At Bike Asia, we believe that the travel experience can be positive for both the traveller and the communities that we visit. An open mind, a sense of awareness and a spirit of generosity generates goodwill and a fun, interactive atmosphere for all involved.
This philosophy is borne from an understanding that we are guests in a foreign country and should behave accordingly. Travelling in a foreign country is an amazing opportunity. To keep an open-mind in the process is critical to the success of the trip on a personal level and to sustaining the positive and welcoming treatment that we continually receive in the regions that we operate.
By outlining this policy we hope to adequately articulate how we operate our business and tours in regards to these issues. We do not claim to have all the answers, but it is our responsibility and yours, as the traveller, to ensure that the magnificent, magical and unique cultures and environments that we travel to are given the support they need to remain diverse and vibrant.
What we do
As a regional-based company in Asia, we work closely with locally-based operators in several countries. We work on a daily basis with our operators, guides, drivers, bike mechanics and cooks to operate the best trips that we can. It seems obvious to us that by having a strong, mutually-respecting relationship with the people who have expert knowledge in the region, terrain, food, culture and language, will result in more successful cycling trips. Along with the local crew, travellers are sure to gain an insight into the local culture as well as having the pleasure of travelling with our friends! We have found that our passengers find this an unexpected highlight.
- Due to the nature of cycling tours and our personal travel style, we cycle in many areas that are not visited by large numbers of tourists and thus do not have the negative culture that, all too often, builds up around this industry. Our trips are about the experience of cycling, the beauty of a region, the culture, the people, their history and food. frequently; we find all of these as we cycle in the quieter and less affected areas, in between the tourist hotspots! We are aware that our impact on these particular communities is in some way, even greater than on an area that are more heavily visited by tourists. We endeavour to communicate to our travellers the extra importance of behaving in an appropriate manner: personal language, gestures and dress wear.
- In many of these smaller communities we arouse much interest as we cycle through; so we also encourage our passengers as much as possible to stop enroute and try out a few words and phrases of the local language or even just to say "hello". These are often the perfect opportunities for people to interact, have a laugh and some fun!
- Our leaders and local guides work very hard to help our travellers understand more of the culture, history, traditions and language which then helps everyone to feel comfortable and relaxed in the environment and facilitates more interaction. Whether this is answering questions, translating for the group what a local person is saying or explaining certain customs that might initially seem strange and unusual, it is our desire to help all parties understand more of each other.
- We encourage all travellers to read about the country, culture and history of the region. On the website you will find links to web addresses that we think provide interesting and informative articles on the region. We also provide lists of books to read and even films to watch, with content that pertains directly to the area you will be cycling through. In the trip dossiers, there is trip-specific information on some local charities that we know from experience are working hard to alleviate problems such as youth homelessness, lack of education funding, lack of services for people with physical and mental disabilities to name but a few.
- Travelling by bike allows you to fully absorb all of these elements but from the saddle of bike.no barriers between you and your local environment.well maybe a language barrier, but we'll help you with learning some phrases, greetings and compliments in either Chinese, Mongolian, Japanese or which ever country we are in, this goes a long way in addition to a big smile!
What can you do?
We ask all travellers to respect local values and customs and to obey local laws in particular. We have over the years seen that the people of Asia will almost never rebuke a visitor for unknowingly offending them. We have seen so many of our passengers totally embrace the people, respect the culture, still make several cultural faux pas (as everyone does when in a new environment) and yet offend no one! People do not get offended when they sense visitors have a genuine desire for understanding and a natural curiosity. Whilst we encourage you, as much as possible, to learn about the country and its culture, people, history and traditions, even more important this, is the attitude you bring.
- Make an effort to learn a few words and phrases before you arrive. Buy a small phrase book. A few words in the local language will take you along way and people are always impressed that you have taken a little time to make the effort. In particular learning the basic greetings, some numbers and of course some compliments!
- Remember that not all cultures organise their every movement by a watch! Everything will happen in its own time, be persistent but never rude and also. a smile and easy-going manner will open more doors than an impatient and cross one!
- Read as much as can about the country, history and culture before you arrive. If you just don't have the time, buy a relevant book before you leave to read on the trip. If you are not sure what to look for, refer to our recommendations listed in the dossier.
- Be sensitive and respectful when taking photos of people. Not everyone wants their photo taken! All you need to do is ask - a gesture is all it takes and you should respect their right to refuse. People dressed in work clothes, farming gear in particular might feel embarrassed about having their photo taken.
- If you start bargaining for an item and agree on a price with the shop owner, you need to go through with the purchase. Pulling out after agreeing on a price is considered very rude.
- Never flaunt expensive jewellery, large amounts of cash or even expensive electronics if you can avoid it.
- Never agree or promise to anything you cannot deliver on. i.e., if you offer to send photos back please follow through. Our leaders will do all they can to help you things like these.
- Please be respectful of local dress codes. There are not a lot, mostly if you wear tight fitting clothes or revealing styles, it just means more people will look at you.however in religious buildings stricter codes should be observed. Nudity is never acceptable, not even when swimming.
- It is always rude to point. If you need to motion to someone, use the whole hand.
- You should almost never try to physical touch a local person (handshakes are ok)
- People might approach you and ask you questions like: Where are you from? How old are? Are you married? Do you have kids? How much do you earn? Do you like their country? These are usually just out of curiosity; they are not intending to be rude. Many people in countries like China just want to practice their English!
- Under no circumstances are you to engage in the practice of prostitution or using illegal drugs on any of our trips. This is completely against our philosophy of mutual respect. In many of the countries that we operate, women and children are sold into prostitution by family members and thus engage unwilling in this practice and furthermore become exposed to sexually transmitted diseases.
What we do
We endeavour to conduct our business financial operations with passengers, staff and operators in a professional and ethical manner. Just like 'haggling' in a market for a 'good' price, we believe that the correct price is the one where everyone is happy with the price. We believe it is important to ensure that as much as possible the money we spend stays in the local communities thus helping to raise the wealth of these communities.
- We aim to support the local businesses like guesthouses, restaurants, food stalls and general stores in the areas that we travel through. When we travel, we always prefer to utilise and support the local businesses. By doing this we are able to distribute the financial gains more equitably to the people in the regions that we travel through. On all of our trips we utilise smaller scale accommodations run by people that are local to the area. Not only does this style provide a more intimate and friendly atmosphere but also supports local business growth. We stay in courtyard inns in Yunnan province, China, family-run ryokans on Shikoku Island, Japan and camp in the Arkhangai mountains beside family gers in Mongolia.
- We are passionate about food and there is no better way to eat tasty, fresh food than eating locally. The trip leaders and guides have been to these areas before so they know the great places to take you to eat.and of course it's a great place to meet the locals and get an insight into the culture of the place you are cycling through. We have favourites all over Asia that we have been going to years; the hutong roast duck restaurant in Beijing that still roasts the ducks using the traditional method of a brick kiln or the rice noodle house in Yangshuo, Southern China that's serves tasty bowls of spaghetti-thin rice noodles in a broth and toped with slivers of baked pork and homemade picked vegies or eating breakfast at a restaurant run by two sisters in a tiny town called Er Yuan that serve crispy fried bread, fresh milk, and steamed buns.
What can you do?
Conduct all your purchases in an ethical manner no matter how small. We certainly encourage you to bargain for local goods, in some countries such as China, it is almost mandatory! Following are a few tips and rules on the art of bargaining, you can be sure that the people you are dealing with mastered it long ago...
- Do not show too much interest in the items in question
- Shop with friends, buying in bulk will bring the price down
- Learn how to say numbers in the local language and even a few pertinent phrases help a lot
- If you want to buy several of one thing, ask the price of one first, then say how many you want
- Never bring out money until the amount has been fixed
- Moving towards the exit of the shop may encourage them to give a better price more quickly
- If you agree to a price, you should honour it
- If you say you will return to buy it, then do
- Always bargain with a smile and enjoy the experience.it surprising how many locals will respect you for bargaining and even more so for bargaining well... but in a congenial manner.
- Begging is something that occurs in every country in the world, not just Asia. However, it is generally more prevalent in developing countries that do not have the resources and infrastructure to support people under the poverty line. We believe that the decision is one that should be made by the individual, however most communities and charity organisations say that it should not be encouraged, particularly by outsiders who may not understand when it is appropriate to give and how much to give. Giving money to street beggars should generally be avoided as it creates a situation of dependence can promote a "begging culture" and reduce the incentives to seek long-term solutions to poverty.
- Refrain from handing out sweets and pens on tour. It creates expectations and dependence which turns into disappointment and resentment when future travellers do not have the same gifts if any. If you would like to donate stationary, speak with your leader they will be able to facilitate an alternative arrangement such as liaising with a school directly.
- You can lend your support to a charity that works in the area that you travelled through. Your tour leader can help you with more information on this or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the charities that we have a history with.
What we do
Environmental degradation, landfill, and scarce water resource are all very important issues faced by most of the countries in the world. In many of the countries that we operate trips in they are in the process of developing systems and infrastructure, educating the populace on sustainable practices etc and by travelling in a sustainable way we aim to ensure that the unique environmental regions will be there in the future. Instead of feeling powerless in the face of these problems we prefer to focus on what we can do.
- Always using purified drinking water in 20 litre water drums (in countries where this is available) that we make available to all group members during the trip. These drums are returned, sterilised and reused. This means that no one need buy bottles of drinking water.
- In China we give all passengers a pair of chopsticks and cover for them to use for the duration of the trip. This saves all members from having to use the disposable chopsticks and highlights the issue of forest conservation.
- We encourage travellers on all trips to refrain from accepting plastic bags when making purchases.
- All non-biodegradable rubbish that is generated by our use is collected and disposed of in designated areas in townships that we pass through.
- Whilst we must use vehicles as support on our trips, we make an effort to ensure that the vehicles are in good condition, are running efficiently and not emitting undue amounts of emissions.
What can you do?
- We encourage all passengers to support hotels/guesthouses in their effort to reduce the amount of washing by reusing sheets and towels if staying in one location for more than one night.
- Try to avoid buying plastic bottles of water and utilise other resources of clean drinking water where possible i.e. In China all hotels provide thermos flasks of boiled water, kettles or water bubblers.
- Support hotels that have implemented policies to reduce water usage by reusing towels and bed linen if staying for more than one night.
- Avoid plastic bags wherever possible buy using your own daypack if you make purchases.
- Bring rechargeable batteries with you on the trip
Camping specific trips
- Bring fully biodegradable cleaning products (soap, shampoo, conditioner and clothing detergent) - you can now buy all purpose ones. They may be a little more expensive but we will be using river water that is up to now still very clean and we want it to stay that way.
- Ensure that waste disposal is done in the appropriate places.
- Never go to the toilet directly next to fresh water sources such as lakes and rivers. Use the designated latrines.
- Retain all batteries for proper disposal in cities.
We always welcome any ideas, suggestions, comments and questions regarding our responsible travel policy. Please contact us at email@example.com.