Welcome to Insider Out Travel, a blog about LGBT travel written by LGBT tourism professionals. Travel the globe and gain insight into the tourism industry (with a gay twist), brought to you by the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Touring Tasmania With Pride

TasPride Festival - 31 Oct. -Nov. 15 2009

The biggest celebration of 2009 for the GLBTI community in Tasmania will be taking place right across the state for two weeks from Saturday 31 October to Sunday 15 November. This is a great period for revisiting (or trying Tassie for the first time) the great state of Tassie. This year the program will include touring options, sample itineraries and special offers for the GLBTI community visiting their shores.

Don’t miss out on the TasPride parties, including the legendary opening night Halloween Party, the film festival, cultural celebrations, live music, theatre and cabaret, community events, the family day picnic - to name a few!

There are just a handful of IGLTA/GALTA members in Tasmania, but the tiny state knows how to compete for gay tourism dollars downunder. Our staff from RainbowTourism will be attending many of the events, renewing friendships with IGLTA members and prospects.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gay Travel to Curacao

Article and pictures by JJ Keyes

I just got back from a week in Curaçao and had a fabulous time.  “The Curaçao Gay Plasa” is getting ready for their big “Get Wet Weekend” (September 24-27) and I got the low down on the event.  If you’re on the fence, just book a flight and go.  There’s going to be great parties all week and plenty of time to relax on the beach.  Never been to Curaçao?  Neither had I.  I took my boyfriend for a week in the sun and from beaches to adventure excursions to amazing museums and restaurants we found so much more.  Curaçao is just above Venezuela, in the Netherlands Antilles, the “C” in the ABC islands.  I just created a guide for GayCities.com (http://curacao.gaycities.com/) with the full low-down on my findings.  The Curaçao Tourism Board (http://www.curacao.com/) and the Gay Plasa (http://www.gaycuracao.com/) are other great resources when planning your trip.  If you’re planning on “Getting Wet” this September, be sure to book a room at one of the IGLTA member hotels.  I recommend one of the two Kura Hulanda properties.  Chris and I opted for the “best of both worlds” package and we weren’t disappointed.  Stay at the Kura Hulanda Spa & Casino (http://www.kurahulanda.com/kura-hulanda-spa) during the main nights of the party weekend and then head across the island to the Lodge Kura Hulanda & Beach Club (http://www.kurahulanda.com/lodge) for the ultimate vacation. Both properties are charming and luxurious, truly a sampling of two different aspects of what the island offers.  The preserved history at the Spa & Casino is out of this world, you feel like you’re in a unique town within a town, a home base to go out and adventure from.  The Lodge offers all of the luxuries of a world-class resort, incredible diving lessons and opportunities, and the friendliest staff in the Caribbean.

While you’re in Willemstad, I recommend dining at the Gouverneur, Le Blochard, Moon & Scampi’s.  Over at the Lodge, plan on enjoying the Watamula and Christoffel Restaurants for dinner.  For a true taste of Curaçao, head to Jaanchi’s to try a little iguana for lunch.  Trust me, it’s an experience to write home about.  I’m not going to give anything away. 

The best beaches are over there on the west side.  Little Knip is my favorite beach on the island.  During the Get Wet Weekend, you will surely have a great taste of the more popular beaches (Mambo Beach, Jan Thiel, etc…) Once you sober up from the party, make spend some time in the new Kura Hulanda Museum, it will blow your mind.  You must check out the Hato Caves, the Seaquarium (swim with the dolphins!), and Eric’s ATV Adventures (don’t wear white).  If you go on the ATV’s you will make a few stops including the Ostrich Farm and the Aloe Vera Plantation.  Be sure to ask your guide to take you to the caves as well, you won’t regret it!  If you have a little extra time, take a ship to Klein Curaçao where you can spend the day on a completely untouched beach. 

We really loved Curaçao and I hope to get back for the Get Wet Weekend.  A week is just the right amount of time to spend on the island.  Make it your next vacation!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Finding Gay Peru

Peru started growing on me before I even boarded the plane.  The cute Peruvian check-in agent sensed that we were "family" and went out of his way to share his favourite spots in Lima with us:  Cafe Cafe just off the main square is his favourite place to people watch, while Cafe Haiti offers an unobstructed view of the main traffic circle in Lima's posh Miraflores neighbourhood.
Arriving in Lima we met our group of nine; four Americans, three Canadians, a Brit and a Peruvian (our gay local leader, Sebastian). The benefit of travelling with a gay leader is that we not only tour the fabulous areas of Lima but also have an insider to show us the gay hotspots such as Lola Lounge (various theme nights for Lesbians and Gays) and Downtown Club (formerly known as Valetoto) where all the locals go to shake their thang, often until after 4am!
Adios Lima and on to the city of Cusco, known for its cobblestone streets and original Inca construction.  This stunning city is also a haven for adventurers and luxury travellers alike.  At approximately 3300 meters (10,800 feet) above sea level, Cusco serves as a main hub for trekking trips and tours to the famed Machu Picchu.  The history of Cusco is an interesting one. Once the capital of the Incan Empire it was conquered by the Spaniards beginning in 1533.  However, demolition proved impossible for the Spanish, leading them to construct a new city on the very foundation of the Inca ruins. 
Modern-day Cusco has something for everyone.  From quaint cafes and hidden plazas to great restaurants such as Baco (Ruinas 465, Cusco) specializing in wine and modern Peruvian cuisine and the well-known Fallen Angel (Plazoleta Nazarenas 221, Cusco). This gay owned and operated resto-lounge features modern art and decor including glass tables supported by bathtubs filled with goldfish.  The wait staff aren't too hard on the eyes either!
After exploring Cusco, it's on to the Lares Valley where we start a challenging 3 day trek through the Andes.  Early on day one we are joined by a mountain dog who we think has wandered from home.  We nickname him Pumpkin and he follows us along the entire trek, only adding to the comradery.
Our journey peaks at 4,400 meters (14,500 feet)  above sea level on day two of the trek.  The views are spectacular, the sense of accomplishment huge.  Our local guide David (not gay but VERY welcoming) has us participate in a ritual to pay tribute to the Andean gods. Followed by group hugs, this is a "heart to heart" as David says, and for myself a silent moment to reflect - and tear up a bit.
Most travellers only know of the Inca Trail, but the Lares Trek offers a different perspective of this wonderful country.  On the less-touristy Lares Trek, hikers are given the opportunity to see how the Quechua people of the countryside live - which is in many ways no different from hundreds of years ago!  They survive on the land, live in homes built of stone or mud and even wear somewhat traditional attire.  Children often greeted our group looking for an apple or a pencil (outside of school hours) which we are recommended to carry along the trek.  This is a truly unique opportunity that hikers on the more crowded Inca Trail do not experience.  Simply amazing.
We camp under the stars, and stars there certainly are. I stretched out on a large boulder by the river one night with a fellow traveller to reflect and discuss the trip thus far.  Within a half hour we spotted five shooting stars - one so bright that it lit the sky, enabling us to see the silhouettes of the surrounding mountains.  After making our wishes (I'm a bit superstitious), we bundle up and hunker down in our tents for the cold night.
Our Lares journey should have come to an end mid-morning on day 3, but a peaceful local farmers strike blocked some nearby roads, forcing us to trek along a highway for a few additional hours. All part of the adventure, this ended up becoming a highlight of the trek with Pumpkin (our fearless canine friend) defending the group by chasing passing motorcycles along the way.
We eventually made it to Aguas Callientes, the nearest town to Machu Picchu where we boarded a bus to take us along the winding 25 minute ride to our final and ultimate destination - Machu Picchu, or "Old Peak".  This is what we came for.  This is it.  There is but one cloud in the sky, smiles are contagious and cameras start flashing.  Everyone has their ASKMEOUT shirts on, courtesy of OUT Adventures and there is an electric buzz in the air.  Pictures just don't do justice to this magical place.  Once home to an estimated 500 Incans, Machu Picchu took over 100 years to build - and was not even complete when it was abandoned.  Like much of this region the grounds today are still maintained by Alpaca, an animal that resembles a small llama.  After fully exploring the citadel, we have the opportunity to climb Wayna Picchu, or "Young Peak", for an almost aerial view of the sacred site below. 
Back to Cusco with smiles on our faces, still in awe of the 9 days just behind us.  A great group of travellers, a dynamic country, mouth-watering food, famous sights and most importantly the opportunity to  make friends and experience a new culture.  What more could a gay traveller ask for?
For gay Peru tours, OUT Adventures is a Canadian based operator with both trekking and touring options (www.out-adventures.com) and for mainstream tours visit Intrepid Travel (www.intrepidtravel.com).
Robert Sharp is a responsible travel advocate and Co-Founder of OUT Adventures, a Canadian based gay tour operator.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New York & London Sign Tourism Agreement

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and Mayor Boris Johnson of London signed a tourism agreement to boost travel between New York City and London on September 15 at Columbia University in Manhattan. The cities will provide each other with outdoor media advertising space, and NYC & Company and Visit London – their respective tourism arms – will share best practices as a way to maximize travel between the two destinations and will assist each other with a publicity event in each City.

PHOTO CREDIT: Julienne Schaer for NYC & Company

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nightlife in Stockholm: Patricia

Who would have thought that one of the most fun gay nightlife experiences in Stockholm would be called Patricia!? Patricia, one of the oldest gay clubs in the world, is situated on a multi-level boat nearby Slussen and is the place to be on Sundays both winter and summer. There are several bars, dance floors, a restaurant and a casino on board this former English ship, with one of the dance floors outdoors on the open deck.

Among the different scenes were a small hip-hop bar and a large dance floor and light show featuring house and techno. But my favorite was the upstairs lounge which played Swedish pop and disco favorites of the last 30 years. It was packed with gay people of all kinds singing along to their Swedish favorites. If you've ever wanted to hear all the Swedish contributions to the Eurovision Song Contest, this is the place for you! And if you have an impression of the Swedes as entirely a dour and serious folk, spending some time on the Patricia will certainly expand your understanding.

It's like a gay-themed episode of "Love Boat" and is THE place where Sweden's biggest gay icons perform and party with their fans, including Abba and Ace of Base. Every Sunday night the hostess Babsan is entertaing; joking with the crowd and maybe singing one of her infamous hits. On special nights, Patricia also has theme parties such as Pirates, Christmas in July and a Foam Party. The food is great if you decide to dine, and the staff is really cute and friendly.

So come on down, party like a real Swede on the dance floor and come up for air to mingle and meet the handsome boys on both sides of the boat. Be sure to take your disco nap so you can climb up to the roof and watch the sun rise with all of your new friends, as you'll be dancing all night long until closing at 5 a.m, while watching the summer sun rise over Stockholm. Just remember...even though the sun has risen the night is still young.

Stadsgårdskajen 152, Stockholm

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Stay in touch while traveling

From IGLTA Member Earhart Adventures

Time zones alone can make keeping in contact challenging, so what is the best way to stay in touch while traveling internationally?

Most US carriers offer an international calling plan that provides you with a discounted rate for incoming, outgoing calls and text messaging. For example, ATT's international calling plans costs @ US$5.99/mth which would reduce a call from Argentina to the US from $2.29 to $1.99 a minute. Frankly there are better deals... read on...

You can rent a mobile (cell) phone that has a local phone number for the country you are visiting. If you are visiting multiple countries, or traveling there often, this may not be a good option (as you may want a more permanent phone number). Also signing a contract in a foreign language is not recommended! HOWEVER, there are companies where you can rent or buy the phones and plan in advance of your travels, and receive your phone prior to your departure. This is a good option... check out Telestial.

Companies like Skype.com allow you to make and receive phone calls and text message via the internet (technically called voice over internet protocol or VOIP).
If you have internet access and are going away for a long time or travel frequently, a service like Skype may be the most cost effective, and offers continual service with the same phone number...

Click here for the rest of the article.