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GAY AND LESBIAN TRAVELLERS

While Turkey is hardly a gay friendly country, homosexuality is not actually illegal and few gay or lesbian travellers report any problems during their stay.

A few hotels discreetly welcome gay travellers, sometimes indicating this by displaying the rainbow symbol. In most instances, though, two men or two women will almost certainly be given rooms with twin beds in until they insist on a different arrangement (which could conceivably result in unpleasantness away from the main tourist destinations).

İstanbul and Bodrum in particular have a lovely gay scene which doesn't appear to be difficult to penetrate. Time Out İstanbul in English, for example, has a listings page for gay venues.

Many visitors are surprised to discover that there is a sizeable transgender community in İstanbul. Their life appears to be hard and potentially dangerous but at the same time they remain so visible that they have even generated their own series of crime novels. Starting with The Prophet Murders, Mehmet Murat Somer's books lift the lid on a lifestyle that is a world away from the common preconception of Turkey.

The two main organisations for gays and lesbians in Turkey are:

LAMBDA İstanbul, www.lambdaistanbul.org

KAOS GL, www.kaosgl.org

Perhaps surprisingly, there is one İstanbul travel agency that specialises in making arrangements for gay travellers. Pride Travel (İncili Çavuş Sokak No. 15/4, Sultanahmet, İstanbul; tel: 0212-527 0671, www.turkey-gay-travel.com) has been in the business for many years and is handily based in the heart of İstanbul's tourist centre.

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