Hoang Su Phi, Vietnam

Going Plastic-Free in Vietnam

Over two years ago, Exodus announced that we're ‘banning the bottle’ and removing all single-use plastic water bottles from itineraries. As a team, we’re really passionate about responsible tourism and always looking for new ways to improve our green footprint.

Responsible Tourism 

On average, travellers get through four plastic water bottles in a day. In order to see how easy it actually is to avoid single-use plastic when travelling, earlier this month I set myself the challenge of going plastic-free during a two week trip to Vietnam.

I was feeling pretty excited by the task ahead and knew the key to succeeding was organisation. As a member of the Responsible Travel Committee at Exodus, I really wanted to understand how travellers can do their bit for the environment whilst making sure avoiding plastic was still safe, convenient and easy.

The experience itself was eye-opening. It was obvious just how problematic single-use plastic had become, and it really hit home just how important it is to recycle and reuse products that we already have in our possession.

To ensure I didn’t need to use single-use plastic on my holiday I came prepared with my own survival kit equipped with items like reusable cutlery, and a refillable water bottle.

Reusable plastic items

Alternatives to Plastic

Upon arrival in Vietnam, we were given cotton tote bags so that we could avoid plastic carrier bags when shopping. After just a few days in the country, it became apparent that rejecting plastic bags and drinking straws was pretty much unheard of.

Sometimes I was laughed at for asking for "no straw please!" (In a light-hearted way of course – the locals are extremely friendly) or misunderstood and provided with one anyway. Carrier bags were easier to avoid than drinking straws, as I could easily show my reusable tote bag and pop my shopping straight in, but I was almost always provided with one initially.

I think the most unnecessary use of plastic I saw was during a visit to a local hill tribe where we were given oranges individually wrapped in plastic bags!

Individually wrapped oranges

What I discovered was that it is very easy to say ‘no’ to plastic, but a lot of people simply don’t give it a second thought. Some will use water bottle after water bottle,  use a new plastic carrier bag for every shopping trip, or sip on drinks with two straws – the second one just perched on the side of the glass purely for decoration.

It wasn’t always easy to avoid plastic but I felt really proud of myself on my return. It became apparent how much of an impact travellers could have if more of us took just small steps to make plastic-free the norm. If every traveller said "no thanks" to plastic more often, the results could be enormous.

What I learnt from my trip was that with just a small amount of preparation and the right mindset, travelling responsibly can be both enlightening and rewarding and enrich our overall experience.

How to reduce your use of plastic

Before your trip:
• Pack a travel mug for takeaway drinks
• Take a tote bag with you for when you buy souvenirs etc.
• Pack a reusable water bottle 

During your trip:
• Refuse single-use plastic where possible
• Explain why single-use plastic is not environmentally friendly to other travellers/local people

When you get back:
• Provide us with any useful feedback you can think of from your trip
• Tag Exodus in your Facebook/Instagram plastic-free travel posts

Find out more about a few of our tours that encourage responsible travel below.

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