We believe travel is one of the most rewarding things you can experience in life, whether you are gay or straight. However, the reality is that travelling while gay is not always as straightforward or even as safe as it is for straight travelers. There are things gay travelers need to be aware of that wouldn’t even cross the mind of someone who’s never been treated differently because of their sexuality.
For over 10 years we have traveled all over the world as a gay couple, even to countries where being gay is frowned upon or downright illegal. In some places, being gay could even get you killed! But we don’t think these facts should scare you off traveling altogether. It just means that there is an extra layer of research and things to consider when planning your fabulous gay holiday.
Luckily we excel at that part! We’ve put together this guide with all our tried and tested safety tips for gay travelers, to ensure you can safely explore the world no matter what your sexuality. Follow this checklist before every holiday and you too will be able to enjoy a safe, fun and fabulous gaycation! Be sure to also check out our detailed page to gay travel safety.
1. Check the local laws and official government advice
Before we go anywhere the first thing we do is read up on local laws regarding homosexuality and check what our government’s official advice is regarding travel to the area. Wikipedia is actually a pretty good starting point to see what a country’s laws are relating to homosexuality. Sometimes it may technically be legal to be gay, but the local attitudes aren’t actually going to be that welcoming. We also like to read up on other gay bloggers’ experiences and our posts about gay destinations are written to specifically answer these sorts of questions (hint, hint)!
The second place we look before booking any travel is our (well the UK’s) official government advice. You can simply google the name of the country you want to visit and ‘travel advice’ or your country of origin and ‘foreign travel advice’ to get to the official government page. These are always kept very up to date and will tell you what your home country’s official stance is regarding safety while traveling in other countries.
Usually there is also a specific section for LGBTQ travel advice along with any other recent updates about things to be aware of in the area. It’s also very important to pay attention to government advice since if something happens and you need to claim insurance, but you ignored official advice, then you may not be compensated!
2. Is it safe to use gay dating apps?
When traveling we like to connect with locals using gay dating apps - they’re not just for scoring dates people! Well, maybe back home they are, but we’ve found that in certain countries where the gay scene is more underground, apps like Grindr become THE way to find out about local gay events.
But you should also follow a few simple safety tips when using these, especially when you’re in an unfamiliar destination. Number one, be careful of fake accounts and cat-fishing! We’ve even seen our own photos used for fake accounts so if you are going to be meeting someone, make sure to do it in a public place.
The next thing we check is what sort of internet censorship or surveillance is being used in a country, as obviously this can affect how (or if) you can use the gay dating apps. In places like Dubai, gay dating apps are blocked and illegal, but you can get around this by using a good VPN. A VPN keeps your online use anonymous so you know you can safely access the gay apps without having to worry about local police busting down your hotel room door!
While Grindr is the number one gay dating app the world over, in certain countries others are more widely used. We found that Hornet is popular in countries like Russia, Turkey, Brazil, France and Mexico, while Blued is most used in Asia, particularly China.
3. Look for gay friendly accommodations
The last thing we want while traveling is to not be able to relax even in the comfort of our accommodation. How do we get around it? By looking for gay friendly accommodation of course! Whenever we arrive somewhere, we can immediately tell how homphobic a place is by the reactions we get when trying to book a double bed. We’ve actually been turned away from places, even where homosexuality is legal, so now we make sure to do our homework beforehand.
Luckily there are ways to find a place to stay that is accepting and even welcoming to LGBTQ guests. You can look online at some of the gay travel organisations like IGLTA, TAG, World Rainbow Hotels, Spartacus, Gay Welcome and Purple Roofs to see which hotels or guesthouses get the seal of approval. There are also gay specific alternatives to Airbnb like Misterbnb, Gay Homestays, FabStayz and Gaystay. Rest assured that all listings on these websites are either gay-owned, openly marketed for the gay travel community or have been vetted as being gay friendly.
We often choose to stay at hotels that fall under the W, Marriott or Hyatt brand, as they are known the world-over for always being gay friendly. If you’re looking on TripAdvisor you can even search for listings with the term gay in them to find ones either listed as gay/gay friendly or where previous guests have mentioned it in their reviews. These reviews are also a great way to find out exactly how gay friendly a place is before you visit.
If all else fails and you want to find out if you will be welcomed at a certain accommodation then you could call or email them ahead of time and ask. Sometimes the response we get by doing this is the fastest way to find out what it would be like to stay there - one way or another...
4. Use a reputable gay tour operator
Joining a tour is a fun way to travel and meet other people while letting someone else handle all the logistics of planning. Plenty of excellent gay tour operators have cropped up in recent years too, so you can have the best of both seeing fabulous locations while having fun with other gay travel-lovers. We’ve made some lifelong friendships with the guys we’ve met on gay tours.
Traveling with a group can also be much safer than trying to go it alone. For one thing, there’s safety in numbers. Now we’re not saying that a gay tour is like a herd of gazelles or anything (well, maybe some fabulous zebras right?!), but, of course, you’re much less likely to be harassed when you’re with a group.
If you want to join a gay tour make sure you use one of the reputable and well-known operators that have been around for a while so you can be sure that everything will go smoothly. Some of the gay tour companies we have personally traveled with and have no hesitation recommending to other gay travelers include Out Adventures, He Travel, Brand G, Coda Tours, Detours and Atlantis Events.
Just be wary of going for companies that say they are gay friendly but are only doing it for publicity. You can take our word for the companies above but make sure you also do your own due diligence when looking to book a tour. Read reviews to see how other gay travelers found it, check to see if they hire gay local guides and how they say they will keep you safe if you’re in a country where the laws don’t protect gay people.
5. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance!
We tell everyone this anyway, but for gay travelers especially, never leave home without organising travel insurance first. It can be easy to think that nothing bad has ever happened when traveling before or to just get the cheapest travel insurance you can but, trust us, this is one place where you shouldn’t skimp.
Travel is super fun but it doesn’t always go according to plan. Missed flights, lost luggage, illness or injury are all things that can happen and cause unexpected costs. Nothing is a bigger bummer than your tropical holiday being spoiled, except maybe a big hospital bill slapped on top of that. But if you make sure you are protected before you go then you won’t need to worry when something unexpected occurs.
We have had to deal with unexpected medical bills, stolen items and other annoyances during our many trips abroad. We always organise travel insurance though, and have never had an issue making a claim to get our money back. Our safety tips should be enough to ensure you have a fun and hassle-free holiday, while travel insurance is the icing on the fabulous cake - it just wouldn’t be complete without that topping!