Tips for Traveling in South America as a Gay Man
It seems that South America is not often considered as a gay friendly place to travel, and that instead many gay men will choose places in western Europe or perhaps South East Asia as ‘safe bets’.
The reality is that, while some countries in South America are still somewhat behind in terms of social equality, it is still a relatively easy place to travel as a gay man, and after 10 months traveling there with my partner last year, I felt perfectly comfortable and was never discriminated against for being gay.
Go to Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is probably the best place for gay life in South America. It is also full of stunningly gorgeous guys. Argentina was the first country in Latin America to introduce marriage equality back in 2010, and is probably one of the most progressive and safe countries in South America for gay men to travel. If the typical gay clubs, bars or saunas aren’t you thing, there are plenty of other gay-oriented things to do in Buenos Aires, for example go to a queer tango night, take a gay tour or hang out in Pride Cafe which becomes a drag bar some evenings.
Get involved in the LGBT rights movement in Lima
Peru does not have marriage equality, nor much in the way of legal protections in place to stop discriminations against LGBT people. However, there is a strong movement pushing for this in Lima, and meeting some of the people involved really gave us hope for the future for the country’s queer citizens. The MHOL (Movimiento Homosexual de Lima) organises workshops, film screenings and demonstrations (all in Spanish) and can be a great place to make new friends.
Set up a Manhunt profile
Manhunt is to South America what Grindr is to Europe and North America. A lot of young people in South America (especially in the poorer countries like Bolivia and Peru) don’t have a smart phone, so Manhunt, which offers a web-based interface, is extremely popular, despite being rather ugly and having an awful name. If you’re not looking for hookups, think of the site just as a way to meet people and make friends, which we did. Be prepared, however, that the likelihood that you’ll end up meeting people who are still closeted to their friends and families is pretty high, and that if that bothers you, it might not be the best place to make friends as you travel. We occasionally met people like this, and while it can be sad to see, ultimately I think it was a positive experience for the closeted guy.
Do not fear the double bed conundrum
If you’re travelling as a couple, don’t be afraid to ask for a double bed in hostels or hotels. We were occasionally given a twin room when we turned up at a place, but when we asked if they had any doubles, no one ever flinched and we were always given one if it was available. Just make sure you get the words right in Spanish, as they are not intuitive: doble means ‘twin’, while matrimonial means ‘double’, which particularly bothered my partner for the hetronormative implication!
Overall, South America is a wonderfully rewarding continent to travel in, and it may in fact be much more gay friendly than you imagine.