An Alternate Approach To Travelling To Conservative Countries With A Same-Sex Partner

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

Recently, Ben wrote about how laws against same-sex attracted travellers worked in various Middle Eastern countries in light of his potential visit to Saudi Arabia.

I’m currently on an extended trip with my (same-sex) partner, across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North America. We will be traveling together through a range of different places — most of which we have never visited before.

This will include some countries that have very conservative laws and views on same-sex relationships, and it has led to plenty of debate both among one another, as well as with friends (and Ben and Tiffany!), about which countries are suitable to visit in this way, and which should be avoided together, and how we decided on whether we should visit each country as a couple.

We’ve had to allocate various countries into either ‘let’s visit’ or ‘let’s avoid’, and I wanted to share my thought process, and hear your thoughts as well.

Ben touched on some laws different countries have, and how (and if) he thought they would be enforced with the mindset that he will be traveling solo. My thinking is slightly different as I will be traveling with a same sex partner, so it’s more about how we will be perceived traveling together when it comes to things like bedding configurations and questions about how we know each other, rather than anything we would do or say that may be considered illegal in that country.

So here’s my personal thought process I went through as I set my itinerary…

There are some countries I will never visit, regardless of the circumstances

There are some countries that have always been on my ‘no go’ list, and likely always will be.

Saudi Arabia is the first that springs to mind and it has been interesting to read Ben’s recent interest with the place. For me, it’s a combination of the fact that there’s very little there that interests me and very little to do there, they have extremely strict Sharia law, and I don’t wish to support a country that has such strict restrictions on freedom and equality (and I’m not just talking about same-sex couples).

North Korea is also on this list, for what it is worth.

I’m unlikely to ever even fly Saudia because I both don’t want to personally support the country, and I’m terrified if something goes wrong (i.e. a cancelled flight), I’ll be ‘stuck’ at the airport or, worse, even have to somehow enter the country if the delay is long enough.

There are so many other countries, especially in that region I have not yet visited that interest me so much more (for example Oman, which I am visiting on this trip), that I’ll probably never even get to visit, so places like Saudi Arabia, for me, just aren’t worth the hassle even if they do start offering tourist visas.

Any questions raised will depend hugely on your accommodation type and your traveling style

You may have visited countries where same-sex relations are illegal without even realising it. And that may be because you have stayed at a secluded, five star international resort, where the staff could not care less what you get up to behind closed doors.

The Maldives is a very popular destination for honeymooners, both heterosexual and homosexual, but did you know that both same sex-marriages and same-sex relations are illegal there?

Probably not, because they welcome same-sex couples (and their pink dollars) with open arms.

I have no issues in traveling to conservative countries with a same-sex partner if I was staying at a luxury international hotel or resort. I expect the only question to potentially be raised at check-in is ‘do you want one or two beds?’

However if you were staying at, say, a family-run guest house in the Maldives for your honeymoon with a same-sex partner, there may be questions raised about your relationship, and you may feel uncomfortable staying there, particularly if you have only booked one bed for the two of you and insist on sleeping that way during your stay.

But as you know, I rarely stay in five-star resorts, which makes my decisions trickier.

We are visiting both Morocco and Egypt on this trip, two countries that are fairly conservative, however we are doing so on organized tours. I know dozens of people who have done these exact tours without issue (which is why we booked this tour company), so I’m not concerned about undertaking this myself.

Do your research, but remain realistic

There are around 70 countries that still criminalise same-sex relationships or activity.

I’ve visited some already, such as Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Before choosing any country to visit with a same-sex partner, I do some basic research, such as what is the current law, but more importantly for me, how and if it is enforced.

Some countries like the UAE still criminalise same-sex relationships, but their tourism industries are so important to them that these laws are rarely, if ever, enforced on tourists, especially those who exercise reasonable caution. I guess that’s one of the ways I draw a line between Saudi Arabia and the UAE — it seems to me that tourism is not remotely important to Saudi Arabia, hence why they don’t even want tourists to visit.

Conversely, a same-sex British couple being thrown into jail in the UAE for say, kissing in public, would be front page news in somewhere like the United Kingdom, and could harm the UAE’s very important tourism industry.

You hear rare stories where these laws and enforced, but given how many same-sex couples either travel to or live in the UAE already, it’s my personal belief that these laws are rarely enforced.

Communicate properly ahead of time

We are visiting Tunisia together soon as part of the trip. I’m expecting it to be a very interesting, but pretty conservative country with a strong French influence.

We have booked an (entire apartment) Airbnb that only has one bed. As I booked it, I was open and honest with the host in simply saying ‘we are two men traveling together – is this okay?’ I didn’t feel the need to go into more detail about our relationship unless asked. We could have been friends, or in a relationship, or even related.

One of us could be sleeping on the couch, the other in the bed.

The answer that came back from the host was simply ‘of course, you are both very welcome.’

The host doesn’t care, and provided we give them enough information when booking, there will be no surprises at check-in.

If they do ask at check-in, I suspect we will just say we are cousins, or friends, just to be on the safe side.

Weigh up the attraction of the country, with the risks of visiting it

Last year we visited St. Petersburg, Russia, together. We have some personal issues with the country, both political and moral, but I’ve always wanted to visit St. Petersburg. It was a fascinating trip, and turned out to be one of my favourite places I’ve been to in Europe.

There was so much we wanted to see there, that this outweighed the reservations we had about visiting. When we arrived, we discovered a cosmopolitan and fairly liberal city with friendly locals who could not care less about two men traveling together. We were never asked if we were married (to each other, or to anyone else) — in fact no awkward questions were raised at all.

So some countries are a lot more liberal than you might think.

Then on the other hand there are places like Jamaica, which has very strict laws criminalising same-sex relations. While I don’t doubt that Jamaica is a fabulous destination, there are so many other islands in the Caribbean with various levels of progressive freedom, that we feel we would get a similar experience visiting a more liberal Caribbean island.

So I won’t visit Jamaica, but we are visiting some Dutch Caribbean islands on this trip.

Incredible St. Petersburg, Russia

Bottom line

I expect everyone will have a slightly different position on where they will and won’t visit because of that destination’s views on certain topics, and I don’t just mean criminalising same-sex relationships.

It may seem a little hypocritical of me to think some destinations are fine, while others I will never set foot in. This isn’t any kind of ‘this country is okay while this one isn’t’ list — it’s just my own thought process/risk tolerance.

We may be naive in thinking we won’t have any problems visiting some of these places we’ve never been before, but by being sensible and realistic we haven’t had problems in the past.

I’m interested to hear your decision making process in these situations, especially those who travel with a partner.

How do you draw the line as to which countries you’ll visit and which you won’t, whether it’s for safety or ethical reasons?

  1. A few thoughts I haven’t seen raised

    Some locales have so very few out gays that people would not even think to ask if you’re gay
    Gay is just too far out of their consciousness

    Couple this with the differences in cultural norms, and they’d especially never think of it

    For instance, it is common to see straight men holding hands or hooking arms throughout the Middle East. It’s not a gay thing

    Many non-couples share beds In Latin America and Asia due to cost and social norms

    Asians especially have zero personal space

    Italian men wear skin tight suits that show every penile ridge

    Combine all of that, and the average person in a place without gays will chalk up your travel partner to whatever fits their cultural norm

    In the 90s in San Francisco my straight male French research assistant was confused about why men kept hitting on him.
    I explained it was because he wore pink and lavender bike shorts and tank top to the gym, and because he kisses people hello/goodbye (“bisous “)
    He didn’t know the association of pink and lavender and gay…. or that straight American men NEVER kiss another man

    This is why American “gaydar” doesn’t work in Europe

    It’s also why people were honestly surprised when Liberace came out as gay. (It was before the coming out movement)

    It’s a long way of saying that sometimes you really have to work hard at accidentally coming out in a gay unfriendly area

    They’ll just assume you’re siblings or friends or business associates or poor or a weird foreigner

  2. My thought is that if they really don’t want us there, then there are plenty of other locales where our gay money is always welcome…

    We have a very high disposable income and we usually love to travel and spend lots of money. What we choose to do (or not) within the confines of our bedroom in none of anyone’s business.

    So I will avoid all homophobic countries until such time as they understand that love is love, period.

    Until then, Medina, St. Petersburg, or Kingston can wait…

    As always, YMMV…

  3. Replace “conservative country” with “red state” and “sharia law” with “religious extremists” and same applies to US. Most cities are probably safe but not all. Always do research.

    And Dutch carribean is more progressive than most European countris when it comes to this stuff. My husband and I even go through immigration together as a (same sex) married couple with one customs declaration form.

  4. Hi James.
    A little disappointed with your piece to be honest. As a gay Jewish person, with a massive burden of 1940s baggage I am having issues with your approach.
    I cannot see how I can argue that some Europeans were turning a blind eye to the suffering of the Jews, and at the same time travel to Russia, a country way gay people are being persecuted.
    On your next flight, maybe take some time to consider how to get a degree of solidarity into your system. It seems very self centred. You and I enjoy liberties people couldn’t even imagine 50 years ago, all thanks to the sacrifices people made in the past. Sad to see you are taking it for garanted, with zero care to people who do not enjoy the same privileges

  5. Hi James.
    A little disappointed with your piece to be honest. As a [email protected] Jewish person, with a massive burden of 1940s baggage I am having issues with your approach.
    I cannot see how I can argue that some Europeans were turning a blind eye to the suffering of the Jews, and at the same time travel to Russia, a country way [email protected] people are being persecuted.
    On your next flight, maybe take some time to consider how to get a degree of solidarity into your system. It seems very self centred. You and I enjoy liberties people couldn’t even imagine 50 years ago, all thanks to the sacrifices people made in the past. Sad to see you are taking it for garanted, with zero care to people who do not enjoy the same privileges

  6. Great article! Thank you for it. You will love Oman. People are so kind and loving. I (gay) went with my gay friend and no one gave a hoot about two queens.

  7. Oh if you have not been been to Jordan, I recommend it. By law, homosexuls are protected there. Hate crime laws!

  8. Hi James. My partner and I are currently in the Maldives on the last leg of our trip. Staying at the Hilton Conrad, so of course we have been treated very well.

    We also visited Dubai, UAE, and Muscat, Oman. Dubai we stayed at a Marriott in the Marina. We got asked at check-in about the 1 bed, but after confirming it was fine, we never heard another peep about it. Thanks to Ben’s advice in previous posts.

    I had reached out to Ben about Oman via Twitter. While he said we shouldn’t have any problems (I don’t blame him whatsoever) the check-in lady would not give us a single bed. She confirmed twice at check-in, and I said, “yes, 1 bed,” twice. We got up to our room and she still gave us two beds.

    It was an IHG resort property. So I didn’t let it go. I knew we should have been treated better. I went back downstairs to ask her about it, and she claimed the 1 bedroom was dirty. I said “we will wait.”

    After she could tell I was not giving up, she said to come back down between 6:00-7:00 pm! Up to 5 hours after check-in time.

    We posted our Yelp reviews, and eventually a manger and the property GM found us the next day. They apologized profusely, and claimed it was “miscommunication.” They gave us free dinner at the Italian restaurant, and gave us 20,000 points back.

    Overall, it was still worth it. Oman was very beautiful! Do not forget to rent a car and drive to the Wadi Shab and go hiking!! We are NOT outdoors people, but it was one of the best experiences of our life. Read up on it and watch YouTube videos so you know about the cave at the end. It’s a must see.

    Let me know if you have questions.

  9. FWIW, my Jamaican born husband and I, when we visit family, even go through customs together. Never been an issue. The country is mostly a terrible place to live in for poor gay people, especially effeminate gay men. One female customs officer made a point of telling us how very welcome we are, after I expressed my unease about the visit. so ya, be aware of where you are, but it ain’t Saudi, nowhere close to. They have police protected gay pride events attended by hundreds of people each year. If anything, consider visiting when those events are on, and so support the community.

    My take is also different when it comes to professional interactions. I wouldn’t visit many anti-gay places as a tourist, but as an academic going to meetings, I never decline and always make a point of being out. At a meeting in an anti-gay country the organizers edited the gay bits out of my bio, so I began my speech putting it right back in. there’s unease, but the lone gay activist in the audience appreciated the effort. Visibility mattered to gay liberation in the past, it does today.

  10. I have been to 60+ countries (across pretty much the whole spectrum of “gay friendliness”, including North Korea, Uganda and a bunch of conservative Islamic countries), predominantly whilst travelling with my same-sex partner. Obviously in some places we have “played straight” (basically, North Korea and most of eastern Africa). Otherwise, especially when staying in international/high-end hotels, we just book a room with a single bed and get on with life.

    The thing that – still – surprises me most is that, in some places (e.g. last month in Indonesia) two men booking a room with a single bed does NOT lead staff to assume we were gay. I had “oh, are you guys brothers?” and “are you both on a business trip”! In those situations, I tend to agree with whatever assumption has been put to me – I have found that questions like that are usually just well-meant curiosity and it saves awkwardness/confusion all round just to go with it.

    There is obviously no one-size-fits-all answer to this. It just depends on a combination of: (i) where you are; and (ii) the sort of accommodation you’re staying in.

    For what it’s worth – the ONLY time I have had an overtly negative reaction to checking into a hotel as a gay couple was in Louisiana (I guess because being in the US had given me a false sense of security!). So let’s all remember that this is NOT just an Islamic and/or developing world problem.

  11. Great, healthy view on same-sex couples travelling together. It really opens eyes to those who are not in such a relationship. I really enjoyed reading this article! I also liked your views on Saudi Arabia…

    Regarding UAE, I know of cabin crew for Emirates, both males and very much in love, who live together in the same apartment in one of the accomodations provided for cabin crew. Well, it’s Emirates requirement that males and females aren’t living together, so male and male together is of course normal. And of course, apparently no one at HR level knows about their relationship (even though many of their colleagues are aware! and supportive). I hope for them it’ll stay that way until they realise it’s time to move on. I just worry, well, it is very likely, maybe (?), they will be spotted by the managers at some point…

  12. I agree with Chris – this is not just an Islamic and/or developing country issue! I found a number of places where Christianity is the dominant religion to also exhibit homophobic tendencies. Above all, however, just because the laws of the country say one thing, doesn’t mean that the people are as narrow minded as their laws. In the same way that “dominant” politics don’t represent the entire demographic of a place!

    I remember when I first visited Texas, in the early ‘00s, I was told by a local to avoid wearing 3/4 length shorts as it would be seen as inappropriately gay!…

    I even encountered homophobic abuse in cities like New York!

    At the end of the day, it’s about common sense and taking the time to learn about local customs and culture – not just the law. People will always surprise you – sometimes positively and sometimes negatively!

  13. @ DaninMCI – we wanted to avoid any awkwardness at check in as it was a one bed property.
    The host was meeting us to check us in (it wasn’t a self check in situation).

    We didn’t know whether the host would be a strict Muslim for example.

  14. Great article James, thank you! My (same sex) husband and I are going to Africa next year, and we had a very similar thought process. Rwanda was a must go and it looks like we shouldn’t have a problem there, and we wanted to do Zanzibar too but after researching it, Tanzania altogether was a big no because of the recent years crack down. Plus besides our own safety, I don’t really want to support that government and spend my dollars there.
    To echo what others said, there are many places in the US where I would book 2 beds instead of one…

  15. I struggle with Indonesia. Bali has their hand out for the pink dollar. Meanwhile, Sumatra is at the other extreme and publicly caning homosexuals. Now Jakarta is in the middle and starting to threaten gays by considering changing national law to add pernicious punishment for homosexuality nationwide.

    On one hand, it seems silly to penalize Bali for what is happening on other islands. On the other hand, it seems weird to support a country who doesn’t want your tax dollars.

    Is it like apartheid in SA? Is the only way to evoke change is to hit the government in the pocket books where it hurts? Is the only way to evoke change is to keep showing up.

    Is it hypocritical for Indonesia to accept pink money in Bali while persecuting gays in Sumatra and Java? Can a boycott prevent the law?

    I guess it’s on a case by case basis. I avoid giving tax dollars to Alabama and Mississippi. Why should I give my money to the UAE or Qatar?

  16. Look go where you like, it’s up to you; how you square it with yourself is ultimately subjective. Personally I don’t really want to go to places which are markedly anti-gay with or without my partner. I need to fly via Malaysia next year on a trip – I don’t want to go there and will spend as little as possible on the overnight stay as I don’t want to contribute to their economy. But it won’t deter me from using a reward flight to KL. Similarly I won’t go back to Russia although I went a long time ago. I will probably go to Singapore again and possibly Morocco, does that make me a hypocrite? We all have places which we draw the line at. Jamaica is definitely on that list for me as well as large swathes of the USA.

  17. The people who are saying you also have to be careful in “Christian country” it’s not a fair comparison to Sharia countries and to west Africa and the developing world that don’t have real law and order.

    If you get a nasty check-in agent in Louisiana whose a conservative Christian, it doesn’t matter. It’s his problem, and you deal with them for 5 minutes and off you go to your room. There are laws that protect you in first world democratic countries, and recourse if need be through law enforcement and the courts.

    Whereas if you’re in Saudi Arabia (or a similar place fill in the blank) there’s a good chance you can be jailed, thrown off a building, and have fun calling the police for help; there isn’t anyway to get recourse. So you can say it’s not just a sharia thing or third world country thing. But if you find yourself in a situation when the s#hit finally hits the fan, and you’re in hot water, you’re gonna wish you were back in Louisiana.

  18. In my experience (I first worked there several decades ago, and have been a repeat visitor) urban / tourist Tunisia is up there as one of the most relaxed places in North Africa / Middle East. There are gay cafes and bars, and gay men walking around who appear obvious, at least to me.

    Equally, as someone else said above, it’s normal there for two straight male friends to walk along the street holding hands. That doesn’t necessarily make them gay-friendly.

    I suspect many of us can get a bit over-confident about some of the places we visit: we travel in premium classes and stay in expensive hotels, then think we understand the culture based on that and a few interactions with taxi drivers or waiters. It’s easy to forget that many countries are vicious police states. I include Tunisia in that, when I was there in the 1980s: there’s a significant difference between being there as a priviliged westerner and being, say, a poor peasant-farmer.

    In my next post, I’m going to teach everyone how to suck eggs. Enjoy your travels.

  19. Having been to North Africa with a same-sex partner, I think you will be generally safe – Morocco and Tunisia in particularly have a laissez-faire attitude to gay relationships and there is a significant hidden gay populations.

  20. If you are traveling with a right passport (US, EU countries, Australia, etc) and can afford nice places to stay, it almost doesn’t matter where you are, you’ll be fine. If you are a poor foreign laborer or a local, it’s a different story.
    My personal list of countries I won’t set my foot in: Saudi Arabia, Russia, most of Africa, Jamaica. There are ways to go there and be safe but I don’t feel right about doing it

  21. I flew Saudia from LHR to KUL via JED last year. I don’t support Saudi Arabia at all as a nation yet i’d always been curious to fly the airline. I’d visited Saudi before for work and so had an understanding of the psyche of the locals there – believe it or not it is just as easy to ‘hook up’ there as in London. While I was in Saudi I actually became friends with a local Saudi guy and we used to discuss at length the legal ramifications of his sexual acts. His answer was – he didn’t care about the legal aspect. Because that is the far lesser of the two evils, the main one being your family finding out. His biggest concern was someone finding out and telling his family which would essentially result in social suicide. Cut off from everyone. And yet – this wouldn’t necessarily happen if it was discovered he was having sex with men. The saudis I met explained that it is viewed completely differently living a gay life and simply having sex with men before you are married. The latter frowned upon but very common. My visits to the hotel gym would always end up in receiving a phone number from a local wanting to meet for ‘coffee’.

    Anyway back to Saudia – the flirtatiousness of the cabin crew that I dealt with (male and female) astounded me. It was so blatant.

  22. @Mike – As another gay Jew – who happened to be born in the USSR and am now a US citizen – I totally understand your criticism. I have not been back to Russia and wouldn’t dream of returning unless the political and social climate drastically changed (which I don’t foresee anytime soon).

    Having said that, I agree with James’ position much more so than Lucky. I’m a big fan of the blog but ultimately he had to “sell out” his principles or otherwise this blog wouldn’t really exist, or certainly wouldn’t have become as successful. Despite my appetite for premium travel, I have zero interest in flying any of the sought-after ME/Arab carriers (other than Royal Jordanian).

  23. @Abe – that’s fair, but the point (I at least) was making is much more practically-focussed than considering what a country’s legal framework looks like (although, as it happens, I’m sure that we could all also have an interesting debate about the intersection between religious freedom and gay rights in the US!!).

    Outside of the hardest line of hard line countries, the chance of being arrested as a tourist for same-sex conduct in private is vanishingly small – as others have said, the very last thing that many countries want to do is put off gay people (and their money) from visiting as tourists. So in 99.9999% of cases, the point is not about whether you can ultimately rely on the law to protect you, because, unless you behave recklessly, you’re really extremely unlikely to end up in a situation where that’s necessary.

    The point is a more day-to-day/practical one about how “comfortable” it is to out yourself whilst travelling (or at least do things – ie book a single bed – which could identify you as a gay couple). In my experience, it just happens that the one place I got that judgment call wrong was in the US.

    Put another way, I suppose what I’m saying is that there is not necessarily a correlation between what a country’s legal framework looks like and what the day-to-day experience of visiting it is like.

  24. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the only way to really form an opinion about a place is by going there and experiencing it for yourself.
    Deciding not to go somewhere is a personal choice, but claiming to know a place and branding it unsafe/unwelcoming without setting foot there is just ignorant.

    Saudi Arabia doesn’t have the best reputation in the world, and for good reason.

    But ask yourself when was the last time you’ve heard of someone being legally persecuted there for being gay? the most that has ever happened is when a groups of Saudis organized a same-sex marriage ceremony and posted videos all over social media, and even then they were taken into custody for a couple of hours then let go.The rule of the land is that you can do whatever you want as long as you keep to yourself and not make a fuss about it and certainly not post vidoes of you cross-dressing on Twitter.

    The backward laws exist but can’t be forced simply because of the number of gay citizens (both open and closeted) and expats that live there, which is the case in every other gulf country.

    If anything, now is the best time to visit a place like that if you’re concerned, they’re under so much international pressure that they can’t afford to cause any more trouble. Jailing a gay couple visiting for a couple of days will be the last thing they need, & that’s not say that it’s ever happened before too.

    Don’t go, but don’t claim that you know the place either.

  25. All of this is just so sad for me. That people have to deny who they are, and not live their truth. I love to travel but often worry about the issue of being gay in muslim countries. Why the stress? My partner and I traveled to Maldives, Abu Dahabi and Dubai without incident. But had stress. Was it worth it? I would say yes for the Maldives, not so much for the others… (SIGH…)

  26. @Mike: you’re entitled to not visit whatever countries that you choose to avoid, but you’re not entitled to dictate as a gay American Jew (or any other minority or alienated groups) what countries other people are entitled to visit or avoid.

    I’m also a gay American Jew, and that means I know that for some non-US gay Jewish travelers the USA is yet another place for concern. Almost anywhere in the world can be a place of concern for anyone who is part of a disadvantage during or alienated group, in fact. That means everyone has to judge for themselves (and for no one else) what is appropriate to visit or not. It’s too easy for everyone to sit in ridiculous judgment about others’ choices—but it’s never right. Judge for yourself, or shut up.

    FWIW my husband and I have been all over the world, including Muslim countries (Indonesia, Egypt, Malaysia, Jordan, Lebanon, UAE), Russia, all of Southern Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, most of Southeast Asia, Japan, India, China, most of South America, Madagascar, etc. We’ve been fortunate to almost always be treated with respect and yet plenty of curiosity—as we don’t happen to fit the stereotypes that are so often ascribed to being gay (and I don’t always fit the bill expected as one who was born Jewish and now identifies as atheist). I find our willingness to travel and meet people of different persuasions, ethnicities, and religions has opened lines of communication and understanding far more than any rare problems or concerns that we’ve rarely experienced. That being said, that’s OUR choice that was right for US. We don’t presume to speak for anyone else. Neither should anyone else presume to speak for us.

    Anyone criticizing anyone else for traveling to any anti-Semitic or homophobic country is usually a hypocrite—because if you’re American, British, European, or from any host of other nations, your own country likely is also guilty of that same problem to some degree, as well…let alone if you’re American and ignore the blatant racism that occurs here for any person of color, citizen or immigrant. Every country has its crap and bigotry. We tend to be more comfortable with bigotries in our own society and tend to judge other societies more harshly—but that doesn’t mean that’s accurate or fair.

  27. @Chris I think we more or less agree with each other.

    But my main point I’m trying to make to everyone is that hardline religion anywhere is never a good thing. During the crusades it was the Catholic Church killing “non-believers.” If I would have been alive then, I would have been speaking out against the Catholic Church. Thankfully they have reformed their ways and learned from history.

    But today, the worst place for homosexuals and human rights in general, are in strictly Sharia countries. I have noticed nobody has brought up going on a mileage run to Tehran, Iran? I wonder why… And these posts of “well if you haven’t been there you’re just being ignorant” is the most ridiculous arguement I have ever heard. We do not live in Mesopotamia and communicate through smoke signals. You can find out a countries laws, and how strictly they are enforced, or not, with the click of a mouse button today. By that logic all gay men should go to Iran, otherwise they’re just “ignorant.”

    Where sharia law is upheld to it’s strictest standard like in Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc (or of course some dictatorships) up to the highest political offices is the absolute worst place a gay man could go. Let’s not beat around the bush (no pun intended) and pretend Louisiana or some other redneck place is on the same playing field as Saudi Arabia or Iran. Please…

  28. having been in a mixed race marriage for 30 years, welcome to my world. We have gotten a few looks and heard mumbles in our travels. Only once did we feel so uncomfortable that we walked out of a restaurant. We were visiting a country once and the wife was wondering why people were staring at her. She asked this one friendly person at a hotel, and he said “we don’t get much sun up here so we don’t see many people with sun tans.

  29. @Abe: As someone of a minority background and gay, I feel much safer in Saudi Arabia or most muslim countries than I would anywhere in the US. So yes you can compare the two. I actually had to go to the US to see some people that are very close to me, but didn’t really want to go because of the rampant discrimination I experience trying to enter and leave as well as the current hostile climate there – only did so as they were unable to come to see me, and I didn’t want to punish them for the society they live in as they’re good people. I wouldn’t go to Saudi atm given what is happening right now, but I wouldn’t go to Uganda either – so it isn’t about the countries being Muslim at all.

  30. @Abe: As someone of a minority background and [email protected], I feel much safer in Saudi Arabia or most muslim countries than I would anywhere in the US. So yes you can compare the two. I actually had to go to the US to see some people that are very close to me, but didn’t really want to go because of the rampant discrimination I experience trying to enter and leave as well as the current hostile climate there – only did so as they were unable to come to see me, and I didn’t want to punish them for the society they live in as they’re good people. I wouldn’t go to Saudi atm given what is happening right now, but I wouldn’t go to Uganda either – so it isn’t about the countries being Muslim at all.

  31. There’s actually a strict Muslim population in Uganda, but whatever…

    You’re missing my point. I’m not saying all Muslim countries are to be avoided, and bad. I go to Dubai, and while not 100% free, it’s free enough and they tolerate other religions practicing which is very nice.

    I’m talking about the extreme Islamic countries that stifle human rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and every right people deserve. If I’m being “ignorant” then go to Iran with a pink tank top and jean cut shorts and see what happens to you. Afterall we shouldn’t judge until we’ve been there. So when you do that come back and let us know how it went.

  32. Also @vlcnc I’m sorry that’s your experience and I hope you have a better one. Your one experience doesn’t not speak for everyone and everyrhing. And as I mentioned above if you feel you’ve been wronged and discriminated the courts are always at your disposal to get a fair and unbias trial. That’s not the case in Saudi Arabia.

    I am talking about laws on the books, where the laws are, how they are enforced, and who enforces them. Iran has an ayatollah who has a complete political grip on the country. Whatever he says, and trust me he doesn’t bend the Quran for anyone, goes.

    So if you think Iran and the US are equal by all means please go there. Strut your stuff in public and report back to us on how it went. You don’t wanna be ignorant by not going, do you?

  33. And by strut your stuff I mean wear a pink tank top and cut off jeans and go around Tehran and see what happens…

  34. Not just same-sex, any unmarried relations.

    In Dubai, the Maldives, Malaysia and a whole raft of countries it is absolutely unlawful to sleep with a person of the opposite sex to whom you are not married.

    Anyone who shares a room with their unmarried opposite sex partner in such places is taking a huge risk.

    If you report a robbery, let alone a sexual assault, you are quite at risk of legal consequences for your unlawful sexual relationship with your opposite sex partner.

  35. If you say same sex partners is hard or impossible to enter Saudi Arabia, just visit by yourself then, and hide your identity well.

  36. I’m not sure why people so hung up about traveling to non gay friendly countries. I’d just say “yes we’re friends” or request two beds to avoid the confusion/suspicion if necessary.

  37. Excellent, insightful and very thoughtful analysis: thank you James. I think it reflects your interest in the overall travel experience as it relates to the ever changing social and political landscape in our interconnected world. I suspect you follow international relations and world politics with the same enthusiasm; Whether that means reading The Economist and The New York Times (online), it shows in your posts. I was excited when Ben added you to his team, as that knowledge shines through and up until you joined OMAAT, it was sadly missing.

  38. JRMW
    Liberace never came out as gay. He never publicly acknowledged his homosexuality. His physician attributed heart disease as the cause of Liberace’s death in 1987. It was only after the country coroner preformed an autopsy (over the objections of the physician and family) that the true cause of death from pneumonia due to complications from AIDS was made known.

  39. @Abe: It’s obvious you are a troll who isn’t least bit interested in gåy peoples rights – “I mean wear a pink tank top and cut off jeans” – serously!??!!!

    My experience of the US isn’t once, it has been many times over the last few years. My point about about feeling less safe in the US is to do with discrimination over things that are more visible than my sexually because believe it or not, not all of us like to parade around how you think as above. As a result I feel a lot safer in most of the countries you hate quite vociferously because of your clear Islamophobia, because generally I am not discriminated against for my visible traits like I am in the US.

    It’s also telling you like to ignore the many non-Muslim countries that persecute gay people like Uganda which I mentioned.

  40. @Abe: It’s obvious you are a troll who isn’t least bit interested in [email protected] peoples rights – “I mean wear a pink tank top and cut off jeans” – serously!??!!!

    My experience of the US isn’t once, it has been many times over the last few years. My point about about feeling less safe in the US is to do with discrimination over things that are more visible than my sexually because believe it or not, not all of us like to parade around how you think as above. As a result I feel a lot safer in most of the countries you hate quite vociferously because of your clear Islamophobia, because generally I am not discriminated against for my visible traits like I am in the US.

    It’s also telling you like to ignore the many non-Muslim countries that persecute [email protected] people like Uganda which I mentioned.

  41. @vlcnc, As a queer transgender myself, I experience my own discrimination on a daily basis. The biggest threat to our LGBT community while traveling abroad are people, places, and governments that adhere to a strict interpretation of the Quran and Islam. Anyone who thinks otherwise is very naive. There’s a reason why pride parades don’t happen in every middle eastern country, except Israel.

    Let’s be honest and call a spade a spade instead of trying to be politically correct and not offend anyone. Spewing this politically correct disinformation literally can put peoples lives and well being at risk. And for us to water down this topic is so dangerous.

    I respect @James for sticking to his guns and staying away from places and countries that discriminate against LGBT. I agree and adhere to the same thing. I wouldn’t go to Saudi Arabia with a ten foot pole. And I’m very happy for the people who have had good experiences being Gay in Saudi Arabia. But there are also plenty and plenty of abhorrent cases where people were severely abused and jailed for being Gay in the Kingdom of Saud. Use google. One case is too much IMHO, and I will use the power of my money just like @james does with his pink dollars.

  42. Oh for goodness sake stop being influenced by that anti Russian propaganda. It has more to do with the interests of your military industrial complex than reality. You guys start wars on false flag pretexts solely for profit – every single war from Vietnam onwards. Be ashamed that you are part of it by allowing you beliefs to be thusly influenced !

  43. My husband and I are going on a trip to Dubai, Qatar, and the Maldives next summer. We are staying at major resorts so I’m not concerned about the hotel staff questioning our travel. My main concern is the best way to answer the passport control questions “who are you traveling with” and “how do you know each other?”

  44. @chad- I’ve landed in dubai numerous times in the past 5 years. I’ve NEVER been asked who I’ve been traveling with. I’m gay and was with my partner every time. They never gave asked me questions. They’ve always waved me through. Have a great trip

  45. I totally agree that it’s impossible to have a clear cut list of criteria to determine where to avoid. On my own list, I try to avoid places like North Carolina, the southern and middle parts of the US, Jamaica, the Middle East, Russia, and North Korea. As you can tell there are huge differences between places like North Carolina and North Korea…but it just takes a bunch of press about bathroom bills to make you not want to spend any money in the state.

  46. Has anyone been to Iran? I’ve always wanted to go there. Probably would go without my partner. I’m not sure he’s interested.

  47. I don’t think you should judge the people based on government policy. There are accepting people in all of the countries that folks have said they won’t visit. As human beings we love to group people together by some characteristic, like citizenship or race. It’s lazy and inhibits humanities progress.

  48. @Zitsky I’ve not been to Iran but form my days as a CEO in the fintech space, I did once meet the CIO of the Tehran Sock Exchange at a fintech conference in Hong Kong – a lady who spoke pretty good English. We had quite a chat about the difference between western perceptions of Iran and reality !

  49. I travel a few times a year for work and we’re expected to share rooms to save money. We put both names of the people who are staying on the reservation so either one of us can check in when we get there.

    I have status with Hilton and Marriott so frequently my room gets upgraded to a suite, but usually that ends up giving us just 1 bed. I have to explain at check-in that I need 2 beds. I’ve noticed that most of the agents are surprised that we’re not a couple and we don’t want 1 bed, so same-sex couples are quickly becoming the norm and not the outlier which is a great development

  50. St. Petersburg isn’t Russia.

    Sure, it technically is, but in culture, architecture, people and many other aspects it is more like Western Europe, as it was designed and is much closer to.

    A bit like how Hong Kong (and other territories) are part of China, but don’t have the same culture, politics and background either.

  51. The reactions you get will not necessarily have anything to do with the country you’re in… I’m from Sydney, Australia – a place known for being home of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, and overall very liberal when it comes to these things.
    However, there are very few place in Sydney where I feel comfortable holding hands with my (same sex) partner. And as soon as you leave the city centre – no way!
    Whilst, I’ve had no trouble in places I was nervous about – an example is camping in the desert of Morocco, where the locals we were staying with worked out we were a couple (even though we specifically tried to hide it), and loved taking romantic sunset photos of us – they initiated it!

    Also, if everybody avoids places that are not used to people with differences, then they will never be exposed to people with differences and therefore not learn anything different from what they were raised.

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