Putting the record straight: Sri Lanka warmly welcomes LGBTQ+ travellers
As part of its ongoing ‘Responsible Tourism’ program, The Travel Concierge Sri Lanka has pulled together the facts to give the LGBTQ+ community peace of mind when it comes to travelling around Sri Lanka.
While parts of Sri Lankan society are conservative, today any form of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community is illegal in Sri Lanka – as a result, the island is increasingly recognised as the ideal tropical destination for anyone and everyone to enjoy holiday romance.
The tourism industry across the country is liberal minded and happily invites LGBTQ+ guests to experience the wonders of the island freely. Travellers will discover that as a predominantly Buddhist country, Sri Lanka is a calm, warm and welcoming country. It also lends itself perfectly to boutique-style holidays.
Business as usual
Tymeron (Tymo) Carvalho, a Colombo-based fashion model and LGBTQ+ activist who frequently works at luxury properties across the country, says that when it comes to the travel industry in Sri Lanka and servicing the LGBTQ+ community, it’s “business as usual”.
“Sri Lankans are so warm and friendly and their eyes sparkle with happiness when welcoming guests…” he says.
As when travelling to many countries, visitors to Sri Lanka are simply reminded that local religions and communities should be respected, and that they should be mindful about brazen public displays of affection. Swimwear and going without a shirt is perfectly fine beside the pool and on the beach, but not while you’re strolling through streets and villages. Female travellers should never go topless, unless they have their own private pool. And thankfully, many of Sri Lanka’s boutique accommodations do.
Doug and Sanj – look them up on Instagram @thetravellinggays – chose Sri Lanka for their honeymoon earlier this year. “It was both of our first time in Sri Lanka and we were blown away by the hospitality we received in every place we stayed,” they say.
“Every time we changed resorts we were greeted with honeymoon messages written on the bed in flowers along with cards, chocolates and even bubbles congratulating us on our recent wedding. It made us feel so welcome and accepted as a newly married gay couple.”
In a good place
For a small island nation, Sri Lanka is packed with diversity and lends itself perfectly to tailored itineraries. Laahiru Jayamanne, executive director of The Travel Concierge Sri Lanka, says the company only uses genuinely LGBTQ+ friendly properties – “not that I know any that aren’t” – when crafting itineraries. He also says that there has been a growing trend in LGBTQ+ travellers visiting Sri Lanka, many with children in tow, and others booking and multi-generational stays.
Laahiru notes that while there’s no official gay scene in Sri Lanka, there’s a thriving underground queer culture that embraces international visitors. He says that in Colombo, many of the bars and restaurants of premium hotels are frequented by locals and there are usually pop-up events over the weekends. “The Travel Concierge Sri Lanka is able to advise guests of what is on during their stay, keeping in mind it’s best to save the city for the weekend.”
The beach resort town of Negombo, which is close to Colombo’s international airport, is also a popular hangout for members of the LGBTQ+ community, says Laahiru, noting that the town is among the most open-minded destinations in the country.
“Travellers would be hard pressed to find an easier, and better, destination to suit everyone than Sri Lanka,” says Laahiru.
The top LGBTQ+ friendly resort picks
The Uga portfolio includes Ulagalla in Anuradhapura, Jungle Beach in Trincomalee and Chena Huts in Sri Lanka’s wildlife hotspot Yala. These three destinations offer a sensational luxury combo for those that want to experience culture, heritage, beach and safari.
Madukelle Tea & Eco Lodge
In the Knuckles Mountain Range and with stunning views, Madukelle Tea & Eco Lodge offers top-class service for those wanting to retreat to a picturesque tea plantation.
A lush eco-resort on its exclusive and private island, Kaju has a focus on health and wellbeing. As a bonus, it’s close to Unawatuna and colonial Galle Fort.
Aqua by Cantaloupe
AQUA is a private and chic boutique hotel just steps from the sand on Sri Lanka’s south coast. Contemporary and affordable, the property is all about barefoot luxury – it’s a magnet for Instagrammers.
Aathma Colombo House
This 10-room boutique property in Colombo is ideal for those who love their accommodation to come with a personality. It’s set beside a lake – why not jump straight into a seaplane and explore the region from the air?
For full information check out LGBT+ Sri Lanka.
The Travel Concierge Sri Lanka is an independent, 100 per cent owned tour operator approved by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, bringing guests the very best ethical and diverse experiences across the country.
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Lead image: Doug and Sanj at Chena Huts by Uga Escapes