Good to talk

There’s an undeniable laziness that comes with having English as a first language, and it’s easy to make the assumption that, wherever you are, someone’s going to parle anglais. But if you bother to learn just a handful of words and phrases in the local language, chances are you’ll find people friendlier, more helpful and more welcoming.

Insider tip: “If you’re heading to the Far East, it pays to learn some key phrases before you go. Google Translate is an obvious starting point and apps like Pleco really help in China. For multiple places, consider downloading the 50 Languages app.” Lucy McGuire, Virgin Holidays Brand Journalist

Have a heart

Different countries have different codes of etiquette, so what’s ok in London or Sydney might be wildly offensive, or even illegal, elsewhere. Before you travel, it’s a good idea to find out what goes – and what doesn’t. By respecting customs and etiquette, you’ll get a warmer welcome and smooth the passage for your fellow travellers.

Insider tip: “In Japan, people greet each other by bowing. When bowing to someone of higher social status, a deeper, longer bow indicates respect. For foreigners, a nod of the head is usually sufficient.” Sue Livsey, Virgin Holidays Product Development Manager

Look harder

Everyone wants to experience destinations ‘like a local’ on holiday, and there’s a lot to be said for giving the tourist trail a wide berth and seeking out spots where the locals hang out. And the best way to find out where the natives go to eat, drink and play? Ask them – people at your hotel, in shops, restaurants and bars will be able to tell you where to get a real, unfiltered taste of the place.

Insider tip: “Hidden in a back street in the west of Barbados is Wendy’s, a rum shop which always draws a local crowd due to the cheap drinks served by the bottle, great fresh food and karaoke.” Caroline Gallichan, Virgin Holidays Destination Manager, Barbados

Tread softly

Getting to – and getting around in – your destination rarely comes without a price, but there are things you can do to minimise any negative impact. Flying has an environmental cost, and while carriers are working to improve emissions you can do your bit too by taking fewer, longer trips. Once on holiday, local transport, bike hire and walking tours are all great, low-impact ways to see a place.

Insider tip: “Cape Town’s perfect for exploring on bike, particularly as the sun sets. Try a guided ride, which finishes with bubbly and canapes on the waterfront.” Faziela Mohideen, Virgin Holidays Concierge

Be hands on

Being a responsible traveller doesn’t have to begin when you get there and end when you leave, and there are plenty of ways to make sure your impact on the place you visit is a positive, rather than a negative, one. Visit to find out more about what you can do, from volunteering to saving water.

Insider tip: “Contact your rep before you travel to find excursions or opportunities that benefit communities, like the Dharavi tour, Mumbai’s only social tour operator which invests money right back into the slum community (” Sue Livsey

It's in the bag

Pack for a Purpose encourages travellers to make space in their luggage for supplies needed by projects at their destination. Visit for information on how you can help.