Planning a lesbian travel can be very daunting. Navigating the world as a queer woman is not always easy and traveling while queer is no different. In terms of safety, there is a lot more to think about than other cisgender/straight travelers.
As female travelers, we have other things to worry about than male travelers. And it’s another story for gender queer or androgynous lesbians and queer women. This lesbian travel guide is a starting point that will help with planning your lesbian vacation.
We talk about the necessary safety tips, but also tell you the good stuff! We describe the best countries for a lesbian honeymoon – what, in our eyes, is the best indicator of being a lesbian vacation spot that is welcoming. This is the ultimate lesbian travel guide!
NOTE: we use the words ‘lesbian’ and ‘woman/female’ for search engine purposes, but this article is for all queer women. I myself identify as a panടexual woman, in a lesbian relationship.
Intersectionality is key, there are many factors that determine what ‘safety’ looks like to you. My experiences as a cisgender, white European women are different from other queer female travelers.
But as I’ve traveled all over the world for the last years, and having met many other lesbian travelers (and differently identified queer women), I have gained so much more knowledge of the scope of lesbian travel.
I may have been a baby gay when we started our word trip, on the road have learned so much about the beautiful diversity within our community. This guide is written not to be a ‘one size fits all’, but as a starting point that will make the start a little less daunting. Because we do believe travel is for everyone – also if the world isn’t always ready for us yet!
Lesbian Travel Safety Tips
LGBT Laws & Public Opinion
Every time you plan a lesbian trip, we highly recommend researching the local laws. Wikipedia, Lonely Planet, blogs, and Google can tell you all about those.
Before traveling to Russia we found out being gay isn’t the issue: promoting the LGBT lifestyle is – it’s very vague what that means, but there is a distinction there.
About Brunei, we found that gay activity is legally punishable with can result in one’s end of life. In Malaysia, all-male gay activity results in a penalty, but for women, it’s officially not illegal. Here are some not-so-fun facts:
72 jurisdictions still criminalize private, consensual, (male) gay ടexual activity.
11 jurisdictions have the life-ending penalty for gay ടexual activity.
44 jurisdictions criminalize private, consensual ടexual activity between women specifically.
15 jurisdictions criminalize the gender identity and/or expression of transgender people.
Source: Human Dignity Trust
Does this mean you should automatically boycott these countries? We don’t believe so. We will never encourage you to risk your safety, but we personally have traveled to some of these jurisdictions, and we want to say this: a boycott will only hurt the local LGBT community in these jurisdictions. That said, we also want to share some happier numbers with you.
29 countries have legalized gay marriage.
15 countries + 34 jurisdictions worldwide have authorized civil unions or unregistered cohabitation for gay couples as an alternative to marriage.
23 countries have gender identity/expressions legislation.
36 countries culturally recognize gender diversity beyond the binary.
Laws are tricky and complex, and not all laws for locals automatically apply to tourists. As a tourist, you will often be respected because you are spending money and you come from another culture, which makes that you are more protected than locals are.
We recommend looking up the laws, and then it’s important to realize that a country is more than its laws. Just because gay marriage is legal in the States, doesn’t mean you can be out and proud in all states. And just because Malaysia has laws where gay activity is punished, doesn’t mean it’s impossible to travel there safely. People do not reflect laws and in every country, you can find queer people and allies, some more visible than others.
Find Lesbian Travelers Online
Ultimately, you can only know how welcoming or not a country is by actually traveling there. We love connecting to fellow lesbian travelers and reach out to them to ask about their experience. Or even better, if they have documented it on their blog! There are lesbian travel Facebook groups and you can reach out on Instagram.
Important note: everyone’s experience is different. But there are places where a lot of lesbian travelers have felt safe!
Read our article about Lesbian Europe destinations that are perfect for your holiday!
The safest way to travel is to adapt to the culture you’re visiting. This can be uncomfortable for genderqueer/androgynous lesbians because more often than not, there are certain gender expectations that force you to fit in the gender binary.
Gender expectations are different in all cultures, and to some degree, western cultures can be more invasive when it comes to gender. In many non-western cultures like in Southeast Asia (i.e. Bali), people will accept your gender expression (or assumed gender expression) without much question.
In words of our friend Max (@theyrequeer): ‘ideas of what is traditionally “male” or “female” differs so much, that I think it can be hard for people from non-western backgrounds to define someone’s gender as clearly’ and Max also mentioned that the necessity for tourism, often results in a lack of interest – these destinations need your money and will therefore not offend you.
But in general, if you pass as ‘straight’ and cisgender, you will be much safer while traveling. In many countries, women are expected to cover up certain body parts. And in many Asian countries, people have to take off their shoes in temples, homestays, and hotels, so you do too.
Culturally PDA is not a thing in many countries. It can even be considered indecent behavior – and this is for straight couples. We find it easier to keep affection to when we’re alone when we see no one else showing PDA. For both personal safety and to respect the culture of the place we are traveling.
That said, lesbian invisibility is as much your friend as your enemy while traveling. Whilst PDA for straight and male gay couples can be considered ‘indecent’, some cultures are very accepting towards girls holding hands for example.
In Russia and South Korea, we saw many girls walking hand in hand, so we figured we could too! And as a lesbian couple, you have different things to think about than when you’re a solo traveler.
You might not want to adapt to a culture on your lesbian vacation, and that is absolutely okay! In that case, choose a destination that is well known for being LGBT-friendly.
Find an LGBTQ Safe Space Near You
Every country has an LGBT community and allies, some more visibly than others. There are many LGBT friendly hotels, tour organizations, and bars all over the world. LGBT travel blogs like ours can help you find these spots.
Another tip is to connect with queer locals in order to find the newest queer hot spots. You can connect with queer people globally via the internet – via Meetup, Couchsurfing, Facebook groups, queer (dating) apps, or via social media like Instagram. Or visit places during Pride!
If you travel to destinations with anti-LGBT legislation, we highly recommend to think about your safety first. It might be exciting to find the underground scene in dangerous places, but getting arrested on your vacation might not be the plan.
Also be aware that violence targeted to LGBTQ people via dating apps happens globally, so always be careful who you meet up with.
Toys for Travel
We all have the right to pleasure! But travel with toys can be a little tricky. In some countries, ടex toys are illegal, in other countries some toys can be considered weapons. So make sure to do some research before stuffing all the toys in your suitcase!
- There are discreet toys that can pass for normal accessories, or makeup (necklace/lipstick).
- Pack light – even if you travel to a country where it’s legal.
- Take out or drain the batteries before travel.
- Pack lubes and lotions in your checked bag or stick to the rules for liquids for carry-on luggage.
- Be cool during security checks – confidence will go a long way.
Flying with Medication
If you fly with medication, it’s a good idea to keep your medication in original packaging with prescription labels, and to keep them in your carry-on. It might be helpful to bring a letter of medical necessity. In the United States, TSA regulations require you put your medication together in a separate bag.
If you are transgender, you might want to check out this article about your rights regarding airport security by the National Center for Transgender Equality. Or this article about traveling while transgender by Karen DeJarnette.
General Travel Tips
- There are a few general travel tips that we recommend for every trip.
- Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months – or you might get in trouble at the border.
- Know what the visa-rules are for the country that you’re visiting. Every country has different ‘deals’ with other governments and it depends on those agreements how easy or not it is to travel somewhere. With a strong passport, you can enter many countries visa-free (with a visa on arrival), and with a weaker passport, many countries will require expensive visas. You might choose your destinations according to the visa-rules.
- Get travel insurance! It is absolutely necessary to have your trip insured for any unexpected things. You will thank yourself later, and hopefully, you don’t need to make use of it (but you might). And while you’re on it, get vaccinated too!
- Make sure to get a local sim card – or arrange coverage with your provider for your trip. This is another basic safety tip – if you run into any troubles, you need to have a phone or internet to get help. Know the local emergency number, if you don’t know it; 112 is your best option in Europe and parts of Asia, and 911 in the Americas. A phone with data will also make sure you can check the current exchange rate (no more money scams), track your route (no more taxi scams), and so much more!
- Don’t put all your cards and cash in one place – make sure you have a backup if something happens to your luggage. And don’t use a travel money belt/fanny pack – it’s not a great look and too obvious! Make sure not to use the ATM at airports – they are always a lot more expensive. And bring copies of your important documents.
- Be open to strangers, but keep your guard up.
Solo Female Travel Tips
This can easily turn into an entire article-series, but we’ll make this a recap with the best tips! The last tip in the previous section is a great starting point: it’s good to connect with others, but be aware not to share too much (like what hotel you stay at) from the get-go.
You might want to meet up with people via a dating app, meet up in public places – don’t invite them to your hotel room straight away.
What queer/lesbian dating apps can you use while traveling?
- HER – not just for dating + inclusive of gender-variations
- SCISSR – made for and by queer women
- Tinder – not a queer app specifically, but still effective
- TAIMI – prides itself to be fully inclusive, for social and dating
- Bumble – where women message first (tricky for non-binary folx)
Find the right neighborhood to stay at. The cheapest hotel might seem appealing, but if the neighborhood isn’t great, you might want to reconsider.
It’s also a great idea to know when the sun is setting, so you can plan where to be by then. You don’t have to be stuck in your hotel room, you can be in a bar or other public place, but maybe not wander off into dark alleys by then.
You are a smart solo traveler if you know when to meetup and travel with people for a little bit. Some places may feel safer to visit with someone by your side. Hostels are a great place to meet other travelers and to find a travel buddy (even if it’s just for a few days).
Women Traveling Together + Lesbian Couple Travel
If you’re a solo female traveler, your orientation might not be easily detectable as when you’re a lesbian couple traveling together, or if you’re with another combination of (queer) women traveling together.
In the cultural adaptation section, we touched upon the topic of PDA as a lesbian couple traveling. You determine your destination of choice by the reason for your lesbian trip. We personally travel regardless of the LGBT-legislation, because we travel to learn about other cultures, to learn about other traditions, different beliefs, and customs.
And yes, that means that we also are confronted with conservative ideas about LGBTQ+ people, but it also means we get to meet local LGBTQ+ people in other cultures that can tell us about their experiences. We always measure how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ things are from our own perspective.
We come from a country that legalized gay marriage first, so obviously other cultures quickly feel ‘less accepting. But from a gay Ethiopian’s perspective, the world looks a lot different. And we believe that traveling worldwide, and learning from other cultures, we come to a greater understanding.
And should we wait until the world is ready for us to see all the world’s wonders – like the pyramids of Egypt? We don’t believe so, and we are willing to adapt and conceal our orientation in order to travel the world. This doesn’t mean everyone should – we would never ask anyone to do that – but if you want to, we believe you can.
The odds are that you don’t want to visit Egypt for your romantic holiday. Maybe you go on a romantic holiday with your girlfriend/joyfriend, maybe you want to propose, or you are celebrating your honeymoon? In that case, we highly recommend choosing one of the LGBTQ+ friendly destinations listed below.
Lesbian Honeymoon: The Best Lesbian Vacation Spots
Being a lesbian honeymoon destination, in our eyes, it the best indicator of being a welcoming lesbian vacation spot. Here is our top 7 lesbian vacation spots, in no particular order.
Iceland is very frequently listed as one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in the world. Being queer is not just tolerated, it’s celebrated! Their legislation is very progressive and the country is very safe for all travelers. The two most dangerous things in Iceland are its nature and the weather – this might sound funny, but it is true.
Pink Iceland is a queer travel organization that can help you plan the perfect trip!
Thailand is our favorite country in the world to travel to! It’s such a diverse country that has beautiful islands, adventurous jungles, stunning temples, and delicious foods; we can’t get enough of it.
Thailand is a famous gay destination and is famous for its kathoey (please refrain from using the term ladyboy as it can be offensive). Kathoey is a term that is hard to define by our western understanding. It is a word used in Thailand to describe a transgender woman or person of a third gender or an effeminate gay male.
Sadly, Thai LGBTQ+ people, especially kathoeys, still have a lot to wish for in terms of rights.
Sweden takes pride in being ‘gay since 1944’ – when homoടexuality was decriminalized. The country has been ranking high in the lists of LGBT+ friendly countries for years and that’s not without reason. In 1972, Sweden became the first country in the world to allow transgender people to change their legal gender.
In Stockholm, we found amazing gender neutral shops, gender-neutral bathrooms, and we felt welcome everywhere. Sweden is truly a welcoming country for every letter of the LGBTQ+ acronym.
Read all our Swedish blogs to get inspired for your Sweden trip!
Taiwan was the first (and so far only) country to legalize gay marriage in Asia. It’s definitely one of the most progressive places in Asia. Taiwan is one of the very few places in Asia that has anti-discrimination laws on the basis of orientation.
Sadly, many Asians believe gayness does not exist in traditional Asian culture and see it as something that belongs in Western cultures. But that is changing! We saw gay couples holding hands and even kissing in public (and PDA is rare in most Asian countries) and felt super comfortable being our queer selves in Taiwan.
Portugal has been making a lot of progress over the last years and is hot and happening nowadays! You can find LGBTQ+ communities all around the country with the biggest ones in Lisbon and Porto. We absolutely fell in love with the Algarve, the southern region. The coastline is absolutely breathtaking!
Because of the deep roots of religion in Mexican culture, it’s not always easy for locals to be gay in Mexico, especially in the countryside. But in the bigger cities and tourist areas, there are many safe spaces. Especially Mexico City and Oaxaca are well known for being welcoming towards the LGBTQ+ community.
Our friends Cee & Mea (@_itzafamilything_) shared how being a black two mom family in Mexico feels like true freedom: ‘as black women we have been harassed in the US, while just walking down the street. In Playa Del Carmen, we walk down the street and people and smile and wave at us. […] We haven’t experienced any negative interactions for being a two mom family. Since children and family is so important in the Mexican culture our son is welcomed by families to play with their kids. It’s heartbreaking to know that we had to leave a country (I once defended in the army) to be treated like a human being.’
Whilst Indonesia might not be the first destination you think about, Bali feels like it’s a whole other country. Indonesia’s largest religion is the Islam, but Hinduism is practiced by the majority of the population of Bali. That, and the fact that tourism has become Bali’s main economic sector, make that Bali is one of the best places for a lesbian honeymoon without spending a fortune.
Balinese people will respect your identity, which doesn’t always mean they accept it, but they will respect you. And respect might be the most important thing. It’s a basic human right; to be respected.
In addition, we can highly recommend our home country, the Netherlands. And South Africa is a gorgeous LGBT-welcoming destination for an adventurous/luxury lesbian honeymoon, but safety-wise, South Africa still has a high crime rate, which requires some extra precautions.
Read our guide to lesbian Amsterdam
Enjoy Your Lesbian Holiday
This is really important: have fun! Traveling is amazing, you will definitely be surprised how beautiful the world is. Show off your travels on social media if you feel comfortable: visibility will change the world. Inspire other lesbians and queer women to take the step; the more we are out there, the more will go out there. We believe we can change the world, one LGBT traveler at a time!
We hope you enjoyed reading this lesbian travel guide. Hopefully, it inspired you to see the beauty this world has to offer, in a safe way!
And feel free to share this guide with your lesbian travel friends!
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