The Best Types of Travel for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Reduce your carbon footprint on your next adventure by taking the train
Reduce your carbon footprint on your next adventure by taking the train | © David Noton Photography / Alamy
Photo of Joel Rabinowitz
3 September 2021

Whether you pedal around Rome or hike through the territories of Thailand, there are dozens of ways to reduce your carbon footprint while travelling. Embrace slow travel by choosing one of these transport modes on your next trip.

Transport accounts for almost a quarter of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion. For travellers with an eco-conscience, there are a number of ways to reduce your carbon footprint – mostly through the type of transport you choose. Here are the best types of transport to use for more environmentally friendly travel – and a greener future.

Looking for a flight-free adventure? Check out TRIPS by Culture Trip, our collection of expertly curated small-group adventures led by a Local Insider.

Train

Not only are trains one of the most enjoyable, hassle-free ways to travel, they’re also one of the most effective means of reducing your carbon footprint. While the environmental impact of trains differs between countries – depending on whether they run on electricity or diesel – train journeys in the UK emit roughly 80 percent less emissions than car journeys over medium-length distances. This is even greater when it comes to flying – trains spew out 84 percent less carbon dioxide – and other greenhouse gases – than domestic flights. The ongoing development of hydrogen trains gives us more reason to feel optimistic and hopeful of an even more ecofriendly way to travel in the future.

If you’re travelling in Vietnam, take the picturesque train ride from Hanoi to Hue | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy

Taking an overnight train from one city to another gives you the chance to see a country through a totally different lens – and you can travel huge distances while you sleep. Sleeper trains from Hanoi to Hue – taking you 434mi (700km) along the Vietnamese coast – or from Giza to Luxor, which is over a 310mi (500km) journey, can all be experienced with Culture Trip.

Bike

Whether you’re cycling through rice fields in Bali or taking a foodie tour of Tel Aviv, travelling by bike enables you to simultaneously exercise and explore – while also being kind to the environment. It’s one of the simplest and most powerful ways you can lower your carbon footprint. For short journeys in heavily congested cities, it can sometimes be quicker than travelling by car – particularly where there are well-marked, separate cycle lanes.

Mountain biking is an ecofriendly way to travel through the paddies of Bali | © Rob Walls / Alamy

Walking

Travel doesn’t have to be about taking the quickest route from A to B. Whether it’s a gentle stroll or a strenuous long-distance trek, there’s no better way to discover a town, city or rural area than on foot. By walking, you can fully appreciate the entire spectrum of sights, sounds and smells of a place as you pass through – all while pumping up your endorphins and minimising your carbon footprint in the process.

Hike through the red rock mountains of Wadi Rum with Culture Trip | © Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy

If you fancy hiking through Italian fishing villages in the Cinque Terre or trekking through the red rock mountains of Wadi Rum in Jordan, Culture Trip has dedicated adventures that allow you to do precisely that – just two of many spectacular hiking destinations you can experience on one of our TRIPS.

Boat

Did you know that large, long-distance cruise ships can actually produce even more carbon emissions than planes? Luckily, there are many other types of water-based travel that are significantly healthier for the planet. As a foot passenger on a ferry, you can cut your carbon footprint by more than 90 percent on an average journey compared to travelling by plane. For smaller, electric or wind-powered boats, the impact on your carbon footprint is even lower.

Kayak on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand, for an active water-based experience | © Craig Lovell / Eagle Visions Photography / Alamy

Travelling by boat can also be one of the most relaxing and scenic modes of transport, providing you with a new perspective when exploring a place. With Culture Trip, you can embark on a wildlife safari by longtail boat and explore mangrove forests by kayak in southern Thailand – two unforgettable, low-carbon boat adventures.

Car

It’s no secret that driving a private diesel or petrol vehicle is one of the most carbon-heavy modes of transport. On average, travelling by car emits around 170g to 190g of carbon dioxide per passenger kilometre. That compares to approximately 100 by bus, 40 by train and 20 by ferry. A domestic flight, however, emits around 255g of carbon dioxide – and other greenhouse gases produced at high altitudes – so opting for a road trip can lower your carbon footprint compared to travelling by plane – although this depends on the length of your journey.

Driving is one of the easiest ways to travel around Iceland – opt for a greener car to reduce your carbon footprint | © Kristina Blokhin / Alamy

Depending on where you are in the world, driving can sometimes be by far the most feasible option – such as exploring Iceland’s golden circle or traversing the Sahara in Morocco. You can substantially reduce your individual carbon footprint by driving more efficiently – meaning go easy on the brakes and accelerator, hiring a greener car or sharing a vehicle with other travellers. Remember, the small things add up, so be wise with your choice of transport.

Feeling inspired? Choose TRIPS by Culture Trip to not only minimise your environmental impact, but also ensure you get maximum value from your trip through immersive, off-the-radar experiences led by a devoted Local Insider.

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