LGBTQ Travel in Turkey

Last Updated on April 8, 2024

Turkey is a secular country, and same-sex relationships and other types of LBGTQI+ relationships are not against the law. As in every country throughout history, Turkey has LBGTQ communities that make their contributions to the richness and variety of culture and society. However, it is important to note that it is also a Muslim-majority country, which affects society's perspectives on same-sex relationships and public affection.

This complex relationship between secular governance and having a Muslim majority population makes traveling in Turkey as an LGBTQ+ person difficult. So, what is the situation like for LGBTQ visitors who wish to travel to Turkey? It is complicated.

State of LGBTQ+ in Turkey

While progress is being made toward understanding and mutual acceptance, especially with anti-discrimination laws, the majority of people in Turkey are relatively conservative and want male-female relationships to be the only ones sanctioned by society. Other relationships exist, of course, as they always have.

Turkey has made progress, with more and more openly gay celebrities, gay bars, and gay clubs, along with a number of more gay-friendly hotels, but equality has not been achieved yet. For example, same-sex couples still cannot marry as same-sex marriage is not recognized by the law.

Moreover, there is still resistance among the population towards the gay scene of Turkey and public parades such as the Istanbul Gay Pride Parade, which aim to change public perspectives on the queer community and different sexual orientations.

LGBTQ Travel in Turkey

Same-sex couples and the LGBT community will not have safety concerns in major tourist cities, such as Izmir, Antalya, Istanbul, the capital city of Ankara, and popular tourism resort towns, such as Bodrum, Çeşme, and Fethiye. Here, you can find gay-friendly bars and occasional pride marches.

Istanbul, the cosmopolitan capital of Turkey, is an important place worth visiting. Istanbul's nightlife, gay bars, and the sheer number of LGBT members are note-worthy. Moreover, a popular gay-friendly chain of hotels among the LGBT community, the Park Hyatt also has a branch in Istanbul (Park Hyatt Istanbul).

In addition, the gay community and LGBT rights are viewed in a positive light, especially in the younger generation and between Turkish university students. So, a gay traveler can find it easier to find gay-friendly Turkish hotels and meet with other openly gay men.

However, this may not be the case in the rural areas and countryside of Turkey (Anatolian Regions). Here, sexual orientation tends to emphasize heterosexual couples. LGBTQ community, especially gay individuals, and public displays might come across negative reactions, and it is difficult to find a gay-friendly place or hotel that accepts an openly gay man.

Tips for LGBTQ Travelers in Turkey

The moment you visit Turkey, you will notice that it's a beautiful country and that the Turkish people have a warm and compassionate nature. Although same-sex relationships are not illegal, and the LGBT community has legal protection, there are still practical restrictions, such as not being able to arrange a seat next to an opposite gender when traveling with intercity buses, and not being able to find gender-natural bathrooms. As a result, the legal gender of one person is seen as a distinctive feature in the arrangement of these facilities and services.

If the gender on your passport does not match your gender identity, please inform your agency to ensure that you are not subjected to any form of discrimination during future arrangements.

Additionally, if you plan to visit rural areas in Anatolia, it is recommended that you refrain from displaying public affection with your partner, as it is not widely accepted even among heterosexual couples.

—by Tom Brosnahan, updated by Can Turan

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