Weight limits: We allow a maximum weight limit of 30kg per porter for trekking. Many national and international companies force porters to carry more than 50 kg each.
- Health and well-being: Our leading guides ensure that porters are treated fairly and in a hospitable manner. We ask our guests to inform the guide if a porter needs more attention in terms of health, food and sleep during the trip.
- Awareness: We educate the porters about our environmental policies during the trip. The guides make sure the porters heed and apply these policies well. The porters, who are in charge of handling the waste generated during the trip, play an important role in proper waste management. Therefore, we pay particular attention to the porters in making the trip as environmentally responsible as possible.
- Appropriate Clothes: We equip the porters with warm clothes, good shoes and all the necessary equipment for high altitude trekking. They are also provided adequate shelter, food, drink and wages.
- Inspiration: Most of the young porters are future guides and also part time students. Leaders help and inspire the porters to grow as potential guides as all our trekking guides started as porters.
Dinning & Shopping
We highly encourage eating local food and drinks, rather than seeking imported familiar snacks and drinks. Besides giving you the authentic Nepali taste in a very reasonable price, local food helps to stimulate regional economy. We show our guests the best authentic Nepalese places to dine in Kathmandu and other cities.
Likewise, it would help the local villages on the grass-roots level if handicrafts and souvenirs are bought directly from individual manufacturers in the villages instead of fancy emporiums and departmental stores. By supporting community cooperatives and disabled handicraft centers, we are helping the makers of the items obtain a fairer price for their products.
We ask our clients not to purchase endangered flora and fauna products that may be offered for sale. The chances are the wildlife products have been smuggled and we have strict policies of not supporting any illegal products, and urge our clients to follow suit.
The art of bargaining is something you can work on during your trip. Here are a few pointers to help you on your way:
- Start bargaining with some idea of what you consider a fair price for the item to be. This will usually involve inquiring about the item in a number of different stores.
- The correct price for an item is the price you agree to pay, that keeps both you and the seller happy. Therefore, there is no ‘right’ price.
- Be polite, patient, but firm in your bargaining. A cheaper price won’t be possible by being rude or insensitive.
- Don’t appear too interested in an item. Walking out of a store is often a good way to get the price to drop.
- Shop with a friend – buying in bulk often reduces the price.
- Learn the numbers in the local language. It will win respect from the seller, and will certainly make the process a lot more interesting.
- Once a price you have offered is accepted it is not appropriate to back out of the deal.
- Only say you’ll buy something later if you intend to buy later. The sellers usually have amazing memories, and will come hounding you on your promise!
- It is our policy that group leaders do not receive commissions from vendors for their group’s purchases – there’s no need to incorporate commission into a price.
- Most importantly, enjoy the experience, and remember you’re often only bargaining over only a couple of dollars – keep it in perspective.
Prostitution and Drugs
We are strongly opposed to any of our clients visiting prostitutes while travelling with Ace the Himalaya. Prostitution is a gross infringement of human rights, as women and children are sold into the industry by their families and are “imprisoned” in brothels. Many end up with drug problems and sexually transmittable diseases. The sex workers are not screened for disease as the government lacks funds and expertise in this matter. Legal, ethical and medical reasons lead that our clients stay on the safe side in this matter.
Illegal drugs are not tolerated on any Ace the Himalaya’s trips and the group leader has the right to expel a member of the group if drugs are found in his/her possession. It must be understood that possession or use of drugs not only contravenes the laws of the country, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is practiced in some parts of the world, but is not acceptable for Ace the Himalaya travellers or staff.
Donations & Gifts
Please do not give money, pens, or sweets to the local people in the communities we visit, as it can promote a ‘begging culture’. It can create unequal relationships between tourist and visitor, with tourists being seen as purely ‘givers’, and it can also strip self esteem away from people when they get money for simply being poor rather than having to solve their own issues of poverty through community action. With sweets – local people may not have access to dentists, nor be able to afford them.
If you wish to donate, your group leader may be able to suggest local projects that Ace the Himalaya is involved with. Some local villages can be supported by buying their craft work etc. Pens, note books and other items for children are usually best distributed via a school teacher or community leader. Your group leader would be happy to help distribute these items.
In most of Ace the Himalaya’s trip areas leaders collect clean usable clothing from travellers at the end of a trip, for distribution to needy communities. These can be left at some of our base hotels. Please check with your group leader.
It is considered proper to make a small donation at the end of a visit to a pagoda, monastery or temple – most have a contributions box for this purpose.
Giving something back to the communities
At Ace the Himalaya, a part of our travel philosophy is to develop tourism as a two-way means of communication. When you return home we’d like you to think about how you can give something back to the country you visited. You’ve just spent quite a bit of money on giving yourself a great time by experiencing another culture and meeting the people. Your spending has certainly helped the local economy, and now there are other things that can be done to help some other countries on an ongoing basis. After your trip, you will probably be more aware of the environmental, social, political and cultural problems that some local communities face. There are various agencies and groups trying to address these issues, aiming to assist developing countries maintain their cultural identity, develop sustainable resources and improve social justice situations. All of them require resources.
Money is not the only way you can assist, as simply providing your time and/or skills might be as valuable and useful. Things you could do:
- Join a development agency or other group devoted to concerns in developing countries.
- Become a volunteer and donate time to aid groups.
- Buy your birthday or Christmas presents at shops run by various third world charitable groups.
- Write letters for Amnesty International to assist political prisoners or to put pressure on governments to change some intolerable situations.
- Become more aware of your own government’s policies and how they influence the ‘two-thirds world’.
Or just be a more environmentally friendly household and help to use the world’s resources more efficiently.