When heterosexual couples go on holiday, they usually have to put a lot less thought into their destinations and activities, than homosexual couples. Which countries are particularly gay-friendly? In which hotels will I meet like-minded people and where do the best events take place? I have compiled a guide of the latest, as well as traditional, gay travel trends for you.
How tolerant are people, holidaymakers and laws, towards gay travel? Are homosexuals persecuted? Are there any religious or social reservations? Tobias Sauer from Spartacus Traveler said: “Gays and lesbians should already be well-informed of the legal framework of the location they are visiting. Of course, nobody is directly asked what he/she does in bed – and often enough, for example in the Maldives, it hardly plays a role, but there is the other side.”
Walking hand in hand along the promenade, showing your affection, without receiving judging glances… Even though people in many countries have become more tolerant and relaxed towards gays and lesbians, there are still many exceptions. In the Gay Travel Index, the Berlin-based publisher, Bruno Gmünder, has examined the countries of the world according to various criteria: are there laws against discrimination? What about homosexual marriage? Can gays and lesbians adopt children? And, and, and … Sweden and Great Britain share the title of ‘number one gay-friendly country in the world!’ Some of the least suitable holiday destinations in the world for gays and lesbians are: Somalia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Jamaica, and even the popular holiday destination of Egypt. You have to know this before visiting! No wonder then, that I am always asked, which country is the best to visit, as a homosexual.
Top 5 gay-friendly countries
Top 5 risk countries
Below you will find a list of the countries, which are very popular with tourists, but should not be the first choice for gays and lesbians.
What makes Gay Travel
I now ask the question of whether the motto, ‘people of the same kind stick together’, applies to gay travel. Olivia Jones has her doubts. “In the gay scene, I observed the increasing trend of attending normal heterosexual events. But the trend of secrecy among gay people is noticeably decreasing!” Nevertheless, the target group remains particularly interesting for organisers, as gay men often have a considerable income, save a lot of money, and are regarded as luxury-oriented, yet ‘easy to maintain’.
In 1993 the travel organisation, ‘Gay & Lesbian Travel Association’ (IGLTA), was founded by a group of tour operators and hoteliers. Large travel agencies also offer travel catalogues, specifically for this target group. Even the ‘BlindBooking’ feature on Eurowings now allows for gays and lesbians to choose from destinations, which are particularly gay-friendly. Of course, the interests of homosexuals are quite different from heterosexuals: some want a beach holiday, others like sightseeing in a city, and others prefer a cruise, simply because they cannot agree on a particular country or city. Holidays for gays and lesbians are varied, but possibilities are unfortunately limited.
The travel behaviour of gays and lesbians commonly differs, because lesbian couples often have different expectations. While women tend to combine holidays with culture, recreation and tranquillity, men often have partying, beaches and culture on their agenda. Because of this differing travel behaviour, it is unsurprising that tour operators, bars, clubs and even complete city districts, increasingly focus their offers on gays.
Popular holiday destinations for gays and lesbians
Even if the travel behaviour of sexes is different, there are still destinations which are equally as popular with gays and lesbians. I would like to introduce you to the most popular and gay-tolerant countries in the world.
Gran Canaria, Mykonos & Berlin – Gay Travel in Europe
Europe has many interesting destinations, where gays and lesbians can go on holiday without worry of rejection and judging glances. As already mentioned, the Gay Travel Index shows that many countries, which are classified as particularly gay-friendly, are located in Europe.
The number 1 destination for gays and lesbians in Europe is the Canary Island of Gran Canaria! There are a lot of bars, discos and beaches, which cater perfectly for the gay community. The centre of the community is the Yumbo Centrum in Playa del Inglés, which will not only satisfy you with its numerous shopping opportunities, but also with its colourful bars, such as Bar Adonis and Bar Diamonds, and hip clubs.
Not far from the city is also a beach section, which is very popular amongst gays, where you can meet others, or simply just relax. Tip: from the 4th-14th May 2017, the popular Maspalomas Gay Pride event takes place in Gran Canaria. One week of celebrating, sunbathing, and getting to know new people. What more do you want? ;-)
Spain is a real trend destination in terms of gay travel, as not only Gran Canaria, but also the Balearic island of Ibiza, is a holiday paradise, and also one of the top destinations in the gay and lesbian scene. Platja d’es Cavallet is a favourite meeting place on the south of the island. Especially popular is the Chiringay beach bar, where you can have a cocktail and make plans for an evening of partying. There are many great party hotspots and beautiful beaches on the island!
When talking about holiday destinations that are particularly gay-friendly, the next destination must not be forgotten about: the Greek island of Mykonos. Numerous gay-friendly beaches, such as the Super Paradise Beach, and a colourful nightlife in the countless bars and clubs, provide a striking argument for a holiday to one of the most beautiful islands of the Cyclades. The small district of Little Venice in the centre of Mykonos is a popular gathering place for the community.
The Greek island of Lesbos is also popular with same-sex couples and other gay travellers. The small coastal town of Skala Eressos caters specifically for lesbians. The Sappho Women’s festival takes place on this beautiful island every year in September. This year, the festival, where workshops, concerts and parties are on the agenda, will be held from the 9th-23rd September 2017.
Those who prefer a sightseeing trip to a city instead of a beach holiday, should head to Europe. Leading the charge is the trendy city of Berlin, which is the largest gay-metropolis in Europe. More than 300,000 homosexual men and women live in the wonderful city on the river Spree, where the unique rainbow flag is flown high. 150 gay bars, a gay museum, as well as fashion shops and sports clubs, make Berlin a Mecca for homosexuals. Event tip: on the 22nd July 2017, the annual Christopher Street Day takes place on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. Celebrate diversity in the capital of Germany!
Other exciting destinations for a gay-friendly city trip to Europe are Munich, Cologne, Vienna, Stockholm and Copenhagen. In addition to the typical bars and clubs, these cities also host great events, such as special Christmas markets or Gay Pride parades. The overview of CSD dates show that many European cities tolerate gays and openly support equality and diversity. Tip: if you are still looking for a suitable offer for your next city break, I recommend you take a look at my current city break deals.
Florida, New York & California – Gay Travel in the USA
An increasingly popular destination for gays and lesbians is the United States. Whether it’s a city trip to New York, a beach holiday in Florida or a road trip through several states, the opportunities that homosexuals have in the US are huge, and every taste is catered for. Plus: in June 2016 a law was passed in the States, which finally allowed gay marriage in all 50 states. A large step towards equality! A trip to the state of Florida is very popular, as it is considered very tolerant. For example, there are beach sections all over Miami, such as the South Beach, which are marked with a rainbow flag, and are a popular meeting point for gays and lesbians. All the highlights, which can be enjoyed from a holiday to Miami and Florida, can be found in my travel magazine.
And on the west coast of the states, more specifically in Palm Springs, California, gays and lesbians are very welcome! Here the attitude towards same-sex partners is completely normal.
Trend: Gay Travel in Thailand & South Africa
For several years now, gay travellers have been attracted to areas that have so far been undiscovered. Leading the charge are destinations in Thailand, South Africa and Israel.
Society in Thailand is regarded as particularly open and tolerant, and after all, there are a lot of transsexuals and ladyboys here. On the popular islands of Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Chang, there are many bars and hotels, which perfectly meet the needs of gays and thus ensure a carefree holiday in paradise. Gays and lesbians are often discriminated against and even persecuted against in Africa.
However, the country of South Africa is completely different to the rest of the continent. Particularly in Cape Town and Johannesburg, a colourful gay scene has been established, which is very similar to the gay-friendly cities of Europe. The Gay Pride parades entered South Africa decades ago, with the ‘Cape Town Pride’ (February) and the ‘Johannesburg Pride’ (October) events being held each year.
Cruises for gays
If you do not want to visit a specific destination and love diversity, you should consider a cruise. Whether it is heterosexual or homosexual – the advantages of a cruise are the same. You can relax on deck, as well as enjoy many exciting excursions to several destinations. Many providers, such as TUI and Norwegian, have already made a name for themselves on the gay scene with their gay-friendly cruises. They regularly organise cruises for gays and lesbians. The choice of destinations is as colourful as the community: Croatia, Greece, Istanbul, Rome, as well as Singapore and Thailand.
Dangerous countries for gays and lesbians
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, there are many countries that are considered less gay-friendly and more gay-hostile. In some countries, homosexuals are actually in danger if they openly display their sexuality. The results of the Gay Travel Index reveal that countries such as Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria and Egypt do not tolerate same-sex couples in any case. On the contrary: in some cases, death sentences are even imposed for homosexual acts. In Iran, which sits at the bottom of the Index in 138th place, people are publicly executed for their homosexual affection. The main reason for this behaviour is the high religious influence in society. Also in Russia and Jordan, gays and lesbians are often persecuted because of their homosexuality. According to the Gay Travel Index, the following, and quite popular, holiday countries, are considered unsuitable and dangerous for gays and lesbians:
I would be interested to hear about your experiences! Where can a gay or lesbian have the most easygoing holiday and what is important to make you feel at home in a country? Have you ever had any bad experiences? I hope that my article has given you some tips and suggestions for your next holiday and that you can enjoy the best time of the year without any disapproving looks!