Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people travelling abroad.
Attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) travellers around the world can be very different from those in the UK.
In many countries, LGBT+ people face legal restrictions. Around 70 countries criminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity. At least 15 countries criminalise diverse gender expression or identity through cross-dressing and disguise laws.
To reduce the risks, prepare well and research your destination in advance, including legal restrictions and social attitudes.
Before you travel
Always find out about the local laws and social attitudes towards same-sex relationships and gender expression and identity in the country and area you’re visiting.
In some countries, you may find that cities, or specific areas of cities, are more tolerant, but rural areas are less tolerant. Research everywhere you intend to go, not just at a country level.
Some hotels, especially in rural areas, may refuse bookings from same-sex couples – check before you go.
When planning to travel, you may wish to:
- buy a good guide book: many specialise in advice to LGBT+ travellers or include an LGBT+ section
- view online discussion forums, blogs and the LGBT+ media
- check the map on the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s website, which highlights potentially dangerous regions and countries
- check with your travel agent or tour operator for information about the local LGBT+ scene, particularly in popular holiday destinations
- research local and regional LGBT+ groups’ websites, which can often offer the best information and advice on local laws and attitudes
- check the ‘Local laws and customs’ section of our country travel advice page
While you’re abroad
In some countries, consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal and there may be severe penalties.
In countries where same-sex activity is legal, levels of tolerance and acceptance in society may still vary hugely. In some places public displays of affection may receive unwanted attention.
Many of our country travel advice pages include country-specific information for LGBT+ travellers.
When you are abroad, you should be aware that:
- even in LGBT+ friendly countries, violence or stigma against LGBT+ people can occur. Take the same precautions you would at home
- in some countries, entrapment campaigns may target LGBT+ people, including through popular dating apps. Take sensible precautions when making arrangements to meet people you don’t know well
- if you receive unwelcome attention or unwelcome remarks related to your sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, it’s usually best to move away to a safe place. Depending on the country or area you’re in, you may then want to report it to the authorities
- local LGBT+ inclusive charities, organisations or travel agents may be able to support you if you need help while abroad
How FCDO can help
If you have difficulties abroad, ask the local British embassy, high commission or consulate for help. We will not make generalisations, assumptions or judge you.
FCDO staff monitor and record incidents brought to their attention by British nationals about the treatment they have received from host authorities. We regularly raise issues of concern with the relevant authority.
If you are taking medication for HIV/Aids or hormone treatments, for example PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) medicine, check whether you will be able to carry these into any country you are visiting or travelling through.
In some countries, the medication may be banned. If you have it, this may lead to questions being raised, particularly in countries where same-sex activity or diverse gender expression is illegal.
Check whether you will be able to get a fresh supply of your medications in countries you will visit.
Sexual health issues
Before you travel, you should make yourself aware of local attitudes towards sexual health, sexual orientation and access to sexual health services.
LGBT+ people may face additional challenges accessing sexual health services, particularly in countries that criminalise or stigmatise same-sex activity.
You can reduce the risk to yourself and others by using condoms and/or taking preventative medication such as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). Ensure you have enough contraception or medication (if permitted) for the duration of your trip.
If you have serious concerns that you may have been exposed to HIV, you can take Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) which needs to be taken within 72 hours of exposure. Access to PEP varies and may only be accessible in larger cities.
You should seek out local medical advice as soon as possible. This can include local HIV clinics or support organisations. In Europe, you may be able to find local clinics using the NAM test finder.
Travelling abroad for transgender medical treatment
If you are a transgender person thinking about going abroad for treatment or surgery, you should:
- gather as much information as possible about your options and the possible risks
- discuss your plans with a GP before making a decision
- make sure you understand the full costs, including what unplanned costs there may be
- extensively research in advance to choose a reputable facility: it is unwise to rely on private companies that have a financial interest in arranging your medical treatment abroad
- speak directly to the health professional undertaking the planned treatment before you travel and check their qualifications and references independently
- ensure that you have the appropriate visa for your stay
- consider taking a family member or friend to support you
- consider taking out specialist medical treatment insurance
- if relevant, ask your doctor to provide a ‘fit for travel’ letter before you return, in case your airline requires this for your return flight
If you need help when you’re abroad, you can ask the local British embassy, high commission or consulate for help. However, consular staff do not routinely visit British nationals in hospitals for pre-planned treatment, and we cannot pay medical bills.
The support consular staff can provide to British nationals is set out in our guidance: support for British nationals abroad.
More information about travelling abroad for treatment is available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre.
Most standard insurance policies will not cover you when things go wrong with treatment that you have planned to have abroad. You may need to obtain a specialist ‘medical travel policy’. Do your research and make sure that your insurance is the right one for you. Check the small print for any exclusions.
Check our travel insurance guidance for more information on choosing the right policy for you.
If you’re having treatment in a European Economic Area country, check the latest information on the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) and the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This includes how this will cover you if there are complications and you need to access emergency care from the state medical system.
Passport identity of transgender or gender diverse travellers
Transgender and gender diverse travellers sometimes face difficulties or delays at border controls abroad if their gender or gender expression is a different gender to the sex stated in their passport. If you are having facial surgery, get a letter from your medical team whilst abroad explaining the reason for any changes in appearance.
HM Passport Office has information for transgender and transsexual customers applying for a passport in an acquired gender.
Organisations that can help
- International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association: provides information on LGBT+ rights around the world
- International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association: travel advice for gay and lesbian people
- Gay European Tourism Association: travel advice for LGBT+ people travelling in Europe
- Stonewall global workplace briefings: outline the legal, socio-cultural and workplace conditions for LGBT+ people in different countries
- Equaldex: collaborative knowledge base (wiki) of information about LGBT+ rights by country
- ILGA World Database: gives data on legal frameworks for LGBT+ issues around the world
We welcome your views on the support we provide, to help us to identify what we do well and what we could do better. Contact us using our feedback contact form.
Alternatively write to us:
Consular Feedback Team
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7008 5000
You can read the disclaimer relating to this guidance.