Traveling to a new country can be an exhilarating adventure. It can also be stressful when you have to make several travel plans and account for all safety concerns. Well-seasoned travelers know to always research where you are going to know the conditions of the country before you arrive.
LGTBQ travelers face unique difficulties when visiting other countries including wanting to be able to express themselves and be there true selves versus wanting to stay safe and follow local customs. While several progressive countries have made travel safe for the LGTBQ community, there are many other countries that lack LGTBQ protections.
It is always advisable for safety to respect the local culture and make sure that you don’t draw too much attention to yourself as an outsider. This advice is even more paramount for LGTBQ travelers in several conservative countries where being in a same-sex relationship is a crime.
What are the Friendliest Countries for LGTBQ Travelers?
The friendliest countries for LGTBQ travelers are in Europe. These countries have significant LGTBQ protections that ensure travelers are safe and can experience the country without the fear of being persecuted. They also have criminal repercussions for harassment of the LGTBQ community so travelers can feel safe knowing that the police in the country are expected to protect them and their rights.
1) Nordic Countries
Not surprisingly, the progressive Nordic region is consistently ranked as the friendliest area for LGTBQ travelers. These countries include Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Finland. Out of all of these, Sweden stands out because it decriminalized same-sex relationships in 1944 and has continued a legacy of LGTBQ protections for its citizens and international travelers. It remains a top destination for LGTBQ travelers who can safely be themselves within the country’s borders.
Canada has frequently been recognized as a friendly country for LGTBQ travelers. In fact, a simple internet search will show you that the country actually heavily markets its LGTBQ friendliness to attract tourists and make itself a top-destination for LGTBQ weddings and honeymoons.
3) Portugal and Spain
Lisbon, Portugal is well-known as a friendly city for LGTBQ travelers, especially gay men. Even though the country has a Catholic history, Portugal was the sixth European country to legalize same-sex marriage and most of its citizens are accepting of LGTBQ travelers. Spain shares a similar history with Portugal and is just as accepting. The travel guide Lonely Planet even declared that “Spain has become perhaps the most gay-friendly country in southern Europe.”
4) Other European Countries
Several other European countries are worth mentioning for their LGTBQ friendliness. In fact, on the latest LGTBQ+ Danger Index, 15 out of the top 20 countries that are the safest for LGTBQ travelers are in Europe. These include Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, and Germany. Travel to any of these countries should be safe for members of the LGTBQ community.
What are the Most Dangerous Countries for LGTBQ Travelers?
While many countries lack comprehensive LGTBQ legal protections, seventy countries actually make it a crime to be in a same-sex relationship. Even more disturbing is that five of these countries can carry a death sentence if you are convicted of the crime.
1) Nigeria, Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Iran
If you are convicted of the crime of being in a same-sex relationship in one of these five countries, it is possible that you could get a death sentence. Therefore, any travel to these countries by members of the LGTBQ community is not recommended.
2) Other Countries Where Same-Sex Relationships Are a Crime
Sadly, several tourist destination countries belong in this category including Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Singapore, Jamaica, Barbados, and St. Lucia. If you are convicted of the crime of being in a same-sex relationship in one of these countries, you could face a hefty fine, imprisonment, or hard labor.
Being a member of the LGTBQ community is not a crime in China. However, it is important to remember that before 2001, being gay was considered a mental disorder. There are also numerous reports of country-wide censorship focusing on banning online LGBTQ content. Travel to China should be done with caution.
Russia can be a conservative country that is not accepting of same-sex relationships. While being gay is not illegal, there are few LGTBQ protections and travelers may find themselves being treated differently or even harassed. While it is possible to be an LGTBQ traveler in Russia, the safest place to visit would be a big city where there is more acceptance and an established local LGTBQ community.