LGBT travel

LGBT(QI) (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) people often have special concerns or interests when travelling. This page lists three things: events and activities of special interest to, or targeted towards, LGBT* travellers; destinations where being out as LGBT is acceptable; and destinations where it might be dangerous to travel if one's transgender status or nonheterosexual orientation is known.

Queer events and activities

An up to date calendar of gay pride events all over the world can be found here .

Istanbul Pride 2011

LGBT laws

State acceptance of homosexuality
Homosexuality legal:
     Same-sex marriage
     Other type of partnership (or unregistered cohabitation)
     Marriage recognized, not performed
     Same-sex unions not recognized
     Restrictions on freedom of expression
Homosexuality illegal:
     Unenforced penalty
     Up to life in prison
     Death penalty
Rings indicate local or case-by-case application.

In some parts of the world LGBT visitors are welcome, but this is not true of most African, Caribbean and Middle Eastern countries where it would be a bad idea, and in some cases dangerous, to express who you are completely. In some countries (particularly where LGBT expression or activity is legally restricted), police do little or nothing to investigate brutal anti-gay violence. Sometimes, they are part of the problem.

Most East Asian countries do not have any laws against homosexuality, though with the notable exception of Taiwan, there are also no anti-discrimination laws on the basis of sexual orientation. Acceptance of homosexuality tends not to be as good as in Western countries, and homosexual relationships are generally not given legal recognition. Nevertheless, given that the violent crime rate in East Asia is generally low, you are unlikely to get anything more than stares and whispers, and unprovoked anti-homosexual violence is almost unheard of.

Even where homosexuality is legal, there is no guarantee of ready acceptance from locals. Even in the United States and Western Europe where, for the most part, homosexuality is legal, gay-bashing sometimes occurs, though tolerance is - slowly - increasing.

ILGA has more specific information and news about LGBT rights around the world.

Air travel

Identity documents can be awkward for transgender voyagers, as some national customs or immigration checkpoints blindly assume the traveller's birth sex, gender presentation and stated gender on passports or travel documents will all conveniently match. Voyagers planning sexual reassignment surgery abroad must ensure they're carrying valid documents for the return trip. The willingness of governments to issue passports with gender not stated (X) or documents updated to match a desired name and gender varies. Willingness of foreign governments to honour these documents is just as widely variable.

Searches at security checkpoints have also become far more intrusive in the post-Sept 11, 2001 era. Pre-operative transsexuals should not expect to pass through the scanners with their privacy and dignity intact.

There is also the possibility that specific literature, pornography, adult novelty toys or other items will be blocked by customs when entering countries whose governments discriminate against LGBT persons.

Hotels and accommodation

Laws prohibiting private businesses from discriminating against gay (and, less often, transgender) patrons exist in a few of the jurisdictions where same-sex activity is lawful. Couples have successfully sued innkepers who refused to let one bed/double occupancy rooms in the United Kingdom. Similar protections exist in much of western Europe.

The US varies by state and region; strong protections exist in liberal states such as Hawaii, while voyagers to 14 mostly Southern American states which criminalised homosexuality before a 2003 Supreme Court ruling overturned these laws may encounter residual homophobia or find no law to discourage discrimination by privately-owned businesses.

Conversely, a few destinations may have hotels which market specifically to the gay community or bed and breakfast hosts who are same-sex couples themselves.

Same-sex marriage

Legally-binding same-sex marriages, first solemnised in Amsterdam in 2001, are now performed in many countries around the world including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United States and Uruguay as well as parts of Denmark (except the Faroe Islands), Mexico (CA, CH, DF, QR), the Netherlands (except Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten) and the United Kingdom (except northern Ireland). British citizens may have access to marriage in a limited number of British consulates abroad in nations which neither object nor offer same-sex marriage locally. The Irish republic has voted to recognise same-sex marriage by fall 2015. Other countries perform or recognize unions similar to marriage between two same-sex persons, the name and form of which varies considerably around the world.

As laws vary, marriages (and less-than-marriage civil partnerships) from foreign jurisdictions may not be recognized as valid in your home country. Residence or citizenship requirements for marriage (and divorce) also vary between nations. If your own country believes your relationship does not legally exist and the country in which you married only hears divorce cases for its own people, a divorce might not be an option.

This information may change rapidly due to referenda, changes in local laws or court cases making their way through multiple appeals. In some jurisdictions, same-sex couples have gained, lost, then regained the right to marry - sometimes causing a rush to registry offices as the situation may change on each appeal hearing, ending at a national supreme court.

If your plans are elaborate or may be difficult to change, be sure to consult the relevant authorities well before your wedding date.

Queer friendly destinations

If you're not seeking out specifically queer events and activities, but want a hassle-free holiday, consider these destinations:

North America


Few countries are more tolerant and gay-friendly than Canada, both in legislation and attitude, including legal same-sex marriage. That being said, not everyone has followed suit with the movement, particularly in rural and remote areas.


A largely Catholic country, Mexico is getting more gay-friendly all the time. Medium-sized and big cities as well as coastal resorts all have gay bars and sometimes gay discos.

United States

By and large the USA is tolerant-to-accepting of GLBT travellers, especially in the larger cities, the Northeast, and the West Coast. However, due to strong evangelical influences in some areas, as a whole, the USA is not as gay-friendly as Western Europe, Australia or Canada. Acceptance of homosexuality generally varies from region to region, and in areas where tourists are most likely to visit, acceptance is at least as good as in Western Europe. On the other hand, locals may not be as accepting of homosexuality in some more rural inland areas away from the tourist trail, where the majority of people continue to be deeply religious. Major destinations include:


Central America

Costa Rica

South America





Middle East




Likely the most relaxed about gay and lesbian travel and people should have little problems. Germany, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Britain, France and Spain are likely the most accepting. Travellers should bear in mind, that - in general - the further east you go, the less tolerant it is. Ibiza, Gran Canaria, Sitges (all in Spain) and Mykonos (Greece) are the hottest gay holiday destinations that Europe has to offer.



Czech Republic



No polar bears in Finland but yes, there are gay bears on land and online . Don't be afraid to bear with them in Finland. Famous gay-artist Tom of Finland lived in Helsinki (with a view over the Vuorimiehenpuistikko park from his apartment) for several decades and often ate at the Sea Horse restaurant.

Tove Jansson, author of the Moomin stories, lived in Finland with her female life partner for several decades. Their home was in Helsinki, but they spent many of their summers in a rented cottage on an little rocky island Klovaharun, near the city of Porvoo, 50 km east of Helsinki. She wrote many of her Moomin books there. The characters of Moomin stories are very bohemian and tolerant towards diversity. The island may be open to the public for one week every July.



Cologne Pride after party













United Kingdom

The Big 3 are widely known as Brighton, London and Manchester.



Australia is a very safe destination for homosexuals. The majority of Australians are accepting of homosexuality, and acceptance is almost universal among the younger generation. Australia also has anti-discrimination laws on the grounds of sexual orientation. Although same-sex marriage is still not recognised in Australia, de-facto relationships between gay couples are given the same legal recognition as that between straight couples, and are for most practical purposes equivalent to a marriage.

New Zealand



There are no laws against homosexuality in China, and people are generally tolerant towards gays and lesbians with unprovoked violence against homosexuals being extremely rare. Still, homosexuals should keep a low profile, as there is heavy censorship of homosexual-themed (or featured) media by the government. Shanghai Pride began in 2009 without a parade, due to fears that the government would not allow it. Same-sex marriage is not recognized by the government.

Hong Kong

There are no laws against homosexuality in Hong Kong although same-sex marriage is not officially recognised. In this conservative society sexuality is still generally not discussed in public. For youngsters is quite different; there are some hip gay clubs that could well be in London, New York or Madrid that cater to locals and tourists and the city held its first Gay Pride Parade in 2008.


There are no laws against homosexuality in Japan, though same-sex relationships are also not recognised by the Japanese government. Acceptance of homosexuality among the Japanese public tends to be somewhat lower than in Western countries. That being said, given Japan's low violent crime rate, homosexuals are extremely unlikely to encounter unprovoked violent attacks.


Nepal was the first nation in South Asia to decriminalize homosexuality and same-sex marriage has been legalized. Recently, the nation's tourism industry has focused heavily on attracting gay tourism in 2011, trying to entice them with gay marriages on Mount Everest. The government is making moves to ensure that the police will enforce laws protecting homosexuals (and not discriminate themselves). Gay travellers in Nepal should still remain conservative; although the government is making changes, local attitudes about homosexuality remain negative and some resent being seen as a "gay travel" destination.


South Korea

South Korea does not have any laws against homosexuality, though there is also no legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Same-sex relationships are not recognised by the South Korean government. Acceptance among the South Korean public tends to be negative, and evangelical Christians in particular will likely strongly disapprove of it. That being said, your chances of encountering anti-homosexual violence is close to none.


As far as East Asian countries go, Taiwan is considered to be one of the most gay-friendly areas. Taiwan does not have any laws against homosexuality, and Taiwan is the only place in Asia where there are anti-discrimination laws on the basis of sexual orientation. That being said, homosexual relationships are not given legal recognition by the government, and acceptance of homosexuality is somewhat not as good as in many Western countries. Nevertheless, anti-homosexual violence is extremely rare, and younger Taiwanese tend to be more accepting of it.




South Africa

Somewhat safe destinations

Countries listed in this section have laws against homosexuality, though the said laws are not enforced in practice.



Homosexual acts were decriminalized by the High Court of Delhi in a historic judgement on 2 Jul 2009. This judgement was overturned by a 2013 supreme court ruling which reinstated a 153-year-old colonial ban on homosexuality. However, in practice this law is not enforced, and it is unlikely that you will be arrested for it.


Homosexuality is technically illegal in Singapore, as a result of colonial-era statutes, with a theoretical punishment of 2 years imprisonment. However, the current government policy is not to enforce the law, and there are some high profile people working in the fashion and entertainment industry who are openly gay. Attitudes towards homosexuals among the general population, however, leave much to be desired, and there is legalised discrimination against gay employees in government departments and the military. Openly flaunting your sexual orientation is likely to draw stares and whispers from the public, but you are extremely unlikely to get anything more serious than that. That being said, acceptance of homosexuality is slowly but surely growing among the younger generation. Given Singapore's low violent crime rate, unprovoked violence against homosexuals is virtually unheard of.

Dangerous destinations


The following countries have criminal laws against sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex. Bold Links and Bold Italic Links denote countries that have LIFE IMPRISONMENT or DEATH PENALTY for homosexual acts.

This list covers just criminalisation of sexual activity; many nations prohibit or criminalise conduct such as wearing garments of the opposite gender (the distinction between transgender and homosexual is lost on a few less-accepting jurisdictions), serving alcohol to gays (as a tactic to shut down LGBT bars) or speaking out on gay and lesbian issues. Gay saunas in some locations are raided under laws intended to shut down houses of prostitution.


Homosexuality illegal: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Togo, Tunisia.

Male only: Kenya, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania (except Zanzibar, where lesbianism is ALSO punishable), Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Nigeria and Uganda have enacted laws that make it a criminal offence for one to know that someone is homosexual and not report it to the police.


Homosexuality illegal: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei (death by stoning for homosexuality or adultery), Malaysia (punishable from 2 to 20 years imprisonment or caning), Myanmar (punishable from 2 years to life imprisonment), Sri Lanka.

Homosexuality illegal, but law is generally not enforced: Pakistan (fine or 2 to less than 10 years of imprisonment for sexual orientation; rarely officially enforced but vigilante action may cause death in some parts).

Male only: Maldives, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.

Homosexuality illegal for Muslims only, one province of Indonesia: Aceh.

In Marawi City, Philippines there's a local ordinance forbidding cross-dressing and overtly feminine behaviour among men (bayut) enforced by the local religious police (but not the Philippine National Police) and the Philippines generally has a long history of tolerance and sympathy for queer folk.

Central and South America

Homosexuality illegal: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago.

Male homosexuality ("buggery") illegal: Guyana, Jamaica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia,

Anal sex illegal, regardless of gender: Dominica

Middle East

Homosexuality illegal: Iran, Iraq (executions ordered by non-state sharia courts and militias, together with defenestration, decapitation and burning alive in daesh-administered areas), Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (can also be punishable with prison, fines or whipping), Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

Male only: Bahrain, Palestine.


Homosexuality illegal: Samoa, Solomon Islands

Male only: Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu


The following destinations pose some problems to LGBT travellers (see also the "Stay safe" section of region and cities articles):

See also

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 01, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.