Gay travel: how to do it safely and like a pro

 

With more and more countries continuing to decriminalize homosexuality and legalize gay marriage, you could easily assume that the time was ripe to explore the world and experience your pride. With Prides in Sao Paulo and Madrid continuing to welcome millions of pride enthusiasts to the streets each year, global openness and acceptance of the LGBTQ community also appears to seemingly be at an all time high. Nevertheless, discrimination towards LGBTQ people can almost be felt in equal measure, threatening gay travel and challenging the very nature of our rights today.

In April 2019, the Sultan of Brunei attempted to impose a sharia-based penal code to the Borneo nation, which comprised the death penalty by stoning for gay sex. Following a momentous public outcry by various celebs, including Ellen DeGeneres and George Clooney, along with a push to boycott any Sultan-owned hotel, the law was fortunately revoked.

 

 

 

It was nonetheless a startling reminder that our rights can so easily be imperiled, and that gay and lesbian safety is not always a given in many parts of the world. In fact, Equaldex claims that homosexual activity is illegal to some extent in 71 countries, which leads people to question where safe places for gay travel are today. To explore this further, ILGA reports that homosexuality is still illegal in 59% of countries in Africa and 50% of countries in Asia. Even in areas of Poland, recent promotion of anti-LGBTQ discourse has been a prime example of the targeted marginalization our community still endures to this day.

That said, LGBT travel remains by and large a safe activity, and simple rules and conventions should be applied to ensure you can experience a hassle-free gaycation abroad. At misterb&b, enabling the gay community to travel safely and with pride remains at the core of what we do. So to give you a helping hand, we are sharing some tips and tricks to ensure your gay travel experience can be as smooth the dreamy sheets you’ll slide into in your misterb&b apartment or gay hotel.

 

 

Choosing the correct country and city to visit

While the prospect of choosing a travel destination may evoke feelings of excitement and anticipation, LGBTQ travelers should be cautious when selecting where they wish to go. Today, 11 countries including Nigeria and Afghanistan carry the death penalty for homosexuality, while other places such as Qatar and Malaysia are not considered safe for gay and lesbian travelers. For an up-to-date overview on travel safety, it is worth checking out Equaldex, which tracks LGBTQ laws country-by-country, as well as ILGA, which documents current changes and legislation affecting the LGBTQ community.

After all, if you are vacationing with your respective other, it is essential that you research safe places for gay travel to avoid any awkward or potentially dangerous situations while abroad. For example, you may enjoy all the luxury shopping Dubai has to offer, and that is fine, however, it is important for LGBTQ travelers to be aware that the Penal Code of Dubai imposes imprisonment of up to 10 years on consensual sodomy. In 2008, two lesbian tourists were given a one-month jail sentence for kissing on a beach in Dubai.

Despite this sobering reality, the past couple of years have also seen many countries either decriminalize homosexuality, legalize gay marriage, or both. In 2019, homosexuality became legal in Angola and Botswana, while gay marriage was recognized in both Taiwan and Austria. 2018 also witnessed the decriminalization of homosexuality in India, with Mumbai’s first ever openly-out Pride coloring the city streets in February 2019. In addition to these recent changes, many other places across the globe including Spain, Canada, and the Netherlands have long been safe havens for gay and lesbian travelers, and are among some of the safest countries for LGBT travelers.

 

Other useful government websites, sometimes documenting LGBTQ affairs that you could examine before your big trip include:

» Travel.state.gov (USA)

» Gov.uk (GB)

» Diplomatie.gouv.fr (FR)

» Smartraveller.gov.au (AUS)

 

Recognizing and respecting local norms and customs

This one is a no brainer when it comes to travel. For example, would you ever sit down to dinner in Spain at 6pm, drive on the right side of the road in the UK, or go to a restaurant in the USA without tipping on your way out? Most probably not. But when it comes to gay travel, recognizing a country’s local norms and customs goes one step further. Even if a country is legally accepting of homosexuality, it pays to do a little research on its respective social normative fabric when it comes to tolerance towards gay and lesbian travelers.

For example, during the warmer months, you may wish to flaunt that body you have been perfecting over the past couple of months at the gym. Despite this, it pays to be aware of what constitutes ‘decency’ in the city you’re visiting, as some people may find it disrespectful or offensive to local norms and traditions if you are walking in public shirtless.

A good tip for acquainting yourself with the local attitudes is by scanning respective news sites or even local government pages. These will likely give you a glimpse into the country and/or city’s customs, norms, attitudes, and maybe even reveal a little LGBTQ history. You can also take a look at the misterb&b city guides, which often discuss the social and political context of different destinations. As a rule of thumb, it is still advised to take caution when it comes to public displays of affection, until you have fully ascertained the environment. It is also unwise to go alone with people who you do not know very well, unless you are in a public space with other like-minded individuals. While this may seem overzealous, it’s always better to be safe, and if something doesn’t feel right or uncertain, avoid it.

Selecting an appropriate place to stay

Even if you have verified a country’s LGBTQ+ laws and its general acceptance towards the community, discrimination can still occur in many situations during gay travel, including the accommodation you select. It pays to remember the discrimination our founder, Matthieu Jost, faced from his host during his trip to Barcelona. While Barcelona is considered to be one of the most LGBTQ-liberal cities in the world, this discrimination was still very real. To avoid this, we suggest using misterb&b when booking your accommodation.

If you are traveling solo, why not stay with a local misterb&b host who can inform you about the city, including its best gay bars, restaurants, and clubs? And who knows, they may even invite you out with their friends for a night.

Alternatively, if you are traveling with others or you would prefer some privacy, opt for an entire apartment. Should you wish to be in the thick of all the action, it may also be worth researching whether your chosen destination has a designated gayborhood, for example, Le Marais in Paris or Chueca in Madrid, and if there are any misterb&b listings in or around this part of town.

misterb&b has also recently unveiled its latest feature, gay and gay-friendly hotels. By booking one of these hotels on misterb&b, you can enjoy a welcoming place to stay and avoid any awkward requests for double beds over twin beds for example. Gay and gay-friendly hotels are a great option if you would prefer to enjoy some common hotel staples, such as a gym, room service, and even a hotel bar to sip a martini in!

 

Connect with gay locals

There’s nothing like striking up a conversation with a local on the bus, or befriending someone at a cool gay bar in town. Connecting with locals while traveling can be a great way to learn about the destination you’re visiting, and it will likely give you a more authentic experience. After all, some of the best restaurants and gay clubs of a city tend to be those which are a little off the beaten track. So if you have a local to show you around, props to you!

Connecting with gay locals while traveling can come through various ways, and an excellent place to start is by staying with a gay misterb&b host. Not only will you have a great apartment to share, but your amazing host will likely know about all the relevant gay bars, restaurants, and clubs to visit - thus enhancing your opportunities to connect with local gay guys. That said, you may also build a solid rapport with your host, and they might even invite you out with their friends!

Should you wish to stay in your own misterb&b apartment or in a gay hotel instead, different apps including Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, and Grindr can be useful in terms of getting in touch with people - even if you are looking for something platonic. Alternatively, you could do a little research beforehand on any local LGBTQ organizations or centers, which may host meet-ups or have information about different venues throughout the city hosting organized gay and lesbian events.

 

Experience your pride

That said, the world is still making leaps and bounds in terms of overall LGBTQ+ acceptance, and countries are continuing to unite over pertinent topics such as gay legalization and marriage. While it is still encouraged to be mindful when traveling to particular areas of the globe, it is also important to remain passionate about exploring the world and experiencing your pride. Whether traveling solo, with a group of friends, or with your respective other, follow our gay travel tips and tricks, and enjoy a gaycation to remember.