By Stefan Arestis of Nomadic Boys
As I went to brush an eyelash away from my husband, Seby’s, face walking down the street, I quickly looked around. Did anyone see? If they did, did they clock that we are a gay couple – and most importantly would they care? If they did care, do I now need to ‘act straight’ and pretend we’re ‘mates’ to fit in and prevent problems?
This is one of many public displays of affection that we as gay travellers have to be cautious of wherever we are.
We need to ensure the place we’re heading to not only accepts us, but also ascertain the extent to which it’s safe to openly gay without getting into trouble. Can we book a double bed in a hotel? Are there any anti-gay laws we need to be aware of? What is society’s overall perception of us?
Some places in the world this isn’t an issue – Fire Island, Sitges, Amsterdam, Palm Springs.
However, venture beyond the pink comfort zone and we’re confronted with a whole extra layer of groundwork to conquer that our heterosexual friends will never have to think twice about.
These are our 5 gay travel tips we recommend LGBTQ+ travellers take note of. We also recommend you check out our Gay Travel Planning page.
1. Is it legal to be gay?
The first thing we need to assess is the legal status of homosexuality in the place we’re visiting. The Wikipedia LGBT rights page is a starting point to build an overall picture of that destination’s LGBTQ+ laws, anti-discrimination regulations, and societal attitudes.
Some destinations like Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Morocco, Malaysia have an anti-gay law, but is never enforced that it almost becomes redundant. Whereas places like Egypt, Russia and Indonesia don’t have an express anti-gay law but will use other anti-morality laws to target the LGBTQ community.
It then also becomes a moral judgment. Do I still want to visit a place that wants to criminalise me for who I am?
Even in many gay friendly countries we need to be aware of potential pockets of homophobia especially in rural areas and know when to exercise caution with PDAs.
Nomadic Boys made it to the menPsyche list of Best Male Blogs Worldwide.
2. Is it ok to book a double bed?
This is then top of our list of concern. Is it safe to book a double bed in the destination we are about to visit, or do we need to act like two friends travelling together and err on the side of caution and book two singles instead?
We therefore always seek out gay owned or gay friendly accommodation that we find on sites like Purple Roofs or IGLTA, and also use MisterB&B to seek out gay friendly hosts.
In the absence of a clear gay friendly listing, we always email or call ahead and expressly ask if they are ok to host a gay couple.
Most places with good reviews will be fine with it, but we’ve had some pretty scary responses from hotels, mainly in East Europe.
One hotel in Romania said to us “Yes, ok. But as long as you avoid the public communal areas because we have families and children staying here!”
3. Take care when using gay apps
In some destinations apps like Grindr are either banned or monitored. For example, if you’re heading to parts of the middle East, like Dubai, you’ll need a VPN to access Grindr as it’s been banned locally.
Venture into Egypt and you’ll get a scary safety message when you open it up warning you that the local police use Grindr to target men via fake accounts and then arrest them!
Therefore, if using gay apps like Grindr in such destinations, be certain that the person you’re trying to hook up with is who he says he is.
Ask for his social media profiles and do a quick video call to verify his identity.
And above all else, listen to your gut reaction. If it feels dodgy then best keep swiping.
4. Is your paperwork all in order
We recommend ensuring you always have at least 6 month’s validity on your passport and spare pages to receive visa stamps on.
For transgender travellers they will need to ensure their passport is as up-to-date as possible to prevent issues at the airport over things like their name or gender.
Same sex parents travelling with their children will need to carry their parentage and/or custody documents especially if their children don’t share the same surname.
Travellers with PrEP or HIV medication should carry a doctor’s prescription to avoid the risk of it being confiscated at the airport and should also check entry requirements for certain destinations. For example, in the UAE/Dubai will are not allowed to enter with HIV medication.
Countries like Australia and New Zealand are very bureaucratic and require you to declare all medication on your landing card. We recommend doing this (even for things like paracetamol or Nurofen) otherwise you risk a fine or having your visa revoked.
5. Any gay tours I can join?
If you’re nervous about travelling alone or heading to a place like Egypt and worried about safety, we recommend booking yourself one of the many gay tours happening throughout the year.
Also, explore our Holiday Family Travel Bucket List + Exclusive FREE PDF
There are so many excellent tour companies that specialise in gay trips. Some of the best ones include Out Adventure, Detours, Coda Tours and He Travel. There are also destination specific gay operators to look out for like Italy Gay Travels, Out Asia, Q Travel Malta, Out in Colombia, Pride Tours Chile, and Everything To Sea.
And of course, there are the gay cruises. From the large wild Atlantis Cruises to the more intimate ones offered by Brand g Vacations.
Safe travels and embrace the adventure!
We are gay couple, Stefan and Sebastien, owners of the Nomadic Boys gay travel blog. We publish content where we aim to show that despite being gay, you can travel to more places in the world than you thought possible, by giving you a first-hand account of the places we’ve visited as a gay couple and providing you with an insight into the local gay life, gay scene, where to stay, unique things to do, best ways to connect with LGBTQ locals, how to stay safe and other practical tips, which will help you plan an exciting, fun and problem-free trip.