Elephant riding in Thailand

Elephant friendly tourist guide

How to be an elephant-friendly tourist: use our tips to avoid venues that don't have elephants' best interests at heart.

Thousands of elephants around the world are suffering in the name of tourism. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You have the power to change the world for elephants!

The best place to see elephants is in the wild. But if you’re going to visit an elephant venue, make sure it allows elephants to be elephants, while educating visitors on their complex needs.

Elephant friendly venues don't use elephants for entertainment, or allow any direct human-elephant contact.

Share your experience, leave reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, and be part of the movement to create a better future for elephants.

Tourists take a ride on an elephant in Thailand

Are the elephants behaving like elephants?

Wild elephants will spend their days roaming long distances, grazing and socialising with other elephants, not confined in small enclosures or forced to perform.

Elephants are wild animals that belong in the wild.

If you want to see elephants on your next holiday, keep these elephant friendly travel tips in mind:

  • If a venue allows you to get close enough to ride, bath or touch an elephant, it’s because they’ve been cruelly trained.
  • Baby elephants are tourist magnets, but true elephant-friendly venues shouldn’t allow breeding. You shouldn’t be seeing young elephants, except for orphanages where babies are rescued from the wild.
  • Elephants should always be treated with kindness and respect, and hooks shouldn’t be used unless in a real emergency. 
  • Being wild animals, captive elephants can be unpredictable and dangerous, especially if they're being crowded. Many tourists and mahouts are injured and killed each year. Even in elephant-friendly venues you’ll often see mahouts accompanying elephants at a distance, to keep everyone safe.

Elephant friendly checklistShare

Staff member watches elephants at Somboon Legacy Foundation, Thailand

Finding an Elephant-friendly venue

Elephant-friendly venues

Even with all the right information, it can still be difficult to find the right elephant-friendly venue

A venue may call itself a sanctuary, rescue centre or retirement home for elephants, but don’t assume this means it’s higher welfare. Do your research before booking and use our guide below to avoid being misled.

Looking to book right away?

Take a look at our list of elephant-friendly venues in Thailand, Cambodia and Nepal.

To make your life easier, we’ve created a list of venues we know are doing the right thing for elephants. 



Following Giants

Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary 

Burm and Emily's Elephant Sanctuary

Global Vision International

Mahouts Elephant Foundation


Elephant Valley Project


Tiger Tops Tharu lodge


ChangChill: better for elephants, better for tourism

We spent several years helping one venue, ChangChill, to become truly elephant-friendly

A venue where elephants are free to behave like elephants

With our support, that of the TUI Care Foundations, and the encouragement from some of the world’s leading travel companies, ChangChill is now a place where elephants can be elephants, and tourists can have the honour of witnessing that. 

Visit the ChangChill website

Elephant riding in Thailand

Don't get taken for a ride

Pledge to stop the abuse suffered by elephants used for entertainment.

Elephant riding with a bullhook at Mason Elephant Park, Bali

End elephant suffering

Call on Mason Elephant Park and Lodge to end the captive breeding of elephants and the cruel interactions for tourist entertainment.

Elephant riding with a bullhook at Bali Zoo

Donate to protect elephants

You can help give elephants the chance to live out their lives in a calm, peaceful environment.

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