Guidance

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender foreign travel advice

Advice for LGB&T tourists travelling abroad.

Overview

Attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) travellers around the world can be very different from those in the UK. However, you’re unlikely to have problems if you prepare well and research your destination before you go.

Travelaware - LGBT travel advice

Where you can find information

  • invest in a good guide book – many specialise in advice to LGBT travellers
  • online discussion forums, blogs and the LGBT media can also be good resources
  • check out the map on the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s website which highlights potentially dangerous regions and countries
  • your travel agent or tour operator might have an idea about the local LGBT scene, particularly in the more popular holiday destinations
  • the websites of local and regional LGBT groups 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

Advice for LGBT travellers while overseas

  • in all circumstances find out about the local laws and social attitudes towards homosexuality and gender identity in the country and area you’re visiting

  • In some countries, homosexuality and/or homosexual relations are illegal and can be subject to severe penalties. In countries where homosexual relations are legal, levels of tolerance and acceptance within society may still vary hugely. In some places, it may be best for all couples to avoid overt public displays of affection so as not to attract unwanted attention. Many of our travel advice pages contain country-specific information for LGBT travellers

  • even in LGBT friendly countries, take the same precautions you would at home. For example, don’t leave drinks unattended and be wary if you’re offered drinks by a stranger

  • if you intend to meet other LGBT people while abroad, find out about the local situation and take sensible precautions if you meet someone. In countries where attitudes to LGBT people are hostile, right-wing groups and police have been known to carry out entrapment campaigns

  • if you receive unwelcome attention or unwelcome remarks about your sexuality or gender identity, it’s usually best to ignore them and move to a safe place. Depending on the country or area you’re in, you may then want to report it to the authorities

  • in some countries, you may be more likely to experience difficulties in rural areas so it’s best to exercise more discretion

  • some hotels, especially in rural areas, may refuse bookings from same sex couples – check before you go

  • if you are in need of advice or care whilst under duress overseas, please research local LGBT-inclusive charities, organisations and/or travel agents

Advice for transgender travellers going overseas for medical treatment

Increasingly, transgender people are going overseas to access transgender medical treatment. The selection of treatment and country is very much down to personal need and choice.

If you are thinking about going overseas for treatment or surgery, you should:

  • gather as much information as possible about your options and the possible risks
  • ensure that you discuss your plans with a GP before making a decision
  • do extensive research in advance and choose a reputable facility
  • speak directly to the health professional undertaking the planned treatment before 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 prior to your return, in case required by the airline for your return flight

  • if you’re having treatment in an EEA country before the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, you should take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in case there are any complications and you need to access emergency care from the state medical system

Further information is available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre.

Funding your treatment

You will need to explore how you will fund your treatment, whether you will use your own finances or seek funding elsewhere.

EEA Funding

There are funding options available for gender reassignment surgery in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland. You will have to meet strict policy criteria to obtain the funding and it can take up to 20 working days to receive a decision.

You can compare funding routes and obtain more information about eligibility and entitlement to EEA funding on the NHS website. Make sure that you check the website for the latest information, before applying.

Useful general information and advice about obtaining healthcare abroad is available on the NHS website. There is also a checklist of things to consider that you should read though.

Insurance

You will need to look into whether your treatment will be covered by insurance. Most standard insurance policies will not cover travel for treatment that you have planned to have overseas and you may need to obtain a specialist ‘medical travel policy’. Shop around and make sure that your insurance is the right one for you. Check the small print for any exclusions.

For more information on the wide range of travel insurance, including specialist travel insurance available, visit the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the Association of Travel Insurance Intermediaries (ATII) websites. You should also check our travel insurance guidance page for more information and advice on choosing the right policy for you, and what to do if you need to make a claim.

Passport identity of transgender travellers

Transgender travellers sometimes face difficulties or delays at border controls overseas if they present as a different gender to what is stated in their passport. This may occur even when your gender presentation is consistent with the gender marker in your passport and you have the correct documentation. If undertaking facial surgery, obtain a letter from your overseas medical team explaining the reason for any changes in appearance.

Check out our country-specific information about this in our travel advice pages before making travel plans.

HM Passport Office offers information and advice for transgender and transsexual customers applying for a passport in an acquired gender. You do not need to have a Gender Recognition Certificate to change the gender marker in your passport.

What you should do if you have a problem overseas

If you have a problem overseas, you can ask the local British Embassy or consulate for help. We won’t make generalisations, assumptions or pass judgement. However, consular staff do not routinely visit British nationals in hospitals for pre-planned treatment. The support consular staff can provide to all British nationals is set out in our publication ‘Support for British nationals abroad: a guide’

Our staff overseas monitor and record incidents brought to their attention by British nationals about the treatment they have received from host authorities and issues of concern are regularly raised with the relevant body.

Why can’t the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provide a list of countries where same-sex relationships are illegal?

We don’t have a list of countries where same-sex relationships are illegal for a number of reasons:

  • same-sex relationships aren’t specifically mentioned in law in many countries, and in others the law is unclear
  • same-sex relationships may be legal, but certain acts may not be
  • a same-sex relationship may be lawful but local society can be intolerant of open same-sex relationships
  • in some countries same-sex relationships are illegal, but the law is not strictly enforced and social attitudes may be relaxed
  • a distinction is sometime made in law between men and women
  • there is more precise, detailed and up to date advice in many of the local laws and customs sections of the travel advice pages for individual countries

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) publishes a set of maps showing places where criminalisation, protection and recognition laws are enacted.

Published 22 March 2013
Last updated 5 March 2020 + show all updates
  1. Addition of new section on advice to transgender travellers going overseas for medical treatment or surgery.

  2. Document updated

  3. Updated information on dating apps [Advice for LGB&T travellers while overseas section]

  4. First published.