9 Tips for First Time Gay Travelers
There’s nothing better than going on your first trip, but with so much that goes into planning a trip, it can quickly get overwhelming! From planning transportation, to making friends while abroad, and how to stay safe, there’s a lot to consider as a first time gay traveler. Here are some of our top tips to help you navigate these new and exciting experiences.
by Matthew Schueller
posted July 9, 2020
When Michael and I first traveled together as a gay couple, we were surprised by how different it was compared to traveling as single, closeted individuals. There was so much for us to learn: from planning how we travel, how we meet others and make friends, how we stay safe, and how to support LGBTQ+ businesses. Here are our top 9 tips for first time gay travelers:
1. Do your research
I cannot stress this enough—research, research, RESEARCH! Above all, you must be absolutely sure that the country or region you are planning to travel to is safe for LGBTQ+ people. The U.S. Department of State has a great resource to look up up-to-date and special considerations regarding LGBTQ+ travelers for all of the places you’d like to go.
Some countries are considered more of a gray area for gay travelers. It’s advised to be cautious and stay alert! We’ve visited counties like Peru and Thailand, which do have some incredible gay-friendly areas, but still are considered unsafe to show same-sex PDA in public. You can still have an incredible trip regardless, it just takes a little research to know what is culturally okay for your destination!
2. Travel with a group
There’s something special about going on an adventure with a group of strangers and leaving with a bunch of new best friends. This is exponentially true for the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve been fortunate enough to go on a few group tours and they are by far the best trips we’ve ever taken in our lives. When everything is planned out for you and you’re with a group of others who are looking for a great time, it can’t really get better! While we’re on the subject, sign up for a tour with EF Ultimate Break! We may just see you there!
3. Ask the locals where to eat
The first place we usually look for places to eat is online to see what all the great travel blogs say. But over and over again, the best advice we get is on the streets of our destination. The locals know best! Ask them where to eat and discover your love for street food! You won’t be sorry.
4. Don’t be afraid to say hello!
Different social rules apply when traveling. People are generally extremely open and looking to meet others—especially at hostels, bars and on group tours. Backpackers, expats and first-time travelers more often than not are ecstatic to meet someone new. As a solo traveler, the best way to meet others is to go out on a limb and just say hello! Sometimes a simple greeting turns into touring the city together, receiving a list of great local recommendations, or even partying until the morning. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll make a lifelong friend!
5. Support LGBTQ+ businesses
The best part about being a gay traveler is that there are increasingly more and more LGBTQ+ lodging and businesses specially tailored to showing us a great time. Traveling is an amazing way to show international support for the LGBTQ+ community everywhere. Honestly, I feel like I’m always given an especially great experience when at gay-owned restaurants or lodging. When you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community and you step into a place that is owned and operated by gay people, and for gay people, it just feels like home… even thousands of miles away. LGBTQ+ hostels, bars, hotels, restaurants, and clubs never disappoint.
6. Travel with a friend
Travel is just that much better with somebody you love to spend time with. This also can make it so much easier to meet others when out at a bar or club. One is great, but two’s a party! Not only can it be more fun to experience the journey together, you have someone to take cute photos of you! One of the best parts of having someone there that you trust is that you can have fun, let loose a little, and have someone around that really has your back.
7. Consider getting travel insurance
You never know when a flight can get cancelled and mess up your entire itinerary, or your luggage gets lost, or your laptop is stolen while out in a park… all of which have happened to me! Travel insurance can save you tons of dollars that you’d be much happier spending on espresso, tapas or tequila!
8. Get a SIM card or international data
Splurging for cell phone data is absolutely worth it while traveling for two reasons: Google Maps and communicating with others in your group. Having international data allows a group of friends to split up and explore different food options for lunch at a market and still find each other with ease afterwards. It makes it way easier to find your way to a particular bar or restaurant in the city, and to call a taxi home without trying to connect to unreliable WiFi. Getting a SIM card wherever I’m traveling to feels like a golden ticket to the destination!
9. Stay alert & aware of your surroundings
It’s not unheard of that LGBTQ+ people have been victim to discriminatory crime abroad. It is so important to remember to stay alert and aware of your surroundings. It’s always better to walk in unsafe neighborhoods in groups, but if you are traveling alone consider packing a whistle with you just in case! Book taxis through trusted applications, and keep your valuables hidden and discrete.
The best way to always make sure you've got a group that has your back? Group travel! EF Ultimate Break trips are exactly that. A great way to see the world with a built in group of new friends, making sure you're always staying in great LGBTQ+ friendly neighborhoods, with plenty of time to explore the places you want to see. From Greece to Costa Rica and beyond, you can hop on for a trip you’ll never forget!
Written by Matthew Schueller
Matthew and his husband Michael are two travel-obsessed husbands from Portland, Oregon. On their blog, Instagram, and YouTube channel, they share their stories to bring you the best of the best in LGBTQ+ travel destinations, gay travel tips, hints, and advice from local guides and the experts themselves!