Last Updated on March 9, 2021
There is one major difference between straight and gay long-term traveling couples, and it all comes down to the bed situation. Sure, I know what you’re thinking (dirty minds!) but it is a difference that begins even before we even check-in. I would imagine that for straight couples the scenario is as follows: You arrive at hotel/hostel and the owner or receptionist shows you first to a room with a double bed if they have one, or apologizes that there are only rooms with two single beds. End of scenario. For LGBT couples traveling on a budget, the arrival at the hotel is a bit more awkward. So what’s it like traveling as a lesbian couple?
Traveling as a lesbian couple through Latin America
Let’s break down a few scenarios of what happens when we, two girls traveling together, arrive at a hostel, assuming we like it enough to stay there. Scenario 1: We arrive, and immediately shown a twin room. We share a silent glance and weigh various factors (how long have we been walking with our packs, is the hostel really nice, is it cheap, maybe just for tonight?). Then we decide whether or not we’ll be pushing the two beds together. Scenario number 2: Owner/receptionist apologizes for only having a double bed. We breathe a sigh of relief. Should owner offer to switch us to a room with twin beds the next day, we simply reply that the room is great and we are used to sharing beds. Scenario 3: Having already weighed up all factors, we arrive and inquire directly about a room with a double bed. Receive quizzical looks. Stew uncomfortably in awkward moment, but get the room.
Sometimes we wish that staff would ask, with casual discretion, as if offering some sugar – “and will that be one bed or two, ladies?”
For the most part, the average LGBT traveler is no different to our straight counterparts; we see the same sights, drink in the same bars and stay at the same hotels. In fact, traveling as a lesbian couple has not been a major issue for us at all, though this is most likely due to our toned down public displays of affection. Stolen kisses and knowing winks are easy enough to get used to, but when one of us gets hurt or upset, it is hard not to console each other like a couple.
Not that we are back in the proverbial closet. In Europe we are very open with our sexuality. In Central America, however, homosexuality has a diminished media presence, and, with very few exceptions, the closet is still seen as a perfectly valid place for the LGBT community. This lack of awareness is slowly changing, of course, and in Mexico we were pleasantly surprised at the liberal social and political attitude to gays and lesbians. Aware of the strongly Catholic and socially conservative influence here, we actively choose not to provoke or test the boundaries, acting as friends mostly because it is easier. We have experienced a constant level of ignorance to the possibility that we might be a couple, despite several clues that might be obvious to people from the U.S. or Europe (same shoes, similar dress, and the way we talk to each other that so obviously makes us more than friends).
Only one hotel (El Amanecer Sak’Cari in San Pedro, Guatemala) understood that we are a couple, unflinchingly apologizing to us for having only twin rooms and promising a double bed the next day, which they followed up on.
Our ‘bad’ experiences have been equally limited, with the only vocal opposition to us taking place on Caye Caulker in Belize. Dani and I had been having a dream of a time in Belize, and, feeling romantic, we walked home one night holding hands. As we passed a group of rastas, one of them yelled out “why dose girls is holding hands, what’s wrong with dem?” A friend of his who we had hung out with explained – ‘dos two girls is husband and wife, dey don’t need no man’. Aw, that was sweet. At least he kind of gets it. We were about 100ft past them when the first guy yelled after us ‘God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”
In contrast to Belize, we expect Costa Rica to be the most gay friendly in Central America. Unlike Mexico, Costa Rica still does not condone same-sex marriage or civil unions, but political policy tends toward respect and tolerance. The travel industry has followed suit with LGBT marketing campaigns, though this might simply be due to a more highly developed tourism industry. It seems that a higher level of tolerance toward gay travelers correlates less to political or social policy and more to the number of stars on the outside of the hotel.
International hotel chains with a budget to undertake research understand the economic value of attracting LGBT travelers, or the so-called pink dollar, in particular, and staff is properly trained in customer service and discretion in general, for all visitors whether gay or straight. Down here in the bowels of budget travel, budget hotels and hostels far away from five-star chains show no awareness of the value of the pink dollar, just of the nice crisp green ones that keep the business afloat.
This has been our experience, thus far, and in no way can be considered an expert opinion. We also know that our experience as two women is most likely very different from gay male travelers. That is why we would like to open the discussion here rather than close it, and hear about your experiences and thoughts, whether gay or straight, but especially if you’re traveling as a lesbian couple. Additionally, tips on LGBT-friendly budget hotels and hostels in Latin America or worldwide would be greatly appreciated both for us and our readers.
Saturday 6th of February 2016
Loved your article! My girlfriends and I have booked our cabins for a 5-day cruise Oct 31-Nov 5, 2016. We sail from Tampa, FL > Key West > Cozumel, Mexico > Tampa, FL. I AM SO EXCITED. We got our tickets here: http://www.melissaetheridgecruise.com. I can picture us with our coconut drinks. PARTY TIME!!! <3 <3 <3
Mei & Kerstin from OpenUpNow.net
Monday 6th of October 2014
Hi ladies! Thank you for this great post! We are also travel bloggers and we always travel together for over 12 years now. I must admit that we've never had this bed problem until recently, certainly because we've been exploring Europe and North America mostly. Now we are travelling to Southeast Asia in a couple of days. I've just booked some hotels and although I specified that I wanted a double bed, the confirmations I first got was "twin beds". I immediately contacted each of them again to insist that I would like to have a double bed. They apologized, explaining that they thought it was for two women. I said yes, we are two women. And we're a couple. :) Some of them sounded surprised, others simply didn't say much. But they all confirmed the modification. Now, we're all eager to see if they'll give us a double bed when we arrive there. :) Will let you know! Besides, we're really glad to have found other lesbian travel bloggers! :) Looking forward to reading your old & upcoming posts! Cheers!
Monday 20th of October 2014
Thanks so much for your comment, Mei & Kerstin :) I'd love to hear how your travels as a lesbian couple in South East Asia go! If there are any interesting stories, I'd love to have you share them in a guest post in our LGBT guest post section! I found SEA to be much more gay friendly than Latin America though. Enjoy your trip!
Wednesday 13th of August 2014
Well, I'm not gay, but I totally understand it! I'm from Peru and here there's still a lot of ignorance about being gay and also for some people it's not that common to see people "out the closet". But I guess you should be safe in big cities like Lima, Arequipa, Cuzco, Trujillo, Iquitos, etc.
By the way, I did have problems when I traveled with a male friend in my country. On 2012 I was traveling with a friend from Germany and in every hostel we went they offered us a double bed. We had to say over and over again we weren't a couple. And even like that, some people were asking me "but..are you sure?"
Of course it wasn't a big deal. At the begining it was funny but then we got annoyed.
Keep enjoying your trips, girls! :)
Tuesday 31st of December 2013
Ahah, so how did it end ? Did you have to push your twin beds against each other and forget about the little gap in between? :)
Monday 30th of December 2013
I'm a little late on that one (newbie on the site:)) but I could not help but read your article on the topic. My girlfriend and I are also travel bloggers, but as we are specialized in luxury hotels, we've never had any problems ...at all.. I mean, except for those weird 30 seconds when people at the front desk have a doubt about the double room and the message on the screen "Mr & Mrs" (...).. but great service is part of the luxury hotels DNA, so greetings LGBT travelers is part of it, no more, no less. Though i'd be curious about Middle East countries, where we haven't been together yet.
You're right about "pink dollars"... not sure what that means exactly in reality for LGBT Travelers. Tolerance? Special packages? Do we need that more than the others, I'm not sure..
Have a nice evening Sophie ps: sorry for the mispellings or mistakes, English is not my mother tongue
Tuesday 31st of December 2013
Hi Sophie, welcome to our site :) I guess it is easier in luxury hotels - thinking about it, we've never had the one-bed-or-two problem checking into nicer hotels :D We did have it yesterday here in Peru though, where we weren't sure if it was appropriate to ask for a double bed instead the two singles they gave us (despite us booking a double bed!)