Noting that attitudes towards LGBTI people “vary significantly around the world”, and that in almost eighty countries homosexuality remains criminal, the organisations are encouraging travellers to carefully research the laws of the countries they are visiting in advance
They also point out that even in countries where same-sex relationships are not illegal, there are often issues of cultural acceptance as local populations may not be tolerant towards same-sex couples or trans people.
The health organisations have stressed that LGBTI travellers should be aware that, in some countries, hate crime can be common and police use entrapment schemes to entice people to take part in same-sex sexual activities. They recommend that, wherever possible, travellers should contact local LGBTI groups who would be well placed to offer informed advice on safety and local attitudes.
The guidance issued also stresses that hate crimes often go unreported and that “the true extent of the problem is not known”.
LGBTI travellers are advised to visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website, which provides extensive “individual country information on travel safety warnings, details of the nearest British Embassy or Consulate, and information on local laws and customs.” They are also recommended to peruse the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association website, which gives detailed information about LGBTI rights internationally, and highlights the areas and countries that are considered particularly unsafe for LGBTI people.
Essentially, LGBTI people are being encouraged to increase their awareness of potential risks prior to travelling abroad, with consideration given to cultural values as well as legal prohibitions on some forms of sexual activity. LGBTI people are advised to be aware of the risk of culture shock: “experiencing cultures with differing values, customs and social behaviours may leave LGBT travellers vulnerable to culture shock. LGBT travellers should be encouraged to consider the cultural background of intended destinations prior to travel.”
Further advice can be found on the NHS’s “Fit for Travel” website.