June has finally arrived and with it comes the long awaited LGBTQ Pride Month. Rainbow flags will be hoisted at hundreds of pride parades across the globe and champagne drunk at vibrant parties and festivals commemorating the illustrious month.
For gay travellers, there’s no month as ideal as June to pack your bags and see your share of the world. On top of your conventional sightseeing plans and beach visits, you can swing by pride parades and participate in events catered exclusively to LGBTQ folks – these events often also shine a spotlight on issues faced by LGBTQ communities around the world.
It’s best to go prepared for every trip though, so before you plan your itinerary and book your tickets, make sure to thoroughly research all aspects of your trip including cities that you’ll be visiting and hotels that you’ll be staying in. Pre-trip research is important for LGBTQ travellers because they sometimes face higher risks to their safety, especially if they’re travelling to countries or regions that are highly conservative and have little to no established LGBTQ visiblity or rights.
Whether it’s a solo trip you’re embarking on or a summer getaway with your partner, here are some tips to make the most of your holiday and stay safe at the same time!
1. Pick your travel destination wisely
Although there has been a drastic improvement in terms of equal rights for LGBTQ folks in the past decade, it’s important to remember that not every country has moved in this direction. Even today, in certain countries such as Pakistan and Nigeria, homosexuality is punishable by death. In less severe cases, it may still warrant a few years in prison. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s (ILGA) website is immensely helpful in identifying sexual orientation laws around the world and reporting whether same-sex relationships are criminalised or have constitutional protection in various countries.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that as a blanket rule, you shouldn’t travel to countries that criminalise same-sex relationships. It just means that you have to be a lot more aware of your surroundings and careful in public, especially if you’re travelling with your partner. In certain countries such as Singapore, even though same-sex relationships are outlawed, the law remains largely unenforced. It’s important therefore, to both do your research beforehand and use your discretion when choosing conservative travel destinations and when visiting them.
2. Use LGBT-friendly hotel and tour booking sites
This is not a must, especially if you’re a seasoned traveller or someone who’s holidayed before in your destination country, but it’s a huge help for first-time gay travellers. Although it is less common today than it was ten years ago, news of gay travellers being turned away by hotels with bigoted owners or staff may still reach your ears every now and then. In countries which have established laws that prevent discrimination against gay persons, this is less likely to happen. However, in conservative countries, even if you find yourself as a victim of discrimination, you’re not likely to find much support from those around you or the law.
You can use WorldRainbowHotels, which gives you a list of hotels that are welcoming towards LGBT travellers, when you’re looking to book a hotel. Or use the LGBTQ filter on Expedia as a handy tool. Misterb&b is a great gay-friendly alternative for Airbnb, through which you can both find gay-friendly accommodation and meet gay locals! For those of you who’re looking to go on tours with other LGBTQ folks or expeditions that are gay-friendly, TravelGay offers dozens of group tours in countries such as Greece and New Zealand. This site has the bonus of showing you reviews given by other gay travellers on these tours as well as hotels.
3. Find out where the gay scene is
Whether it’s a downtown gay bar or a cafe in the outskirts of the city that’s owned by gay folks, there are always a few niche places where the gay scene is alive and thriving. In LGBTQ hotspot cities such as San Francisco and Berlin, these places may be numerous, but in others, they may be under-the-radar and a lot harder to find.
It’s generally easier if you do your research beforehand by visiting sites such as GayCities or TravelGayAsia, for more specific details if you’re going to be heading to an Asian country. These, along with travel blogs such as Globetrotter Girls and Phil and Garth, will be able to point out bars or restaurants where LGBTQ locals get together. Or even casual spots where LGBTQ travellers frequently meet and mingle. It’s not always possible to ask strangers on the street where the nearest gay-friendly coffee shop is, especially if you’re in a country which isn’t particularly open, so this research will pay off.
4. Go for Pride parades and events
This may be a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s always convenient to visit cities or countries where there are plenty of events and parades going on in lieu of Pride Month. After all, you may not get the opportunity to mingle with so many other LGBTQ folks in one place or enjoy events that are specifically catered to gay individuals other than in the month of June. The Globetrotter Guys have written about the numerous Pride parades and events that they have attended across the globe and they even have some neat tips for those of you who’re planning to attend Pride parades this month.
Of course, not all LGBTQ-centred events are held in June – the Cologne Pride Parade in France takes place in July and the Copenhagen Parade in August. TravelGay’s Pride Calendar is an excellent resource for those of you who are looking to find out when Pride or major LGBTQ events around the world are taking place. This way, you can even plan a fun holiday around Pride and enjoy the numerous other LGBTQ-focused events that will be taking place during that period. There’s no better way to get involved in the local gay scene than to mingle with hundreds or even thousands of other gay folks in one place!
5. Visit cities that are LGBTQ hotspots
A few cities undoubtedly come to mind when we think of an exuberant and lively gay scene – Berlin, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Bangkok. The list goes on. Some of these cities, such as Los Angeles, have an established LGBTQ scene and have been hosting Pride parades and events for decades. New York has held Pride parades since 1970 – right after the Stonewall riots, which Pride Month commemorates. Cities such as these usually have numerous gay bars, gay-friendly cafes and restaurants as well as frequent events that bring together LGBTQ folks for various purposes.
NomadicMatt, an established gay travel blogger, has a handy list of gay hotspots and as well as events that you can look forward to in these cities. For those who are looking to let loose and enjoy themselves without having to be conscious of or check their sexualities, these cities are the perfect destination. You don’t have to step out of your comfort zone or be placed in awkward or hostile situations since locals are likely to be welcoming and friendly towards LGBTQ travellers.
6. Use gay dating apps to meet locals
A holiday is always made better by meeting like-minded individuals whom you can connect with on a deeper level. There’re little things that are more satisfying than making a friend out of a complete stranger in a foreign country and then keeping in touch with your new international pal. For gay individuals, you may want to avoid the process of coming out to straight folks and the anxiety of guessing or predicting their response, so you can opt to sign up for apps such as Grindr and Hornet to meet gay locals exclusively.
If you’re looking for something more or if you want to get a feel of the dating scene in other countries, these apps will come in handy. After all, you can’t rule out finding the love of your life just because you’re in India or Germany. For those who are travelling as a couple or who aren’t looking for hook-ups or anything romantic, make sure that you indicate on your dating app profile that you’re a tourist who’s looking for buddies or someone to show them around the city.
Adam, who runs professional travel blog, TravelsofAdam, has given his take on the best way to meet LGBTQ locals during your trip:
“Meeting other LGBTQ locals while traveling is sometimes a challenge. There are of course the dating apps and the gay bars, but sometimes if you’re just looking for a new friendship or a local guide, it can be a little more challenging.
I personally love checking digital forums, such as LGBTQ Facebook groups (sometimes you can find them by the city/country, queer Couchsurfing meetups, or even reddit forums. There are are so many places online where LGBTQ people meet (including twitter and instagram), so why not also use those to then meet in real life? Of course it’s important to be safe and mindful; trust your instincts and depending upon where you’re traveling and how safe it is for LGBTQ locals to be gay matters a lot.“
7. Take care of your sexual and physical health
As we mentioned earlier, travelling is also a great opportunity for those looking for love or even those looking for commitments that are more short-term. Not only do you have the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and meet someone from a different background and culture, you can also get sexually involved with the person if they’re your cup of tea. The NHS recommends that you mind your sexual health and keep yourself protected from ailments that can be contracted through sexual activities.
Condoms and lubricant are very important in keeping yourself safe and if you aren’t sure that you can get your preferred brand in your destination country, throw in a couple of packs into your suitcase to avoid the trouble later on. Don’t have unprotected sex at any point in time when you’re overseas, especially if you’re in regions where HIV is rampant among locals. The hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines are recommended for those who’re looking to engage in casual sex during their holiday and if it’s flu season, it’s best that you also get the influenza vaccine to prevent infection while in close contact with others.
8. Know where to seek help if you are in trouble
Even visits to cities or countries that may have been deemed safe by gay travellers and which are famously gay-friendly can sometimes go south. It’s important to do your research before your trip and identify avenues that you can turn to for help in cases where your safety or health is affected. If you have been physically attacked or robbed, it is best to reach out to the British embassy or consulate in your holiday destination. The British Government is always willing and ready to help its residents when they run into trouble overseas, so make contact as soon as possible especially if you’re in a perilous situation.
If you’re travelling to a country where LGBTQ folks are offered constitutional or broad protection or if there are anti-discrimination laws in place in the country, you can report hostile comments and behaviour as well as any discriminatory acts to local authorities. It is best to avoid confrontation if you’re in countries that are largely hostile against LGBT people or where same-sex relationships are criminalised. If you feel that you’re in danger at any point, try to remove yourself from the place or situation and seek help from the police if necessary.
9. Follow gay travel blogs
If you want advice on which city to visit, which tour to go on and where best to meet other gay individuals, it’s best that you get advice straight from the horse’s mouth. Follow blogs by gay travellers so that you know about gay-friendly venues that are becoming popular as vacation spots. These folks have travelled to and experienced the atmosphere in many countries, so they’ll be able to point out the spots and activities that will make your trip a fruitful and enjoyable one.
For lesbian travellers, Globetrotter Girls is a great resource for everything that is related to lesbian travel, be it solo or with your partner. What Wegan Did Next is also chock-full of beautiful pictures and detailed diaries of a married lesbian couple’s travel adventures. Travels of Adam is perfect for gay travellers and it even has a comprehensive section dedicated to gay travel locations and tips. The Globetrotter Guys and Phil and Garth are also popular travel blogs run by gay couples which offer up-to-date and useful advice on activities and things to look out for in various countries. These travellers have discovered the world and laid it out for you so that you can learn from their experiences and tailor your trip according to your preferences.
10. Discover new places and have fun
As much as it’s easier and safer to stick to gay capitals or places that have been recommended by fellow LGBTQ travellers, sometimes taking a calculated risk does pay off. Some cities or countries are perhaps not well known as gay-friendly locations but upon your visit, you may discover hidden alcoves where the local gay community is thriving. There is a certain thrill in making such discoveries and venturing where not many other LGBTQ travellers have been – who knows, you may experience a vibrant gay scene and make plenty of friends in the process.
For all that countries such as Russia have a reputation of being hostile towards its LGBTQ community, many gay travellers have discovered that the gay community is large in Moscow and that they party hard and have as much fun as gay folks in Berlin or São Paulo. Go with an open mind and reach out to other gay travellers in the city or gay locals to discover gay-friendly spots and find out where the local LGBT community frequently hangs out. However, remember to keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re in a country whose population is not the friendliest towards LGBT folks. If you ever feel that your safety is or might be threatened, remove yourself from the place or situation. But if you discover a gay-friendly wonderland in an unconventional city, good for you!
These are just some of the tips that may be useful for you before you plan your next holiday. June won’t last for much longer, so travel during Pride month if you can and enjoy the vibrant scenes and unparalleled energy that it brings along with it. Before you set off on your trip, make an appointment with us to get travel health advice from our experienced nurse and vaccinations that will keep you safe!