Problems Only Gay/ LGBTQI+ Solo Travellers Have To Deal With

I’ve been chasing freedom and flying a rainbow flag in a lot of places in my life: S.E Asia, Central America and Europe so far... and over the years I’ve realised that there's a fair few things about travelling solo that humans of the ‘straight’ kind might not have to deal with:

1. Awkward Questions

The age old question, from taxi drivers, hotel staff, or the over-friendly waiter: Why don’t you have a girlfriend? Why aren’t you married? And even worse: why don't you meet my daughter/cousin?

All I want to scream is a definitive 'NO!' - I'm 110% fabulously gay and if I don't ever get married in my lifetime, I'll still be happy. BUT - being a foreign solo traveller, you have to read the room, taxi, or COUNTRY that you are in, and though it kills you - sometimes lie - to remain safe and unharmed. It sucks cause you travel to be free and be or find yourself - and that is a damn human right. But when you find yourself in one of the 69 countries where homosexuality is illegal - sadly many of these being in Africa, then telling a white lie is unfortunately still necessary. Still - once your in a hostel or at a gay bar - then there's no stopping you being your authentic self.

2. Trying to find Gay Bars or the Gay District in a Foreign Country:

Google maps is your friend. But, if you are like me and have run out of battery power before the end of the day, or can't afford loads of data - then, who do you ask to point you towards your friendly neighbourhood gay bar?

If you are staying at a hostel, you're in luck. People seem way cooler, liberal andn open (probably because they are travellers). But if you’re at a local guest-house or staying with a family - it can be hard to judge how liberal they are, and you don't want to end up being kicked out for your beliefs (here's hoping they arn't dicks!)

Also, understand the real fear when you get into a taxi in a foreign country at night all alone, and you don't know your driver's attitudes towards LGBTQI+ people. Honestly, it's a nightmare. One handy trick is that I use google maps and get them to drop you at a cafe or restaurant around the corner from the gay bar or district, then walking the rest in peace.

But - if worse comes to the worse - and you are wondering the dark streets of a new city alone and in need of rainbow company - always keep an eye out for our beacon of hope. The rainbow flag! You will be welcome to be who you truly are wherever you see this, especially outside any bar or club establishment.

3. Dating

Now, i'm definitely an advocate for using Grindr abroad. As a solo traveller, it's saved me many a time when I needed a friend, a tour guide, or to get the intel on gay life in a new city. BUT - lately there's been a few horror stories of not just catfish, but nasty people out to do harm, and in some places, undercover policemen using the app to entrap gay tourists. Not cool!

I always ask for social media handles before meeting, and i'm wary if they are sending photos that seem too good to be true or if they ask for loads of private information about you… always use your gut instinct!

But also - when you do meet that cool person online - where do you actually meet offline? It's not wise to go straight to someone's apartment or flat, so I always try to pick locations in appropriate central venues. Somewhere where you won't get flack for being gay, but also nowhere where aggressive straight men congregate. I once went on a gay date in Chiang Mai but it was right near a late-night Thai boxing match with drunk meatheads so - holding hands or kissing was a no no.

Also, before getting handsy, or even getting a nice kiss from a handsome stranger in a foreign country - make sure you know the etiquette. In Dubai - in public, any homosexual displays of affection are a no no - but if you’re in the safe zone of the international hotels then go crazy for it

4. Visiting Gay Beaches

I love a gay beach as much as the next single and solo gay traveller, but hey - why do so many of them happen to be exclusively for nudists?

It's not that I'm totally ashamed of my brown body (though I do need to go to the gym more often) it’s just kinda annoying at how many gay beaches are nudist only. Like - why can’t this just be a cute gay beach where I can relax, read my book, and maybe do some harmless flirting while I keep my clothes on? Nevermind the whole getting my dangly bits accidently sunburnt (ow!).

Anyway - major gay tourist hotspots like Barcelona - have great gay beaches. Just know what you're getting yourself into, don't be a dick by gawking at naked people when you are wearing your clothes, and moreover - never do anything that you don't feel comfortable doing.

5. Going into Darkrooms

Some of the major European cities, Berlin, Paris and Barcelona in particular, have famous gay bars with a nifty little area attached to them called a darkroom. You might have heard of them - you might not - but for the uninitiated - they are rooms that are completely dark (shock, horror, I know!) and numerous scandalous activities can take part in them.

Look - I'm no angel but dark rooms aren't my personal thing - but no judgement, you are abroad, you want to experiment - go play! Just know what the etiquette and rules are: if you are in a gay bar, the darkrooms are preserved for men only, unless explicitly stated otherwise. And above all, respect your partners consent and wishes - they will make it clear if they want to engage in any activity with you. And don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do. But also, remember that there is a whole lot of fun you can have outside of a darkroom, like making shapes on a fun dance floor with a cocktail jug in your hand, while the DJ plays all your favourite nostalgic pop music.

6. Staying in Gay Air’B’N’B’s / Mister B’n’Bs / Gay Hotels / Gay Hostels

To be honest, it's pretty great that in the last ten years, there has been a huge increase in the amount of gay-specific accommodation abroad. From gay hostels (especially famous in Berlin), gay hotels (an amazing chain in Barcelona) through to a specific site called MisterBnB which touts itself as AirBnb by gays for gays - you are now spoiled for choice to find a place to call home away from home where you can be yourself.

But - as I found out the hard way when I made a booking through MisterBnb in Barcelona last year - just because a host says it's gay accommodation, it doesn't mean they can do what they like or make... feel uncomfortable. So I paid for a bedroom for 4 nights, but one night when I came back to the apartment, the host was hosting a kinda sex party, right outside my door, and didn't tell me about it, then invited me to join as I had to wade through it in my drunken state to get back to my bed. Yikes! I didn't really mind - you do you girl - but I paid for privacy, quiet and cleanliness, and there was sure none of that! But also, make sure you set professional boundaries with your host - at the end of the day - you are a paying customer - and never let them make you feel uncomfortable.

Also, as a side note: it’s great to go and stay in gay places abroad, and have that safety net - but sometimes you wanna go to a place that’s diverse where you’ll meet lots of different types of people, isn't that the point of travelling? Someplace that is full of interesting and inspiring people that just happens to be gay friendly - now why should that so damn hard to find?

7. Going to countries where being gay is technically illegal:

So we've already talked about some of the problems in going to countries where being gay is illegal - but that doesn't mean that we gays don't still exist - and indeed have fun - in those places! Although we advise extreme caution when going to places where being gay is criminalised - in certain areas, such as the main cities of India, there are huge underground and unofficial gay parties and venues that are deemed pretty safe.

First, you have to do a little digging and research to find out where the underground parties and fun times are. Because most of these places can't officially list themselves as gay venues, you'll have to ask people on apps like Grindr, or online forums - or someone you can trust at an open-minded hostel.

Sometimes you even have to be invited to private messenger groups, facebook pages or whatsapp groups - so - get texting, start making new friends and get connecting :-)

8. Trying to get some alone time

Here's the funny thing about solo travel. Unless you force yourself to isolate - you are hardly ever alone. And here's the even funnier thing about being a gay solo traveller. You go to a village in the middle of the mountains in Northern Laos, expecting to be the only rainbow merman in a thousand mile radius and - yes - your roomate at the hostel is another fabulously flaming homosexual.

It's amazing and mad. Yes, the gays get around - no longer is it an ‘only gay in the village’ vibe - so if you intended to leave everything behind and travel solo, you'll be in hard luck as we are in fact everywhere around the world.

But if you want to consciously meet other queer peeps around the world outside of the apps and gay bars, sites like Couchsurfing and Meet-Up are amazing, and host queer and LGBTQI+ meet-ups all over the world. But also check facebook groups and discord - the internet has a place for us all.

Despite all the 'problems' (we say - more interesting obstacles) you have to go through being a gay solo traveller - never forget that you have an automatic community of amazing people that you belong to all around the world, who understand who you are and, ultimately, let you be your true, shiny, individual - YOU!