Traveling as an LGBTQ+ person doesn’t come without its challenges; as a Queer person, your safety should be your number one priority when planning a trip anywhere. So where are the best places to go on holidays that allow you to be your authentic self, and where are the places you should avoid if you want to stay safe when traveling abroad?
Places to Go
Not only is Spain a European hotspot for summer holidays, rich with culture and beautiful Mediterranean beaches, but it’s also a very progressive and open-minded nation. As the third country in the world to legalize gay marriage in 2005, Spain has great anti-discrimination bills, progressive trans rights, and forward-thinking attitudes towards gay and trans people.
If you’re planning a trip to Spain, we recommend checking out Sitges, just half an hour south of Barcelona, nicknamed the gay capital of Spain. With beaches and nightlife galore, Sitges is an LGBTQ+ paradise. Madrid is the epicenter of LGBTQ+ life in Spain, with the gay district Chueca buzzing with life every day of the week—whether you’re seeking tapas, museums, or bars, the Spanish capital serves it all up. For the party lifestyle, queer travelers should check out Ibiza, and for those who prefer a combination of nature and culture, Valencia is a beautifully green and Queer-friendly city on the Mediterranean coast.
Canada has some of the best LGBTQ+ rights in the world, often ranking at the top of LGBT+ travel guides. As well as achieving equal rights for Queer people, the attitudes of Canadians are generally progressive and accepting, with 85% of Canadians (and 92% of 19-29-year-olds) stating homosexuality should be accepted in a 2020 survey.
Toronto is a great spot to hit up for Queer folks, with its own gay area, Church Street Village. If it’s beautiful landscapes you’re seeking, head over to the west coast and check out The Rocky Mountains, and be sure to stop by Vancouver for a diverse, cultural city experience. For those seeking a longer adventure, Canada offers working holiday visas for young people from many different countries, opening up the opportunity to work and travel in the country for a year.
The land of art nouveau European architecture, beer, fine chocolate, and waffles, Belgium is an excellent destination for LGBTQ+ travelers. Belgium is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, both socially and legally.
Considered one of the leading gay cities in the world, Brussels has an excellent gay nightlife scene, as well as celebrating Pride in May and hosting an LGBTQ+ film festival in June.
Whilst Brussels is a must-visit, make sure you don’t miss the nearby UNESCO World Heritage City, Bruges. The beautiful, medieval canal city is the perfect spot for a romantic city break for LGBTQ+ travelers seeking a little bit of culture and beauty.
As one of the few countries in the world offering equal constitutional rights for LGBTQ+ people, and the first country in the world to ban conversion therapy, Malta is a great place to be authentically Queer. Not only that, but Malta is a beachy island paradise! Due to its small size, the nation isn’t inundated with gay bars, but with open-minded attitudes, Malta offers a friendly and inclusive nightlife. Best visited between April and October, Malta is great for the outdoors lover—you can enjoy cycling, SCUBA diving, or simply relaxing on one of the many idyllic sandy beaches.
The above destinations are just a handful of very welcoming countries for Queer travelers to enjoy freely and safely (but with legislation constantly changing, we recommend checking before you travel). Now onto the less fun stuff—here are some countries that are far less progressive, where being LGBTQ+ is criminalized and sometimes carries severe punishment.
Places to Avoid
Whilst being gay is not a legal issue in Hungary, attitudes are quite mixed on LGBTQ+ rights. In 2020, Hungary brought changes to legislation, severely reducing the rights of transgender and intersex people in the country. While some gay nightlife can be found in Hungary’s capital, Budapest, attitudes, on the whole, could be enough reason to stay away.
Legally and socially, Malaysia is a challenging country for LGBTQ+ people who are at risk of persecution, with some of the strictest anti-LGBTQ laws in Asia. Attitudes of homophobia and transphobia can be quite widespread here, and from a legal standpoint, same-sex activity and transgender identities are considered punishable offenses. Malaysia also offers no protection against hate crimes, so it’s not a recommended spot for LGBTQ+ tourists.
If you’re looking to go on holiday in South East Asia, check out Thailand instead, with plenty of LGBTQ+ friendly traveler destinations.
With homosexuality being punishable with up to 14 years in jail, Nigeria is considered a destination to avoid for all LGBTQ+ travelers. Additionally, the expression of transgender identities is criminalized. Very few Nigerians are open about their sexual orientation, with violence against them, unfortunately, being very high.
The recent host of the FIFA Football World Cup, Qatar, came under plenty of scrutiny for its poor treatment of LGBTQ+ people. Although Qatar’s conservative culture also requires heterosexual couples to be discreet in public, its damaging LGBTQ+ laws and lack of protection make it a strongly unadvisable destination for queer travelers.
Long story short…
When planning a trip, we recommend checking out The LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index. It’s a great tool that ranks countries from most to least LGBTQ+ friendly, including legislations for gay and trans people, how liveable a place is as a Queer person, and things like worker's rights and protection against discrimination.
This is a great way not only to check the country you’re going to be visiting is safe for you as a tourist, but also whether the local LGBTQ+ people are treated fairly too. The guide is updated regularly, but make sure you check the latest laws in your destination country before traveling, as LGBTQ+ rights are often changing.
Whichever destination you feel is right for you, we’re wishing you a safe, enjoyable, and very Queer vacation!
Written by AC Callahan