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Travelling as a tourist in the third world is a double curse-for the poor host and the rich visitor

I have always believed, as a kind of truism, that foreign holidays-especially outside Europe and North America-are good for us, that they broaden our minds. Following a recent visit to India I have been having second thoughts. Travelling in the third world as a tourist from the west may have the opposite effect. Far from developing our understanding, it can highlight unwelcome truths about our character and reinforce our prejudices. More seriously, the role of the tourist in these parts of the world is inescapably patronising.

It was not my first visit to India. I had been there four or…

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