Did you know June is National LGBT Pride Month in the USA? It’s a time for celebration, yes, but also an important month for awareness. In the past weeks, there have been several large exposés about the state of gay travel today, most notably in The New York Times. Articles defining what “gay travel” means, ones shedding a light on little-known but still gay-friendly destinations and countless articles (and photo essays) from LGBT pride events around the world. It’s an exciting month to be gay. * * * Traveling as a gay individual isn’t much different than traveling any other way. But sometimes there are special considerations to be made. In some countries you might receive funny looks when you’re a same-sex couple booking one bed in your hotel room. Those kinds of awkward situations can make or break a holiday. We all like to travel to relax when on a vacation. To make gay travel easier and more enjoyable, below are a few of my favorite travel tips for LGBT travelers.
13 Travel Tips for Gay Travelers
1. Meet the locals
Use your apps! Grindr, Scruff and Planet Romeo have long been touted as some of the best gay social networking and meetup (or is it hookup?) apps. But you can also use them for PG-13 purposes! Create a friendly profile, let people know you’re a tourist and ask around for local tips, suggestions on the best bars or little-known tourist sites. There’s also a new gay app out, Distinc.tt, which aims to connect LGBT individuals in more meaningful ways through events and networking.
2. Visit local drag shows
They’re not only a great way to connect with the local LGBT community, but the atmosphere at drag shows is often light-hearted and fun. I’ve been to drag shows in cities as diverse as Helsinki, Berlin, Bangkok and Jerusalem. People are talkative at the shows, there’s sometimes even audience interaction and they’re just generally a lot of fun.
In Phuket on the gay street in Patong which has drag shows every night!
3. Use filters when searching for hotels
When booking your accommodation during a trip, especially when traveling with your partner, many booking sites offer the option to filter results by a number of different characteristics. I always look out for “gay/LGBT-friendly” because then I know I’m staying somewhere that’s actively agreed to identify themselves as gay-friendly, meaning you’re bound to get much less hassle for the dreaded “two beds or one” question. You can also search for gay-friendly hotels by looking out for TAG-approved properties.
4. Book on LGBT-specific websites
5. Do a bit of research before you go
I’ve spoken about this countless times, but it’s worth mentioning again and again. Spend a little bit of time before traveling to a new destination learning quickly what the LGBT rights issues are. Wikipedia is a great place to start with their helpful article on LGBT rights by country, but there are other sites more tailored to gay travel which might have more accurate information. Your country might even offer LGBT travel information for travelers in foreign countries (as the USA State Department does).
6. Go to the gay bars and coffee shops
That’s where you’ll find flyers, maps of the nearby gay-friendly establishments and local LGBT information. Plus there’ll be beer. And cocktail happy hours. And cake. There’s almost always cake.
7. Travel during pride festivals
Gay pride festivals can be a great reason to travel to a new destination. And if you’re traveling Europe during the summer, you might even accidentally stumble upon them. Pride festivals are usually multi-day affairs and coincide with LGBT film festivals, family-friendly events, pride marches and music concerts depending upon the human rights situation of the location. For more information, read why I believe gay pride is so important.
8. Book a gay trip
Companies like OUT Adventures, Detours and Olivia (for women) sell group tours targeted for LGBT travelers. I was originally hesitant about the idea, but after joining an OUT Adventures trip last month to Thailand, I quickly realized what a great experience these types of trip can be. Traveling with a group of other LGBT individuals makes a gay holiday that much easier. The guides are often gay themselves and so can easily point you in the right direction for local gay nightlife. And knowing that the trip was organized by LGBT travel specialists means you likely won’t encounter any potentially awkward situations with hotels or other travel providers. Gay group trips really make for a great experience and I highly recommend them for LGBT travelers of all ages.
9. Visit LGBT hotspots
There’s no doubt that some destinations are considered more gay-friendly than others. And while everyone has their own travel interests, I think you’ll find many of the more popular LGBT travel hotspots around the world are continually ranked among the best cities and places to visit—regardless of your sexual orientation. Cities like Tel Aviv, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, NYC and San Francisco continually make the top of “best LGBT destination” lists — and that’s because they’re just such big, exciting and (importantly) gay-friendly places. If you’re looking for authentic travel experiences, you don’t have to avoid them — they’re just as likely to make for a great trip as other places.
10. Visit unexpected LGBT destinations
Okay, here I’m going to contradict myself. While the top LGBT travel hotspots can make for great trips, there are also countless cities which might be unexpectedly LGBT-friendly. I’ve stumbled into gay and overtly gay-friendly bars in places as far away as Luanag Prabang (in Laos) and Amman, Jordan. Then there are smaller, perhaps second-tier cities such as Austin, Texas or Stockholm, Sweden which have a lot to offer LGBT tourists.
11. Report any problems
If you are traveling and do experience harassment, make sure you report it. Local LGBT organizations will be able to inform you of where and how to report. Many cities have LGBT centers which offer STD & HIV testing in addition to volunteers to help with LGBT rights issues.
12. Read gay travel blogs for inspiration
There are countless gay travel publications which cover both typical and atypical LGBT destinations, but sometimes the best advice comes from smaller publications. Sites like Gay Cities and Out Traveler have useful city guides, but this list I’ve made of gay travel blogs contains links to personal travel blogs from writers big and small.
13. Have fun & be safe!
As you might imagine, I’m a huge believer in the importance of travel. Seeing new places, meeting new people and experiencing new things are some of my favorite reasons for exploring so much of this world of ours. And while LGBT rights might vary across the world, you don’t have to let that hinder your own travel experiences. Be safe, trust your instincts and enjoy the world!
On June 12th, I’m co-hosting an LGBT travel Twitter chat with Lonely Planet. Join in on the conversation for the chance to win prizes! More information available on the Lonely Planet blog, but here’s the gist…
We’ll be talking about LGBT travel advice, gay pride events, gay-friendly travel experiences, coping with prejudice while traveling and the best LGBT cities. Join in at 5pm London, 6pm Europe, 12pm (noon) New York, 9am Pacific.
Have your own gay travel tips? Share them below and make sure to join the #LPChat about LGBT travel on June 12th! Some of the above travel tips are expanded from my list of useful travel info, available here.