Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex travellers

Summary

Attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) travellers around the world can be very different from those in Australia. Prepare well and research your destination before you go.

Where laws or attitudes towards the LGBTI community create potential risks for Australian travellers the country-specific advice will contain relevant facts. LGBTI travellers will also find other sources of information to be useful such as online resources, guidebooks, media reporting and local and international LGBTI organisations.

We recommend that you learn as much as you can about the laws of the countries you intend to visit. You must obey the law when overseas even if you do not agree with those laws and believe they are out of step with Australian laws and values. Local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you.

If your research identifies any specific issues or risks that may affect your ability to travel in a particular country or location, we recommend that you consider carefully whether another destination would be more suitable.

Sex and gender diverse passport holders should be aware that while Australian travel documents are issued in accordance with international standards, people travelling on a passport showing 'X' in the sex field may encounter difficulties when crossing international borders given their infrequent use. You should familiarise yourself with the arrangements which will apply to you on arrival in another country and whether your travel document will be accepted.

Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:

Do your research before you travel

Attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) travellers around the world can be very different from those in Australia. Attitudes may vary between cities in the same country or between different parts of the same city. It is important to prepare well and research your destination before you go.

You should read the country-specific advice for information on safety and travel conditions. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides these travel advisories to assist Australians in making well-informed travel decisions. We cannot make decisions for you about whether, when or where you should travel.

The country-specific travel advisories contain information on safety and security issues, and other useful, practical tips on health, local laws, local customs as well as entry and exit requirements. Remember that many of the issues relevant to LGBTI travellers also affect the travel decisions made by other travellers. For example, legal or other restrictions may apply in some destinations when de facto couples check-in to accommodation together.

LGBTI travellers will find other sources of information to be useful in making their travel plans such as online resources, guidebooks, media reporting and local and international LGBTI organisations. These resources can provide more detailed information on locations and services of interest to the LGBTI community. A good guide to helping you decide whether you will travel to a location is to understand the issues confronting the local LGBTI community. Consider carefully whether you are comfortable visiting a destination where the local LGBTI community does not enjoy legal protection or may be subject to intolerance or discrimination.

Ultimately, Australians are responsible for making their own safe travel decisions. Should your research identify any specific issues or risks that may affect your ability to travel in a particular country or location we recommend that you consider carefully whether another destination would be more suitable.

Issues for LGBTI travellers to consider

In some countries there are instances in which intolerance and a lack of acceptance of the LGBTI community may cause difficulties for travellers. A number of countries do not provide legal protections to the local or foreign LGBTI community. Instances of intolerance, including violence, have been reported in some places.

We recommend that LGBTI travellers consider the following:

  • Be a responsible tourist and avoid potentially risky situations. It is usually best to ignore unwelcome attention or remarks about sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. Recognise that sometimes there are benefits in adopting a low profile, particularly in more conservative countries.
  • Be wary of new found 'friends' as criminals may seek to exploit holiday goers. Be judicious about sharing personal information with people you do not know, including information about you that may be online.
  • Be aware that in some locations, particularly in rural areas, there may be lower acceptance of the LGBTI community. You should consider avoiding public displays of affection, especially in more conservative countries or regions.
  • Familiarise yourself with local customs and religious traditions. Be aware that there are strong codes of conservative dress and behaviour in some destinations. Seek local advice if you are unsure.
  • Be aware that legal or other restrictions may apply in some destinations when de facto or same sex couples check-in to accommodation together. In all cases it is best if you seek these details from accommodation providers directly as the implementation of any restrictions may vary between locations within a country.

Local Laws

We recommend that you learn as much as you can about the laws of the countries you intend to visit as these can vary significantly from those in Australia. In some countries same-sex relationships might be legal in certain regions, but illegal in others. In some countries, same-sex relationships may be legal, but are taboo. In some countries same-sex relationships might be illegal, but the law may not be strictly enforced. In some countries male same-sex relationships might be illegal, but the law may be silent on female same sex relationships. In some countries same-sex relationships may not be specifically mentioned in law or their legal status may be unclear. Keep in mind that laws may be applied in an inconsistent or arbitrary manner. Laws are often silent on relationships involving trans or intersex people but travellers should be aware that these relationships may be arbitrarily captured by laws regarding same-sex relationships.

Be aware that some countries may have restrictions on free speech, political expression and advocacy on human rights issues. Read the travel advice and consider carefully whether there are any restrictions in place that could affect your ability to make statements on social and political issues that could lead to legal consequences. These restrictions may affect your ability to express yourself in the same way as you can in Australia.

You must obey the law when overseas even if you do not agree with it or believe it is out of step with Australian laws and values. Local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you and may include fines, deportation and imprisonment. In a small number of cases, legislation includes the death penalty. Where appropriate, this is noted in country specific travel advice.

Australians who might engage in activities that involve local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody, adoption and child support) or purchasing property, are strongly advised to seek professional advice and ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities. The Australian Government cannot provide you with legal advice or legal assistance.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Travelling with children

As is the case for all parents, be aware that when travelling with your children, local authorities, including customs and immigration officers, may ask you to produce documents to prove that you are the lawful parent or guardian of the children. Make sure you always carry the proper identification for yourself and your children required by the authorities of the country you intend to visit and by Australian authorities on your return.

In addition to a valid passport, these documents can include:

  • documentary evidence or a letter that proves your child has the permission of an absent lawful parent or guardian to travel;
  • a copy of any separation, divorce or custody decree that proves that you have custody of your child;
  • a court order granting you guardianship of your child;
  • a copy of your child's birth certificate, particularly if only one parent's name appears on the birth certificate and the child is travelling with the other parent.

See our Travelling with children advice tips page for further information.

Sex and gender diverse passport holders

You should familiarise yourself with the arrangements which will apply to you on arrival in another country and whether your travel document will be accepted.

Sex and gender diverse passport holders should be aware that while Australian travel documents are issued in accordance with international standards, people travelling on a passport showing 'X' in the sex field may encounter difficulties when crossing international borders given their infrequent use. You should familiarise yourself with the arrangements which will apply to you on arrival in another country and whether your travel document will be accepted. Check with the nearest embassy or consulate of your destination for further information.

Where to get help

If you are travelling overseas, whatever the reason and for however long, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency – whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

You should also keep in contact with friends and family and leave a copy of your itinerary with them so they know where you are.

For consular assistance you can contact the relevant Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. Contact details are available at www.dfat.gov.au/missions/index.html. In a consular emergency you can also obtain consular assistance by telephoning the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 1 300 555 135 (if calling from within Australia) or (+61 2) 6261 3305 (if calling from overseas).

More information for Australians travelling overseas can be found at our travel tips webpage.