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5 Apps to Help You Meet People While You Travel

November 6, 2013 by

Meeting new people can be one of the most exhilarating parts of any trip, especially if you’re traveling solo, but it’s not always easy. Approaching strangers can be both intimidating and unnatural for a lot of travelers. With the help of some new apps and web sites, however, you’re not restricted to making new connections at the bar, in tourist hotspots, or in hard-to-find local haunts. If you’ve got a smartphone and wifi, try one of these travel-focused tools…

1. TravBuddy. At first glance, TravBuddy seems most like TripAdvisor or Yelp, with Q&As, recommendations, and reviews from all over the world. What it does differently is that it encourages users to meet up and spend time together while they’re traveling. Members can search for other travelers by location, length of trip, travel dates, gender, and age. A ticker tells users who is going where, and users can click on people’s names, or on the destination itself. TravBuddy boasts nearly 500,000 members, so there’s a robust community of travelers who are waiting to chat and meet up.

2. ePenpal. This app aims to help travelers find locals in the countries they’re visiting, but this is the best part: Users can instantly translate text messages they receive into more than 60 languages. While the translations, which are powered by Google Translate, are surely less-than-perfect, people can connect with and talk to locals without worrying about difficult language barriers or imperfect pronunciation. In addition to text messages, users can send voice messages, photo messages, or group chats. The app also works as a travel journal by creating and sharing photo essays, and text or voice stories to share with other users.

3. BeWelcome. As an alternative to Couchsurfing, which matches vagabond travelers with hosts willing to give up their couch for the night, BeWelcome takes the hospitality exchange network one step further. Their 50,000 members cook meals together, go on sightseeing tours, share stories, have language lessons, go out to dinner, and attend parties. The concept is simple: both locals and travelers set up accounts and make connections through personal profiles. This site features an open comments section at the bottom of each member’s profile to help you who might be a good fit. Not only does the BeWelcome crew pride themselves on offering a reliable service, they offer plenty of testimonials so users can read about others’ experiences.

4. Badoo. This app is an interesting choice for finding locals to grab lunch or a cocktail with if you’re on a tight timetable. It uses a smartphone’s GPS system to pinpoint its members’ exact locations, so you can see in real-time when members are physically nearby and want to meet up. Like other social apps, users can chat with other users, check out pictures, leave messages, and peruse profiles. Badoo is active in more than 180 countries and offers its services in more than 20 languages. Note that Badoo can be used as a dating app, so keep this in mind as you weed through responses.

5. Skout. With this app, members can virtually travel to other cities chat with people there. Though this app offers many of the same features as other social apps, Skout allows users to choose the ways they connect, and see which users have read their profiles — a nice plus. Members can text, chat, or talk to each other across the globe, so it’s a fun app for finding out what’s going on in, say, Barcelona or Tokyo, practicing a new language with native speakers, or asking questions about upcoming trips.

One Comment

  • John Rayburn says:

    Ours was a different kind of travel for most people. We headed out in a fifth wheel trailer and lived in it full time for two years, making our way in and through 39 states, 6 Canadian provinces and covering 60,000 miles. We were looking for the positive things in our part of the world and found a great many, some through just being friendly and others with the kind touch of serendipity.
    It’s the unexpected that provides extra pleasure while traveling and an outstanding case of that was encountered at the edge of Des Moines, Iowa. A stop there had a double purpose. My wife, Carol, needed to replenish a few supplies and I wanted to have someone check out one of our turn signals that wasn’t functioning properly. She scooted for a supermarket and I asked for the mechanic at a neighboring service station.
    Told he was taking a break out back, I wandered around and found a man sitting and tinkering with an unusual looking engine.
    “What on earth is that,” I asked.
    “Oh, it’s just an old motor somebody hauled in on a truck and I’ve been kind of messin’ with it,” he replied. “It’s a V-12; come off a 1939 Lincoln I think.”
    I hadn’t even known there was such a thing as a V-12.
    “Oh, yeah,” he responded, “Pierce Arrow made one, and lemme see, I believe Auburn. Shoot, Cadillac even came out with a V-16 back around 1930 or something like then. What they’d do was kinda creep along in high gear at a real slow speed and you wouldn’t have to shift down. They were long stroke motors and the torque run high on ‘em.”
    I explained my turn signal problem and he assured me it just sounded like a fuse and shouldn’t take but a jiffy to fix. His analysis was correct and he did what had to be done quickly enough that he still had some break time left.
    He picked out the shady side of the building, sat down against a brick wall, and pulled a harmonica out of his pocket.
    “Lemme see if I can get my ol’ French harp tuned up here.”
    He began to play just a few trilling runs with no particular tune, and then looked up at me.
    “You’re old enough to remember the good ol’ days of steam engines pullin’ trains. I think these ol’ mouth harps was just made for train music. Trouble is, I play it for my grandkids and they keep waitin’ for a diesel horn, instead of a whistle. Listen here, though, and I’ll take you for a little ride. We’ll start off pullin’ outa the station, head off outa town, cross an ol’ meadow with the mornin’ fog still a liftin’; then, we’ll cut down through a limestone draw and head for home. Get ready, now.”
    He put the harmonica to his mouth and proceeded to call up exactly the imagery he said he was going to.
    “CHUKKA…Chukka…chukkachukkachukkachukka,” went the refrain as he built up speed. You could almost hear the clacking of the rails and the low, mournful whistle gave warning to a crossing out in the middle of that meadow. I closed my eyes; thought I could feel the swaying of the cars; imagined the smell of smoke. Don’t open a window though; you’’ll get cinders in your eye.
    He came to a slow halt back at the station, complete with a hissing of steam as the drive-wheels slowed. I broke into spontaneous applause.
    His eyes sort of twinkled and he went into his first real tune. It sounded familiar but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.
    About that time, Carol came around the corner and a said, “There you are! I wondered where you’d…” She stopped in mid-sentence and exclaimed, “Why, that’s Mozart.”
    We both listened quietly while the mechanic/musician finished his lovely rendition. Carol politely asked where had learned that.
    “Gosh, ma’am,” he replied, “I don’t even know what it is; musta heard it on the radio or something. I liked it and just sorta began playin’ it. Pretty thing, isn’t it?”
    How can you plan an interlude like that? Our whole day became the better for it. Carol was awed because of her music background; she reads music well and is envious of such people who pick it up by ear and proceed to play flawlessly. As for me, they say half the world plays the harmonica and the other half wants to learn how; now, if I can just get that “chukkachukka” to going right, who knows?

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