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Soviet statutes barring homosexual acts were at last lifted in 1993, and Russia's gays and lesbians have been celebrating ever since. Still, Russia's conservative society remains suspicious of same-sex couples, and openly gay public figures remain rare, outside the performing arts. Russian women, regardless of sexual preference, often hold hands and embrace in public, but public intimacy between gay men can provoke taunts or worse. Gay-friendly venues, including clubs, restaurants, business groups, and public pickup spots, are numerous in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The website www.gay.ru is a solid starting place for gay and lesbian visitors to Russia, with accommodations suggestions and extensive club listings. The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA; tel. 800/448-8550 or 954/776-2626; www.iglta.org) is the trade association for the gay and lesbian travel industry, and offers an online directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses and tour operators.

Many agencies offer tours and travel itineraries specifically for gay and lesbian travelers. Above and Beyond Tours (tel. 800/397-2681; www.abovebeyondtours.com) are gay Australia tour specialists. San Francisco-based Now, Voyager (tel. 800/255-6951; www.nowvoyager.com) offers worldwide trips and cruises, and Olivia (tel. 800/631-6277; www.olivia.com) offers lesbian cruises and resort vacations.

Gay.com Travel (tel. 800/929-2268 or 415/644-8044; www.gay.com/travel/outandabout/ or www.outandabout.com) is an excellent online successor to the popular Out & About print magazine. It provides regularly updated information about gay-owned, gay-oriented, and gay-friendly lodging, dining, sightseeing, nightlife, and shopping establishments in every important destination worldwide. British travelers should click on the "Travel" link at www.uk.gay.com for advice and gay-friendly trip ideas.

The Canadian website GayTraveler (www.gaytraveler.ca) offers ideas and advice for gay travel all over the world.

The following travel guides are available at many bookstores, or you can order them from any online bookseller: Spartacus International Gay Guide, 35th Edition (Bruno Gmünder Verlag; www.spartacusworld.com/gayguide); and the Damron guides (www.damron.com), with separate, annual books for gay men and lesbians.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.