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.