Cape Town’s gay scene is predominantly white, though more and more LGBT-friendly clubs are beginning to emerge in the surrounding townships, where the majority of people are black.
Pretoria’s gay and lesbian scene has grown considerably in the last few years, whilst the gay scene in Johannesburg is notably multiracial. There are also smaller gay scenes in Port Elizabeth, Knysna and Durban and you’ll find an increasing number of LGBT-friendly clubs and bars in small town across South Africa.
There are a number of gay pride festivals in Cape Town during February and March (see www.capetownpride.org) and in Johannesburg in September and October. More recently, Pretoria and even Soweto now have Pride marches. There are also film festivals and street parties; Durban hosts ‘The Bent’, a monthly party held on the last Friday of every month.
Cape Town, being South Africa’s main hub for LGBT travellers, has a vibrant gay culture and attracts visitors from within South Africa, as well as globally. The heart of gay Cape Town is the chic De Waterkant, especially the entertainment strip of Somerset Road where you’ll find a good number of dedicated bars and clubs, as well as the inner-city suburbs of Green Point and Sea Point.
Although South Africa is a great destination for LGBT travellers and there are increasingly events and places where one can be openly gay, we also recognise that there is a very fine, and often blurred, line between expressing your identity and being respectful of local customs as a responsible traveller.
In the tourism industry, and more specifically in South Africa's more remote camps, lodges and hotels, staff have been welcoming a wide range of guests, from different countries and backgrounds, for many years. Rooms are almost universally configured with double or twin beds, as requested, without fuss, even where some camp staff may retain quite conservative personal views.
We'd advise all our travellers, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, to avoid overt displays of affection or sexual behaviour, as these could offend people. We’d also suggest avoiding skimpy, see through or overly-tight clothing when in more traditional or rural communities.
To conclude, the vast majority of people in South Africa are friendly to visitors, gay or straight, and in our experience, LBGT travel here is usually fine and uneventful.
Further sources of advice for LGBT TravellersA few of the most obvious sources of advice for LGBT Travellers to South Africa are:
- The UK Foreign Office (FCO) offers up-to-date advice for countries worldwide on their local laws and customs pages. Check out in particular:
- The pages for South Africa Travel Advice are essential reading for all of our travellers visiting South Africa. Don't forget to also read the advice for other countries that you may visit, or transit through, as part of your trip.
- There is more general advice, not specific to Africa, on the FCO's LGB&T foreign travel advice page.
- A less formal and very useful, hands-on source of information on events and organisation across the country is the on-line gay lifestyle magazine Mamba.
- More specifically for Cape Town, Gay Cape Town is a great resource for guidance on all things LGBT in the city.
- The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) provides information on the laws of countries worldwide, focused around a series of summary maps.
- The Wikipedia entry on LGBT rights in Africa is extensive, with a good country-by-country summary table.
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