15 most unwelcoming countries for LGBTQ+ travelers

@world_mappers posing in the United Arab Emirates

Here at GayCities, we want to help our community see the wonders of the world while also being true to themselves. Most of the world’s top travel destinations welcome queer folx with open arms, but some places are not as friendly. Nearly 50 countries have prison sentences or physical punishments just for being gay, while others have laws against gender expression, gay sex, or even discussing LGBTQ rights. We want to help you stay safe wherever you go, so…

We’re calling out the 15 most popular travel destinations with anti-LGBTQ+ laws and social attitudes.

Bear in mind, many of these countries’ economies rely on tourism dollars, and we all know the value of having the gays’ business (because everyone wants to be us.) So if this list makes you reconsider travel plans to support a country that supports us instead, great. If you still crave Maldives beaches or Tanzanian safaris, that works too, we just want you to stay safe.


Being gay is not technically illegal in Russia, but much of Russian society is homophobic. There are very few protections against discrimination and hate crimes based on sexuality or gender expression. The Russian republic of Chechnya has an especially homophobic culture, with police detaining and torturing LGBTQ people. The region is majority Muslim, and while their authoritative leader denies any human rights abuses, LGBTQ people who have fled the region have spoken out about the atrocities they faced.

Recently, Russia became even more dangerous by declaring war on Ukraine, attacking civilians, and creating a massive refugee crisis. And while it is usually seen as a pretty safe place for LGBTQ people, the war has made Ukraine dangerous for us too. This week, the LGBT Human Rights Nash Mir Center in Kyiv was raided by armed men.

To best support Ukrainian refugees, donate to organizations working on the ground to feed, house, and directly help them. Some of the organizations we recommend are the Ukrainian Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, HIAS, and their Ukrainian partner R2P.

You can also support journalists who report accurate, uncensored stories from the front lines with the Kyiv Independent and more to keep Ukrainian media going. 



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We’ve all seen the screen-saver-worthy shots of vacation bungalows on the water in the Maldives. These dreamy resorts are popular spots for LGBTQ couples despite the country’s laws against homosexuality. Gay acts or relationships are punishable for up to eight years in prison with possible whippings, house arrest, or deportation. These laws are rarely prosecuted on the hundreds of islands that make up the Maldives, but with a rather homophobic society, LGBTQ people are still the subjects of hate crimes and other human rights violations.

This can make the mainland dangerous, but resorts welcome gay travelers and are usually on private islands. The country’s Sharia laws are not enforced at luxury resorts, for example, alcohol is illegal in the Maldives but is plentiful at resort bars, and the same goes for queers. Within resorts, it’s fine to show affection, but out in public on the mainland even holding hands can be dangerous for LGBTQ couples.


Nigeria has repeatedly been named as the most dangerous country for LGBTQ people. Being gay can get you 14 years in prison around the country, or the death penalty in Muslim states under Sharia law. Transgender and non-binary people are criminalized, as is simply discussing LGBTQ rights. In some states, trans and gender-nonconforming people are also criminalized. Homophobia can also be seen throughout Nigerian society, with an increase in violence and extortion since the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act of 2013, especially toward gay men.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the one with the largest economy, in part due to its tourism market. LGBTQ Nigerians are fighting for their rights, which are non-existent in the eyes of their government and much of society. Something to think about if you’re planning a trip to Lagos or the Nigerian coast.



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Morocco’s vibrant streets are a favorite of travelers, but it’s not as perfect as Instagram makes it seem. Gay relationships are illegal for both men and women and can be punished with up to three to five years imprisonment or a fine of 1000 dirhams with hard labor. The Moroccan government punishes the LGBTQ community beyond prison walls by publicizing the names of anyone arrested for suspected gay acts. This is extremely dangerous because public opinion is generally anti-LGBTQ and those who are outed, or just accused of being gay can in turn be subject to vigilante violence and hate crimes. Traditional Islamic morality views homosexuality and gender expression as immoral, which guides much of public perception.


One of the Caribbean’s most popular vacation hubs, Jamaica is also the region’s most dangerous for LGBTQ people. This island nation is often presented as a chilled-out stoner’s paradise where troubles melt away to the sound of reggae, but members of our community should stay alert and careful in public. Jamaica’s so-called “buggery law” makes gayness punishable for up to 10 years in prison, hard labor included. Homophobia is also rampant in Jamaican society, resulting in violence against queer folx by civilians. Transphobia and violence are especially common, in particular for trans women.


Egypt’s iconic pyramids and rich history make it a popular travel destination, but local culture does not welcome all globetrotters. In a 2013 survey, Pew Research Center found that 95% of Egyptians do not think homosexuality should be accepted by society. The laws however are different from other countries on this list. Being gay is not explicitly criminalized, but behavior or expression “deemed immoral” can be. These “public morality” laws are based on public opinion and have been used to punish queer and trans people with up to 17 years in prison with hard labor, fines, and deportation. 

Because of the prominence of homophobia in society, queer travelers should be careful not to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity. Queer tourists should also avoid dating apps. The police have been known to make fake accounts disguised as LGBTQ people to catch travelers looking for illegal fun. 


A popular destination for its stunning islands, beaches, and temples, Malaysia is considered the least safe Asian country for LGBTQ+ tourists. In 2019 their tourism minister denied the existence of gay people in Malaysia altogether. Being gay is punishable for up to 20 years in prison, whipping, and fines under their interpretation of Sharia law. And there have been proposals in the government to increase penalties. In Jan 2021 a proposed amendment looked to increase sentences for those caught being gay and called for criminalizing gender change and posting any pictures of non-normative gender expression on social media. This form of censorship would be extremely dangerous, especially for Malaysian LGBTQ youth.

Saudi Arabia 

One of the most dangerous countries for LGBTQ people, this is another place where engaging in gay sex can result in the death penalty. There is no criminal code in Saudi Arabia, instead, laws are based on interpretations of the Islamic Sharia, which sees being gay or trans as immoral. Along with the death penalty, other punishments include 100 whips or banishment for one year. Forms of gender expression outside the heteronormative are also illegal, making it particularly unsafe for trans people. Outside of the government, LGBTQ people can be subject to violence by homophobic civilians as well. 


With mountains, waterfalls, and the huge Lake Victoria, Uganda is a stunning place to take in a variety of East African wildlife and nature. But outside of secluded natural spots where only hippos can see, having gay sex can cost you life in prison. In fact, all sexual activity other than “vaginal intercourse” is illegal, meaning straights can’t have oral or anal sex either. LGBTQ people commonly face violent prosecutions, torture, and executions from law enforcement and other civilians due to the social taboo. Pro-LGBTQ organizations are also legally banned.

Pre-colonial Ugandan society actually accepted homosexuality as commonplace. It wasn’t until the British colonized and forced their ideals on the well-established culture that homophobia became an issue. Uganda has since gained its independence, but the impact stuck and continues to threaten lives today. British colonization is the source of homophobic laws and ideals in countries around the world.

United Arab Emirates


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The United Arab Emirates’ two biggest cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi attract millions of tourists yearly, but queer-identifying people should take in these desert metropolises with caution. The UAE has strict anti-LGBTQ laws, reinforced by public opinion. According to the Gallup World Poll, only 1% of people living in the UAE said their city was a good place for LGBTQ people to live. Forms of gender expression other than the heteronormative can put someone in prison for a year with a fine of up to 10,000 dirhams. Pro-LGBTQ organizations are also banned here 


Stunning landscapes, beaches, and wildlife make Tanzania a dream destination, but its society and legal system are not welcoming to the LGBTQ community, particularly gay men. Homosexuality is generally not accepted, which the government ramps up with homophobic rhetoric. Because of this, reports say that things have only gotten worse in recent years. So even those who have traveled here in the past safely should take caution. In recent years the government has even kicked out HIV/AIDS groups for “promoting homosexuality,” by trying to help the community of over a million people in Tanzania who are infected with HIV/AIDS. 

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is popular for its natural wonders between jungles and beaches. Adventurers love to explore and hike here, but doing so safely takes more than a camping experience. While laws against gay sex are not used often in the courts, human rights organizations have reported that authorities use the threat of arrest to assault and exploit members of the LGBTQ community. The violence and harassment LGBTQ people face here make the south Asian country particularly dangerous for queer vacations. In addition to violence and harassment by police, vigilante attacks, torture, and even executions are tolerated. There are no anti-discrimination laws to protect the community and the government does not recognize transgender people leading to even more discrimination and hate crimes. 


On this beautiful island partaking in gay acts can land you life in prison. Like many countries dangerous for LGBTQ people, Barbados gets its homophobic laws from its time as a British colony. Since the population is so small, many queer Barbadians stay in the closet out of fear of word spreading and the wrong person finding out. But things have been progressing a bit, Barbados celebrated its first pride in 2018, and in 2020 the government announced plans to recognize “some form” of civil unions. The vague nature of this statement is criticized by some gay rights groups who want legal gay marriage, but others see it as a step in the right direction.


Malawi is full of natural wonders you couldn’t believe, but it’s also full of homophobia. In a Gallup World Poll, only 3% of Malawians said their city would be a good place for queer people to live. Men who have sex with other men face up to 14 years in prison, while women loving women face up to five. Malawi also has laws that are discriminatory against trans people, making it particularly transphobic. For example, anyone born male with hair that grows past their mouth can get up to six months in prison. Also, any and all pro-LGBTQ organizations are banned. 

St. Lucia

A tropical paradise, this island’s amazing beaches bordered by mountains are breathtaking. The only ugly thing about St Lucia is the homophobic laws that linger today. Gay men specifically can be punished with up to 10 years in prison. Thankfully the laws aren’t enforced and repeals are pending.

We’re ending with St. Lucia because it is an example of the progress that continues to be made around the world every day. Every country on this list has a future that can be bright and accepting, no matter how extreme the laws are today. Until then, stay safe and lead with love.

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