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LGBT travelers in Poland

My husband and I are planning a Central Europe itinerary for next spring, and we're on the fence about whether to add Krakow or not (to Munich-Vienna-Prague-Budapest). We understand Poland is a conservative country generally speaking, but the news about anti-LGBT politics coming out of Poland in the last year or so has become alarming.

Would love info from anyone (and especially other LGBT people) who've recently been to Poland/Krakow specifically on what the climate was there re: LGBT travelers. Is Krakow incredible enough for us to justify some discomfort for a few days on our trip? Should we skip it in favor of another destination? Should we skip it and instead add time to our itinerary in our other destinations?

Thanks!

Posted by
4777 posts

No personal experience, but did see a recent map of Europe where attitudes toward same sex marriages was shown. As you indicated Poland was in the category of majority against, but the Czech Republic was about 50-50, and most of the former Soviet Block countries, including Hungary, were Majority Against. Most of Western Europe was highly favorable, some weaker support in Italy and Greece.

These are averages, so urban areas and resort/tourist areas tend to be much more tolerant. I do not think you need fear violence, though if there was an unlikely protest, I would veer away. I am not suggesting changing your behavior, but in the more Eastern Countries, PDA might attract unwanted attention, some couples report a bit of tension when requesting a single bed at hotels for example.

Overall, I would say don't worry, go, have fun, be cognizant of the culture, it should be fine. You might try some other boards (Lonely Planet for example), LGBT travel is not a big topic here, so another perspective would be good.

Posted by
1255 posts

Most of central and all of eastern Europe is hostile to LGBT. Poland, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia etc. Czech is actually better than some. In fact if we are painting a complete picture, the entire world except US, Canada, and parts of Western Europe are not on board with LGBT rights. There is no place in any of these regions where you would be totally safe holding hands, engaging in PDAs etc. So do you what you want. If you think you are making some sort of statement by not going believe me they could care less and would actually be thrilled you aren't coming.

Posted by
1285 posts

I am gay, and I was in Poland this past April. (I'm a solo traveler, though, so I didn't have to worry about finding lodging that would accept a same-sex couple.)

I visited Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw, Torun, and Gdansk. I asked various tour guides in these cities about attitudes toward the LGBTQ community. Universally, I was told that while there are a lot of conservative social attitudes in Poland, the cities are far more tolerant and open-minded. I think it's probably very similar to the US in that respect.

Krakow is well worth a visit. Only you can decide how comfortable you would be holding hands or other PDAs as you roam the streets. Also, keep in mind that in the parts of Krakow you'll be exploring, you will probably be observed by more foreign tourists than locals.

Also, I think Hungary and perhaps Austria aren't very different from Poland in their social and political conservatism. In fact, Hungary may be worse.

Posted by
2575 posts

Conservative behaviour may be the answer, even if it smacks of social regression. PDA, even between non same sex couples is frowned upon in places. Women have to act differently in a lot of the world. So it often falls to the traveler to decide whether adjusting to fit the local norm is worth it or not. In this case, it may mean no PDA and separate beds. You have to decide if it is worth it.

Posted by
1791 posts

all of eastern Europe is hostile to LGBT. Poland, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia etc.

Please, I've been to Poland many times, and that's simply untrue and quite sensationalist, how can you lump together half of Europe, and say everyone there is "hostile". Yes there are many areas where it is looked down upon and not particularly welcome, but you are going to Krakow, the most popular city to visit for international tourists in Poland, not some small Russian village on the Volga. I think you will be fine. Consider also Warsaw, Gdansk or Wroclaw, these are more cosmopolitan than Krakow and I feel more LGBTQ friendly.

I do not pass unequivocal judgment on all Americans just because of who's currently in the WH, I know many Americans who are quite sane... ;-)

Posted by
1255 posts

For sure the cities are always going to be more welcoming than the countryside, especially when you are surrounded by only foreign tourists, which most people seem to like to be. But in these locales the fact is the population, including in the cities, is not as tolerant. Here in Bulgaria I have read some pretty horrible things that have happened to LGBT and minority travelers, which boil down to wrong place, wrong time mixed with the wrong people (ultras being number one on the usual suspect list). But when there are more "wrong people," your odds go up.

Posted by
1255 posts

Also feel free to pass judgment on Americans. As an American I 100% give you permission to hold people responsible for who they elect as a leader in a democratic election.

Posted by
1615 posts

The current Polish government and the powerful Catholic Church in Poland have both made their views of LGBT issues perfectly clear.

My husband and I visited Krakow several years ago before the political and social climate morphed into its current state, or before we became as politically aware as we are these days.
We were not mistreated. But I will not return to Poland, nor to Hungary or to several other countries. And I still question my decisions to have gone in the first place.
I can no longer in good conscience contribute in any way to a regime that would discriminate against us...even if discrimination alone was the worst possible outcome.
Today marks the anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard of Laramie, Wyoming. Was he in the wrong place (his home), wrong time (his life) with the wrong people (his fellow human beings)? It’s a little different when you’re gay.

Posted by
1371 posts

Wrocław had a huge pride march this weekend. There were some early counter protestors, but they weren't drawing much attention. Well, none, from what I could see.

There were hundreds of police officers positioned around town and around the Rynek. They were making their presence felt and scanning visitors as we passed through barriers. I wasn't there when the march came through (wish I could have been to see it) but it all seemed peaceful before and after. The heavily tourist crowd just went on snapping pictures of dwarves.

Later that evening, the police presence was still heavily visible. I noticed an openly gay couple passing through, and the police stayed pretty close to them to limit any disruptions. Nobody seemed to pay them any attention.

A few businesses flew pride flags. Not many though.

Our tour guide explained that Wrocław, a university town, is somewhat more liberal.

Posted by
10673 posts

Most of central and all of eastern Europe is hostile to LGBT. Poland,
Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia etc. Czech is actually
better than some.

Also, I think Hungary and perhaps Austria aren't very different from
Poland in their social and political conservatism. In fact, Hungary
may be worse.

I always speak out against anecdotal information having much value. So take this as just one person's observation and do a lot more research if you are at all concerned.

I was in Budapest a few weeks ago, having a glass of wine at a sidewalk table at my favorite wine bar. Over about a two hour period the gay couple sitting next to me got the same service as I did and not once did I see anyone give them a disrespectful look. Over the years I cant say I have seen more than a few openly gay couples in Budapest, but I can say I have never seen them get any more attention than what they wanted.

Here is this year's gay pride parade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gx2Rr1hD6Lo
But so you dont think its all roses, this one shows some of the less than pleased people who turned out. The police did their job very well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XS1bWZ-M260

Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, and some others I would imagine, do have a fairly strong extremest segment that makes up as much as 15% of the population. But they are also countries with very low crime rates which seems to translate into; I dont like it but I cant do anything about it.

I would enter a town or a city and spend a little time observing the norm of public behavior between significant others, then comport to that norm; or a tiny bit more conservative.

Posted by
10673 posts

I did notice that Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and Hungary are neither on the "Best" nor the "Worst" on this list if that helps any.
https://blog.tortugabackpacks.com/lgbtq-travel-best-worst-countries/

This one is interesting too, and sort of tracks the other one. https://rainbow-europe.org/country-ranking Interesting that some fairly right wing countries did as well as they did.

And https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay-friendly

There does seem to be some consistency between the three, but you would have to read the standards used to determine how it might impact you.

Posted by
316 posts

I also noticed that the blogger that penned that list does not, for the most part, seem to speak from experience, which renders some of his conclusions questionable at best.

somewhat strong text, ETA James E, I think you will find that most netiquette guidelines generally frown upon heavily editing one's comments after they have been responded to.

Posted by
1615 posts

Nor does he mention the many countries where homosexuality is criminalized OR punishable by death
Worthless .

Posted by
241 posts

Like another poster mentioned, Polish people are not PDA sorts in any public areas. It is very traditional for a man to kiss a ladies' hand when he greets her. You won't have any problems in the cities and probably not in the countryside either. The Polish people sometimes come across as harsh, especially the older ones, but consider what decades of communist and fascist oppression has done to their society. In reality, they are very warm and hospitable.

Posted by
316 posts

The Polish people ... are very warm and hospitable.

Very true.

They may come across as harsh

Also very true.

.

..but consider what decades of communist and fascist oppression has done to their society.

Well, it's tempting to write it down to totalitarian history of oppression - but I think it's an oversimplification.

Think Italy, Spain, Finland, or Germany - or Cuba, Georgia, or Vietnam... Doesn't add up, does it?

Something else must be at play. I tend to think it's a Slavic thing (which, of course, is an even more glaring generalization:-)

Posted by
1791 posts

I think many Americans only equate "Polish History" to the 20th century, in fact they have had a 1000 history of bravely fending off significant hostile invasions, from the Teutonic Knights, the Tartars, the Bohemians, the Ottomans, the Swedish Deluge, the various Partitions of Austria/Prussia/Russia... that has to do something to the national psyche. These communist and fascist oppression are just recent incarnations.

If you want to know more about this, I would highly recommend this book: God's Playground: A History of Poland by Norman Davies, it gives a good insight into the Polish people and their history.

Posted by
4062 posts

For what it is worth, you will be very welcome in Vienna.

Posted by
10673 posts

And Emily, I would want to be where I am comfortable, welcome and at ease; and Austria would be at the top of that list. I'm a little sensitive on the issue for personal reasons and once did a little research on the subject which is why I knew about those links I posted and the details of the worst offender in Europe. Few forms of hatred anger me more.

Posted by
1 posts

I am a gay man who traveled to Poland in September, 2019. Krakow is an incredibly beautiful city, with wonderful restaurants and definitely worth going to. I did not feel any discomfort. I stayed at the Ibis Krakow Centrum, and there was a rack of tourist information in the lobby hat included a brochure on gay places in Krakow. While I did not go to any bars, I did eat at a gay friendly cafe/bakery a few blocks from the hotel (on the way to the Old Town) that had a "Love is Love" sign in front with rainbow flag. I also enjoyed Warsaw, which has a gay friendly mayor who spoke at the recent Warsaw Gay Pride. As in the USA, urban areas in Poland are far more gay-friendly than small towns.