Least gay friendly vacation destinations

Countries such as Uganda, Jamaica and Russia have made the headlines in recent years for their shockingly homophobic laws, with lengthy prison sentences on the cards. As recently as 2023, Uganda criminalised identifying as LGBTQ+ and introduced the death penalty for some ‘offences’. People have been murdered, intimidated and discriminated against, with violence rarely condemned; the perpetrators know they will get away with it.
It is entirely understandable that many LGBTQ+ travelers – or those of any orientation – would want to boycott these destinations. However, we don’t agree that countries should be closed to anyone because of their sexual orientation and travelers who want to see mountain gorillas, or Bob Marley’s former home, or St Basil’s Cathedral should be able to do so.
We aim to provide as much information as possible to people wishing to visit countries with discriminatory laws and intolerant views, where harassment and aggression towards the LGBTQ+ community is well documented, so that they can make up their minds whether to visit. We want them to know the most important questions to ask their vacation companies, and to encourage these companies to research and familiarise themselves with the issues so that they can provide the most helpful answers.
Above all, we want to enable LGBTQ+ travelers to travel in a way that keeps them safe and allows them to be free to enjoy the culture, wildlife and natural attractions in these parts of the world, just as we would wish for any other responsible tourist.

Which are the least gay friendly countries?

Africa and the Middle East tend to have the most regressive homophobic and transphobic laws. Twelve countries instate the death penalty as a maximum punishment: Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudia Arabia, Somalia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Eight countries criminalise some ways in which people express their gender: Brunei, Malawi, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Tonga and United Arab Emirates.

We review this regularly, but do check the Human Dignity Trust’s map of LGBTQ+ criminalisation and Human Rights Watch’s round-up of anti-LGBTQ+ laws for the most up-to-date information, as well as news outlets. There has been increasing media coverage of LGBTQ+ rights across the world in recent years.

Why do so many countries have discriminatory laws?

Historically, most countries have not discriminated against LGBTQ+ people in their laws, and there are many documented cases of gay and bisexual kings and rulers, and examples of LGBTQ+ people and relationships in literature and art. Many of the earliest anti-gay laws were enacted by colonial European governments in the 18th and 19th centuries. In imposing their puritanical ‘Christian’ values, they frequently banned precolonial religions, many local customs and same-sex relationships.

People are calling for the repeal of these antiquated laws, but in many cases the local population, particularly in Latin America and Africa, is more devoutly Christian than much of Europe, and choose to maintain these prohibitions. In some African countries, same-sex relationships have been denounced as ‘un-African’, introduced by colonisers; read more about the origins and perpetuation of this myth.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about LGBTQ or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Should we accept discriminatory attitudes?

We strive to encourage all tourists to travel as respectfully as possible, taking into account local customs, beliefs and attitudes. Frequently this means dressing conservatively, particularly at religious or spiritual sites, and it often means avoiding public displays of affection, regardless of your orientation.
PDAs are culturally inappropriate across much of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and in these destinations our advice is the same for all: no kissing, cuddling or sometimes even holding hands in public. If you do see two men (and it is usually men) walking hand in hand or with their arms around each other, it is almost certainly a sign of friendship.
There is a fine line, of course, between being respectful of local customs and beliefs, and of giving in to homophobic views. People need to make up their own minds how far they are willing to go. This guide simply aims to help inform all travelers – and tour companies – about the issues, to help them decide if they are comfortable traveling to certain destinations, and whether or not they are willing to abide by each country’s laws and social constructs, in much the same way as a woman traveling to Iran must decide if she is happy to cover her hair. Some tourists may not wish to ‘support’ such discriminatory beliefs; others won’t want them to get in the way of their travel experiences, and believe they have the right to travel where they choose.
Written by Vicki Brown
Photo credits: [Page banner: daniel james] [Top box: riekhavoc] [Men in parade: Diego Duarte Cereceda]