Whether you are taking a short trip or going on a long-haul adventure, planning a vacation is fun and exciting. LGBT travellers enjoy experiencing local customs and traditions, and also find comfort in being surrounded by others from the LGBT community. A destination doesn’t have to have a gay bar or gaybourhood to be considered gay friendly, there are other signals, indicators, and considerations that LGBT travellers look for when planning where to go on their next adventure. There certainly signals that suggest that the area should be avoided or visited with caution, and other signals that indicate the destination is LGBT friendly. Here are some things to look for when making plans or considering where to go for a LGBT friendly vacation destination:
Considerations why you may want to avoid travelling to a destination:
- Research the political climate of the area you are visiting. There are countries embattled in civil wars that see minorities, including queer people, used to perpetuate turmoil. There are many countries, including Russia, that have specific laws where being openly gay and showing gay propaganda is considered a crime, which could put your life and freedom in danger. While not every city needs to have a gay bar, it does need to be a place where you won’t get arrested for looking gay walking down the street.
- Learn about civil and women’s rights. Nations that do not recognize civil liberties for women likely do not have laws or rights supporting homosexuality or limited rights for the LGBT community.
- Religion could be part of the consideration where you visit. Learning about local customs, religions, and beliefs are important for many adventure seekers; however, for LGBT travellers this can pose a risk. Religious extremists often do not support LGBT rights and deem homosexuality as a crime. In other remote areas, like Papua New Guinea, some indigenous tribes still practice cannibalism; not exactly the type of head hunting you’d be looking for on a holiday. It’s not to say don’t visit these countries, but if you do, approach with caution and awareness.
- Be cautious of rainbow washing. The pink dollar has a lot of value and companies know this. They know that the gay community has a higher disposable income and they will try to capitalize on it. Read reviews to check that they are legit and not just trying to score a quick queer buck. Pink / rainbow washing may increase the number of LGBT visitors short-term, but it isn’t a signal that they authentically support the LGBT community or are queer friendly.
Indicators that it is an LGBT-friendly destination:
- Areas with an out, open, proud gayborhood. Gay bars don’t equate to the totality of the gay community, but they are often indicative of how tolerant the straight community is of queer people and minorities. Gay owned and operated businesses that cater to queer clientele will make you feel like you have places to go where there are people like you.
- Nations with exceptional human rights. The Netherlands are often known as the land of canals, windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, bicycles, and red lights, but their human rights extend all the way to LGBT people and have lead the world for equality for two decades. This directly translates to the Dutch being the some of the happiest people on earth and their country one of the safest and most tolerant. The way women are treated in a country is often indicative of how their nation views queer people.
- Countries that cater towards the tourism industry. Places like Thailand and Costa Rica aren’t always known world-wide as gay friendly locations, but the people there are kind, warm, and accepting, that they have become known as gay friendly through default. Both countries welcome gay travelers, expats, and locals have migrated to and lived in harmony with their straight neighbors for 30 years. As a result, gays have moved there and created gay villages in areas known for their welcoming disposition.
- Look for authentic validation points. The true marker symbols like reviews, gay flags hanging out, fully operational websites with up to date information, and accreditation from groups like IGLTA, Purple Roofs, etc.
If you are planning a vacation and looking to determine if the destinations are LGBT friendly, these tips should help point you in the direction if you are looking to be within the community while you are abroad. While by no means do you have to travel to a LGBT friendly vacation destination, approach travelling to areas that don’t condone homosexuality with caution and be vigilant.