Tag Archives: Australia

City Spotlight: Sydney

While Sydney is commonly mistaken to be the capital of Australia (and we all know, it is of course Canberra) as it is the most populous and most well-known, many people do believe it is the country’s gay capital. Situated on the southeast coast – making it a very urban seaside city (like many in Australia such as Brisbane), Sydney is the capital of the state of New South Wales, was the site of Australia’s first British colony and is now the country’s most cosmopolitan and multicultural city. So why is Sydney – a very gay-friendly city – a must-visit destination for gay and lesbian travellers? Here we will tell you what LGBT tourists to Sydney can expect from and experience in this lovely city.

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Sydney is consistently ranked by top experts and websites as one of the best cities in the world to live in and one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations and has a very rich culture that centres around music, performing arts and sports. Some of the city’s top attractions include the famous Sydney Opera House, the Olympic Park, numerous arts galleries, museums, arts festivals (some of the biggest in Australia), Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Tower, public sculptures and of course some of the many beaches surrounding the city and nearby areas.

Although the government have yet to acknowledge same-sex marriage, research has shown that the majority of the Australian population do support and want it. Other LGBT rights are mostly in line with other first-world countries, such as anti-discrimination legislation, the right to change one’s legal gender and in some states the right to adopt and foster children. Gay life in Sydney however, does flourish and is predominantly centred around the Darlinghurst (mainly Oxford Street) and Surry Hills districts, alongside others, where a large number of gay-owned and gay-friendly business reside, include bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, saunas and accommodation. Bondi, Obelisk and Lady Jane beaches are some of the most frequented beaches by gays and are very busy during the summer months, both day and night. The many bars and clubs vary far and wide, with ones to suit everyone’s style and preferences – there are men-only places, lesbian bars, trans bars, cabaret and drag queen bars, high-end and cheaper places for those with different budgets, large and loud clubs for the young and hip and those who prefer an older, mature crowd and a quieter place to chill.

Sydney’s LGBT pride parade, commonly known as Mardi Gras, is similar in extravagance to those in Brazil. It is the largest of this event in Australia and in the southern hemisphere outside of South America, attracting over 300,000 people who watch the Parade and around 70,000 who attend Fair Day, the opening day of the event which lasts a few weeks in February and March. The event grew from gay rights marches held annually since 1978 and  it is now New South Wales’ second-largest annual event in terms of economic impact, generating an annual income of about A$30 million for the state, proving the power of the “Pink Dollar” and gay travel. The Mardi Gras Film Festival also takes place during this time. QueerScreen is another film festival held in Newtown district in September and Sydney Pride – not to be confused with Mardi Gras is another large and popular LGBT event held every June for about two weeks.

Sydney is one of Gay Homestays‘ top destinations and our most popular in Australia with over 30 accommodations available – from gay guest rooms in apartments and houses, whole properties and gay or gay-friendly rooms in guesthouses – in the city and its surrounding area, though many are situated in or around Sydney’s gay area. Obviously the most popular time to visit Sydney or any other area of Australia is during the summer (December to February) and when Mardi Gras is on, though Sydney’s climate is still pretty stable and mild (average of 15-20 degrees Celsius) throughout the rest of the year.

Gay couchsurfing

Gay couchsurfing = couchsurfing for gay people. Couchsurfing = forgoing the traditional hotel or hostel experience and staying with locals instead. In this week’s blog, we investigate why couchsurfing is appealing to more and more people in the gay community and why gay couchsurfing is becoming such a trend!

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“Couchsurfing” is a travel trend that has been growing for a number of years now. The idea: instead of booking a hotel or hostel, you travel around the world staying in the homes of other like-minded people, and when you get back, maybe host a few travellers yourself. Cheaper than a hostel or hotel, and you get a personal host and a potential new friend for life.

As the couchsurfing community has grown, the types of guests and hosts have become more various. The name “couchsurfing” of course comes from the idea of staying on peoples couches, and maybe you need to stay for one night in the centre of Berlin as cheaply as possible, and are happy to sleep on the sofa of a cool guy’s flat for a couple of Euros. Or maybe you’re happy to spend $200 a night for a multi-bedroom palatial Manhattan penthouse that comes complete with a  New Yorker who wants to share all the best party spots with you. Maybe you’re hosting to supplement your income, and you’ll keep yourself to yourself and leave your guest to their own devices, or maybe you’ll be doing tequila shots with them, cooking them your local cuisine and inviting them to party with your friends. The truth is, all of these are okay. The important thing is to be honest and up front with what you want from the experience, whether it be through an online profile or through direct communication with a potential couchsurfing buddy. In this way, you’ll find somebody you’re going to be comfortable with and there will be no awkwardness later on. 

Likewise, as couchsurfing has increased in popularity, the number of couchsurfing networks have grown, and websites like Gay Homestays now offer a couchsurfing database designed exclusively for the gay community. So what can couchsurfing offer the gay community?

Couchsurfing as a concept does attract laid-back and liberal people, and there’s every chance any straight couchsurfing host would be totally cool with your sexuality. But when you know you’re staying with someone the same sexuality as you, its a weight off your shoulders, especially if you’re travelling abroad to a country where the level of acceptance of gays may be different to that of your own country. In this way, couchsurfing can feel even more safe than staying in a hostel, as you know there’s going to be another gay person there, and that you’re going to be accepted and not have to think about hiding who you are or “coming out” to your fellow travellers. If you’re worried about what the local attitude to gay people could be, it’s great to know that you have a safety net, and an opportunity to talk with someone directly about what it’s like to be a gay person in another part of the world.

Furthermore, by staying with a gay person from the local area, you can get the low-down on the best places to go. Maybe you’re going somewhere with a huge gay district, and your host can tell you what’s hot and what’s not. Or maybe you’re going to somewhere with no gay district at all, and your host can tell you where the off-the-map hangout is. Either way, your host can be your link to the scene, and many guests and hosts make long-lasting friendships from sharing the secrets of their city with each other.

Of course, if you’ve never done it before, the idea of staying with a complete stranger can be intimidating. Make use of features of couchsurfing websites like the reviews. The couchsurfing community tends to review much more than hotel guests: if a guest has had a great host, they want to help them out and leave them a good review, and help out their fellow travellers with the information too. Gay Homestays also has an optional host verification system, where hosts can provide the site with information such as a copy of their passport to receive an extra stamp of approval.

So what are you waiting for? Get out, see the world, and make some new friends along the way.