There are some significant differences in attitudes around the globe when it comes to LGBTQ+ acceptance. Although we have it relatively good here in the UK, there are still around 70 countries where being in a same sex relationship is illegal, and around 10 where the death penalty can be enforced. This blog isn’t aimed at putting anyone off travelling, on the contrary, we want to encourage everyone to travel and to do so safely! We’ve experienced travel as LGBTQ+ people and we’re here to share some of our top tips for how to prepare for a safe trip and have the best experience possible.
Do Your Research on LGBTQ+ Travel
First things first – do your research. When organising a trip, everyone must plan & research; the best places to eat, to soak up local culture and where to have fun in the sun! For LGBTQ+ individuals, we need to research a little bit more to also find out about local attitudes towards LGBTQ+ communities. Being prepared will ensure you and you travel companions are as safe as possible.
There are a number of useful resources online to help you do this. Check out the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel guide for LGBTQ+ travellers, which gives lots of helpful general advice including what to do in an emergency. The NHS Fit For Travel website also has lots of useful information you should familarise yourself with. The ILGA produces a number of really valuable country maps depicting which countries have legalised gay marriage & adoption with protection laws in place, but also which countries have criminalised the LGBTQ+ community, and the severity of that criminalisation.
It’s important to look in to the culture of the place you visit, too. There may be no specific anti LGBTQ+ legislation, but the social attitudes may still be negative or dangerous. The FCO guides mentioned above include country specific information on local laws and customs. Find your destinations & understand what kind of attitudes you need to prepare for.
The Closet Conundrum
Coming out of the closet is difficult for most but having to go back in the closet can also be tricky too! Having to dampen who you are for the benefit of others is not a fun thing to do, and it’s ok to get frustrated reading about local customs & attitudes to LGBTQ+ people, but it’s important to think your travel destination through in advance. If you feel you could lose integrity by censoring yourself, or that it could be damaging to your mental health, that is very understandable, and you might want to avoid some destinations until attitudes change. There are many amazing places all around the world where LGBTQ+ communities are fully supported & celebrated. If you want to travel openly yourself, there’s so many safe places waiting to be explored! In this blog by the Nomadic Boys, they run through some of the most Gay friendly countries across the world. Hostel World has a good guide to LGBTQ+ friendly cities specifically. If you’re not comfortable with having to closet yourself, pick a destination that will welcome you as you are.
Daily Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travellers
If you are travelling to a country which isn’t completely accepting of the LGBTQ+ communities, there’s no reason why you still can’t go there to enjoy the positive experiences that it can offer if you are prepared to possibly adjust your behaviour while there. There are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that you’re protecting yourself:
- Phone & Devices – change your lock & home screen to something neutral and edit your settings so that message content doesn’t appear on your home screen notifications
- Social Media – make your accounts private and change your display pictures if needed
- Dating apps – many same sex dating apps can be illegal in certain countries, so it is worth deleting them before you travel and refrain from using them when there
- Hotels – if you’re travelling with a partner, look at booking two beds in a hotel room. In stricter countries be sure to make it look as if two beds have been used, as hotel maids have been known to report couples for only one bed having been slept in
- Documents – make sure that your legal documents, e.g. passport, driver‘s license etc. match your gender identity. If your next of kin on your passport is a same sex partner, especially listed as husband or wife, be wary of this too and change it if travelling in more hostile countries
- Keep a low profile – keep to yourself in public areas that do not feel like safe spaces; this could be altering your appearance to seem more heteronormative, or not holding your partners hand or showing public affection
One of the most important things by far, is to let yourself have fun! It is easy to get down about all the places in the world that are not accepting of us, and it is a stark reminder that the fight for equality is very much alive & needed. Focus on all the places we are accepted, and the wonderful sights & experiences that can be had in those countries – from seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland to whale watching in New Zealand to dancing to Abba in Sweden! If you do your research and take the correct precautions there is no reason why everyone can’t have an amazing travel experience, no matter who they are or where they go.
Book in at Nomad for a travel health consultation to get you ready for whatever trip you decide to go on, If you have any questions about LGBTQ+ travel, our Nurses can give you thorough & relevant advice for your destinations.