It’s National Coming Out Day, an internationally recognized day of both celebration as well as awareness for people coming out as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender. And it got us thinking: What are the best places for LGBT travel and what are the places you might want to avoid? 

Where to Avoid

Some places are obvious and on most people’s radar to avoid for LGBT travel. Russia- say no more. Further, most people know about the drama in Uganda around their anti-homosexual legislation that viewed being gay as an offense first punishable by death, but then later reduced to life in prison. But where else should you avoid?

The Worst of the Worst is: Iran

Their former president declared there were no homosexuals in this country, but to be safe passed a law to treat homosexuality with anything from a public lashing to the death penalty. Other places to avoid in the region: Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudia Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates (who we’ll get to). I imagine most of those countries aren’t on your travel radar to begin with, but I bet the UAE could be. And before you go assuming all of the Middle East is a bad place to be, make sure to read on to our best places to go, as there are places in the Middle East on the list.

United Arab Emirates 

I don’t know too many people who plan vacation to the UAE. Rather, most people have flights with Emirates or Ethiad that connect through Dubai or Abu Dhabi, and find a way to build in a small layover to check out this mysterious oasis in the desert. It’s a curiosity, it’s got great shopping and some of most intriguing luxury hotels out there, but it also comes with jail time .

Jamaica (and much of the Caribbean)

Montego Bay is beautiful, but not a place to visit for LGBTQ travelers

Montego Bay is beautiful, but not a place to visit for LGBT travel

Jamaica is worth adding to your list of places to avoid. They’ve got a history of hate crimes and popular music which often denounces homosexuality. It consistently ranks amongst the worst places for LGBT travelers as we noted in our Millennial Honeymoon Uncommon Guide. 


Monkeys in Malaysia: cool. Anti-homosexual laws: Not cool.

Monkeys in Malaysia: cool. Anti-homosexual laws: Not cool.

This one pains us: Penang has one of our favorite street food scenes. The culture and urban scene of Kuala Lumpur makes it one of our favorite big cities in Asia. But along with great street food, an awesome bird park, and incredible culture comes steep crimes if found guility of homosexual acts. We’re talking whippings and prison sentences of up to 20 years.

What are the best places?

Fear not my friends, because there is good news: The world is growing more accepting. We’re not there yet, but the last few years have had some eyebrow raisers in a good way: Argentina legalizes gay marriage? Same sex marriage is legal in Mexico City as well? Things are improving, and there are a lot of options.

The best of the best: Europe, Much of it.

It should come as no surprise that Europe ranks high on the list of gay friendly travel destinations. In the Spartacus Gay Travel Guide, 9 of the top 10 countries are in Europe (Canada standing out as a proud exception). Sweden is tops, followed by Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. And while Europe is often, many readers of this blog seek to go beyond Europe, so where else is great?

The United States- Parts At Least.

The good ole’ USA is getting better and better but there are still spots to avoid. News of a man being beaten and taunted with gay slurs while marching in a gay pride parade make Detroit one place to perhaps wait out for a while. But there are some great cities. Some are obvious: San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and West Hollywood for example. Some surprised me. A friend who is gay is IN LOVE with Dallas and the gay friendly scene there. Really? I guess so. Palm Springs is a great gay friendly destination, as is Key West on the East Coast.

Argentina and Uruguay

No tango needed here: Gay marriage is legal in Argentina and Uruguay!

No tango needed here: Gay marriage is legal in Argentina and Uruguay!

That’s right, South America is on a march. It started with Argentina legalizing gay marriage. Then came Uruguay, a little country with a loud voice in the region, as they also are the first country to welcome Syrian refugees in the region. Add beautiful beaches in Uruguay, wonderful wine in Argentina, and a great urban scene in capitols Montevideo and Buenos Aires and this is a must visit region.

Urban Areas in the Middle East

Spontaneous dancing on the streets of Tel Aviv? Is this what a flash mob looks like here?

Spontaneous dancing on the streets of Tel Aviv? Is this what a flash mob looks like here?

While the Middle East has some of the worst places for LGBT travel, it also boasts a few interesting possibilities. Tel Aviv is considered the gay capitol of the Middle East. Beirut isn’t far behind. And not to be lost in the midst is beautiful Istanbul.

Want to learn more? We found a great map on Upworthy that, while published in 2012 and thus somewhat dated, provides a good glimpse at the best and worst places to live if you’re LGBT based on three factors: Persecution, recognition, and protection.

And try as we might to come up with a blog that might be helpful, we realize one incredibly important thing: While we may be allies of the LGBT community, we ourselves have not experienced the discrimination members of that community face. And so while this list is a result of consultation of friends and loved ones who are, and much research, it’s never fully complete. So if you’ve got suggestions based on personal experience- let us know!

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