How to Use Dating Apps to Make Friends When You Travel

How to Use Dating Apps to Make Friends When You Travel

Imagine you land in a new country, and immediately an attractive local whisks you away to the best, unknown spots in the city. You eat at non-touristy restaurants, dance away the night in hidden clubs, and maybe spend some cozy time canoodling with your pop-up tour guide.

This is how many travelers are now conducting vacations. They fire up their dating app of choice — be that Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, Happn, what have you — and start swiping. Before long their phone is full of cultural ambassadors who genuinely want to show a traveler the best aspects of their city. When you really luck out, you get to practice the language, maybe share a home-cooked meal. And, of course, sex stuff might happen.

Landing a “Tinder Tour,” though, has pitfalls. There are best practices to know and mistakes to be avoided when swiping your way across a new country. We asked some seasoned travel swipers and got the low-down on how best to use a dating app to sweeten a vacation.

Consider changing your dating location ahead of your trip

Tinder Passport is a change-your-location function built into Tinder Plus that allows you to swipe through profiles anywhere on earth. It is, unfortunately, not free. But if you’re about to go jet-setting alone, or are hell-bent on lining up a string of coffee dates in London or baller restaurant recs in Istanbul, Tinder Passport will be your copilot.

The advantage of swiping before you leave is obvious: You get time to build rapport with the Berliner or Dubliner whom you’re foisting yourself upon for the week. Also, the dangers of anonymous dating multiply in a new place, so chatting for an extra day or two is a very good idea.

Since you’re already doing some planning ahead, like finding housing, reserving restaurants, and booking tours, you might as well consider swiping as a part of the process. Who knows — if it goes well, you may not need a hotel after all.

Take a chance, but do listen to your gut

Going on a date with a strange person in a strange land can be an intimidating prospect. But then, traveling abroad is all about doing and eating and seeing things you never could at home. By his second date with a Tinder match, Jay (not his real name), an American diplomat stationed in the Middle East, got invited to a raucous Islamic wedding — a cultural extravaganza he wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.

Shelly (also not her real name), an American fashion executive traveling through Australia with her best friend, swears by swiping apps to quickly learn the best spots in a new place. “It was such a cool way to meet locals who gave us this really insider view of Sydney and unique experiences we wouldn’t have had if we just tried to meet people out and about,” she told me.

Obviously you don’t want the next Taken movie to be based on your first blind date in Amsterdam. So use your Spidey sense with sultry locals. Don’t ignore the weird vibe you get from your sexy Swedish chat partner. When you’ve made a date, confirm with a friend that you’re not taking silly risks. Share your phone’s location with a trusted confidante in the city. And remember, it’s much better to meet a local in a well-lit cafe near the Louvre than in their fifth-floor walk-up out in the 18th Arrondissement dating LGBT.

Announce upfront that you’re a visitor, and maintain your boundaries

You’re only going to be around for a few days? Might as well roll with it. After all, you’re a mysterious traveler with a fascinating accent and intriguing stories about places the locals have only read about. Anyone who swipes right on someone who’s “just visiting” is generally cool with a short-term arrangement and skipping the small talk.