Travel and Sex: How To Manage Your Sex Life While Travelling

by Brenna Holeman

Heart in Chile

Valparaiso, Chile

Sex. It’s not often discussed on travel blogs, but it should be. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, if you’re sexually active it is an important thing to think about before you set off on your trip. It could be a two-week holiday, it could be a round-the-world, year-long adventure – whatever the case, if there is even the slightest chance that you will have sex (yes, I’m including you coupled-up folks as well), there are a few things to consider. While many of these tips are common sense, and should be applied at home as well as abroad, I thought I’d share my opinions and pointers on the subject. Whether or not you want to believe this is from personal experience…well, I don’t kiss and tell. Sort of.

Please note: these are just my opinions. I am not a doctor, therapist, sociologist, or sex guru of any kind*.

1. Before you even set foot on the road, think about what precautions you can take to ensure that you have happy and healthy sex. If you are a woman on the pill or other forms of birth control, make sure you are stocked up or up-to-date for the duration of your trip. In Canada, for example, you need a prescription for birth control pills, but some countries, like Thailand, allow you to purchase the pill over-the-counter. I would not rely on this, however, as pills can change country to country and it’s always best to talk to a doctor before taking anything of the sort. You may want to consider other forms of birth control (IUD, Implanon) as pills come with risks: they can be less effective if exposed to extreme heat, they can be stolen or lost, you can forget to take them every day, or they can be ineffective if you become sick or use antibiotics. Women may also want to consider the HPV vaccine. Again, talk to your doctor about all of this, and talk about it well before you leave.

2. Similarly, bring condoms. I can’t stress this enough. Condoms vary around the world and you will feel better (and safer) if you travel with a stash of the brand you are comfortable with. I have had to buy condoms while on the road a few times and it was never a pleasant experience – you often have to speak to someone face to face at a pharmacy and, unless you know the word for condom in that language, you will have to act it out. Let me repeat that: you will have to mime that you need a condom. Also, some countries will simply not stock condoms. I once rode a motorbike in Sri Lanka with my boyfriend at the time for three towns until we found a pharmacy (it also may have just been a shanty on the side of the road) that had one lone box of condoms. Enhanced condoms. Seriously, do yourself a favour and bring them from home. Hell, think optimistically – bring a LOT from home. Make sure they don’t expire before you return home, and throw them away as soon as they expire.

3. OK, so you have a backpack full of prophylactics and you arrive in your destination. You’re single, and you want to…I refuse to type mingle but oh God I typed it anyway. If you do meet somebody you’d like to spend the night with, remember that it will still carry the same weight as spending the night with someone at home. If you don’t like having one-night-stands, doing them while you’re travelling won’t feel any better. If you’re hoping to parlay a travel fling into a long-term relationship, be upfront about that – some people do see being on the road as a chance to have sex with as many people as possible, and don’t want any emotional involvement. Trust me, I’ve met them (including one girl who was determined to have sex in every European country she visited). I never, ever judge someone on who they want to sleep with or how many people they want to sleep with, but make sure that your potential partner is on the same page as you. Travelling with a broken heart is the worst.

Party in Bolivia
Partying in La Paz, Bolivia

4. Be safe. I don’t just mean practice safe sex, I mean be smart about your potential partner. Whether a local or another traveller, you want to make sure that you trust this person and know that he or she will bring you no harm. Introduce him or her to your friends, and tell them where you’re going. Always, always watch your drink and don’t accept drinks from strangers. This does not just apply to women – I met a man in Thailand who had been roofied and then robbed. Trust your gut; if something feels wrong, it probably is.

5. You’ve met someone you like or you want to have some alone time with your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife…make sure it is exactly that, alone time. Please, for the sake of every single hostel-goer out there, do not have sex in a dorm. Yes, there are bathrooms and beaches and cars just waiting to be defiled, but it would most definitely be beneficial for all parties involved if you just splurge and get a private room. Usually, a private room for two people is not that much more than paying for two dorm beds, and you have the comfort and privacy that a dorm room most certainly will not give you. And no, hanging up a sheet in front of your bed does not mean I won’t be able to hear you or know what you’re doing. No matter if you think you are being subtle and quiet, someone will be always be awake and be annoyed. Oh, and to the people who had sex in the top bunk while my friend was below – you are disgusting. To the other people who had sex in the top bunk beside my top bunk, forcing me to face the wall and pray that my very audible coughs would make you stop – you are also disgusting.

6. For the love of all that is holy, use condoms. If you are in a monogamous relationship and have chosen not to, that is your prerogative. Every single other person, however, has no excuse for not using a condom, every single time. Even if you have known or travelled with this person for months, you still can never be sure of their sexual history and you don’t know their current health status. Not using condoms puts you at risk for sexually transmitted infections, and, for heterosexual couples, pregnancy. STIs can stay dormant in the system for months and years, so people may not even know that they are infected with something that could easily be passed to you. I don’t need to list the transmittable diseases here, you know them, but it really is in your best interest to always stay protected. If someone won’t sleep with you because you want to use a condom, run quickly in the opposite direction.

7. Know the laws of the country you’re in. Some countries have very strict rules on who you can have sex with, where you can have sex, and even how you have sex (don’t ask me to elaborate). Casual sex is often looked down upon, especially when with a local. I’m sure you’ve heard of couples arrested in the Middle East for fornicating on the beach or even just kissing in public. Even if you don’t agree with the rules, you have to know the consequences of breaking them. You’re not in your home country anymore, so you can’t always apply your home country’s laws. I think it’s pretty safe to say that most countries frown upon public sex, so be wary of that the next time you get the urge while, oh, I don’t know, in a bulldozer on the side of the road in Malaysia. I swear I’m just picking that example out of thin air.

8. Don’t sleep with prostitutes or anybody you pay to have sex with. I said previously that I don’t judge people on who they sleep with, but I lied – I judge people who sleep with prostitutes. Not because they are horny and want sex, but because they are keeping alive an almost-always deplorable and degrading business. Many people around the world are sold into the sex trade against their will, and are kept as slaves for their entire lives. Many are just girls or boys at the time they are sold. Do not perpetuate that corrupt world. Male prostitutes in Cuba, teenage girls in Thailand, children in Cambodia, and women in the windows of red-light districts: I’ve seen it all, I’ve seen men and women openly going with prostitutes or sex slaves, and it’s sick. It may seem obvious to say, but really, just don’t do it.

9. Don’t forget about loving yourself. Yes, you know what I mean. Sometimes you just don’t meet anybody you click with or your significant other isn’t in the mood. Travelling doesn’t have to thwart your, ahem, time by yourself. Once again, just make sure you truly are alone.

 Full Moon Party

Koh Phangan, Thailand

10. Finally, you don’t have to have sex. There is a strong sense of “YOLO-ism” in today’s society, and it applies to travellers as well (When will I be in Peru again? I gotta eat this guinea pig! When will I be in New Zealand again? I gotta skydive! When will I be at a full-moon party again? I gotta sleep with that hot Swedish guy!), but it’s important you never put pressure on yourself to do anything, sex-related or not. If you don’t want to do it, whether it be tucking into a plate of cuy or tucking into bed with Sven, don’t do it. You’ll only feel disappointed, regretful, or depressed if you force yourself to do something you’re not comfortable with. And whatever you do, don’t compare yourself to anyone. I’ve met backpackers who have done some wild and crazy things, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to rush out and do the same things just to keep up. Do whatever you’re comfortable with.

I’ll admit it – I’ve had sex in some very exotic locations, and it’s been amazing. I’ve travelled with boyfriends, but I’ve also had travel flings, and I’ve had incredibly romantic experiences with both. I’ve always been safe, and thankfully, I’ve been with wonderful people and I have wonderful memories to match.

Be safe and be smart and you’ll have a fabulous sex life, no matter where you are in the world. 


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Spencer February 19, 2013 - 5:55 am

“Be safe and smart”

Good post!

This Battered Suitcase February 19, 2013 - 6:53 pm

Thanks, Spencer!

Steph Lloyd February 19, 2013 - 6:45 am

I used to buy the pill over-the-counter when I lived in Korea. It was made in Ireland and did the job but it felt so weird not having a prescription! I decided I didn’t want to be on the pill anymore so we switched to using condoms. We’d heard stories about the local condoms not being, um, large enough for certain men and also not as sturdy… so we didn’t want to risk a pregnancy and had them shipped from home. My friend said the cashier thought she was crazy for buying 10 boxes at once. Haha!

This Battered Suitcase February 19, 2013 - 6:54 pm

Ha ha – I used to get condoms for Christmas when I lived in Japan! I had the same problem living there!

Rocco January 12, 2015 - 3:17 am

Hi Brenna,

Great article, useful and to the point. For a woman, traveling and sex is a bit more risky than guys but with few tips, can be safe.

Sex is a healthy routine for the mind and body, but it isn’t discussed as much as it is consider a taboo in most cultures. However, Asia is more open minded forward sex and if anyone is up for traveling and sex, you will not regret.

Travel safe and wide

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures February 19, 2013 - 3:42 pm

AWESOME post!!!!!!! This is definitely something that EVERY traveler should read.

This Battered Suitcase February 19, 2013 - 6:55 pm

Thank you, Andi! People never really talk about it but I do think it’s an important topic to cover.

Colleen Brynn February 19, 2013 - 9:20 pm

Remember that guy who told me I’d have to have an abortion if we had sex because he would refuse to use condoms?? Hahaha what a tool… I definitely ran far away from that one.
Great post too… definitely under discussed. x

This Battered Suitcase February 19, 2013 - 11:35 pm

Oh my GOD – I had forgotten about that! How horrible!

expatkerri February 20, 2013 - 12:47 am

I’m so glad you wrote this post Brenna!! Something we often discuss in person, but rarely write about on travel blogs. I’m glad you’re opening up the conversation!! And yes, those people who had sex on the top bunk while I was BELOW were disgusting.

expatkerri February 20, 2013 - 12:49 am

ps. I love the not-so-arbitrarily chosen party shots for this post, showing a fair sample of all the potential candidates out there on the road 😉

This Battered Suitcase February 20, 2013 - 3:02 am

Thank you, Kerrilyn! I’m glad you liked the post. I still can’t believe that gross dorm in Cali; did I ever tell you about the couple having sex BESIDE me in a hostel in Brazil? Yuck.

And yes, I thought you’d appreciate the photos. They definitely show a fair sample of all the potential candidates…AKA there were no potential candidates. Closest thing I managed was a guy I thought maybe looked like Hugh Grant…that is, until the lights came on. South America: what a bust.

Nells February 20, 2013 - 1:30 am

I am new to your blog and I must say you are a brilliant writer and I admire your spirit. Sex is something that is not often discussed in travel blogs but we have to be safe than sorry. I have carried a year’s supply of pills with me to Indonesia because I was unsure what the contraceptive situation would be like in a predominately Muslim country.

This Battered Suitcase February 20, 2013 - 3:02 am

Aw, thank you! I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I would absolutely do the same if I was headed to Indonesia!

Garby February 20, 2013 - 4:27 am

Great post. My favourite line is: “Not using condoms puts you at risk for sexually transmitted infections, and, for heterosexual couples, pregnancy.” So inclusive and not hetero-sexist.
And, in all honesty, people need to stop being silly and just use condoms. I think I tell my students that at least once a week.

This Battered Suitcase March 2, 2013 - 7:48 am

Totally agree. When I hear my friends talking about having casual sex without using a condom, I shudder. Really? In 2013??

Thanks for your comment!

Julie February 20, 2013 - 1:57 pm

Yes yes yes to every point! “Be safe and be smart and you’ll have a fabulous sex life, no matter where you are in the world.” So true! You are a sex guru 😉

Thanks for this Brenna.

This Battered Suitcase February 21, 2013 - 12:28 am

Ha ha, thank you Julie! Glad you liked the article.

liveletlive February 20, 2013 - 2:17 pm

I guess I never thought it was a huge deal enough to discuss. Just dont do anything thing you wouldn’t do at home.

So use a condom and no oral sex when having casual sex. the end 🙂

This Battered Suitcase February 21, 2013 - 12:27 am

I think it’s always a huge enough deal to discuss!

Aryn Hill February 21, 2013 - 6:45 pm

Have a stock of your own condoms definitely! I wont go into much details but let’s just say Chinese condoms are horrible!

This Battered Suitcase February 21, 2013 - 10:38 pm

Ha ha! I’ve heard horror stories of condoms from all parts of Asia. I had to use a few from Cambodia that were a disturbing shade of orange.

Katie @ February 22, 2013 - 12:51 pm

What a great article! You’re right – not enough people write about this.

As a side note, I definitely think you should start writing about your love life. It would help with the vicarious living for us boring married folk. 😉

This Battered Suitcase February 23, 2013 - 3:22 am

Whoops! I didn’t mean to delete that comment. Something was happening with my Internet and I thought I posted it twice.

Anyway, thank you! And as I said, it might be a little bit awkward if I write about my love life, seeing as some of my past paramours read this blog…

Christine loves to Travel March 5, 2013 - 8:07 pm

Great post Brenna!

This Battered Suitcase March 8, 2013 - 12:13 am

Thanks, Christine!

Wondering and Wandering March 7, 2013 - 11:18 am

Great and unique post. You’re right, definitely something people should talk about more often!

This Battered Suitcase March 8, 2013 - 12:17 am

Thank you very much!

Flo March 7, 2013 - 4:14 pm

Great post, i’m thinking of writing about my experiences with the opposite sex on the road. I had to laugh about the mention of hanging bed sheets around your bed, gosh the amount of times i have seen this 🙂

This Battered Suitcase March 8, 2013 - 12:18 am

Yes, I definitely have to write more about love/sex and travelling! People seem to enjoy it, ha ha. And oh God, those stupid bedsheets…

Beth L May 29, 2013 - 8:55 pm

I particularly enjoyed the having sex in a bulldozer on the side of the road in Malaysia, and the best advice for anyone, anywhere: don’t have sex with a prostitute! haha this post rules. thanks for making me giggle. i hope people take the advice! Safe travels to the UK 😀

This Battered Suitcase May 30, 2013 - 5:52 pm

Thanks, Beth! And, just so you know, the sex in a bulldozer was a made-up example. Completely made-up. 😉

Adventurous Andrea September 29, 2013 - 2:25 pm

I love this post. I agree, it’s really not something that is talked about often enough and openly enough. I especially appreciate number 10! It’s really so easy to get stuck in the mentality of, “I’ve got to take advantage of this unique opportunity!” However, whether it’s with sex, food, or skydiving, I think it’s important to really feel into yourself (no pun intended…well, maybe sometimes!) and decide what is your highest good in that moment.

Brenna September 30, 2013 - 2:02 am

Hah – I always like an intended pun! Thank you for liking and agreeing with the article.

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Joanna Kalafatis September 10, 2014 - 5:39 pm

This is amazing. And I’m glad someone broached the subject, because it is definitely something that needs to be talked about, and so rarely is.

#2 is so essential! Also because in some places, store owners may be reluctant to sell them to you if you look young (even if you’re legal age and can prove it), if you’re a girl, etc. I’ve seen and heard both happen. Hell, I’ve seen store owners give people trouble over that right here in the US. And miming a condom in public is something no should have to do. Ever.

Brenna Holeman September 10, 2014 - 11:46 pm

I know – I can’t believe how difficult it can be sometimes! Thanks a lot for your comment. 🙂

Umang Trivedi February 13, 2015 - 1:28 pm

You know, such an article by an indian blogger might stir controversy in India. But, I totally appreciate your guts and hats off to you for that. Keep writing such travel experiences!

Brenna Holeman February 13, 2015 - 1:36 pm

Thank you very much!

EvaSturm of TravelResponsibly March 4, 2015 - 1:06 am

Hi there,
thanks for sharing.
Especially the point of not having sex in dorm rooms has to be stressed. I only recently read a blog post on “How you know you are a backpacker” almost bragging about being happy to have sex in dorms and being happy with other people having sex in dorms, because you know you will be the one doing it the next day or something along that line. As long as there are no specific dorms just for people who are happy to fornicate in front, above or beside each other, I personally think it is absolutely selfish and ignorant to either presume everyone is ok with it or to just not care. (I guess you can imagine the type of experiences I had in Hostels in the past haha).
Of course, safety and responsibility are also two major aspects that I fully support. One thing is not caring about your own health, but be considerate about the health of potential partners. And don’t justify supporting sex tourism by saying you were supporting “the local economy” by doing so…
Thanks again!

Every Single Thing I Know About Travel Blogging - This Battered Suitcase July 27, 2015 - 5:56 pm

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michael May 25, 2016 - 1:32 am

enjoyed article and something to think about. wish i were young and traveling again.

Jenny Bloom February 5, 2017 - 9:19 pm

Haha. I’m a public health grad student; your medical advice is spot on. I love that you mention not to forget yourself, hahaha. I’ve had to do that… Last few times I’ve travelled, I’ve been in between boyfriends. Not interested in hooking up with others! Cause I don’t do that here at home either. Those few nights when you can afford a private room.. ahh. I actually had to do that when I was delayed in the Philippines simply because I couldn’t sleep in the crowded dorm room! Hadn’t slept much in 5 days; best sleep I’ve ever had.

Thanks for your honest post! Also, I had a dude bring home a local once and they just made a lot of noise and slept; I was so uncomfortable. They didn’t even have sex, but I didn’t want a stranger in my dorm room with my stuff… well, even more of a stranger than the strangers who bought the room. I would be so grossed out if people started having sex…. ew…..

Also, thank you for talking about sex slaves. I’m sure that many, if not most, especially men, don’t realize that these people probably aren’t willingly in the sex trade. It’s very sad. It’s not a harmless practice by any means.

I’ve had sex and fun times in some nice places too… Mmm, good memories! Hahaha.

Brenna Holeman February 6, 2017 - 10:47 pm

Well, that’s good that my sex education is up to speed! 😉 Thanks a lot for your comment, Jenny, I’m sure that all of us who have travelled extensively have a few good stories to tell (and probably a bad one or two, too). Thanks again!

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