Attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) individuals can vary greatly across the world. For that reason, a little extra planning needs to go into your holiday if you identify as LGBT+. You can have a safe and enjoyable trip by following our quick tips.
Research your chosen destination
For all travellers, it goes without saying that it is vital to research a potential destination before visiting. Understanding the local culture, transport network, currency, laws, health issues and, of course, best places to visit should be done before setting foot on a plane, train or ferry. However, for members of the LGBT+ community, developing a clear understanding of attitudes towards matters such as same-sex relationships isn’t always easy.
In some parts of the world, same-sex relationships are still illegal and prejudices remain. There are also a number of rules and regulations in relation to etiquette for men and women, such as clothing and accessibility to some places.
Invest in a guide book
Guide books are an excellent way to find out information on a destination, regardless of your sexuality. For LGBT+ travellers, guide books can be particularly useful as they often provide tailored advice with regard to attitudes and events of particular interest to LGBT+ people. Visit your local bookshop and have a flip through the guides in their travel section to see if you can glean any helpful information.
Look to LGBT+ press for advice
LGBT+ news outlets are also an excellent place to look for advice. LGBT+ press and charitable organisations will often have the most up-to-date and comprehensive information regarding attitudes towards LGBT+ people abroad, as well as any news stories that may not have come to prominence in mainstream media. Hotels that do not accept bookings from same-sex couples may be reported here, for example.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office recommends the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s online maps which highlight the countries where LGBT+ identities are criminalised, protected and recognised. The FCO also suggests the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, which provides travel advice for gay and lesbian people, and the Gay European Tourism Association, which provides advice for LGBT+ people travelling in Europe.
Keep embassy phone numbers on hand
No matter how much research you do beforehand, it is still possible that you could experience homophobic or transphobic abuse whilst traveling. As with anywhere in the world, tolerance and liberalism can vary greatly from person to person. If you come into trouble, contact the nearest British embassy.
Understandably, you may not feel comfortable contacting the local police when you are abroad. Embassy staff are aware of this, and make it clear that they will not pass judgements about you or your lifestyle. There is a British embassy in almost every country in the world, so it is strongly recommended that you make a note of their contact details before you leave.
Don’t take unnecessary risks
It is important that you take precautions whilst abroad and avoid trouble. While the LGBT+ community has every right to be proud and stand up for their beliefs, a holiday can very quickly descend into a nightmare if you find yourself on the wrong side of the laws of the land.
If you use cruising apps or chatrooms it is important to stay vigilant, as some state police have been known to entrap LGBT+ people through these sites. LGBT+ people are also at a higher risk of being exploited by criminals, as the LGBT+ community is often considered to be very friendly and trusting.
Additionally, it is advised that you avoid excessive displays of affection when in public. This rule applies for same-sex and heterosexual couples alike, as customs relating to modesty can be strict in parts of the world. Receiving abusive comments or unwanted attention can be frustrating, but it is best to ignore this rather than responding verbally or physically. The situation may escalate and this could put you in danger – if you feel threatened, contact the local authority or the British embassy.
Your LGBT+ identity should not preclude you from traveling abroad – do your research, and you can still have a fun, safe and enjoyable trip.