I’ve added an LGBT column for the website to make the site more inclusive and talk about issues that affect some members of our community. In this column, we will hear from voices in the LGBT community about their experiences on the road, safety tips, events, and overall advice for other LGBT travelers to get the most out of their time on the road! Back again this month is our column leader Adam from travelsofadam.com who is talking about the best websites, apps, and blogs for LGBT travelers.
Today, modern lesbian, gay, bi, and trans travelers no longer need a print guidebook to find underground, gay-friendly places. We don’t have to walk around with colored bandanas to send secret signals when cruising. Why? Because now — more often than not — we’re out in the open.
The basic LGBT trip now starts like any other planned holiday. Where do we go? What do we want to do and see? How do we save money? Thanks to increased acceptance over the years, we’re far more out in the open and, with that comes a lot more options – both online and off – to plan your trip and find LGBT friendly attractions, businesses, tours, and ways to meet people. While we don’t have to let our sexuality define our travels, if you’re looking for activities and people who share a similar lifestyle, these are the best tools on the web:
Travel blogs & vlogs – In this new era for the travel media industry, independent bloggers and YouTubers have been at the forefront. Increasingly, we base our travel decisions (where to go, what to do) on not just our friends’ Instagrams but those who’ve already been there, done that. The most popular gay and lesbian travel bloggers (myself included) generally publish destination guides — it’s just a matter of finding the one that fits your own personal travel style. Here are some of my favorites (starting with my own):
(For more blogs, check out my list here: http://travelsofadam.com/gay-travel/)
Websites – There are a handful of dedicated LGBT travel websites that publish detailed and up to date guides. My favorite are:
Travel guidebooks – The Damron series started out in 1964 for men but has also published a separate guidebook for lesbians for nearly 20 years. And Spartacus Publishing (out of Germany) has printed a comprehensive guidebook to all gay-oriented hospitality businesses since 1970. Moreover, these days, even the most mainstream publications are likely to include some LGBT-specific recommendations in their listings. For the past several summers, many major travel brands (such as Trip.com, Lonely Planet, Expedia, and even Hostelworld) have gone so far as to print LGBT Pride travel guides.
Local magazines, newspapers, and guides – There are countless independent, LGBT-oriented city magazines and newspapers around the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Adelaide, Australia, or London, England — you’re going to find a local LGBT print publication or guide. Some will include weekly listings of clubs, parties, and events; others might feature personal ads.
Unfortunately most of these indie publications have poor websites, so your best LGBT travel research is going to have to happen on the ground. One of the best ways to find them in a new city is to simply go to the queer neighborhood and then look for them in a bookstore or bar — anyone who’s ever been inside a gay bar or club is probably familiar with the stack of magazines, brochures, or flyers in the doorway or by the bathrooms. (And make sure to support those businesses that carry these publications!) Also check out the pamphlets, flyers, and advertisements on the corkboard in the local LGBT center.
Company blogs – Even the biggest gay apps have started to push out content through their channels. Grindr launched a digital magazine, Into, with a travel section earlier this year, and Hornet acquired the one-time popular gossip blog Unicorn Booty several years ago and now publishes gay men’s travel guides for assorted cities (even if they’re slightly basic). Each of the other hookup apps, including the more niche ones, like Surge, Blued, and Planet Romeo, maintain regularly published blogs, sometimes featuring travel tips and local insider guides. Scruff probably has gone the furthest in incorporating travel tips into its app with the feature Scruff Venture, which allows users to search a destination for other visitors, local ambassadors, and events.
IGLTA – The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association is the leader when it comes to LGBT tourism. Its members include hundreds of airlines, hotels, destination tourism offices, and independent tour operators, both LGBT-owned and mainstream. On its website, you’ll find a useful “Plan Your Trip” feature that searches through its members (just be mindful that these are members who have paid for their placement). It’s a great place to find LGBT-specific things to do on your trip.
LGBT-friendly accommodation – Often the most challenging part of gay travel can be finding an LGBT-friendly hotel or accommodation. Some of the biggest hotel chains and brands have actively supported the LGBT community by participating in Pride events around the world, by training all their staff (from the front desk to the reservations center) in diversity and inclusiveness issues, and by running LGBT-inclusive campaigns. Even Airbnb launched a #HostWithPride campaign last year after updating its terms of service to protect and safeguard LGBT travelers and hosts.
There are gay-specific accommodation websites such as Rainbow World Hotels, Purple Roofs, and MisterBNB, but you’ll almost always find the same listings on mainstream sites for far cheaper prices. You’re paying a premium when trying to book through a gay-specific website, and in most instances, the mainstream sites and listings are increasingly safe and comfortable for LGBT travelers.
Gay travelers today are much luckier to have apps like Grindr in their pockets. I never would’ve discovered a gay bar in Amman without the Grindr app and a local’s helpful directions, nor would I have met that handsome tourist from Austria during Prague Gay Pride. Meeting strangers is one of the joys of traveling, and there’s nothing better than having an LGBT local to show you around. It will certainly make a trip more interesting, much more memorable. Here’s where to find them:
The hookup apps – If there’s one thing that’s revolutionized our little gay world, it’s Grindr, the location-based hookup app for gay men. For better or worse (you either love it or hate it), Grindr has changed the way we find sex, love, or even friends and it’s also quite simply enabled a lot more connections. Grindr makes it easier to meet locals when you’re abroad, whether it’s for a romp in the bushes behind Berghain or an innocent coffee date. While sex does happen often enough through these apps, it doesn’t have to be the end goal or even your main objective to still find value in them. Here are the main useful apps:
Networking groups – For a long time, Couchsurfing was one of the best places to meet other LGBT travelers and locals. With a strong community, the bed-sharing and hosting network made it easy to connect with other travelers — and the “Queer Couchsurfers” group was one of the site’s most active and welcoming. There were plenty of times I used Couchsurfing not just for a place to sleep but also to attend local get-togethers.
On Meetup.com you’ll find most major destinations have LGBT/queer-themed groups and meetups, and these are often a great and safe way to meet other LGBT travelers in nonsexual encounters. Sometimes you’ll find them for very specific interests, whether it’s a group of gay science fiction fans in Berlin or LGBT professional networking in London.
StartOut, a nonprofit for professional business and entrepreneurship networking events in various American cities, is also worth checking out. Facebook, with its thousands of public groups, can also provide a great meeting point online — and then offline — through local city or regional networking groups. It’s just a matter of doing some research beforehand to find the right networking group for your trip.
As I’ve written before in this LGBT travel column, safety and comfort is an important part of any gaycation. Thankfully, there are more than enough resources online to help you decide what or where might be safer to travel. For a more independent look at the LGBT rights and safety situation, Equaldex is my favorite. Unlike media and blogs, this is a crowd-sourced platform where users can post and share country-specific news articles related to LGBT rights. This can be especially helpful for those less-familiar places and to get a general comparison of LGBT inclusiveness around the world.
Over the years and thanks to new technologies and new formats for our media, the way we travel now has changed for the better. And for LGBT travelers specifically, these advancements have made it not just easier but also safer and friendlier. Using these tools and resources, so much more of the world is open to us.
Adam Groffman is a former graphic designer who left a publishing job in Boston to travel around the world before settling in Berlin, Germany. He’s a gay travel expert, writer, and blogger and publishes a series of LGBT-friendly Hipster City Guides from around the world on his gay travel blog, Travels of Adam. When he’s not out exploring the coolest bars and clubs, he’s usually enjoying the local arts and culture scene. Find more of his travel tips (and embarrassing stories) on Twitter @travelsofadam.
P.S. – Starting next week, I’ll be doing the next round of Nomadic Network meet-ups around the U.S. (and in Canada!). If you want to meet up, come check out the dates and sign up!
P.P.S. – I’m doing a BBQ in Austin on Friday. Come hang out!
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