Resources for Hostellers

Responsible tourism :: Green travel tips :: Other resources


Tourism is among the world's largest industries and a tremendous economic influence over communities and people. The responsible tourism movement was born so travelers would recognize that the choices they make while traveling can either benefit a host community or they can exploit the local culture and the environment.

Hostelling International promotes many of the same principles of travel, including the benefits of learning from others and seeing a different way of life through their eyes. We believe the tourism industry is capable of providing people with a better quality of life while preserving local resources because the power is in the hands of individual travelers.

Responsible tourism tips for your next trip:

Ride the train. Trains require half the energy of airplanes and are more efficient than low-fuel consuming vehicles.

Complete a comment card. If you vote in every election, you should be the first to fill out a comment card. Consumer feedback has the power to influence a company's business practices. The only way for a company to maintain their market share in a competitive industry is responding to consumer feedback.

Smell the flowers. Leave the American concept of time at home and take a leisurely walk to practice active listening and observing. This is a generalization, but most people in other countries devote time each day to reflect on experiences in order to deepen their understanding.

Embrace humility. The only expectation you should have when you travel is to discover the richness of other cultures. Show a genuine desire to meet and talk with local people.

Gain respect. If you feel the urge to berate someone in public, count to ten and cool down. Offensive behavior is not acceptable in any situation. It is a lot easier to gain a reputation than it is to gain respect.

Learn from your mistakes. Travel builds character only if you are positive and optimistic in every experience.


Tourism is one of the leading industries in top destinations around the world, including the San Francisco Bay Area. It has a significant impact on the local economy through job growth, tax revenue, and civic pride. But money and status only go so far when travelers don't consider how their presence impacts an area's natural and cultural treasures.

We offer these green travel tips as part of our Green Hostels Project with goals to:

  • Promote conservation and efficiency in our hostels
  • Teach guests about conservation practices to get them involved when they return home

Take the following steps to sustain the local environment, economy, and culture of your destination:

Learn about your destination. The Internet has made it so easy to access helpful travel information and tools (you're reading this, aren't you?). Make sure you allow enough time between reserving a bed and packing your bags to learn about the geography, customs, and manners of your destination.

  • What actions or standards are considered inappropriate?
  • Can you help to preserve tradition by attending a cultural event?
  • Is the region experiencing an energy or water shortage?
  • Are there any local laws that protect the environment (animals, plants, open space, etc.)?
  • What locally owned restaurants meet your diet needs?
  • Is there a market where local artists sell souvenirs like clothing, mementos, and one-of-a-kind finds?
  • If you paid for a tour, did you ask if the guide worked for a local nonprofit or a national for-profit company?

Know where your money is going. Our Green Hostels Project is an environmental education program that guides all nine of our hostels in Northern California. Make sure the other locally owned businesses you support with your travel dollars have conservation guidelines for waste, water, and energy (at the least). This step allows you to protect the environment with little effort and maximum impact.

As more travelers patronize eco-friendly businesses, the impact on our environment will compound. If you make the mistake of selecting a company that does not care, speak up and tell an owner or manager that company policies impact the local community and, as word spreads, profits will suffer.

Impact people, not the environment. We all heard the following advice as school children, but it has become a cornerstone of the earth-friendly travel movement: Take only photographs, leave only footprints. It is still good advice, particularly since few people were listening. We are all guilty of removing a rock or picking a flower, but imagine how the landscape would be altered if every traveler did the same thing. Future generations are entitled to the same breathtaking views:

  • Do not leave litter of any kind.
  • Do not take any souvenirs from historical sites and natural areas (many states consider this a crime).
  • Do not disturb anything in the wilderness that you can avoid disturbing (e.g., find fallen branches for firewood instead of cutting down small trees).
  • Do not leave designated trails in state and federal parks.

Utilize your travel time to interact with the world community instead. You will change in ways that impact the rest of your life when you expose yourself to new people and cultures.



California Tourism
Read about statewide activities and attractions, download state maps in PDF, and access detailed information about California's 12 regions, including the San Francisco Bay Area. You can also place an order for a free visitor's guide, courtesy of the California Division of Tourism.

Culture California
This site is a unique resource that highlights the many travel opportunities in California to celebrate arts and heritage. It focuses on the state's cultural destinations with an overall goal to add depth and dimension to vacations in California. Eleven searchable categories include everything from fun stuff for kids to cultural community and from visual arts to sports.

California State Parks
California State Parks contains the largest and most diverse natural and cultural heritage holdings of any U.S. state. It is responsible for nearly 1.3 million acres, with over 280 miles of coastline; 625 miles of lake and river frontage; nearly 18,000 campsites; and 3,000 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. Find-A-Park offers three search options or search by region, county/city, or activities. There is also a weather tab to view conditions at a State Park. <!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]--> 

Bay Trail
The Bay Trail is a recreational corridor that, when complete, will encircle San Francisco with a continuous 400-mile network of bicycling and hiking trails (240 miles have been completed as of 2007). The trail provides recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts; access to points of historic, natural, and cultural interest; and connects with more than 130 parks totaling 57,000 acres of open space. The site provides free downloadable maps of the trail. 

California Coastal Commission
The Commission carries out an extensive public education program that includes annual statewide coastal clean-up events, the Adopt-a-Beach program, and the whale-tail license plate program. It was established by voter initiative in 1972 and made permanent by the California Coastal Act of 1976. 

California Environmental Resources Evaluation System
California's rich and diverse environments are detailed through a variety of electronic data on seven CERES websites. The goal of the program is to facilitate access to everything from environmental education to environmental law and from land use planning to government and university data holdings.

United States

See America
The Travel Industry of America developed a one-of-a-kind portal to every major U.S. travel provider--from attractions and hotels to airlines, car rentals, and bus and rail options. The site links to state tourism sites as well as sites for hundreds of cities and exciting destinations. Additional resources include money-saving travel deals, trip itineraries, local/national travel information, and more.

National Park Service
This site is a major portal to every national park where you can find out about activities, upcoming events, and fun things for young people. Search options include viewing a complete alphabetical listing of parks; locating parks on a map by state, region, or zip code; and searching for parks by recreation and special topics. The NPS also works with teachers to create unique opportunities for students to learn about history, and helps individuals plan National Register of Historic Places travel itineraries.

Although it is intended for foreign audiences, this site from the U.S. Department of State provides a comprehensive overview of American society, political processes, official policies, and culture that serves as a nice refresher for U.S. citizens. The site also provides links to a number of travel-related resources (click on “Resource Tools” for consular information, visas, and study in the United States).


Sierra Club Outings
Sierra Club Outings offer outdoor adventures to unique destinations around the world for people of all ages. The site provides a searchable schedule of more than 350 annual trips--from backpacking to family trips to global trekking--as well as trip-leader background information, policies, and online reservations.

STA Travel
STA Travel provides travel services to more than six million students and young people at retail branches worldwide and via call centers and the Internet.

Official Travel Guide
This is the official travel portal for vacation planning and buying from the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus. It connects travelers with 1,200 visitor bureaus for up-to-date tourism information in top destinations throughout the world. Features include concise destination information, vacation planning, discount rates, vacation packages, and virtual tours.

Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory
This guide to official tourist information sources has been operating since 1994 and contains 1,400 entries of government tourism offices, convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, and similar organizations. Travel agents, tour operators, hotels, and related businesses are not included in order to maintain accurate and unbiased travel information for the public. <!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->

Country Studies/Area Handbook Program
An online retooling of studies from the Library of Congress that span 102 lesser-known areas of the world. Current data is from 1998 but Congress appropriated funds in 2004 to update the series annually. Country and regional topics include history, geography, society, politics, economic issues, and much more.

Conservation International
With headquarters in Washington, DC, Conservation International works in more than 30 countries on four continents to protect the Earth's richest regions of plant and animal diversity in hot spots, major tropical wilderness areas, and key marine ecosystems. The nonprofit organization provides a number of special websites that address such conservation topics as ecotourism, sustainable tourism, and biodiversity.

The International Ecotourism Society
Ecotourism is thoroughly defined on this site from TIES, a membership organization of ecotourism professionals (tour operators, lodge owners, conservation professionals, etc.) from more than 70 countries. Members all work to make tourism a viable tool for conservation, poverty alleviation, sustainable development, and educational travel.

Traveler Resources

With a team of 100 forecasting meteorologists, AccuWeather provides customized and accurate weather information for locations worldwide. Visitors can access current conditions, 15-day forecasts, satellite images, real-time local doppler radar, and more.

Rand McNally
Rand McNally isn't just that Road Atlas you can't reach in the glove compartment; it has evolved into a navigation company that provides maps in any format: print, software, online, or handheld. The website includes a travel store, driving directions, help with planning a road trip, and membership access to additional content.

Travel Warnings
This site includes travel warnings from the U.S. Department of State when it recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. When a country is added to the list, consular fact sheets are added to help individual travelers make their own decision.

Access more than 15,000 publications quickly with this site's user-definable search, point and click maps, or text listings options. The site includes U.S. and international publications; specialty publications for business, entertainment, industry, etc.; college newspapers; state and national press associations and news services; and TV and radio listings.

The Money Page
A true currency resource with links to worldwide ATM locations (Visa, MasterCard, and American Express), exchange rates, and currency converters. The site also includes a global reference section and a monthly e-magazine for people who want to restart their life overseas.

Embassy World
The world's diplomatic offices (embassies and consulates) are all accessible from Embassy World along with a few random resources like world maps and international telephone and voltage directories.

The World Fact Book
The official print edition from the Central Intelligence Agency is an annual publication, but this in-depth online version is updated weekly with basic intelligence on all areas of the world. Country profiles include the following categories: geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues.

World Health Organization
This bookmark-worthy site provides up-to-date info on disease outbreaks, vaccination requirements, and travel risks from the World Health Organization. The United Nations established WHO in 1948 as a specialized agency aimed at achieving the highest possible level of health--physical, mental, and social well-being--for all people.

Travelers' Health
The National Center for Infectious Diseases provides worldwide health information and vaccination recommendations to the public. Tips like how to avoid illness from food and steps to take before bringing children abroad make this a must-visit site for the global traveler.


Amtrak provides rail service to more than 500 stations in 46 states, and serves 66,000 passengers daily. The site features special pages for international travelers, as well as trains and destinations in California. Amtrak offers everyday discounts for students, seniors, veterans, and children, in addition to other specials and packages.

Offering a safe and economical distance-travel option, Greyhound's bus service is the only means of regularly scheduled inter-city transportation in most markets, serving more than 2,500 destinations with 17,000 daily departures across the country.

International Airport Guide
This guide to major U.S. and international airports focuses on how to efficiently use airports during a busy travel schedule. Information for each airport includes parking, car rental options, driving directions, area maps, and details of the airport terminals including the airlines and destinations.

Bay Area Rapid Transit
BART, the Bay Area's rapid-transit line, runs through the East Bay and San Francisco, and down the peninsula to Millbrae. BART is a convenient option for getting to and from the San Francisco International Airport, and also provides service to the Oakland International Airport (via a shuttle bus link). The website includes a trip planner tool to generate a personalized itinerary from your computer or download the Palm version. It also has a fare calculator to determine how much it will cost to ride BART (the confusing fare structure is built on a mileage-based formula) and a rider guide that includes information about airport and transit connections, parking programs, and disabled access.

San Francisco Municipal Railway
MUNI is San Francisco's unconventional public transportation system that includes a light-rail system, historic streetcar line, nostalgic cable cars, and a hybrid-bus system. The website is somewhat difficult to maneuver, but an offsite link takes you to the 511 TakeTransit Trip Planner where you can create a personalized itinerary.

Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District
The district includes three transit divisions: Golden Gate Bridge, a daily portal for 40,000 people who commute to San Francisco; Golden Gate Transit, a regional bus service in San Francisco and Marin and Sonoma counties; and Golden Gate Ferry, a frequent service between San Francisco and Marin County. Many visitors to the city board the Golden Gate Ferry simply to take in the stunning panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the San Francisco skyline.


Frommer's has expanded its scope since the breakthrough 1957 publication of "Europe on $5 a Day," and now includes travel destinations close to home or across the globe for both limited and limitless budgets. Frommer's collection includes more than 300 guidebooks, a website with original articles, guidebook excerpts, message boards, and travel products. The site really allows visitors to do it all with travel guidance for more than 2,400 destinations, travel ideas based on interests. and online booking through travel partners (air, cruise, lodging, auto, package, and rail).

Let's Go
Let's Go guides, an essential budget travel resource for more than 40 years, are researched, written, and produced entirely by students who know firsthand how to see the world on the cheap. Each guide focuses on showing how to get off the beaten path and experience destinations without hordes of tourists in the way, and also includes features on current events, culture, and politics. The Let's Go website now includes content from its city guide series, trip planning resources, visitor forums, and the On-the-Go e-newsletter.

Lonely Planet
Lonely Planet publishes more than 650 guidebooks in 14 languages covering every corner of the planet. The most popular feature of its website is the Thorn Tree, an online bulletin board that receives more than 5,000 posts a day from travelers seeking and giving advice from every corner of the globe on how to travel safely, cheaply, and responsibly, and get off the beaten path.

Travel Accessories

Sports Basement
When Sports Basement opened in December 1998, there were no customers, just a little fog rolling atop the San Francisco Bay. Word-of-mouth quickly spread about its concept to buy overstock from quality manufacturers and pass along the savings. Sports Basement online is housed right in the store, so any customer gets the same deal. And if you send a tough question about running shoes, the shoe department is only a few steps away. Here's something unusual: Sports Basement allows customers to use the store to hold monthly club meetings, to host potlucks, or to start a workout from the front doors. Online customers can't take advantage of the community outreach, but they do get great customer service. If you happen to live in San Francisco or are in town on vacation, visit the Mission Bay (1301 6th Street) or Presidio (610 Mason Street) locations.

REI is the nation’s largest consumer cooperative with three million active members who receive member refunds on purchases, while REI gave $4 million in 2006 to support outdoor recreation. You do not have to be a member, but you will miss out on all that refund money. REI dates back to a group of Northwest climbers in 1938 and has since developed a reputation for knowledgeable customer service (this explains the “Online Live Help” feature). Shop REI’s online store for gear and clothing, or visit one of their retail stores.

Conventional cotton crops in six California counties are annually dusted with 57 million pounds of chemicals that wreak terrible havoc on soil, water, air, and many, many living things. When the owners of Patagonia discovered this in 1996, they converted the entire sportswear line to 100 percent organically grown cotton. This alone is reason to shop at Patagonia, an earth-friendly business established in 1985 that has developed a reputation for making clothes and gear that are long-lasting and strong, as light as possible, and require little care. They also donate ten percent of annual profits (or one percent of sales, whichever is greater) to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups. Patagonia's online departments include the following: Men's, Women's, Kid's, Packs/Travel Gear, and Sports.

Dank Forest
For the truly environmentally conscious traveler, Dank Forest provides premium backpacks, bags, hats, wallets, and a number of additional 100 percent certified-organic hemp products. The complete product line is sweatshop-free and produced under socially responsible guidelines. The online store provides personal assistance, order tracking, and a wealth of educational content to promote sustainable ecosystems worldwide.