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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Gay travellers advised on safety
Two drag queens stroll amid bathers along Ostias beach in Italy
Some resorts are more accepting than others
The UK Foreign Office has issued travel advice specifically for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travellers abroad.

The move, which includes ten "top tips", is aimed at helping travellers avoid legal problems or cultural hostility.

It was drawn up after consultations with members of the gay community such as Stonewall and Attitude magazine, and has been welcomed by gay travel groups.

The advice, due to appear on the FCO website, does not name specific countries where visitors may encounter particular difficulties.

Top tips 1
Read the FCO's Travel Advice
Find out about your destination
Buy sexual health products before you set off
Check your hotel takes same-sex couples
Some resorts may only accept homosexuality in certain areas

It ranges from warnings about death penalties and police "entrapment campaigns", to the threat of thieves who prey specifically on gay areas.

It also counsels tourists on whether to "out" themselves while abroad and suggests how transgender travellers, who have changed sex, can get replacement passports under their new identity.

It also warns against travellers misinterpreting local culture in some countries where heterosexual same-sex friends show affection by holding hands in public.

Potential hassles

"Excessive physical show of affection, by both same-sex and heterosexual couples, is often best avoided in public," it says.

The advice contains no list of countries where same-sex relations are illegal, because in reality the legal situation is often unclear - and is different for men and women.

Top tips 2
Avoid potentially risky situations: stay alert
Don't leave belongings unattended or carry lots of cash
If you get into trouble, contact your tour operator, local police or the nearest British consulate
Consular staff will handle problems "discreetly and courteously"
Have fun!

"Often, local society can be intolerant of open same-sex relationships, although (they) might not be against the law," it says.

"Likewise, in some countries where same-sex relations are illegal, the law is not necessarily strictly enforced".

The advice is part of the Foreign Office's "know before you go" campaign aimed at encouraging holidaymakers to prepare adequately for their trip before they travel.

A Foreign Office spokesman said it was the first foreign ministry in the world to offer such specific advice to gay travellers.

The advice says: "Attitudes towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender travellers around the world can be very different to those in the UK.

'Fuddy-duddies'

"However, despite potential extra hassles, it is possible to have a very positive and enjoyable travelling experience.

"One thing's for sure: the better prepared you are, the fewer problems you are likely to have."


It is really important that the Foreign Office is saying to the gay community if anything happens, we are on your side

Respect Holidays

Rob Harkavy, director of gay tour operator Respect Holidays, applauded the move.

He said the gay community had been historically "fairly wary" of the "old-fashioned" Foreign Office and other establishment institutions.

Gay men who had been raped, for example, may be less inclined to contact the local British embassy or consulate because they would feel a certain amount of "mistrust", Mr Harkavy said.

"It is really important that the Foreign Office is saying to the gay community if anything happens, we are on your side, we are not old fuddy-duddies and you are British citizens, we will look after your irrespective of your sexuality.

"This is a very important message to get across."

See also:

16 Oct 01 | Business
02 Aug 98 | Business
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