Many countries in the world have a conservative view on LGBTQ issues, to say the least. This issue is not lost on me since I travel to many “conservative” places, where, as a practically matter, the societies are permissive and have never been bothered me at all as a gay man traveling alone, with my partner, with friends, or in a group. With that being said follow these insider tips and you should be ready to go anywhere:
* Cultural intelligence: Respect the local customs and laws when traveling and you will be respected in turn. Just as we expect visitors in our country to abide by our cultural rules and laws, you will have a positive travel experience when you do the same abroad.
* Know the difference between reality and perception: Many conservative countries in the world are conservative on an official level due to their government structure and or local customs, but that as a practical matter welcome the LGBTQ community without fanfare. So, chances are if other gays are going there, like myself, its safe for you to go as well.
* There is safety in numbers: barring specific threats to one’s safety, traveling the world in the safety of like-minded friends is always safer than traveling alone.
* Always communicate your whereabouts: I recommend enrolling in the State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It’s a free service that allows US citizens traveling internationally to enroll with the local US Embassy or Consulate in the country to which they are traveling. This way if there is an issue or disturbance locally or if you need assistance, the local consular representative will proactively reach out to you or already have your information if you call.
* Don’t be shady: If you’re looking for trouble chances are trouble will find you. So, know local customs and use common sense. Don’t do anything reckless abroad and expect to get away with it.
* Beware of social media and dating app traps. Be extra careful in places where social media and dating apps are used to entice visitors to meet up with a local for less than legitimate reasons.