Let’s face it—travel is just plain sexy. Life on the road is packed with exotic destinations, thrilling experiences, interesting people, and a heck of a lot less responsibility (and inhibitions). Having sex with your partner, or that sexy stranger at the hotel bar, is just another part of traveling. In fact, studies show that both men and women are more likely to have casual sex when they travel. And it’s not hard to understand why.
When you become best friends with a stranger in a matter of hours and share life-changing experiences all the dang time, certain barriers and cultural norms come toppling down—especially around casual sex. That’s why it’s more important than ever to prepare yourself for safer sex while you travel, because buying condoms, finding birth control pills, avoiding STIs, and even finding a private room for that special someone (or someones) can be a lot tougher than you think.
Travel can be great for your sex life, whether you’re traveling with your awesome partner or out to see and experience the world as a solo traveler. But, it’s important to be prepared for the logistical, social, and cultural differences of sex around the world. Here’s how to have better, safer sex while traveling.
Better Sex While Traveling: Best Practices
Your Simple Guide to Consent
“Consent” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, and it’s worth thinking about exactly what consent means while you’re traveling. Travelers tend to move a little more quickly than most people back home, especially if they’re partying and going on adventures in exotic places with exciting new people. But the rules of sexual consent remain the same no matter the situation.
Getting and giving consent can be tricky even when you and your partner share a culture and language — so how can you ensure that you’re having consensual sex that both of you want when those barriers are present?
There’s only one surefire way to know if your partner is giving you their consent—ask them. Always ask whether you have your partner’s consent. Then ask again. And hey, guess what? Ask some more later.
First, make sure that person is coherent. If they’re too drunk to hold a conversation, they’re also too drunk to consent to sex with someone they don’t know. Same goes for yourself — if things are feeling way too hazy, rethink your decision to hook up.
You don’t have to bury your partner in questions like a sexual riddler, but even initial consent doesn’t mean you have a green light for whatever you want to do after that. People are allowed to change their minds, even during the act. Or, in the words of Corinne Kai’s fantastic illustrated guide to consent, “Beyond Yes & No:”
“Consent is continual, freely given, informed, enthusiastic, mutual, specific, and can be withdrawn at any time.”
Consent is a clearly expressed agreement to participate in sexual activity. That includes touching, kissing, oral sex, and penetration. Consent isn’t about asking, “Are you ok with this?” right before you have intercouse. Consent a series of steps—from both people—verbally expressing that you want X to happen.
Asking for consent may sound like it’s too simple to be a good rule, but if you follow this one rule you’ll know beyond any misinterpretations, confusion, or cultural misunderstandings. Here are some real world examples, using Corinne’s definition, illustrating what consent is not:
- Your partner is drunk and slurring her speech, but doesn’t stop you when you kiss her neck. This isn’t: informed, mutual, enthusiastic, or specific consent
- You and your partner have a language barrier and they seem confused by your invitation to go to bed with them. This isn’t: informed, enthusiastic, or mutual consent
- You meet a girl that’s out of money and just needs a place to stay for the night so she crashes with you (in your bed). You rub her back and she doesn’t stop you, so you fondle her. This isn’t: mutual, enthusiastic, specific, or freely given consent
- You and your partner are having sex and he says he wants to stop. He doesn’t feel comfortable. This isn’t mutual, enthusiastic, or continual consent.
Understand that signals may not translate. In some parts of the world (I experienced this in Madagascar and Ethiopia) what I’d consider harmless flirtation in the U.S. was interpreted by local men as a clear ask for sex. Understand that the signals you’re giving off might not be interpreted the same way in another culture.
As one friend who lived in China for several years explained, “Going on a date in China is really serious. It’s expected that you’re basically boyfriend and girlfriend if you go on a date.” Breaking up may not be so easy.
When I studied abroad in Malta, two of the European boys in my program casually mentioned “Hey, I heard there are going to be six American girls joining us in the spring semester.” When I asked them why it mattered, they casually told me, “Oh, American girls are easy.”
Not only was that an incredibly weird thing to be told as an American woman, it made me realize how others might act according to their stereotypes about me. That comment made me feel like the boys in my program might try to hook up with me just because they viewed me as a source of easy sex, based on my nationality, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between that intent and genuine romantic interest.
The examples can go on forever, but the simple point is that consent needs to be clear, continual, and mutual. Pay attention to your partner’s body language, and other non-verbal clues and don’t ever assume that you have someone’s consent for sexual activity. Ever. There’s no “but” to that sentence. Ask if they’re ok with what you’re doing, but better yet ask what they’d like to do. Sex, of any kind, is a partnership. Involve your partner at every stage and you’ll not only be sure you have their consent, you’ll both have a much better time.
Get Tested Before You Travel (Know Before You Go)
If you’re sexually active, it should be standard operating procedure to get tested for STIs every 6 months (at the least!). More often if you’re having sex with multiple partners. Getting tested is easy and affordable, even if you don’t have insurance.
I actually went to Planned Parenthood for STI testing for years—without insurance—and it was cheap, easy, and a great way to always know my status. I highly recommend it. So guys, there’s no excuse. As a traveler, it’s doubly important to know if you have any STIs so you can talk to your partner(s) and take all the necessary precautions. Getting tested can be scary, but not knowing about your status is a lot worse.
The CDC provides a service to find free STI testing near you.
Get a Private Room
Don’t be the guy or girl that tries to have sneaky sex in the squeaky top bunk of a 20-bed dorm. Just don’t. It’s beyond uncool to subject other people to your sex life in a communal space, and it’s just not going to be good sex. Even if you get off on the whole “getting caught/sex in public” thing, a twin bed in a hostel is a crappy place to have sex.
If you know you’re going out on the town in hopes of scoring, book a private room. Most hostels offer private rooms for not that much more than a dorm bed in a bunk. Seriously, I got a private room in Vietnam for $5 more than a 12-bed dorm. It’s not that hard to elevate your sex life on the road. Plus, nothing says “sexy” like someone who has enough money and forethought to get their own room.
Pro Tip: One of the best pickup lines a traveler can use is simply, “I have a private room.” And if you spring for AC get ready to be the most desirable person in the bar.
Sexual Etiquette (in different places)
If you’re going on a date in another country, brush up on the local dating etiquette — in some places going “Dutch” is far more common than it is at home, like, say, when you’re with a Dutch person.
Again, you should also understand what the norms are for sex and sexual intimacy, but never feel like you should do something you’re not personally comfortable with.
Pack Your Own Condoms
Fun fact: The US military not only provided male condoms for every US soldier during WWII—they created posters, films, and slogans to get soldiers to use those condoms. “Don’t forget — put it on before you put it in” was an actual slogan the US military created to stop soldiers from contracting STIs (namely syphilis) while traveling the world. Bring that up next time your grandparents hassle you about “the MTV and all the sex you kids are having.”
Attention all travelers: You need to pack your own condoms. I don’t care if you “don’t plan on having sex” or, “he should have the condom.” Those are terrible ways to avoid STIs and pregnancy.
Condoms are affordable, lightweight, and TSA compliant. Pack at least 3-6 condoms to be prepared if things get sexy. Heck, those condoms might not be for you. You can be a hero and hook up your new buddy with a condom when they need it.
Just like great sex, it’s not always about you!
Best Practices & Tips for Women Travelers
Travel is about exploring new places, experiences, and aspects of yourself, and, whether we talk about it or not, this often extends to sex and travel romances. Whether it’s with someone you recently met or with your S.O., hooking up with someone is often just as much a part of travel as trying new foods. Whether it’s the excitement of being in a new place, or the empowerment that comes with not knowing anyone around you, it’s totally understandable that romance might easily follow.
And while exploring new angles of your sexuality is something I’d encourage every woman to do, having sex while traveling — especially abroad — isn’t the same as having sex at home. While that’s certainly part of the fun, it also means you have to navigate new cultures, languages, and even legal regulations in your pursuit of sex while traveling.
After all, how often do you meet a charming surfer from Florida who then invites you to join him in a beach town on the coast of Nicaragua for a weekend (true story) — and you actually get to say yes?
Staying Safe While Dating & Having Sex Abroad
Especially when you’re traveling, safe sex doesn’t just mean preventing unwanted pregnancies and STIs, it also means keeping your whole self safe (physically, emotionally, and psychologically). Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while having sex abroad:
You Don’t Have to Have Sex
If you’re not comfortable going all the way, but still want to hook up and have some fun, that’s totally fine. Not going “all the way” is always an option. If this is the case, make sure to communicate this to your partner and be consistent with your response (sometimes easier said than done) — it’s not cool to have sex with someone you didn’t want to have sex with simply because they “wore you down.”
They Don’t Want to Use a Condom? Insist on It.
I met Greek men who found condoms to be emasculating, and in Ethiopia there was a general stigma against “having sex with a sock on.” In areas of the world with more “traditional” gender norms, men seem to be more resistant to using condoms. If your partner tries to talk you out of it, insist on it.
Trust Your Instinct
Our creep radar might be off when we’re traveling abroad. If things get weird — even though this person seemed totally normal and charming — trust your instincts and get out. You’re always better safe than sorry.
Drink and do Drugs Responsibly
When we’re traveling or on holiday, we want to let loose and try new things. While that’s great, don’t let it get to the point where it would put you in danger. Keep your alcohol and drug consumption to a point where you’re still coherent enough to take care of yourself or recognize a potentially sketchy situation.
Let Someone Know Where You’re Going
If you’re traveling with others, always let them know where you’re going if you split up. If you’re traveling solo, have a trusted person back home who you can update on your whereabouts, and when they should hear from you next.
Better yet, give a trusted friend or family member back home or your travel buddy access to your location at all times. You can do this through iPhone’s Find My Friends app, or — if one person doesn’t have an iPhone — directly in Google Maps. Just go to your settings to turn on location sharing and send it to someone you trust.
Always Know Where You’re Going and How to Get “Home”
If you’re not hooking up in your accommodations, make sure you know where you are and how to get safely home — whether that means having Uber, or a local equivalent, downloaded on your phone, a local taxi number to call, or just an understanding of “no go zones” after dark. This information could help you avoid an after sex saunter through a sketchy neighborhood.
Keep Your Phone Charged and Cash on Hand
Always keep your phone charged or bring an external battery pack with you when you’re out and about. In case of an emergency, make sure you have a way of calling someone — whether that means having a working local SIM or international phone plan. In most places, you’ll be able to call the local version of 911 even without a local SIM or working phone plan.
Look Out for Yourself First
Always use a condom, no matter how charming that other person is, or how much they insist that they “don’t have any STIs.” It’s not worth it.
Sex and romance is fun and can be extra exciting when you’re swept up in the romance of being somewhere new. After you’ve done your due diligence to be safe, enjoy it you sexy beast, you!
LGBTQI+ Sex and Travel
For LGBTQ folks, traveling in and of itself can be a complicated and stressful affair. Anxieties about standing out if we’re traveling with our partners, or whether we aren’t passing as straight or cis can keep us busy enough, attempting to have a trip sans incident. Luckily, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel here in listing how all Queer and Trans people should travel smart because as a gay cis man, I know I can’t cover all the bases. There are plenty of Gay, Lesbian, and Trans travel bloggers and sites who are oozing with advice on what constitutes smart travel for the respective identities found throughout our community. Let me contend, however, that, regardless of our respective identities, our sex lives are not only worth tending to while traveling, they can certainly help counter, if not overshadow, some of the anxiety that can come with being part of the LGBTQ community abroad.
Practicing Safe Sex
Being members of LGBTQ community means that we’ve most likely had to do our own sex education. In my experience, we can be some of the most knowledgeable folks out there when it comes to practicing safe sex and knowing our bodies. At the same time, STI transmission rates across almost all demographics our community still remain disproportionately higher, which requires us to err more on the side of caution.
Getting tested and knowing your status before traveling is always a good first step to establishing peace of mind. I find getting tested in a foreign place makes me feel a little more vulnerable and can certainly add anxiety to a trip. If that isn’t an option, many countries and cities with progressive LGBTQ and/or sex education legislation often have free walk-in testing clinics; sometimes for the LGBTQ community specifically. If you find yourself in a place that isn’t so welcoming to LGBTQ folks, if it’s an emergency, local hospitals will usually do testing, which means thinking about travel insurance before going to avoid exorbitant costs. However, as such hospitals may not be adept, let alone welcoming, to dealing with Queer or Trans persons, it may just be better to hold off.
For those of us who are using PrEP for HIV prevention, whether on a daily basis or on demand, it is really important to ensure you are stocked up before heading to a country where it may not even be on the market. Also, remember that many countries, particularly in the West, have PEP available via urgent care facilities in hospitals in case of HIV exposure. That all being said, my LGBTQ family, using condoms and dental dams, and being diligent about cleaning packers, dildos, and/or sex toys after every use (even if they have a condom on them), as well as talking to your partner about STD status are the easiest things to prevent a fun trip from going south.
There are very few countries that are across the board excellent in LGBTQ protections and rights – which is why I tend to always check Equaldex before entering an unknown country for a nuanced overview of pro and anti-LGBTQ legislation. What’s more, it needs to be said that even the safest places for our community can also be susceptible to danger – particularly for those who are not considered passing.
For those of us who present as feminine, in particular, it is really important to map out your routes so you know how you will get home or to safe place in case your security is at risk. Luckily, the app Geosure has an LGBTQ feature that allows you to see up-to-date and location specific safety rankings. The app goes so far as to show streets that are safer than others using thousands of data sources, local reports, and algorithms.
As I’ve said before, reporting Queer- or Transphobic incidents to the police is a risk if you are not in a particularly LGBTQ friendly city and/or country. Contact an LGBTQ organization before contacting the authorities. In case an emergency does arise in a country where you don’t speak the language, remember there are apps like whym that can provide live translation on the spot.
Preventing Unwanted Pregnancies and STIs
Whether you’re in a committed relationship and traveling with your significant other, or single and open to hooking up on the road, preventing unwanted pregnancies and STIs is a consideration for anyone who is sexually active. When traveling abroad, though, you won’t be around your regular doctor, and possibly immersed in a healthcare system your not sure how to navigate. Plan ahead!
Always Pack Condoms
We said this before, but it bears repeating:
Men, pack condoms. Ladies, pack condoms. Everyone, just fill your luggage with condoms.
First, ladies, you don’t want to rely on the guy to have one on hand. Second, depending on where you are in the world they might be hard to find, of poor quality, or not the right size (for example, Magnums are more rare in Asia). And third, if you’re hooking up with someone from another place, you might be dealing with cultural or language barriers. Just make it easy on yourself and always have condoms on hand while traveling.
Buying Condoms While Traveling
Condoms are one of the most effective ways to prevent STIs. But male condoms can be a hassle to find while you’re traveling. (Don’t even get me started on buying female condoms abroad). If you don’t bring your own condoms, or run out of condoms on your trip, it’s important to note that finding condoms abroad can be tougher than you think.
Unlike the US, many countries don’t have 24-hour drug stores and corner markets that you can duck into on your way home from the bar. In fact, condoms are immoral or outright illegal in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Nigeria.
Even when people do use condoms in these countries, the low demand means that many stores might not have condoms in stock, or if they do, they may be expired. Another thing to keep in mind is that countries with low condom usage tend to have higher STI rates as well as higher rates of HIV. And condom usage isn’t always what you’d expect.
A 2011 study and a follow up study from 2016 found that condom usage in Sweden is at an all-time low—especially amongst young travelers. Take responsibility for your sexual health by packing your own condoms before you travel.
Quick Male Condom Facts
- Male condoms have a shelf-life of 3-5 years, so always check the expiration date
- Don’t store condoms in your wallet (the heat and humidity can make them less effective if stored for too long)
- Condoms come in a variety of sizes for different length and girth; don’t just grab the first box of condoms on the shelf. Finding the right fit will make you more likely to wear the condom and still enjoy safe sex.
Quick Female Condom Facts
- Female condoms can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex
- Female condoms are great for people with latex allergies (they’re made out of a synthetic called “nitrile”)
- You don’t need a prescription to use female condoms
- No need to use a male and female condom at the same time (they can cause each other to tear)
Here’s How to Say “Condom” Around the World:
- Spanish: el condón, el profiláctico, el preservador
- French: le préservatif, la capote
- German: Kondom, das Präservativ, der Präser
- Portuguese: a preservativo, o camisinha, o profilático
- Japanese: Kondomu
Bring Extra Birth Control, or Consider an Implant Contraceptive
Trying to remember to take the pill every day at the same time is a pain when you’re constantly changing time zones. This may be overkill for a week-long vacation, but if you’re traveling long-term, consider an implant contraceptive, like an IUD. It will help you prevent pregnancies without worrying about what time to take a pill, or what to do if you run out.
If you do take the pill, set a calendar reminder instead of a clock-based alarm on your phone. That way, that 2pm PST reminder will automatically get updated to a 5pm reminder in New York. And bring extras. Even if you’re traveling in a country where the pill is available over the counter, having extra on hand is never a bad idea.
Emergency Contraception: Have a “Plan B” Plan
Accidents happen and, if your condom breaks while having sex, you might find yourself in need of emergency contraception, or EC, while abroad. In some countries, you can get it over the counter and without a prescription, though others will require you visit a doctor. And, in a few countries, it’s not available at all. If you want to be extra cautious, pack EC in your first aid kit if going to a destination without a Plan B option.
Many women don’t know that regular birth control pills can be combined in certain dosages and used as emergency contraception. Learn more about whether your pills will work and how to plan the dosage here. Knowledge is power.
Sexually Transmitted Infections & Travel
STIs don’t respect the lines on a map, but for some reason many travelers think they’re magically immune to them. What’s worse, some of the most commonly transmitted STIs, like chlamydia and HPV, are known as “asymptomatic” STIs. That basically means that these diseases don’t display any symptoms in the people who have them. And that’s a big problem. But that doesn’t mean these people aren’t infected.
The most common sexually transmitted disease is chlamydia, but up to 75% of people may not know they have it.
“If you don’t know you have it, what’s the problem?” some of you may ask. The answer is that a disease still has consequences even if it doesn’t have symptoms.
You can still transmit chlamydia if you’re asymptomatic, and chlamydia has been shown to cause serious complications, particularly in women. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is linked with chlamydia, causing ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and severe pelvic pain. And that’s just one of the dozens of potentially asymptomatic STIs.
Just because someone doesn’t have symptoms doesn’t mean they aren’t infected. Always use protection, and get tested often.
Treating STIs While Traveling
The best ways to prevent STIs while traveling are to use a condom every time (from start to finish!) as well as getting vaccinated for Hepatitis A, Hep B, and HPV. However, if you notice symptoms of STIs like painful discharge, pain while urinating, inflammation or irritation around the genitals, or open sores, you should seek medical attention immediately.
The US Embassy in your country will be able to direct you to medical help. You can also reach out to international medical organizations like the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT). They have an extensive network of facilities (membership is free). Consultation rates at their offices can be steep ($100 and up), but they guarantee English-speaking doctors.
You can also get treatment for STIs at most public clinics in countries in Europe, North and South America, and Asia. Bring your travel insurance information, and get tested if you think you have an STI. Waiting will only risk infection to other people and can cause symptoms to worsen.
Countries with High HIV Rates
Condoms are the best way to prevent HIV infection, but it’s worth pointing out the disproportionate rate of HIV infection in certain parts of the world, particularly in Africa. The 16 countries with the highest rates of HIV infection are all in Africa.
Swaziland tops the list of HIV prevalence rates with over 27% of the population. South Africa ranks #4 with an infection rate of 18%. The Bahamas (#17 – 3.3%) and the USA (#24 – 2.4%) are the only other countries in the top 25 not located in Africa.
Women under the age of 35 are more than twice as likely to become infected with HIV due to sexual violence and higher rates of contracting HIV than men. Take extra care with sexual partners if you’re traveling to a country with particularly high rates of HIV infection. You can also look into Prep (Truvada) to reduce the risk of contracting HIV through sex.
The PrEP pill (Truvada) is short for “Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis” and it works by protecting you before you come in contact with HIV-1. It’s only effective if you don’t already have HIV, and isn’t a “morning after pill.” Talk to your doctor to find out more about Truvada and HIV prevention.
Best Travel-Friendly Vibrators & Toys
Whether you’re single or in a committed relationship, sex toys like dildos and vibrators can be a fun way to enhance your sex life. Why not pack one when you’re headed off on a romantic journey with your S.O., or chasing after a little self-love on a solo trip?
When it comes to choosing sex toys for travel, go light, like you would with any other travel item. Also opt for a toy on the quieter side and avoid any that require being plugged into the wall if you’re going abroad.
Sex Toys are Illegal in the Following Countries
Before we get into sex toy recommendations, warning: sex toys are illegal in some parts of the world. This list includes:
- Saudi Arabia
- The Maldives
- Alabama… yep… you can bring yours, but not buy one
If you’re not traveling to one of these places, scroll on for recommendations and tips for packing them.
It’s sleek, powerful, yet silent enough to use in practically any situation, and bonus—it’s designed to look like a piece of modern jewelry. The Crave comes in a plush lined travel case for discrete travel, but if you want to flaunt it, you can wear it as a necklace. It even comes in rose gold.
Powerful enough for most people, the Crave holds a charge for a few days and recharges via USB. It’s great for couples looking to take foreplay to the next level or solo female travelers on a long layover. Several women I’ve talked to were impressed with the Crave’s portability and power. Just make sure the on button won’t get pressed when you pack it and you’re good to go.
The We-Vibe Touch is also a top contender for best travel vibrator. It’s compact, powerful, waterproof, USB chargeable, and features 8 different vibration modes. They carry a selection of small and discreet, but powerful, silicon vibrators, clitoral rings, and other fun toys for solo and couple play.
Golden Bangle Handcuffs ($34)
If you’re into a little restraint, the stylish golden Cleo bangle handcuffs from Unbound is the perfect travel-friendly way to pack your passion. Wear it as a super stylish bracelet, then surprise or delight your partner with a little dom play. Or, just use it to secure your backpack to your bunk bed. Either way.
If you don’t want to comparison shop your travel-friendly pleasure chest, just get the Oh! To Go Bag from Unbound. For just $34 you get a pocket vibrator, lube, “jolt” clitoral gel, G-spot stimulation serum, condoms, and wipes, all in a pouch that can fit in your back pocket. Safe, sexy, and affordable. Sign me up.
If you’d rather have a few packets of lube, just in case, consider a pack of flavored, individual use lube packets.
Swan Wand Mini ($69)
Made of a comfortable silicon material and USB rechargeable, this pocket sized mini vibrator is great for wherever you go.
The sex toys market for LGBTQ people is exploding. There are more sex toys than ever before tailored for both Queer and Trans people. But let’s be real, the most important question on everyone’s mind though is – will security agents see what’s in my bag? Well, before we get into that, it’s important to point out that sex toys or related objects aren’t exactly legal everywhere and can be used as evidence of sex work, so you should absolutely do your research before loading your toy chest into your check-in bag.
Tips for Packing Sex Toys
Vibrators, dildos, handcuffs, and lube are carry on friendly
If you’re traveling carry on only, yes, you are allowed to bring vibrators and most other sex toys in your carry on. However, anything over 7-inches is kind of a grey area, so avoid larger toys. Also, whips aren’t allowed in your carry on.
Liquids Under 100ml Only
Lubes and cleaning liquids need to be in 100ml bottles.
Checking them? Leave a note.
If you’re checking a bag, and consider leaving a note for TSA in case it gets searched.
Remove the Batteries
Or, put the travel lock on to prevent them from accidentally going off in your bag.
Put Them in a Clear Plastic Bag
If your toy raises any flags with TSA and they need to remove it from your bag for inspection, this will make everything more sanitary.
Dildos, packers, and StPs will show up on scanners – so don’t carry them on your person.
Also, don’t be embarrassed if your sex toy gets pulled from your luggage during TSA inspection. You certainly aren’t the first, to err might be human, but to be confident in your sexuality and gender, divine.
Opt for USB Rechargeable Toys
Avoid worrying about voltage or converting or batteries altogether by choosing toys that are USB rechargeable.
Want more options? Check out Bustle’s list of travel friendly sex toys.
Traveling with Lube
While lube isn’t an essential travel item, it’s a nice bonus item. And while some people think it’s presumptuous to travel with, more men and women appreciate the comfort and ease that lube can provide. Even with foreplay, sex can often be painful for women, so packing lube can be a great way to make sex that much more enjoyable, especially with a new partner.
Just make sure to pack less than 100mL (3 oz.) so you don’t have to have that awkward conversation at airport security. Here’s some TSA-approved organic, latex friendly lube you can get at Walmart for less than $5.
Best Apps for (Safe) Sex While Traveling
I’ve said it before—Tinder is an fantastic travel app. You can set your location, meet nearby (attractive) people and set up a date in a matter of minutes. I’ve used it before to meet people for stories when I was on assignments abroad and also to meet locals to take me out for a fun night in a town when I didn’t know anyone.
Tinder, Bumble, and the rest of the hook-up apps can be a great way to meet new people, but you have to be clear about how you intend to use the app, and especially wary of potentially dangerous situations. Say what you’d like to do in your bio (bar hopping, museum tours, local music scene), then start swiping. If you get a match, ask them point blank if they’d like to take you out and show you their town. Make yourself available, and state your preferences, but put the onus on them. It’s their city after all.
I’ve had some fantastic nights out and made some great friends from using Tinder while traveling. Heck, you can even find a date for happy hour in the airport if you’re stuck on a long layover. Seriously. Shake it up. Get weird. Tinder is your friend.
Yes, Meetups pages and events look like they were designed using Geocities and Windows 98, but they are just a straight up great way to socialize. I use Meetups for finding language partners when I travel, and often times language partners can turn into dates. In fact, that’s how my high school friend found his wife. He now lives in China with two kids. So, there’s that.
Regardless, of how involved you want to get, Meetups are awesome.
Take a Tour: The Original Dating App
If you’re single and ready to mingle one of the best ways to meet someone is simply to sign up for a group activity. Yeah, tours are kind of hokey, and yeah you don’t need to go on planned activities, but you know who’s on planned activities—other people. You can bond during the diving excursion/wine tour/after hours museum romp then invite one or more new friends out for a drink or dinner afterwards. You know they’re probably not busy, so put yourself out there and make some plans. Most people are looking for connection too!
Apps in the LGBTQI+ Community
Whether you use Grindr, Jack’d, Her, OKCupid, or Tinder, I find there’s little need to go over the best hookup apps in this community, as everyone has their own tastes about what floats their boat and there are already plenty and plenty of reviews out there.
Unfortunately though, online dating everywhere for LGBTQ people carries an inherently greater risk to personal safety. Queer apps are seeing an uptick in use to identify and harm LGBTQ individuals in both LGBTQ friendly and unfriendly countries. This means when traveling, even to LGBTQ friendly places, that you need to stay vigilant and keep travel companions, or a close friend back home, updated of your well-being and movements. At the end of the day, your safety is more important than maybe being a little embarrassed about telling a friend where you’re going for a hookup.
And for those not looking for a hookup, dating apps don’t only have to be about sex. The facial expressions I get are pretty hilarious when I tell Queer friends that dating apps, like Grindr and Tinder, can be used to actually meet people to get the lowdown of a new city or just make a new friend. Just make sure your intentions are clear from the outset.
Some other apps to increase safety while traveling include:
uSafeUS will fake an emergency call from a friend to help get you out of a bad date or other situation smoothly.
TripWhistle gives you the emergency contact numbers of any country in the world.
bSafe works without wifi or internet connection and will allow friends or family to virtually “walk you home.” If you don’t make it back to your house/hotel/destination safely, it will notify them.
For more general apps to help you stay safe abroad, take a look at this list of safety apps.
Prostitution & Traveling: The Risks and Realities
It may shock some travelers to realize that prostitution is not only common in many parts of the world—it’s completely legal. Heck, it’s technically legal in the US (looking at you, Nevada). Prostitution is a complicated topic with a lot of strong opinions on both sides, but as far as prostitution and traveling go, it’s better to be informed about the risks and realities involved in the world’s oldest profession.
The information on prostitution is actually pretty cut and dried. People all over the world visit prostitutes whether they’re legal or not. But when prostitution is legalized both the sex workers and their clients enjoy safer workplaces and lower rates of STI and HIV infection.
Several studies show that legalizing prostitution leads to better, safer working conditions for sex workers and their clients. Regulating sex work leads to a dramatic drop in human trafficking, STI and HIV infection rates, physical violence, and the darker side of prostitution—like child prostitution and the drug trade. Sex workers around the world (including the US) are fighting for legalization to acquire the same protections that sex workers in places like Amsterdam and New Zealand have. (And yes, prostitution is completely legal in New Zealand as of 2014).
Even Amnesty International, the United Nations, and the World Health Organization have all called for the decriminalization of prostitution. So, argue with those experts if you disagree.
Even in places where it’s legal, you should still be cautious of abiding by the rules. While living in Madagascar, for example, I learned it was common for foreign men (mostly French and Italian) to travel to Madagascar to have sex with local women. Although legal, it wasn’t well regulated and underage girls were too often taken advantage of and involved in this industry. In most hotels, you would see public service announcement posters warning about underage sex workers and encouraging travelers to check their sex partner’s ID to verify their age.
Legality aside, getting involved in prostitution is an ethically hairy act. In Madagascar’s case, it’s not well regulated and carries a skewed (global) power dynamic.
If you intend to visit a brothel or “massage parlor” only do so in countries where the practice is legal (obviously), and at regulated establishments. Soliciting street prostitutes or unregulated brothels not only promotes unsafe working conditions and underage prostitution, but exposes you to additional risks. Using regulated establishments will dramatically decrease your risk of contracting any STIs, as registered sex workers are routinely tested for HIV and STIs.
Prostitution Within the LGBTQI+ Community
Sex workers have been a long standing part of our community so I think it’s really important to have a discussion about what it means to engage with sex workers when abroad. First off, there are certainly countries where sex work is legalized, regulated, and even LGBTQ-oriented as well. In such countries, it’s common sense then to keep to the system for the sake of your health, safety, and criminal record. When we enter in countries with anti-LGBTQ and/or anti-prositution laws, it becomes a whole different ball game.
Whether you support or are against the criminalization of prostitution, it’s important to remember that LGBTQ individuals, and adolescents, are disproportionately represented in sex trafficking, and can’t be separated from ethical discussions around LGBTQ sex work. Also, often times, unregulated sex work can come in the form of solicitations on dating apps, which especially in countries with anti-LGBTQ/prostitution laws can be a risk to your health and life. In other words, it’s best to not play with fire in countries that can throw you in jail for trying and to keep such fantasies confined to where sex work is regulated and most importantly where sex workers are respected.
No matter how you like to get down, whether you’re single, married, dating, or somewhere in between, sex is a huge part of travel. Prioritize safe sex with condoms and birth control, and make sure to leave room for the things, experiences, and people—old and new—that bring you pleasure.
- Enthusiastic consent is mandatory, and a lot more fun
- Pay attention to the laws and cultural norms around sex where you travel
- Always pack your own condoms, and use them
- Get tested
- Trust your instincts
- Know your options
- Take responsibility for your own health and safety
- Pack your toys in a clear plastic bag
- Have fun!
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