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LGBTQ* Travel:

Do’s, Don’t’s before you embark on your Hot Queer Summer

LGBTQ* people often face additional challenges when travelling abroad. GCN have you covered for what to expect and how to prepare for your all your queer travel.

By Alana Daly Mulligan

It’s cliché. The world is your oyster. Who doesn’t want to traipse along the fine canals of Amsterdam, laze on the golden beaches of Cancún, taste exquisite street food in Taiwan, or bounce around Provincetown, Massachusetts? Such trips are possible with a little bit of preparation, but for those who identify themselves as LGTBQ* there can be a few extra precautions to take when it comes to safety.

Set your objectives


It’s always helpful when going abroad to think about what you want to get out of a trip. Culture-vulture or cuisine-cruiser? Escaping the 9-5 grind or amping up your Grindr experience? As part of the planning stage, think about what you want to do and research around those ideas on how LGBTQ* friendly the activities are. 


But wait, what does researching a LGBTQ* holiday look like?


Look into the local laws and customs

Going abroad is an exciting opportunity to delve into the culture of the country you’re visiting. However, depending on where you are going, you might find that your identity has more or less protections than it might have in Ireland. As a tourist, regardless of how you identify, you must obey local laws. You also must take into consideration that just because a country might be known to be accepting on a legislative basis, doesn’t necessarily mean the part you’re visiting is, and vice versa! You can find information on specific countries on the Department of Foreign Affairs website or take a look on the Gov.UK travel advice portal, which has more detail for LGBTQ* travellers.


Do a bit of digital investigation

Finding out what the local LGBTQ* scene at your destination country is like will tell you a lot about the culture you’ll be entering into. See if there are gay bars in the local area, check blogs to gauge the temperature of LGBTQ* rights in the place you’re planning on going to. If there are local LGBTQ* organisations in the area, they might be able to provide additional support to you during your visit.


Finding a safe place to stay

Some hotels, AirBnBs and hostels will brand themselves as being LGBTQ* friendly and might have different LGBTQ* accreditations like IGLTA to separate them from other establishments in the area. Looking into queer hotel and accomodation indexes can make planning your trip just that bit more comfortable. But also, make sure to read the reviews!


Queer Dating on Holiday 

Meeting people abroad can be one of the highlights of exploring a new place. If you meet locals, you can get a unique insight into the queer culture of the place you’re visiting, and of course, it can be a lot of fun. However, it is important to take precautions. 


If you are using dating apps:

DO arrange to meet in a public place like a gay bar or a coffee shop. 

DO let someone you trust know what you’re doing. Let them know who you’re meeting if you have that information, where you’re meeting them, and what you’re wearing. You can, for example, share your location with a loved one for a period of time.

DO be extra vigilant if you are in a country that is particularly hostile to LGBTQ* people – things may not always be as they seem as some police forces may coordinate entrapment campaigns through popular dating apps. 

DO always be prepared to practice safe sex. Bring condoms, dental dams, PrEP – more on this later.

Questions of Presentation 

Unfortunately, extra considerations often have to be taken if you’re trans/non-binary/non-cis-het presenting when travelling abroad. If you feel your safety is under threat at any time, it is essential to maintain a low profile. In some countries there are specific laws that restrict individuals from wearing clothing that deviate from the gender they were assigned at birth. It is worth looking into what is acceptable dress in your destination country.


In the airport:

In an airport setting, be conscious of what challenges can present themselves to the LGBTQ* traveller. 


If you are wearing a binder, or have prosthetics, they can be flagged in the body scanners as anomalies, which ultimately can put you in a compromising situation. 


Generally good things to know when travelling abroad:


  • Know where your nearest embassy is and how to get in touch with them.

  • Stay safe, move away from confrontation. If a comment is passed about your gender or sexuality, the best thing to do is to get away from the behaviour and not to escalate it. 

  • Always bring up-to-date documentation with you and keep it on your person. 

  • Check that the medication you are carrying – like PrEP – is legal in the country you’re going to. If it isn’t, it can draw unnecessary attention on yourself. 

  • Consider buying travel insurance, it's best practice regardless of where you're going or why. 


Final Thoughts - Get Exploring!

To paraphrase beloved movie Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again, "life is short, the world is wide, go make some memories". If you've got dreams of going somewhere, chase them, do your research and make it happen for yourself. As the world opens up more and more to queer identities, it's a time to explore, investigate, and above all, make fun memories that'll last a lifetime. 

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