Vietnam is a relatively hassle-free destination for LGBTQI-travellers. In recent years, the country has made positive strides recognising the role of the LGBTQI community. Same-sex relationships and same-sex sexual acts are legal, and a ban on same-sex marriages was lifted in in January 2015. Viet Pride marches take place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and gay characters appear in mainstream television and films. That said, it is far from a gay utopia. Vietnam remains a socially conservative nation and many continue to hide their sexuality from their families. And while same-sex marriages are no longer illegal, they are not legally recognised either.

Travellers, however, are typically exempt from social stigma and usually find Vietnam to be an extremely hospitable and welcoming destination. While displays of affection will likely draw disapproving glares, the same holds true for straight couples. As long as LGBTQI-travellers display some discretion and respect local culture, they will have no problem visiting Vietnam. Just don’t expect to see many rainbow flags hanging from gay-only venues – the low-key gay scene found in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi is largely limited to gay-friendly and gay-owned establishments.

Crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh City

Queer culture in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

The most populous city in Vietnam boasts a number of bars, restaurants, saunas and hotels that are gay-friendly. The largest gay club, Republic, features a drag show each Friday, live music on Saturdays and a large dance floor. Full Disclosure puts on raucous monthly themed-LGBT parties with live music, drag shows and DJs that go late into the night. Gay-friendly parties can also be found at La Fenetre Soleil (44 Ly Tu Trong). Check their Facebook page for details. Whiskey and Wares is another popular bar owned by American and Vietnamese partners that serves up whiskey, craft beer and some great cocktails in a small trendy space. Located on De Tham, it attracts a mix of gay and straight expats, locals and travellers.

A busy street in Hanoi.

Queer culture in Hanoi

The gay scene in the capital is more low-key than Ho Chi Minh City. GC Bar is the best-known and longest running gay bar in Hanoi. Located within walking distance from the Old Quarter, it gets packed on Friday and Saturday nights. Savage, an underground electronic music club, also hosts popular monthly gay nights.

The city boasts some well-located gay-friendly hotels, including Art Hotel, Trendy Hotel and Artisan Boutique Hotel. Viet Pride festivities are biggest in Hanoi, where LGBTQI film screenings, panel discussions and other various events accompany the annual bicycle pride parade.

Check Utopia Asia for a more complete and up-to-date list of LGBTQI-friendly establishments in Vietnam.

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