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    The Most LGBTQ-Friendly Countries for San Francisco Travelers

    For those with the desire, ability, and means, traveling for pleasure is a priority seemingly more so than ever now. Traveling is on the rise all across the U.S. and particularly among San Francisco residents. According to the U.S. Travel Association, air travel demand has been up since September 2023, leisure and hospitality employment nationwide has increased, and credit card spending on airlines and cruise lines has increased.

    After the lockdowns and other restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is not only a pent-up demand still playing out, but also a shift of values. Instead of planning for a distant future, travelers appear to be more focused on living life to the fullest now, and as a result, are booking their dream trips.

    LGBTQ San Franciscans can face unique challenges when traveling abroad, however. First there is a time, distance, money factor. The average cost of flights to popular destinations in Europe, for example, is nearly always more when departing from the Bay Area simply because of distance. The cost can often be prohibitive. According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBTQ+ workers earn about 90 cents for every dollar that the typical worker earns, while “LGBTQ+ people of color, transgender women and men, and non-binary individuals earn even less when compared to the typical worker,” the organization reports.

    There can be pressure to work harder and longer, making it even more difficult to take time off for a vacation. LGBTQ individuals are also often more likely to be caregivers for older relatives, partners, or friends, compounding financial, time, and other concerns.

    On top of these challenges, LGBTQ travelers in general can face additional difficulties when going abroad. As the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs shares: “Laws and attitudes in some countries may affect safety and ease of travel. Legal protections vary from country to country. Many countries do not legally recognize same-sex marriage. Approximately seventy countries consider consensual same-sex sexual relations a crime, sometimes carrying severe punishment.”

    Knowing which countries are LGBTQ-friendly is therefore important to planning a safe and enjoyable trip.

    The World Equality Index by Equaldex ranks countries based on both the current status of LGBTQ rights, laws, and freedoms as well as public attitudes towards LGBTQ people. As of this writing, their top 20 is as follows:

    1. Iceland
    2. Norway
    3. Denmark
    4. Malta
    5. Canada
    6. Uruguay
    7. Netherlands
    8. Andorra
    9. Spain
    10. Chile
    11. Germany
    12. Brazil
    13. Luxembourg
    14. Australia
    15. Finland
    16. Cuba
    17. Sweden
    18. New Zealand
    19. Belgium
    20. France

    For the complete list, go to:

    It is interesting that the top three countries are all in Northern Europe. These countries are not exactly known for budget-friendly pricing and welcoming weather. Scanning down the list, however, is Spain, which is now in its most inexpensive season (December–March). For skiers, Whistler, British Columbia, is “the undisputed leviathan of Canadian skiing,” according to Times Travel. On the top of many travel bucket lists is Rio Carnival, which for 2024 will be happening February 9–February 17. These are just a few examples of some enticing destinations for LGBTQ San Franciscans with travel wanderlust going into 2024.

    In this issue of the San Francisco Bay Times, we also present recommendations from LGBTQ San Franciscans who are frequent travelers. As you mull over your own possible travel plans, consider this quote from Saint Augustine, shared by Bay Times columnist, philanthropist, and drag queen extraordinaire Donna Sachet: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

    LGBTQ-Welcoming Destinations for SF Travelers in 2024
    Published on December 21, 2023