Slum Tourism

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Slum tourism is an emerging sector in tourism that provides guided tours into the slums of major cities. It first began in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and has now found popularity in Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Mumbai, Nairobi and Johannesburg.


Why should I be aware of this?

There are opposing views on whether slum tourism is tourism or voyeurism. One school of thought denounces this form of tourism as tramping about amongst people whose average income is less than a dollar a day and who do without the necessary amenities such as adequate housing, adequate food and clean drinking water. Another opinion supports this tourism as they believe it is impossible to understand countries such as Egypt, South Africa and India without seeing firsthand the conditions in which so many of their citizens live.

All about slum tourism

The last few years have seen a rise in slum tourism and there are many opportunities for people to go and see how the other side lives. Slum tourism is promoted by travel companies to reduce poverty and enable local people to participate more effectively in tourism development

  • To improve the local economy of developing countries
  • To generate income for poor people and increase the linkages between tourism businesses and poor people.

The most popular sites are

  • The black townships in South Africa
  • Slums in Mumbai, India
  • Favelas in Rio
  • Natives in Bolivia or villages in Cambodia.

The slums of Mumbai, India, draw curious tourists from all over the world who come to explore the struggle for existence by the slum dwellers. The tourists are provided with guides who have a lot of stories to share about the basics of life in slums.

  • Kibera is the rave spot in Kenya, where AIDS victims dying slowly on a cold, cardboard bed, the breast less teenager, plastic-eating goats fighting small children, unbearable sights of people sleeping on streets.
  • Bus tours of the shanty towns of Soweto or guided tours of the slums of Rio have attracted curious travelers for years.
  • In Delhi, however, these slum tours started in April 2008, and are already attracting lot of western and Indian travelers.

90 degrees

Spain’s King Juan Carlos told delegates at the 28th FITUR tourism trade fair in January, 2008, that tourism into poverty-stricken countries is not just interesting or desirable, but necessary. He said that slum tourism is an effective instrument with which to eradicate poverty and to improve the legitimate aspirations and well-being of citizens.


Slum tourism is criticized as an invasion into someone's privacy and taking away the dignity of the poor.

It is not only considered an unethical way of raising funds and showcasing poverty but also results in mental trauma for the slum dwellers, specially the women and children. But there are many tour operators who find nothing wrong with this form of tourism and claim that since the tours started the people in the slums have found new hopes. They are ready to work hard to improve their conditions.


  • Reality Tourism and Travel: Slum Tours in Africa
  • Slum Visits: Tourism or Voyeurism?
  • Poverty Tourism