Updated: 10/9/20 | October 9th, 2020
Back again this month is our LGBTQ+ column leader Adam from travelsofadam.com who is talking about the best websites, apps, and blogs for LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ 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:
Where to Find LGBTQ Travel Inspiration & Things to Do
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 complete list!
There are a handful of dedicated LGBTQ travel websites that publish detailed and up to date guides. My favorite are:
- Out Traveler – once a print magazine, still publishes and maintains up-to-date LGBTQ city guides on its website.
- AfterEllen – Regularly publishes lesbian travel guides.
- TravelGay – Provide comprehensive city guides for destinations around the world.
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 has a comprehensive digital guidebook as well as other resources.
Most mainstream guidebooks (such as Lonely Planet) also include information for LGBTQ travelers as well
Local Magazines, Newspapers, and Guides
There are countless independent, LGBTQ-oriented city magazines and newspapers around the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Australia or England — you’re going to find a local LGBTQ print publication or guide. Some will include weekly listings of clubs, parties, and events; others might feature personal ads.
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 LGBTQ center.
- Siegessäule, Berlin’s free gay magazine, likes to claim one of the highest readerships and circulations of any print media in Germany.
- Windy City Times still prints an LGBTQ newspaper for Chicago.
- Washington Blade operates in DC.
- Seattle Gay News covers Seattle.
Even the biggest gay apps have started to push out content through their channels. 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).
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.
The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association is the leader when it comes to LGBTQ tourism. Its members include hundreds of airlines, hotels, destination tourism offices, and independent tour operators, both LGBTQ-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 LGBTQ-specific things to do on your trip.
Often the most challenging part of gay travel can be finding an LGBTQ-friendly hotel or accommodation. Some of the biggest hotel chains and brands have actively supported the LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ-inclusive campaigns.
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 LGBTQ travelers.
How to Meet Other LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ 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:
For a long time, Couchsurfing was one of the best places to meet other LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ/queer-themed groups and meetups, and these are often a great and safe way to meet other LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ 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.
A Note on Safety
As I’ve written before in this LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ rights. This can be especially helpful for those less-familiar places and to get a general comparison of LGBTQ 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 LGBTQ 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 his publishing job to travel the world. He’s a gay travel expert, writer, and blogger and publishes a series of LGBTQ-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.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to travel for free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation. They are what keep me traveling so much for so little. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.