The Gay Globetrotter

Safety Travel Tips for LGBTQ Travelers

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Have you been inspired to book a trip recently? Here are some travel tips for LGBTQ+ travelers to help you stay safe while having a blast.

Everyone deserves the chance to travel the world and see amazing sights. To have a happy vacation experience. To discover themselves in more ways than one. The world is diverse, after all, and so are you Unfortunately, not every location is as open to non-straight cisgender individuals. There are still laws and other repercussions that exist for being LGBTQ+.

Couple enjoying travel together

Luckily, wavers of the rainbow flag are an adventurous, inquisitive, and organized bunch. You know that if you want to have the best vacation of your life, you need to be prepared. So, here are some safety travel tips to help you have an ultimate adventure.

1. Local Laws

The first step is to do your research. Know where homosexuality is illegal or a punishable offense. This way, you can figure out which region of the world is best to visit and will be most accepting.

Some resources like Travel Gay has maps available of every continent and popular city or region to give you an in-depth look of the local atmosphere.

2. Get Your Paperwork Together

Like all travelers, you are going to need to keep every important travel document with you, potentially medical scripts if you are transgender, travel insurance, and so on. But what happens if you are a same-sex couple with an adopted child? Now, this is where it gets a bit more difficult.

Homosexual parents with adopted children should bring photocopies of everyone’s passport, adoption papers, birth certificates, parentage and custody documents, especially if the children are minors and don’t have your last name. Talk to the kids as well. You want them to be prepared to answer questions.

For parents that are not listed on birth certificates, be sure to get a notarized letter from the person whose name is on the paper so you have authorization to travel.

While questions rarely happen when traveling to and from gay-friendly locations, you should always be prepared.

3. Research Local Customs

Now, laws and customs don’t always collide. Sometimes, what the law says is okay is still not okay with the people living there. Be sure to research the local customs when it comes to homosexuality and public displays of affection.

For example, some destinations, like Russia, are neither welcoming to LGBTQ people nor open to PDA. Singapore is becoming less strict on gays, but it is still frowned upon to act openly gay in public places.

You can use resources like Equaldex to check on LGBTQ rights and laws around the globe. Another resource is the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA), which has a comprehensive list of everything and anything you need for safe LGBT travel.

Also, be aware of the expectations for your gender. Some places might require women to wear skirts and headscarves or to avoid some activities. Men might not be allowed to wear makeup. Be respectful of local customs and blend in as much as you can.

Two silhouetted women sitting on a beach

4. Learn Common Travel Scams

Wherever you find yourself on this blue and green orb, you will find others who want to make your life miserable by tricking you out of your belongings. Most of the time, these scams are pretty obvious—but then you run into a professional con artist in the middle of a plaza and its all over.

You are never too smart or too vigilant to be scammed.

Broken taxi meters, ATM helpers, overbooked or closed hotels, fake cops, free bracelets, spilled condiments or poo on your shoulder, closed attractions, child beggars…one of these could happen to you, and you might not even realize it until you go to reach for your wallet and its not there, or the con is making a scene.

5. Emergency Contacts

Be sure to leave any itinerary and contact information with someone at home that you trust. Make sure that this person has your number and you have theirs. Having someone who knows what you plan on doing and where you are going is just another safeguard.

If they don’t hear from you or if something happens, they should at least have a means to contact airlines or the hotels.

6. Get Your Traveler’s Insurance

Whenever you have long trips planned or are traveling internationally, you should have extra coverage to protect you and your belongings from harm or injury or illness. That’s where travel insurance, like World Nomads, comes in.

Don’t be one of those people who only think about travel insurance until it’s too late!

7. Medications

If you are on any medications, even for your transition, you should keep everything in the original container. Also, make sure the medications you need are legal in the country where you are headed.

For example, xanax is illegal in Japan. If you need it for anxiety, you will need to get clearance from your doctor to bring it with you.

Two men walking towards fountain in tropics

8. Don’t Look Like a Target

Confidence is key when you travel. You never want to appear like an obvious tourist when you are traveling alone. Avoid looking lost, afraid, and wary, because that will make you a target.

Try to dress down to blend in with the crowds (this is where research comes in handy). Don’t wear anything too flashy, including jewelry or bright accessories. In places where pick-pocketing and petty crimes are high, you should keep your backpack or fanny pack or messenger bag to the front of you.

Otherwise, invest in a dry bag or slash-proof backpack—something with a hard outer layer than cannot be cut into easily.

9. PDA Abroad

I mentioned right from the get-go that PDA is not always welcomed abroad. Conservative countries and religious places often require distance between people. Whether solo or together with your partner, you should be cautious of displaying affection.

Some destinations, like Morocco or Russia, see actions like hand-holding, casual touches, kissing, and even requesting a double bed as PDA. In other countries, doing this with someone of the same sex can result in fines, imprisonment, or even death.

Of course, there are plenty of people who have gone to anti-LGBT destinations and had the time of their lives. Others haven’t been as lucky. Just be aware of what could happen and play it safe.

10. Find LBGTQ Tour Guides

Strength in numbers! Consider going abroad with a LGBTQ tour guide. There are a few companies that cater to gays, such as LezJourneys, RFamilyVacations, Olivia and Rainbow Gay Tours.

You not only support a LGBTQ+ business, you also are in the company of someone who knows the area and will welcome you warmly.

11. Keep Your Cash Separate

Always divvy up your valuables, and never carry all of your cash in one place. Someone people will keep money in their pockets or in a shoe while their cards are in their wallet. Ladies can put some money in zippered pockets on the waistband of their leggings. Others like to put their money or valuables in bag within a safe in the hotel or lock their belongings in a locker at the hostel.

In a worst case scenario, keeping your cash separate will prevent a huge loss if someone decides to make off with your bag or pickpocket your wallet.

And as a rule, you should never flash cash or take out more than you need when you are walking around a foreign country.

12. Have Back-Up Money

Similar to the above point, you always want to have back-up cash or an emergency credit card to bail you out of, well, emergencies. Keep the back-up money hidden somewhere no one would look.

I know some people who cut a slit in the lining for their suitcase and hid credit cards in there. You could always hide cash in a toothbrush case or under the padding of a shoe or hiking boot.

13. Know What’s Up With Toys

This one is surprising to a lot of people, but if you travel with sexually explicit goods, it may be used against you as evidence of sex work, and you could be detained. I know, it’s crazy. But it’s happened.

Transgender and nonconforming individuals are often targeted for this kind of thing, but in recent years, more and more LGBT travelers have been victimized by airport security and border control officers.

In one instance, a same-sex couple needed to lodge a hate crime against a TSA officer. Another couple who had a sex toy in their luggage was arrested in Malaysia.

Be cautious with your playthings.

14. Go Incognito

Consider your identity while traveling abroad. Don’t openly trust everyone who comes up to you and introduces themselves. There are people who mean to do you harm, whether you are LGBT or not. You never know what people are going to do with the information that you give them. Therefore, don’t overtly give yourself away.

On that note, you should also use a VPN for every transaction involving sensitive information online. The last thing you want is for your electronic information to be used against you or have someone get access to your accounts.

Man sitting alone in front of a castle

15. Think About Your Accommodations

Once you have a destination in mind, the next step is figuring out where you are going to stay. There are dozens of options that offer freedom and comfort—as well as acceptance.

Of course, there will be times when you aren’t sure how you (and your partner) will be received. You could always call the lodgings and ask a question like, “How are same-sex couples perceived?” or “Do you allow for same-sex anniversaries?” to gauge how the business handles LGBTQ patrons.

You could also try looking at misterb&b, a gay alternative to Airbnb, that has rentals solely for LGBTQ travelers. The site also has a curated list of gay-friendly hotels throughout the world.

Lastly, the online directory World Rainbow Hotels has a bunch of LGBTQ-friendly lodgings listed to help you find the right place.

16. Prioritize Your Safety

You always want to be cautious, no matter where you are. The world isn’t always welcoming. If you are somewhere and people are looking at you strangely or you feel uncomfortable, leave if possible.

Ignore taunting and avoid confrontation. Always put distance between you and those who may be trying to start trouble. Should the danger deescalate, try to furtively get a picture of the people who bothered you, just in case.

If you are rooming with your partner and the staff at your accommodations does not seem welcoming, ask for two separate beds in your room.

17. Attend LGBTQ Events

Let’s say you are nervous about setting out into the world and finding gay-friendly things to do. Why not attend an LGBTQ event instead? Pride events or other gay gatherings throughout the world could be exactly what you need to ensure both safety and community. Throughout the year, international destinations have tons of LGBT festivities.

If you are a sports lover, you might want to attend the Gay Games, IGLTA gay ski weeks and gay bike tours, World OutGames, Pride, and even Gay Oktoberfest in Munich.

Two women sitting in a pool at a hotel

18. Read Gay Travel Blogs and Publications

There are hundreds of LGBTQ blogs out there, just like the Gay Globetrotter, to help you find your way about the world. Some of these publications are targeted directly at the gay community while others have travel sections with helpful advice.

Some queer travel blogs that I like because of their fun firsthand descriptions include Dopes on the Road, Michael and Matt, Travels of Adam, Ravi Round The World, Nomadic Boys, and Out With Ryan.

19. Stick To Gayborhoods

Even in places where homosexuality is frowned up, or where the culture is religious and conservative, you can find gay establishments and gayborhoods. Take some time to research where these gay neighborhoods are, what venues are available, and if the area has had any recent crimes against the LGBTQ community.

Once the area checks out as safe, you can start looking into the fun stuff, like the queer comedy clubs, live performances, drag shows, and LGBTQ dance halls.

20. Know When To NOT Come Out

Sometimes, you are going to have to rein yourself in a bit. It’s unfortunate and uncomfortable, but sometimes it’s a necessity. Remember: you and your partner’s safety is the most important thing when traveling. Don’t sacrifice that for anything, not even your pride.

For example, you might be couchsurfing in a country where homosexuals are not always welcomed and sharing space with a straight person. You might be transgender but perceived as cisgender in a religious household. Read the situation. Choose your battles wisely.

21. Remember Who You Are

You are more than just a gay person. An LGBT traveler. A letter in an acronym. You have so much to offer the world and so many gifts to give.

Who you are is not limited to what you are, no matter what some people may try to make you feel. Traveling the world is liberating and exhilarating, but it can also be tiring. Lonesome. You may be faced with some struggles.

Don’t let the naysayers get you down. Remember why you are traveling. Remember who you are and what you have going for you.

As long as you are proud of yourself and playing it safe, you have a world of opportunities waiting for you.

Do you have any travel tips to add? Any sage advice to other LGBT world travelers? I would love to hear it.

I would love it if you pinned these safety travel tips to your Pinterest board!

A gay man traveling.