Advice for LGBT travellers going abroad.
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 experience difficulties if you prepare well and research your destination before you go.
Where you can find information
- invest in a good guide book – many specialise in advice to LGBT travellers
- view online discussion forums, blogs and the LGBT media can also be good resources
- check 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 information about the local LGBT scene, particularly in the more popular holiday destinations
- local and regional LGBT groups’ websites 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 need advice or care whilst under duress overseas, 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. Choosing your 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
- discuss your plans with a GP before making a decision
- extensively research in advance to choose a reputable facility
- 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 prior to your return, in case your airline requires this for your return flight
- 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) and how this will cover you if there are 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.
The Planned Treatment scheme (S2 route)
The Planned Treatment scheme (S2 route) may entitle you to NHS funding for planned state healthcare treatment including gender reassignment surgery in an EU country or Switzerland. You will have to meet qualifying criteria to obtain the funding and it can take up to 20 working days to receive a decision.
You can find more information about funding for planned treatment abroad on the NHS website. There is also a checklist of things to consider. Make sure you check the website for the latest information before applying. If you live in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, contact your local health board to apply.
Check 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’. Do your research 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 the gender 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 you are 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 difficulties overseas
If you have difficulties overseas, you can ask the local British Embassy or consulate for help. We will not 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. We regularly raise issues of concern with the relevant authority.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide a list of countries where same-sex relationships are illegal
We do not 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
- we provide 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.
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
Equaldex: is a collaborative knowledge base (wiki) of information about LGBT rights by country
- Stonewall - global workplace briefings that outline the legal, socio-cultural and workplace conditions for LGBT people in different countries
- Asher Fergusson – outlines the best and worst places for safe LGBT travel