By Shaan Bajaj
A/N: This is a general guide with useful information that can help, however it does not claim to speak on all people’s experiences. Even people in places with friendly LGBTQIA+ laws may experience negative experiences, and conversely, there may be a wholesome underground LGBTQIA+ scene in a country with strict anti-gay laws. Always do your own research, and exercise your own judgment to keep yourself safe.
When asked what I would do with an endless supply of money, I would like to think that I would solve poverty
or end world hunger, one of these lofty ideals, but realistically, the first thing I would do is get on a flight. Having visited 23 countries, I am constantly aware of the 172 countries I have yet to step foot in. One of my favourite things about travelling is researching and planning my entire trip; from making a list of restaurants to choosing where to stay, I have rough itineraries for multiple cities across the globe.
If you are cis-gender and straight, it is often easy to lean into travel as an escape, whether this is with a romantic partner or people you meet on holiday. In comparison, if you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, there can be serious risks to your safety, taking away the relaxation you may be after. Here is travel guide on how to ensure you are keeping yourself from harm’s way, while also exploring every corner of the world.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOUR TRIP: RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
The phrase, “knowledge is power” certainly rings true when you are venturing beyond your comfort zone, where you are familiar with how to keep yourself safe. Although Thailand is yet to legalise same-sex marriage, our society has a thriving LGBTQIA+ community, and is generally accepting of queer identities. Other countries may not be as accepting, especially if you are trans, non-binary, or gender non-conforming, or travelling with a same-sex partner. How you present yourself can have serious safety repercussions.
Here is a list of areas to research before your trip, using Oman as an example, to ensure you are aware of the welcome awaiting you.
- Is same-sex marriage legal in Oman?
- What laws are available to offer you protection in Oman?
- Does Oman criminalise homosexuality? If yes, to what degree?
Keep a list of local contacts within the city, whether this may be your embassy, local organisations, or online individuals who are also part of the community.
If you are transgender, or present yourself in a manner that is non-gender conforming, there is an added risk when going through security at the airport. Make sure to keep all necessary travel documents with you.
While travelling, where you are resting your head at night is essential to having a relaxing trip. You want to be able to come to your room and unwind; it’s your temporary home where you will be at your most vulnerable, especially if travelling with a romantic partner.
- Does the city you are visiting have a gay district?
- Is your accommodation located in an accepting area of the city?
- If you are staying at a hotel, is it LGBTQIA+ friendly? Has the brand shown public support for the community?
Most international chains have LGBTQIA+ policies to ensure your safety, but it is always wise to double check. Some of the prominent and popular global chains that are LGBTQIA+ friendly include Marriott, Hilton, and Accor. If you are opting out of a hotel stay, it is a good idea to contact the property and ask. For example, Airbnb has asked hosts to mention whether they are LGBTQIA+ friendly in their listing.
THE LGBTQIA+ SCENE
While the laws of a country may not be the most LGBTQIA+ friendly, there may be pockets that are wildly accepting, and continuously promote the wellbeing of the community, much like the one in Thailand.
- Look for LGBTQIA+ friendly restaurants/ pubs/bars in the area you are visiting. You may also want to seek our any local publications or blogs that are catered to the queer community.
- Are there any pride parades or events taking place? If yes, you may want to book your trip during that time of the year.
- Look up museums or historical places that celebrate the community.
- Check for any queer-focused travel groups that are local to the city, that you can join online.
FIVE COUNTRIES THAT ARE LGBTQIA+ FRIENDLY
Although it is tough to travel everywhere, there still are a huge amount of countries that are safe to travel to as a queer individual. Here are five countries that you can enjoy, knowing you are welcome and safe.
The ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ is one of the friendliest destinations for LGBTQIA+ travellers – it’s even home to a church that officiates weddings for the community. In addition to the Icelandic society’s accepting nature, Iceland also hosts an annual Pride parade, and it is a breathtaking destination that you are unlikely to forget during your lifetime.
Rated as one of the most LGBTQIA+ -friendly countries in Europe, Sweden’s legislation protects queer rights and hosts multiple Pride parades across the country!
Known for their warmth, it is no surprise that Canada is considered a safe and happening space for the queer community. For nature lovers, Canada is an ideal choice with a range of activities to take part in, like camping, hiking, stargazing and more.
This small archipelago located in the Mediterranean Sea boasts a rich history with ancient architecture, and pristine waters for a range of water sports. The islands have a thriving LGBTQIA+ scene, with dedicated websites to help you find all the best spots. Visit gaymalta.com and gayguidemalta.com for more up-to-date information.
Often regarded as one of the friendliest countries for the trans community, Argentina is home to a vibrant LGBTQIA+ community, with countless bars and clubs in Buenos Aires, and other festivals in cities across the country.
LGBTQIA+ TRAVEL BLOGGERS TO FOLLOW ON INSTAGRAM
WEBSITES TO USE WHEN PLANNING YOUR TRIP
- equaldex.com: use this website to check your legal rights, and what protections are available in the country you are planning on visiting.
- iglta.org: this organisation offers LGBTQIA+ travel guides, events, tours, accommodation, and information you may need to enjoy your trip.
- Pride (Girls LOVE Travel) is a private Facebook group for individuals who identify as female, are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, or an ally, who are curious to learn more about travelling as a queer female.
- Transgender Travel Club is a public Facebook group that specifically helps the transgender community travel safely.
DID YOU KNOW?
- 64 countries still have laws that criminalise homosexuality. Out of those 64, you can be punished with the death penalty in 11, including Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates.
- Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 35 countries.