By Tejaswi Subramanian
For reasons that cannot be reasoned with, LGBTQ living is markedly distinct from a hetero-lifestyle. The choices one makes as a card-carrying member of the ‘rainbow’ community revolves around factors that do not even make a blip on the radar for the rest of society. For instance, until recently, indulging in consensual intercourse with a partner of the same sex in India involved anxiety about criminalisation—not a sentiment most of us can relate to. Same-sex marriage is yet to be legally accepted, but after the historic 377 verdict, that seems like a cause worth rallying for.
For most hetero-couples, it probably isn’t too much of a conundrum to plan a couples’ holiday or honeymoon abroad. The concerns are practical—where do we stay, how much are we spending, what does the itinerary look like? But that is not the case for most LGBTQ couples, who are not as welcome in many countries, since their rights are not always respected.
And so, the Latin American Travel Company recently put together a list of places that LGBTQ couples and newlyweds could plan their visit and honeymoons to without really compromising on factors like scenic beauty and romance. They looked at LGBTQ-friendliness through the lens of marriage equality, forward-thinking attitude of the local population, and feedback from the LGBTQ traveller community about the destination. The list also factored in the popularity of the location among the general honeymoon-ing population, regardless of sexual orientation. Here are the Top 5:
Canada is known for its maple syrup and friendly populace, playing up the contrast with its rather troubled neighbor down south. However, what you may not know is that the country is very proud of its LGBTQ+ community, and was the fourth country in the world legalise same-sex marriage, back in 2005. Hundreds of thousands of people attend the pride parade held in Vancouver every year, with distinguished guests in the past like the country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. There are probably not too many countries who can boast of such a guest list!
Canada offers a wide panorama to explore: from cosmopolitan cities to surf beaches and pine forests to mountainsides that are delightful to ski and snowboard along. For those of you looking to attend cultural festival and immerse in art, wine, and good music, make sure to stop by Edmonton, which is also home to a vibrant LGBTQ neighbourhood, Jasper Avenue.
New Zealand is a popular rainbow tourism destination. There are the bustling cities of the North Island where you get a peek into the country’s economic and cultural bustle, even as spots like Hobbiton are a short drive away, and then there are the glaciers and forests of the South Island, where all the adrenaline junkies want to go.
To really emphasise on how LGBTQ-friendly the country is for honeymooners and holidaying couples, you should know that there is a network of gay and lesbian homestay owners that cater to budgets of all sizes: from quiet, simple farmstays, to luxurious condos and boutique hotel suites. This network was established as early as 1998, and the members are awarded the ‘Rainbow Tourism Accreditation’.
If you are looking for the right time to visit, it’s possibly February when the effervescent Hero Parade takes place in the streets of Auckland, ending in an all-night party complete with cabaret, theatre, film, and dance.
Oz is yet another favourite destination among the queer community. Although a little late to the party for legitimizing gay marriage, the voting results for it in November 2017 were overwhelming in favour of it the move.
If not for anything else, the 40-odd-year-old Mardi Gras festival by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian community, along with Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival and the Pride fests of other Ozzy cities are a great way to paint the city, and some of the coolest ones might I add, a bright crimson, while showing LGBTQ solidarity. And if you are looking to hit a watering hole on a quieter evening in town, the gay bars and premier lesbian clubs ought to be on your list of places to visit. Nearly every Oz city has one and its best to ask locals for advice on which ones are hosting the best parties on any given evening.
After all the partying, you can always head out to spa towns like Daylesford, which is also home to the ChillOut Pride festival in March every year.
If you are looking at a summer honeymoon, then Switzerland is the place to go. With Geneva’s and Zurich’s pride marches in July, Switzerland is extremely hospitable to all sorts of travelers, including the queer community and those with disabilities. Its reputation as one of the world’s most navigable and accessible countries is undeniable, with mobile lifts to help people board trains at stations, city buses equipped with ramps, and disabled access entry points at most major hotels across the country.
If you and your partner would like to do something different for during your getaway, then the country has several short to long-term volunteering opportunities which involve activities that help conserve the forests, to mapping new hiking trails, and volunteering at Swiss sporting events.
The locals are a progressive lot, and will welcome your visit with open arms and the much-touted idyllic views.
Visiting the homeland of the famous gay debonair among the West’s literary circles, Oscar Wilde, is probably a dream come true for LGBTQ geeks everywhere. Ireland recognized same-sex marriages in 2015 by popular referendum. However, one must remember the conservation religious views of many locals in the country, who may frown upon non-hetero sexual orientations.
Nevertheless, the country, for the most part, is non-discriminatory. The local queer community lives proudly in the open, with many young people actively participating in the movement.
While in Ireland, you obviously want to the hit the pubs and underground networks in Belfast and Dublin, many of which are rainbow-friendly with the flag flying high at the entrances.
Here’s a little something for singles, because not all LGBTQ travel can be about honeymooning and couples’ holidays: drop by the exclusive matchmaking weekend towards the end of August, where the queer community descends upon the town of Lisdoonvarna for ‘the Outing’. Make sure you book your tickets early on because they sell out like hot cakes!
So there you have it: a quick guide to planning a fun holiday abroad with (or in the case of Ireland, without) your queer partner. Have a grand time!
Tejaswi Subramanian is a senior sub editor at Qrius.
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