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, July 23, 2012

There's More to Costa Rica

By Sheryl Kay
It is a land of many dichotomies. Costa Rica is home to incredible Atlantic Ocean sunrises, yet just a few hours drive away the sun sinks lazily into the surf of the Pacific Ocean. The land is fertile, perfect for growing cocoa beans, but you'd be hard pressed to find chocolate bars made in Costa Rica.

And while the country is Catholic by law, even to the extent that the priests are government employees, the Costa Rican LGBT community is growing bolder every day. It's true that there are no civil rights laws in place to protect the community, but most locals will tell you their countrymen espouse the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. As long as you don't talk about it, it's fine to be gay.

Of course Manuel Antonio, located on the southwest coast, is well known. Few places in Costa Rica are as open and welcoming. The Hotel Villa Roca is a long recognized icon in the community, gay owned and operated. Nestled on a hillside, it offers stunning views overlooking the rain forest and the Pacific Ocean.

We landed in San Jose, where the nightlife is extensive. Don't miss La Avispa, the oldest LGBT bar and disco in the country; Cafe Mundo, a quiet bohemian spot; Omar Khayaam, where the mid East cuisine meets student life just adjacent to the University; and Castilla, for the younger, less affluent crowd. 

Our tour then took off on an incredible journey, from the rim of the Poas Volcano, bubbling with active fumaroles; to the rainforest canopy of Tortuguero National Park, replete with dozens of monkeys, exotic tropical birds, and rainbow-colored butterflies; to the Northwest coast of Guanacaste where surfers await the big one.  

We learned every step of coffee production at the Doka Plantation, walked 16 hanging aerial bridges in Arenal, dipped in the Eco Termales hot springs, watched an endangered green turtle lay eggs under the starlight, made authentic hot chocolate, rode the Bebedero River beside 10-foot crocodiles, and participated in the ancient Chorotegan method of hand making pottery.

Costa Rica is a place where you can find the rainbow flag, or you can just fly yourself via zip line among the multihued butterflies. Either way, it’s a pallet of adventures.

Sheryl Kay is a freelance photographer and journalist who also serves as the Out In Front editor for CURVE Magazine.  She can be reached at skreporter@hotmail.com  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pattaya, Thailand - An LGBT Traveler's Paradise

By Brett Hayhoe
Bangkok to me is just another big city. My real love is around an hour and a half from Bangkok: the beautiful beachside city of Pattaya (Chon Buri).

For the LGBT traveller, Pattaya (and neighbouring Jomtien) is heavenly. From Boyztown (an area specifically designed by Jim Lumsden and his business partner Gordon May) to the bars, nightclubs and beaches, this area has something for everyone. The accommodation on offer encompasses all star ratings and often includes breakfast. My personal recommendation would be The Ambiance or the newly built Baan Souy Resort. The two properties are very different. Both properties feature in the July issue of Q Magazine and you can read more about them on my website at www.qmagazine.com.au.

For total relaxation, Sansuk is a beautiful sauna in the area and is within walking distance of Baan Souy Resort. It has amazing facilities including a bar, restaurant, pool and in October this year will complete a whole new accommodation wing with elevator access to all floors and to the older section. It is open from 2 p.m. daily and is a favourite spot for socialising in a safe and friendly environment. 

It is advisable to consult as many websites as possible prior to visiting Thailand. There are specific protocols that will make the exercise a lot less surprising. You can choose to indulge in the wilder side of life or simply laze on the beach, buy a foot or full body massage, and enjoy light refreshments and food with the panoramic vista of water, boats and the buildings of the area.

I have often said that Buddha would be so proud of Thailand and its people, and I don’t say that flippantly. The people really do make this country special. They are generous, centred, happy, accommodating, welcoming and attractive to boot. Their demeanor is one of mai pen rai (in layman's terms: "no worries"). Nothing is a hassle, service is paramount and if you’re on a budget you can’t go wrong. This is obviously assisted by the very healthy exchange rate with most other currencies and a flamboyant barter system.

I have travelled all over the world but no place relaxes me like Thailand – and in particular Pattaya. If you have any specific questions I would be more than happy to receive them via my personal email: brett@hayhoe.com.au

Brett Hayhoe is the publisher & editor of Australia's Q Magazine.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Iceland - A Fresh Meeting Point!

By Hannes Sasi Palsson 
Queer Sports Club Styrmir, in co-operation with LGBT travel experts Pink Iceland, hosted the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics World Championships in Iceland from May 30 to June 2. 

450 competitors and about 150 supporters graced Reykjavík for the biggest organized LGBT event the country has ever seen. 

The idea was planted at the Copenhagen Outgames in 2009, and a bid to host the event was presented at the Gay Games in Cologne in 2010. With support from the city of Reykjavík, The Ministry for Sports and The Icelandic Swimming Association, the organizing team was able to secure part of the funds necessary, the aquatic facilities and the expertise needed to run the championships. The overwhelmingly positive reaction from those who were approached echoes the general attitudes Icelanders have towards the LGBT community; and while most were happy to support a good cause that livens the city up, the financial benefits of hosting an event of this size escaped few people.

Competition was set up so that most people competed either before or after noon, freeing them up to take part in tours and activities organized by Pink Iceland and their affiliates. The most popular one was the Fontana Tour where guests visited Iceland’s most famous landmarks and then took a soak in Iceland’s newest thermal baths at Laugarvatn. Some ventured further out to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

Modest estimates value the worth of the championship to the Icelandic economy at $1.2 million dollars, creating a very high ROI on the $50,000 support from local authorities and government.

Reykjavík, and its guests, enjoyed 10 consecutive days of sun and unseasonally high temperatures before, during and after the championship. With its open society, breathtaking nature, vibrant nightlife and lively locals, Iceland's way forward is gay. All the way.

For more information, visit www.pinkiceland.is.