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Advice for Touring South America as a Gay Man

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Decades of revolution, dictators and demagogues have left most Americans believing that South America is one-small-step from the Banana Republic.

While there are a few remnants of trouble left in places like Venezuela and Bolivia, overall the content is safe. Actually, most gay travelers find South America to be as gay-congenial as the major cities in Western Europe.

Too many “Norte Americanos”, South America is not seen as a gay-kindly area. Many gay individuals choose to head to western Europe or even Southeast Asia. Both regions are regarded as safe.

In truth, South America is a comfortable region to explore as a gay man and most travelers never feel discriminated against because of their lifestyle.


Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is possibly the greatest area for queer life in South America. Argentina was the lead nation in Latin America in establishing marriage equality and is an example of the most tolerant countries for gay men to visit. If the gay clubs and bars aren’t really for you, there are lots of additional gay-oriented activities to do in Argentina’s capital. Queer tango night and gay tours are two events from which to choose while Pride Cafe often converts into a drag bar for the night.


Brazil

Rio de Janeiro was selected the best global LGBT destination by MTV Networks and was chosen the sexiest city in the world for LGBT people. As Brazil has over 6,000 gay-friendly hotels and hostels, it is not difficult to see why over 25 percent of visitors to Rio, Sao Paulo and Salvador are from the LGBT community.

Gay nightlife in Rio starts very late. Don’t anticipate the bars filling up before midnight, but once the crowd is in the night begins. Most of the more popular gay bars are located in the Ipanema or Copacabana barrios — or neighborhoods.

Currently, Le Boy, in Copacabana, is one of the most popular choices. A new club, The Week, in Centro is attracting the biggest crowds. As Rio does not have a leather or fetish scene — the weather is way too hot anyway — you need to go to one of the numerous gay bath houses if you’re up for some playtime.

Get Involved in Peru

Lima, Peru offers a chance to get involved. There are few legal protections which stop discrimination against LGBT individuals. There is a powerful campaign advancing legal protections in Peru and there is some promise for the country’s queer residents. The MHQL organizes workshops, movie screenings as well as demonstrations. Many travelers have found these events to be a terrific place to meet new friends.

Manhunt

Everything Grindr is to North America, Manhunt is to South America. Many youthful individuals in Latin America don’t have smartphones, so Manhunt allows a web-based user interface. Despite being plain, and having a lousy name, Manhunt is successful. Not watching for hookups? Then think of Manhunt as a way to reach people and create friends. The possibility that you’ll wind up being introduced to someone still closeted is high. If that is troublesome for you, Manhunt might not be the best place to reach people as you travel.

Don’t Fear

Don’t fear the conundrum of the double bed.

If you’re a couple, don’t be hesitant to request a double bed in hostels and hotels. No one will flinch if you’re given a twin room and ask if the place has any doubles. Be certain you get the expressions right in Spanish — they are not automatic. “Doble” is twin, while “matrimonio” is double. To ask for a double bed, say, “Puedo tener una cama de matrimonio”.

Generally, South American is a rewarding continent to travel.  You may find you have underestimated it as a gay-friendly destination.

Safety Tips

South America is a large, and primarily poor, continent. To stay safe, here are some tips:

  • Don’t take too much cash with you on the streets
  • Leave your expensive camera and jewelry locked up in the hotel safe
  • Take a cab at night. Even for just a few blocks, a taxi is safer than walking
  • Don’t bring strangers into your hotel room. Most of the men who don’t speak English are after your money.

Travel Safety

The Virtual Tourist website lists 2524 tips on staying safe in South America. That’s overkill.

Just use common sense and follow the same travel precautions you would use to visit any foreign country:

Travel Warnings

The U.S. State Department issues Travel Warnings, which issues travel alerts for a variety of reasons. Check out your destination online several months before you go and then again several weeks before traveling.

Travel Documents

American citizens must use an American passport to travel overseas and to re-enter the country. Internationally recognized, your passport verifies your identity and citizenship. Check your passport’s expiration date. Many nations demand a traveler’s passport be in force for at least six months beyond the travel dates.

Emergency

Be sure you have contact information for the  American Embassy closest to your destination.  If your family needs to reach you because of an emergency at home, they should call the Office of Overseas Citizens Service in Washington at 888-407-4747.

Pack Smart

Pack light and carry a minimum number of valuables. Check your luggage before heading to the airport and make sure you are not carrying any contraband or banned items. Avoid packing IDs, tickets and other documents in backpacks and other containers which will be out of view for at least a portion of the trip.

Stay Healthy

The New York Travel Clinic recommends you ensure your shots and vaccinations are up-to-date. They can provide a customized list of shots needed — and review your current status. Just tell them what country you are visiting.Their site also offers tips on dealing effectively both with jet lag and altitude sickness and other concerns of travelers wishing to stay healthy.

Photocopies

Make two photocopies of all of your travel papers. Leave one with a buddy at home. Carry the other with you, separate from the originals. At a minimum, make sure to get copies of:

  • Passport ID
  • Itinerary
  • Hotel confirmation
  • Airline ticket
  • Driver’s permit
  • Credit cards
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