Visit Hill Tribe Villages Thailand
Visiting Hill Tribe villages – What to Know Before you Go
July 13, 2014
Visit Long Neck village
Should You Visit a Long Neck village? And How to Visit ethically – Updated for 2023
April 11, 2016

How to visit Hill tribe villages in Thailand ethically 

There are many hill tribe village tours in northern Thailand, and it can be difficult for travelers to find a way to visit hill tribe villages in an ethical way. There are many villages inundated with groups of tourists that have disrupted village life, socially, economically and environmentally. This has mostly occurred with group package tours and treks, and as a tourist, your experience of hill tribe culture will be quite different on one of these, compared to visiting in a small group that is culturally sensitive. Here are some ways to visit a hill tribe village ethically

Ethical visit to hill tribe villages Chiang Mai

How to visit hill tribe villages ethically

1) Hire a Hill tribe guide 

Some travellers try to find villages and visit them independently, but we don’t recommend this. We always recommend travelling with a local hill tribe guide, not only will you receive a much warmer welcome from the visitors, but you’ll learn something about the culture and way of life in the village. A good local guide will also open up opportunities for cultural interaction between you and the villagers.

We have established good relationships with the villagers, they are happy for us to visit. We also travel with a hill tribe guide, who acts as a bridge into hill tribe culture and way of life for you. Some travellers are disappointed when they don’t see more people or activity in the village, but as we specialise in authentic experiences, we follow the natural rhythm of village life, and do not expect them to modify their daily life for us.

2) Try a Homestay 

Staying overnight in a village at a hill tribe homestay, is a great way for travellers to gain an authentic insight into hilltribe culture in a culturally constructive way. A homestay offers the chance to learn first-hand about what hill tribe life is like, and interact with hilltribe villagers. It can be a very rewarding and culturally enriching experience. And for your host family your stay is important supplemental income.

3) No Donations

You might be tempted to donate items or money to the village, but this is not an ethical or sustainable way in which to help them. A donation is a once-off, and can breed a mindset of easy charity. The villagers need life-long takeaways, such as improving their English language skills. These are skills which will improve their future job prospects and will stay with them forever. If you give money in exchange for a service or product from them, this is also an ethical way in which to help. For example paying for their guiding services, or for a handicraft they have made…which leads us onto the next point…..

4) Buy Handicrafts

How to Visit Hill Tribe Villages Ethically

How to Visit Hill Tribe Villages Ethically

Paying the villagers for a product or a service, is a great way in which to visit ethically. For example through buying handicrafts from them, or staying at a homestay. Rather than being only a consumer of the village, you are a giver too. These activities provide a source of supplemental income which is very important to them.

5) Volunteer 

Consider spending time with the hill tribes and volunteering to teach them English. Many hill tribe villages and schools across Thailand are in need of foreign volunteers with whom to practice English with.  Hill tribes with English skills have wider employment opportunities, and a skill for life. This is a great and sustainable way to help them. In our experience though, volunteering is only beneficial to the host community if it’s longer than one month. It can take at least a month in order to get used to life in a village, and for villagers to get used to you. So volunteering for any time less than this is realistically not going to help the hill tribes significantly. If you are interested in such an opportunity, please contact us  for more information

We hope these tips will help you visit hill tribe villages in an ethical way

Useful Links  

Fair Trade Hill tribe Handicrafts  A Fairtrade organisation in Chiang Mai city, supporting hill tribe artisans



  1. Harrish says:

    Oooh such a nice place. I’ll put this on my list if I ever get the chance to visit Chiang Mai. Keep it up!! Great article!

    Harrish –

    • Eric says:

      Thanks, yes you should definitely visit the hill tribes if you come to Chiang Mai ! Let us know if you do 🙂