Stay safe overseas

Safe overseas travel guidance

If you are a student or a member of staff at the University of Plymouth and you are planning to travel, we recommend you do plenty of research into the country you are going to, using guidebooks, the internet and contacting the relevant embassy. If you are travelling on University business make sure you have completed all your relevant health and safety documentation.

If you are unsure of travelling or have concerns please talk to whoever is organising the trip. You are not expected to travel if you have any doubts, or your safety is at risk.

The University has a legal responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 to have due regard to eliminate discrimination, advance equality and foster good relations for all of the ‘protected characteristics’.

Please see below safety information for a selection of countries, followed by some diversity and inclusion guidance for protected characteristics. If the country you are looking for is not featured below, please download our Safety information by country guide for further information.

Pre-travel checklist

  • Do your research; use guidebooks, the internet and our further advice links.
  • Find out where your nearest consulate or embassy will be and save their details in your phone.
  • Always tell someone your plans/location.
  • Research safe and accessible social spaces before you go out.
  • Ensure you follow advice on what to do with medication.
  • Check what is in your phone; apps, photos and documents in case the contents may pose an extra risk.
  • Know who to contact in an emergency; it may not always be safe to call the local police.

Featured countries

India

India is a wonderful melting pot of cultures, amazing cuisine and breath-taking scenery.

However, there is a risk to LGBT persons and women when visiting India:

  • Same-sex sexual activity is now legal in India, but there are no discrimination protections for LGBT persons, so you could be refused entry to businesses or face persecution for showing affection in public.
  • There are no equality protections for women in India and women are not protected from sexual harassment by law.

Jamaica

Jamaica is home to warm seas, tropical breezes and wonderful beaches, as well as exciting opportunities to explore nature.

However, there is a risk to LGBT persons and women when visiting Jamaica:

  • Same-sex sexual activity between men is illegal in Jamaica and you could face life imprisonment and/or hard labour.
  • There are limited protections for women in Jamaica and women are not always protected from sexual harassment by law.

Kenya

The wealth of opportunities and unique experiences available in Kenya are limitless.

However, there is a risk to LGBT persons and women when visiting Kenya.

  • Same-sex activity is illegal in Kenya since 1897 and you could be arrested for showing same-sex affection in public or private. The penalty is up to 14 years imprisonment.
  • Women have very limited legal protection from sexual harassment in Kenya.

Malaysia

Malaysia is full of warm seas, tropical weather and fascinating cultures.

However, there is a risk to LGBT persons and women when visiting Malaysia.

  • Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Malaysia with some of the strictest laws in the world. If convicted for showing any affection in public or private you could face twenty years imprisonment with fines and whippings.
  • There are no equality protections for women in Malaysia and sexual harassment is common on public transport.
  • Marital rape is legal in Malaysia.

Russia

Russia offers a wealth of opportunities and experiences and is steeped in history and culture.

However, there is a risk to LGBT persons, women and HIV+ travellers when visiting Russia: 

  • It is illegal to display any same-sex affection in Russia or show support for the LGBT community; a foreign national will be arrested and deported for doing so. 
  • There are no discrimination protections for LGBT people in Russia and LGBT persons can legally be refused entry to bars, shops, hotels and restaurants
  • There are very limited equality protections for women in Russia. Domestic violence is legal in Russian law and women are not protected from sexual harassment by law.
  • Any individual who is HIV+ will not be allowed entry to the country.

Solomon Islands

Rich in history with amazing wildlife and a surfer’s paradise, Solomon Islands can offer a travel experience like no other.

Unfortunately, if you identify as LGBT, are female or HIV+ you may experience problems whilst visiting Solomon Islands:

  • Same-sex sexual activity is illegal with up to 14 years in jail if convicted.
  • Any individual who is HIV+ will be detained and deported.
  • Marital rape is not a criminal offence in Solomon Islands, and there is no legal protection for women from domestic violence and sexual harassment.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is increasingly becoming a popular tourist destination thanks to its year-round hot weather.

However, there is a serious risk to LGBT persons, women and HIV+ travellers when visiting the UAE.

  • Same-sex activity is illegal in the UAE and you could face deportation, imprisonment or the death penalty for showing same-sex affection in public or private.
  • The UAE has some of the strictest laws against equality for women in the world. Women have no legal protection from sexual harassment and have severely restricted freedom of movement and freedom of speech.
  • Any individual who is HIV+ will not be allowed entry to the country.

United States of America (USA)

The USA is a vast and exciting country with a huge range of different cultures, attitudes and experiences available.

Whilst discrimination is constitutionally banned, each state may have different laws and levels of protection for LGBT persons and women. Some parts of the United States are not as tolerant and welcoming as others.

Diversity and inclusion guidance

Disability

Sometimes, overseas travel with a mental or physical disability can be challenging for a variety of reasons. A person has a disability 'if they have a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'.

Possible risks when travelling with a disability can include cultural acceptance of certain disabilities in some countries, availability of medication and required assistance and accessibility issues to buildings and modes of transport in some countries.

Gender re-assignment

In the UK attitudes toward trans people are slowly improving and trans people are protected from discrimination by law in the UK and most of Europe, however, this is not the case in all countries around the world. Attitudes can vary hugely and it is important you are fully aware of the laws and customs of the country you are travelling to so you can stay safe. ‘Transgender’ is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity, gender expression or behaviour does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Travelling as a trans person in many countries poses a high risk due to limited police protection/support, reduced access to medication and healthcare, issues at border control and the risk of physical violence.

HIV status

If you are HIV+ you are protected from discrimination in the UK under the Equality Act 2010 as HIV is classed as a disability. It is illegal in the UK for most organisations to ask for your HIV status (there are a few exceptions to this, which you can see on the Terrence Higgins Trust website). These rights and protections are not universally available across the world and you should find out more about travelling as HIV+ when planning your trip as you may find limited access to medication and health insurance or you may even be denied entry to the country.

Marriage and civil partnerships

Protection to marriage and civil partnerships only protects people who are married or in a civil partnership from discrimination. In England, Scotland and Wales marriage is not restricted to persons of the opposite sex and same-sex marriage and civil partnerships are legal. Northern Ireland does not recognise same-sex marriage.

Regardless of your marital or civil partnership status, public affection between both heterosexual and homosexual couples is still prohibited in a number of countries around the world and you could face imprisonment or deportation. In some countries this includes small acts of intimacy that we may take for granted in the UK such as holding hands or kissing.

There are not many countries around the world that legally recognise civil partnerships or same-sex marriage and you could face discrimination based on this. This discrimination could include denial of access to healthcare, denial of insurance, deportation and imprisonment.

Race and ethnicity

Discriminating against someone based on their race and/or ethnicity, or perceived race and/or ethnicity, is illegal in the UK and large parts of the world, in the UK this protection includes Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers. Protection on the grounds of nationality is subject to compliance with immigration rules.

Each country is different and so we recommend you research your destination thoroughly. It is not uncommon for racial profiling to be in place at airports in Western Europe, the United States, Australia and Israel where passengers with a darker skin tone or perceived to be of Arabic origin may face additional questioning. It is not uncommon for travellers with Jewish ancestry or of an Israeli nationality to be refused entry to Arab countries.

Religion and belief

Religion or belief should be taken to mean the full diversity of religious and belief affiliations within the UK, including non-religious and philosophical beliefs such as atheism, agnosticism and humanism. Whilst this full range is accepted in the UK and everyone is protected from discrimination in some countries around the world this is not the case where atheism, blasphemy or denouncement of a particular religion carries serious penalties including the death penalty. Antisemitism is particularly prevalent in Eastern European and Arab countries. Possible risks associated to religion and belief include the threat of violence, denial of entry to country and discrimination in accommodation.

Sex or gender

Sex is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. It protects individuals from discrimination based on their sex or gender. Whilst the UK, United States, Australia and New Zealand and most European countries offer this protection the picture varies across the world. There are some countries where women are not offered the same rights and protections as men, as a woman you may have limited freedom of movement, limited freedom of expression and speech and the threat of imprisonment.


Sexual orientation

In the UK everyone is protected from discrimination and harassment based on their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual or heterosexual. This is not the case in all countries around the world where sexual acts between two people of the same sex are illegal in over 70 countries and so your safety could be at risk. Laws vary across the world from simply not being protected from discrimination where a hotel could refuse you a room to imprisonment or the death penalty. It is also worth bearing in mind that using social media and location-based dating apps can be incredibly dangerous as some governments have used such services to entrap and imprison LGBT people. Always be aware of any local laws or the local culture that may impact you; police assistance may not be possible in all countries if you are accused of a crime related to being LGBT.

Contact us

If you are travelling overseas and wish to discuss safe travel and support, please contact our equality, diversity and inclusion team at equality@plymouth.ac.uk.