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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex travellers

All travellers face risks overseas. As attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) travellers can be very different from those in Australia, these risks can be heightened for LGBTI travellers in some countries.

This page provides you with information to help minimise the risks LGBTI travellers could face when travelling overseas. It should be read in conjunction with the travel advice for the countries you plan to visit and our advice for all travellers.

Be aware of the law

Research the laws, customs and attitudes of your destination with regard to LGBTI issues. The country-specific travel advisories outline some LGBTI risks in the Local laws section and will help you make well-informed decisions. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association contains information on laws affecting LGBTI travellers.

You must obey local laws when overseas. Local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you and may include fines, deportation, imprisonment or, in a small number of countries, the death penalty.

Local laws affecting LGBTI travellers may be applied in an arbitrary or inconsistent manner:

  • In some countries, same-sex relationships might be legal in certain regions, but illegal in others.
  • Some countries may not expressly prohibit same-sex relationships but may consider them taboo and socially unacceptable.
  • Some countries may not expressly prohibit same-sex relationships, but by-laws and local regulations may be applied in a way which discriminates against the LGBTI community.
  • Some countries may not strictly enforce local laws prohibiting same-sex relationships.
  • Some countries may prohibit male same-sex relationships but be silent about female same-sex relationships.

Local laws are often silent on relationships involving trans or intersex people, but be aware that these relationships may be arbitrarily captured by laws regarding same-sex relationships. In addition, some countries or regions have laws criminalising persons who dress or 'pose' as a person of another sex or gender.

Sex and gender diverse passport holders should be aware that while Australian travel documents are issued in accordance with international standards. If you're travelling on a passport showing 'X' in the sex field you may encounter difficulties when crossing international borders given these passports are not commonly used. The nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate to your destination will be able to provide further information.

Be aware that some countries may have restrictions on free speech, political expression and advocacy on human rights issues. Research your destination, including our travel advice and consider carefully whether there are any restrictions in place that could affect your ability to make statements on social and political issues that could lead to legal consequences.

Consider carefully whether you are comfortable visiting a destination where the local LGBTI community does not enjoy legal protection or may be subject to intolerance or discrimination.

Be social safely

  • Speak to other LGBTI travellers or the local LGBTI community about the safest locations for social activities.
  • Don't drink to excess or take drugs that might make you more vulnerable or impair your decision making.
  • Be aware of what you're posting on social media and through smartphone dating apps. Consider increasing your privacy settings while travelling.
  • Be wary of new found 'friends', particularly those met through online forums or smartphone dating apps, as criminals may seek to exploit you or cause you harm because of your sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
  • Never leave your drink unattended or in the care of a stranger or new friend. Drink-spiking is common in many parts of the world.

Be aware of the risks of violence and discrimination

  • In more conservative countries or areas you may become the focus of unwanted attention due to your sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
  • Consider avoiding public displays of affection. In some countries and regions, public acknowledgment of your sexual orientation or gender identity and public expressions of affection may give rise to discrimination and violence.
  • Dress appropriately. This may involve wearing conservative clothing, or for women to cover their head or shoulders, in certain locations. Our country-specific travel advisories will usually note countries where conservative dress standards apply, or where women are legally required to wear certain clothing.
  • In some countries, local authorities may be unwilling to assist LGBTI people who have been targeted or harmed due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, and may in some case perpetrate further discrimination.

Look after your health

  • In some countries, supplies of contraceptives (including condoms) can be unreliable or unavailable, so it may be best to purchase these in advance.
  • When travelling with prescription medications, be sure to leave them in their original packaging and travel with a letter from your doctor authorising their use.
  • Be aware that the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, is much higher in some countries than in Australia.
  • Some countries impose restrictions on the entry or stay of HIV positive visitors.
  • You can find more information about staying healthy overseas on our health pages.

More information

Other areas of the Smartraveller website provide information on specific issues that may affect LGBTI travellers, including:

Final tips before you go

  • Read the travel advice for the countries you plan to visit and subscribe to receive a free email notification each time the advisories are updated.
  • Many guidebooks and online forums cover issues for LGBTI travellers in detail, including the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.
  • Before any trip, you should register your contact details and travel plans with Smartraveller so that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade can contact you in case of a serious emergency.
  • Leave a detailed itinerary with someone at home, and plan to keep in regular contact.
  • Remember that careful planning before you leave is essential to help you choose a destination where you'll feel safe and comfortable, and be prepared for any issues you might face.