5 best travel companies for India’s LGBT community

India seems to be a growing market for LGBT travel.
Image courtesy: Lonely Planet/Tom Robinson

The US has, in one flourishing sweep, made same sex marriages legal recently. Chalk that up as good for equal rights. In India, there’s been a fair bit of change, too, for the better.

Several states have set up special development boards for transgenders and a provision has been introduced for the third gender in official forms. The first Indian ad featuring a lesbian couple went viral in June this year and topped three million views across various forms of social media within a few days. Yes, the archaic Sec 377 may still hold sway, but here’s hoping…

Meanwhile, India seems to be a growing market for LGBT travel. In November 2011, a US-based LGBT market research company had organised the 1st Asian Symposium on Gay & Lesbian Tourism with about 75 tour and hotel operators. According to LGBT tour operators, metros as well as smaller cities have emerged as destinations for pink travellers. These include Kerala, Khajuraho, Varanasi, Udaipur, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, towns in the Himalayan foothills, Delhi, Goa and Kolkata.

Here’s a guide to travel operators and online platforms in India that cater to the LGBT community.


India’s first ‘homosexual travel boutique,’ Indjapink was launched in 2008 by New-Delhi based fashion designer Sanjay Malhotra with a goal to provide relaxed vacations to homosexual men in India without the fear of discrimination. “It was toasted by the world LGBT community as India’s first luxury travel organization for gay men only,” says Malhotra who has a professional degree in Fashion Designing from IIFT, Delhi. Malhotra also runs The Mister & Art House in New Delhi – India’s first boutique luxury guest house for homosexual men.

Among Indjapink’s most memorable journeys was the one to Leh-Ladakh. “The group had gentlemen from US, Denmark, Belgium, Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. The age group was between late 20s to late 40s. We had fun enjoying the picturesque surroundings!”

Malhotra is upbeat about LGBT travel in India. “Recent changes in travel and tourism laws are making India much more welcoming and appealing to the world. And with the emergence and increase of various LGBT-friendly set-ups and organisations, I think India is all set to give a big welcome to LGBT tourists.”

Check out their website, here.

Pink Vibgyor

Pink Vibgyor was set up in 2009, and is jointly run by New Delhi-based Rajat Singla and Sydney-based Peter Hosie. Singla has completed a Masters in Tourism and International Business from Waikato University, New Zealand, and says, “I came back to join my dad’s business. He’s been in the tourism industry for 35 years and runs his own travel agency – Club Holidays and Adventures. The LGBT tour outfit is a sub-division of Club Holidays and Adventures.”

Singla and Hosie specialise in group tours. A few of their tours have made an impact because of their trademark itinerary, locations, hotels (“which we choose very carefully to give the best value for money”) and tour guides who make the trips memorable. Some of these include one to North India and Nepal with tonga rides in Agra, heritage walks in Varanasi, boat rides on the Ganges, sunrise visits to the Taj, and a special flight to view Mt Everest in Nepal. Other memorable tours were to Myanmar with a private island dinner and a visit to a community-run school in Lake Inley, and one to Sri Lanka which included a visit to Geoffrey Bawa’s Bawa Garden in Bentota, having high tea and understanding his life as an influential homosexual architect.

They have several other brands under their name including Gay Trip India; http://www.gaytours.in, a website for American and Canadian clients offering cheap and expensive tours of India; and http://www.gaytoursrilanka.com for travel to Sri Lanka.

Singla feels India is fine as an LGBT-friendly destination but they do take precautions to make sure their clients face no harassment. “We make reservations directly so hotels are aware of clientele and portfolio of the clients. A group leader from our company is always with them, helping with local language, resolving issues, and making sure everything goes smoothly.”

Check out their website, here.

Planeta Rosa

Planet Rosa is based out of Delhi and the senior management has over two decades of experience in the industry. Their services include gay luxury holiday packages within India, hotel bookings, car rental, flight and train tickets. If you are looking for friendly hotels and resorts, or want to make travel arrangements for a pride event, are interested in adventure travel, honeymoon packages or just a romantic getaway to a LGBT-friendly destination, this is the tour operator for you. COO Varun Lakhotia started Planeta Rosa. He has an MBA under his belt and has worked at Citibank.

Visit their Facebook page, for more.

Queer Ink

This is a hip online platform for the LGBT community. It began life as an online bookstore, and is now also a publisher, after Shobhna S. Kumar discovered that there were less than a hundred books she found on issues and lives of the LGBT community in India.  You may want to check out the site’s Queer Calendar section which lists queer events scheduled for the next couple of months.

Check out their website, here.

Pink Escapes

Pink Escapes is run by Bhuvan Mehta who has been in the hospitality business for over 15 years. He has studied at the Institute of Hotel Management and also trained as an Interior Designer from a premier institution. What sets Pink Escapes apart is the emphasis it places on introducing travellers to the life of the LGBT community in the places people visit. It organises outings to select social clubs for an insight into the lifestyle of like-minded people; visits to gay-owned or gay-run boutiques, restaurants and other establishments; interactions with gay social activists and gay-owned charitable organisations. Pink Escapes also offers a choice of luxury options like helicopter rides to Ananda Spa in the Himalayas; flying by private jets, and backwater cruises with private chefs and butlers on board.

Check out their website, here.


AUTHOR'S BIO: Anuradha Sengupta is a freelance writer and founder-editor of Jalebi Ink, an award-winning media collective for children and youth. A compulsive city-walker, she loves exploring urban cultures and is a columnist for NY-based Karta, a collaborative urban mapping project. Her most memorable adventure was in Afghanistan as digital media advisor, setting up citizens' media centres.