Whether you travel alone or with friends, it’s always good to be social with locals to learn more about the destination, people, and, even better, to discover some of the best secrets not found in guidebooks.
In my opinion, the best things and experiences we have while traveling don’t come from the sights we get to visit, but from the people we get to see and meet; from the culture they share with us and the experiences they bring with them.
To help you stay connected and increase your chances of meeting locals, here are six apps you should know about that will help you connect with like-minded travelers and locals.
Even though CouchSurfing was created to help travelers find a free couch to crash on at a local’s home, the site and app are now much more than that. It is now a community that offers regular meetups in most cities where there’s broad adoption of the concept. Beyond that, you can also use the platform to meet with your host just for a drink or to walk around/sightsee the city.
The app and site are easy to use. Just search for profiles in your city of interest and send them a request to “surf” (stay with them) or meet for a drink. For meetups, you can do a broad search of your city, and you’ll see all upcoming events there. It is free to attend them unless there’s a cover charge at the locale.
This site and app allow you to set up meetups with likeminded people – and it’s not just travel related. There are group meetups for astronomy enthusiasts, writers, book clubs, and so on. Just search the “meetup schedule” in your group and city of interest, and you’ll see all the upcoming ones. You can then join or request to attend any meetup of interest.
Usually, these meetups are full of locals with common interests, so it’s highly likely you’ll find it easy to break the ice and click with someone there. There is also a messaging feature in the app that allows you to get in contact with other fellow members of the group before meeting live.
Travel Pal is an excellent app similar to CouchSurfing but focused more on the chatting part of the social meetup. The app serves as a great portal to meet locals to learn more about the culture, sights, and hidden gems of your destination. It also has a phrasebook with simple sentences and words used by travelers in the language of the country you're visiting.
This app currently runs in over 4,500 cities around the world, connecting over 19,000 locals and travelers. The primary purpose of the app is to connect locals and travelers who are currently in the same city so they can get acquainted and sightsee together, discover new places, or just have a chat over a nice cup of coffee.
What’s nice about this app too is that you don’t need to wait to get to your destination to pair up with people there. You can search in advance, connect, and chat with potential future travel partners.
This app is great to discover upcoming events in a city of interest as well as to keep you up to date with what’s happening around you. These events can include live music shows, festivals, meetups, workshops, and so on. While you’re not connecting one on one with other people on the app, just going to these events increases your chances of meeting locals with similar interests.
There are hundreds of thousands of Facebook groups based all around the world. Facebook is such a giant platform, that whatever group you can think of, there’s probably one already in existence. Would you like to meet expats in Chiang Mai? There’s a group for that. Adrenaline junkies in New Zealand? Yup, there’s one for that too.
Just search your interest and destination in the Facebook search, then hit the “groups” tab, and search through the results. Join the group and take it from there. Often, when they are local enough, groups tend to meet in person regularly. Why not join them there for a drink and chat?
As you can see, there is no shortage of apps to meet and stay connected with locals while abroad. Now all you need is the courage to contact them and meet!
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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