We know that gay travel requires a bit more thought. Check out our alternative vacation tips for LGBTQ+ people
For queer people, choosing a holiday destination often comes with extra considerations for the sake of personal safety. Countries such as the US, the UK and Australia might spring to mind first when we think of low-risk spots for the LGBTQ+ community. Yet, there are several other open-minded, inclusive, friendly spots that make great gay travel destinations. Be out, get out, and explore the world.
São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo Pride is the biggest festival of its kind in the whole of South America — Shutterstock
Despite the persistingly conservative attitudes towards homosexuality on the continent, South Americans organize some of the biggest and wildest Gay Pride celebrations on the planet.
São Paulo Pride saw its humble beginnings in 1997 with some 2000 participants, and has since grown into the largest and supposedly, the best event of its kind. Lately, the number of visitors to the festival has consistently been around five million, making São Paulo an exemplary gay travel destination.
All over the world, Pride is not only a protest for equal rights and acceptance; it’s also a time for merry celebration. Even though the parade itself is the highlight of the festival, there are many accompanying events taking place in the weeks leading up to it, such as concerts, talks, performances and exhibitions.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv is one of the most gay-friendly places in the world — Shutterstock
Tel Aviv is known for being one of the most queer-friendly cities in the world, and has been proclaimed as the gay capital of the Middle East. Some estimates say that 25 percent of its residents fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, which represents over 100,000 people.
The city promotes open-mindedness and serves as a refuge for many LGBTQ+ people from neighboring countries that are generally more conservative. Tel Aviv takes pride in showing its support to the community and there are many queer-dedicated sites throughout the city.
One of these sites is the central part of Hilton beach, marked by rainbow-colored parasols. If you’re looking for maximum experience on your gay vacation, visit the beach during Pride week in June.
Vibrant, energetic and tolerant, Bangkok is an ideal destination for LGBTQ+ party people — Shutterstock
From the gay capital of the Middle East to the gay capital of East Asia, Bangkok welcomes LGBTQ+ travelers very warmly.
Thailand is pretty well-known for being accepting of non-straight and non-cisgender people; the nation’s relatively liberal attitudes are a nod to its Buddhist heritage. The country decriminalized homosexuality in 1956 — earlier than some other developed countries in the world, and it elected its first transgender MP in 2019.
Head to Silom, the center of Bangkok’s gay scene, brimming with queer-friendly entertainment and nightlife. It’s a seriously diverse, dynamic and exciting spot that will, for a while, envelop you in an alternate reality.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Attractive, brightly-colored (pansexual…?) houses in downtown Puerto Vallarta — Shutterstock
Throughout its past, Mexico has never enforced strong anti-LGBTQ+ practices or laws. In fact, in Zapotec indigenous culture, the concept of third gender has been recognized for generations in muxes — people who are assigned male at birth, but typically present as female.
Fittingly, there are many gay-friendly destinations in the country. Puerto Vallarta, a lively and picturesque beach resort, is said to be the most standout; the city’s longstanding warm reputation is a reflection of the generally approachable and hospitable attitudes of its residents.
The aptly-named Zona Romántica is at the very core of Puerto Vallarta’s gay life. Whether you’re looking for art and culture, a boat tour, or a good-old fun-filled night out, this neighborhood has it all. Come just as you are.
Although Japanese society is quite conservative, acceptance of same-sex relationships is growing — Shutterstock
Japan, as a conservative country, doesn’t encourage public displays of affection, no matter who’s displaying them. Nevertheless, the Japanese bear no significant history of hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community, and the rate of public acceptance is growing, so it’s unlikely you’ll encounter any aggressive or confrontational behavior.
As yet, being gay isn’t something that a lot of people in Japan would openly discuss. Luckily enough, queer culture has found its way into manga, literary comics. Manga has been portraying homosexual relationships since the 1970s, but its popularity really started booming in the 90s. The bara subgenre depicts same-sex male relationships, while yuri depicts same-sex female relationships.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, at the moment, most international travelers are prohibited from entering Japan. But whenever the country opens up again, be sure to start planning a trip to Tokyo. It’s the place of the possible — you’d be pushed to imagine something that you can’t do there — but for gay culture, hit Shinjuku Ni-chōme.
Shinjuku is the noisiest and busiest ward of Tokyo, and its area of Ni-chōme is a queer person’s paradise. With its countless eateries, boutiques, saunas, and not to mention its highest concentration of gay and lesbian bars and clubs in the world, there’s something for everyone.
Malta is officially the most queer-friendly country in Europe — Shutterstock
Last, but certainly not least, the small island nation of Malta might just be the perfect gay getaway.
Unlike most of the picks in this list, Malta doesn’t boast a particularly renowned queer party scene. But what makes it so special is that, for the sixth year running, it has topped ILGA Europe’s ranking of countries by safety for LGBTQ+ people, by a landslide at that.
Among the parameters considered in awarding Malta first place, notably, same-sex marriage is legal, and gender-neutral passports have been introduced. Similar to the people of Puerto Vallarta, this level of tolerance from the Maltese can largely be attributed to their generally laid-back and welcoming attitude. It’s certainly refreshing to know that, whether you’re straight and cisgender or otherwise, the rich history and exotic beauty of this Mediterranean island are completely accessible.
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