For most LGBTQ+ travellers, planning a trip involves extra steps, like researching the safest travel destinations and LGBTQ+ friendly spots. A recent study found that 39% of LGBTQ+ people research safety threats before travelling. And a whopping 65% of marginalised people research a destination’s attitudes towards them before booking a trip.
Thankfully, tourism is much more inclusive now than it once, although there are still many destinations around the world which are downright dangerous for LGBTQ+ travellers. To pinpoint the best LGBTQ+ friendly destinations, we turned to the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index. The list ranks 203 countries on their safety for LGBTQ+ people on factors such as legalised same-sex marriage, anti-discrimination laws, adoption recognition, LGBTQ+ worker protections, and what residents say about the quality of life there.
From Canada to Australia to Scandinavia, here are 9 of the safest travel destinations around the world that embrace and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community – so you can really show your pride.
1. Vancouver, Canada
Canada comes out on top in 2022 as one of the safest destinations for LGBTQ+ travel. The country has constitutional laws in place to protect the LGBTQ+ community against discrimination and violence. Plus, same-sex marriage was legalised in 2006 and LGBTQ+ ‘conversion therapy’ was criminalised in 2020.
From Montreal to Winnipeg to Toronto, there are plenty of thriving LGBTQ+ scenes across the country… But Vancouver is one of the best. It has everything from gay bars, pubs and clubs to LGBTQ+friendly hotels, restaurants, cafes, and shops. It’s all mostly found in two distinct neighbourhoods – the West End and Commerical Drive. Whether you want to go sailing, hiking, or bar-hopping, Vancouver is one of the friendliest cities where LGBTQ+ travellers can feel safe and comfortable.
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2. Stockholm, Sweden
Sweden is hands down the most inclusive country in Europe for the LGBTQ+ community. It regularly tops lists as the most LGBTQ+ friendly country for travellers, all thanks to its progressive laws and friendly attitudes. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2009 and in 1972, it was the world’s first country to allow trans individuals to legally change their gender post-transition. Sweden also has more Pride festivals per capita than anywhere else, with 30 different Pride celebrations held across the country every year.
While LGBTQ+ people are welcome everywhere, Stockholm is a great place to start. The city has an amazing LGBTQ+ scene with iconic hotels like Berns Hotel, nightclubs like King Kong Club, and Mälarpaviljongen, a bar and restaurant spread across three floating docks. Stockholm Pride is also the biggest Pride festival in Scandinavia, kicking off in August this year – don’t miss out!
3. Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Netherlands was the world’s first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001, so it makes sense their capital city is one of the safest travel destinations for LGBTQ+ people. LGBTQ+-friendly venues and communities can be found across Amsterdam, so head to the Pink Point info kiosk, a dedicated LGBTQ+ information booth offering tips and recommendations on all things queer in Amsterdam.
You can also head straight to the Reguliersdwarsstraat neighbourhood and don’t miss the iconic Cafe ‘t Mandje, the oldest gay bar in Amsterdam. You can also check out the Homomonment, a “living monument” to homosexuals who’ve been oppressed around the world. The city’s Pride festival is also one of the more unique celebrations since the event takes place on boats floating along the stunning canals.
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4. New York, United States
New York City prides itself as a diverse and progressive city, with a deep connection to the LGBTQ+ community. It was here the 1969 riots happened at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, leading to the modern gay rights movement. There is a lot of LGBTQ+ history and culture to explore, from the devasting history of the HIV pandemic to the dazzling rise of Harlem’s ball culture.
There’s also a ton of LGBTQ+ neighbourhoods to dive into, including Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood. Here you’ll find rainbow flags galore and LGBTQ+-friendly cafes, bars, restaurants, and barbershops. From the world-class museums to the iconic Broadway theatre shows, you’ll have a ball in New York. Visit in June and you’ll be swept up in NYC Pride, one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world.
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5. Lisbon, Portugal
Portugal is one of the safest travel destinations worldwide for the LGBTQ+ community, with numerous legal protections including legalised same-sex marriage since 2010. The capital, Lisbon, is an amazingly inclusive city and you’ll feel welcome as you wander the gorgeous cobbled streets. If you want to hit the beach, head to the gay-friendly Beach 19 on the Costa da Caparica, just 15 minutes outside Lisbon. Once the sun goes down, check out the buzzing nightlife in Barrio Alta, where you’ll find gay nightlife galore.
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6. Sydney, Australia
Australia is one of the safest travel destinations in the Southern Hemisphere for LGBTQ+ people. The country passed anti-discrimination legislation back in 1984 and legalised same-sex marriage in 2017. The coastal city of Sydney is the ultimate LGBTQ+ hotspot, with pumping gay-friendly nightlife like the three-storey Stonewall Hotel. The city also has a rich history of queer culture. Head to the LGBTQ+ neighbourhood of Darlinghurst to find gems like the Darlinghurst Bookshop selling queer books, films and magazines.
You can also catch the annual Queer Screen film festival or take part in Sydney’s Gay Mardi Gras, one of the world’s biggest and most fabulous LGBTQ+ celebrations. Sydney is even hosting World Pride in 2023, a bi-yearly LGBTQ+ super-event that rotates between cities around the world. And don’t forget to watch the iconic Australian movie, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and have your own Priscilla moment.
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This beautiful Mediterranean island nation is widely recognised as one of the safest travel destinations for LGBTQ+ people. Malta legalised same-sex relations in 1973 and in 2016, was the first country in the EU to criminalise conversion therapy. It’s also retained its top spot in ILGA’s European Rainbow Map Index this year for the 7th consecutive year.
Kick off your holiday in the capital Valletta, where you’ll find a thriving LGBTQ+ scene with hotels, bars, and clubs like Lollipop, Maori and Michelangelo. You’ll also want to visit Pembroke Beach, the gay seaside hotspot. And don’t miss the Birdcage Lounge in the nearby village of Rabat, where you’ll enjoy drag shows, cabarets and discos.
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8. London, England
London has been at the centre of queer culture for centuries, dating back to the 18th-century ‘Molly Houses’, which were meeting places for the LGBTQ+ community. Today, you can spend days or weeks in London exploring the thriving LGBTQ+ neighbourhoods. Start at the famous Soho district in London’s West End and get your dancing shoes on at Cybil’s House. Or enjoy a drink while learning about queer history at Admiral Duncan, location of the 1999 nail bombings and now a symbol of London’s LGBTQ+ community .
Stop by the Photographer’s Gallery which features photo exhibitions on LGBTQ+ themes. Or hit up the theatres in Soho to see award-winning musicals like Miss Saigon and Kinky Boots. You can also check out the LGBTQ+ scenes in East London, including the Dalston Superstore, a gay bar and cafe featuring art, food, and live music. There’s also The Glory, a super-pub that regularly hosts cabaret nights, film screenings and discos.
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9. Oslo, Norway
Norway has named 2022 as Queer Cultural Year to celebrate the country’s 50-year anniversary of decriminalising homosexuality. Today, most Norwegians have a liberal and open attitude towards sexuality and gender identity. LGBTQ+ people have the same rights as heterosexual people including adoption, assisted pregnancies and church weddings.
There are going to be tons of queer events in Norway this year, like LGBTQ+ cultural exhibitions at the National Museum. You’ll also find LGBTQ+ friendly events at bars, nightclubs and hotels all over Norway. Head outside the capital of Oslo and you’ll find thriving LGBTQ+ scenes in cities like Tromsø, Bodø and Stavanger. Pack your bags – we’re heading to Scandinavia!
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Where are your top safest travel destinations around the world for LGBTQ+ people? Let us know in the comments below…