Gay Vacations in Asia

Asia Highlights

  • Prices are higher in the north and lower in the south. Although costs of living are rising all across the region, the rough rule of thumb is that the farther south you go in Asia, the cheaper things become.
  • Watch the differing rainy seasons. Rainy seasons and monsoonal cycles can mean full-on deluges in Asia. From northern Vietnam to Japan, typhoon season lasts from mid-summer to late October. India’s monsoon season ends in October too, but in Southeast Asia, most rains fall between October and February.
  • Use West Coast gateways. The cheapest tickets to Asia typically are out of San Francisco and L.A., so pricing tickets from these two cities—even if you have to buy separate airfare to get there—could save hundreds of dollars.
  • Watch your same-sex public displays of affection. Even heterosexual Asians, especially older generations, refrain from public contact.
  • Nudity is a no-no. Asians are conservative when it comes to showing off their bodies in public. You'll be hard pressed to find nude beaches—even in clandestine areas.

From the days of Marco Polo, Asia has attracted foreigners with its mysterious allure and ancient cultures, and today it’s the most dynamic and rapidly changing region on the globe. From the wind-swept steppes of Mongolia to the teeming jungles of Indonesia, gay travel in Asia offers a world of experiences. China is becoming a major tourist destination with thriving cities reaching toward the sky, while Southeast Asia is home to thousands of islands where life inches by a day at a time.

As Asia undergoes tremendous social and economic change, attitudes toward gays and lesbians are rapidly evolving, and the region is becoming more open to gay travel. But LGBT identity still has a ways to go. Coming out still can bring shame upon an entire extended family, and events like gay pride celebrations are much smaller affairs than in the West.

Gay travel to Asia is best enjoyed if you understand each country’s scene. While Japan has an open outlook toward sex and a huge LGBT community, many gay bars in Tokyo still bar foreigners from entering. Hong Kong, one of the most Westernized spots in Asia, has a huge gay spa infrastructure but only a handful of bars. The Philippines has a whole subculture of cross-dressing men, but is still bound by its religious mores. Singapore only recently began allowing queer circuit parties, and then the government moved to squelch them. Outside of free-wheeling Mumbai, India barely has an out gay and lesbian scene at all. Thailand, arguably the most friendly country in Asia for gay travel, has an open tolerance towards gays and lesbians, but settled-down, long-term queer couples are still not at all common. China decriminalized sodomy in 1997, but police still crack down on social gay Web sites.

But Asia is undergoing tremendous social changes with its newfound wealth, and gay movements are burgeoning. Taiwan in 2003 announced intentions to legalize civil unions, and major Hong Kong actors have even come out—both would have been unheard of a few years ago. Despite the struggle for LGBT rights in Asia, it remains one of the safest and most welcoming parts of the world for gay travel.

Published: 17 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 7 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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