While in Iceland I experimented a bit with different ways to find travel companions. I enjoy meeting other travelers and locals on solo trips. There are a growing number of networks specifically to connect travelers. Here I will expand on my post about making friends and ridesharing in Iceland. This post gets a lot of attention but was quite out of date. I’m updating it to remove inactive networks and add new ones.
I have a friend who uses Grindr to meet people and get tips while traveling. This popular gay hookup app works for him: he’s attractive and so lots of guys message him. He confessed that he responds to most sexual overtures with questions about travel plans and/or requests for tips about things the guys have already done. Sometimes this leads him to travel with someone for a bit, or do a tour or other activity with a guy from Grindr. Rarely does he actually use Grindr for it’s intended purpose. Apparently lots of folks using this app don’t mind transitioning from flirting to platonic travel buddies.
This works for my 20-something attractive gay friend, but may not be the best approach for the rest of us. In a similar vein, there are a bunch of new apps that help people meet others based on location, but with some romantic intent at least implied. Although they can be used just to make friends, I don’t use these apps because of the dating focus. For those of us looking to meet folks and make new friends when traveling alone without entering the romantic scene, I’ve compiled a list of some other options below.
Travel Companion Networks
These are specifically focused on connecting travelers with one another. Several of the more established ones are focused on women exclusively.
Thelmandlouise – A network for women to connect with other women travelers. They’ve been around since 2006 and seem to have created a really nice online community.
Backpackr – Meet backpackers going to your destination who want to do the same things you want to do. They claim 90,000 users across 150 countries. The price is $5/month and if that many people are actually paying a fee it’s an impressive user base. It’s possible some of those “users” are unpaid and hence inactive.
GAFFL (Get a Friend for Life) – General network to find travel companions or just meetup with other travelers around the world. It’s free to join but if you want to join other people’s trips you pay a fee of $6.99.
Trevolin – This network connects travelers with one another and also offers paid local tours and travel opportunities trading volunteer labor for lodging. The travel companion part is free.
5W – Women Welcome Women Worldwide is a UK based network facilitating friendships around the world. They’ve been around since 1984 and connect traveling women and also those who can’t travel but who want to meet people from other countries.
Travel Sisters – Another network for women looking for like-minded travel companions. The app is currently just a prototype but you can sign up in advance.
Trip Giraffe – Connect with other travelers by creating a trip and inviting others to join, or join a trip someone else has posted. There is a fee for creating and joining trips.
YourTravelMates – Find travel companions with common travel interests. I can’t vouch for this one: I tried to create an account but never got the email verification. There is no way to browse the website without an account. They used to be TripTogether, and the brief view I can get of the website suggests more of a dating app than a travel companion network.
General Travel and Activity Communities
These are not specifically places to find travel companions. But good travel-focused communities where you can easily meet other folks and potentially find new travel buddies.
Couchsurfing – A community for hospitality lodging (free) which includes a lot of couchsurfing events where travelers can meet up and socialize with each other and with locals. In addition, many folks on this site indicate that they are interested in meeting travelers even if they can’t host.
Bewelcome – Similar to couchsurfing you can use this hospitality lodging site to meet other travelers and locals while you travel.
Hostels – Book a stay at a hostel in a dorm or a private room and hang out in the common area to meet other travelers. Chatting with other travelers can be an excellent resource for local tips. And I’ve made a number of friends at hostels, some of whom I’ve ended up traveling with.
City Socializer – A social networking site that helps you connect with like-minded folks doing the activities you enjoy in cities across the US and UK.
Meetup – A popular website for organizing groups of people interested in anything from Java developers to knitters. There are a number of travel meetup groups in cities around the world. If you join a travel meetup in your hometown you’re likely to find folks interested in taking trips and/or organizing group trips. This is also a way to meet locals wherever you go, by just attending a meetup in your destination that is focused on one of your interests. It doesn’t have to be travel, if you’re an avid knitter wouldn’t it be cool to meet knitters in Barcelona while you’re there?
I know there are more options that I haven’t listed here. If you know of a good app or website for meeting people while traveling tell me about it in the comments. I’ll be updating my spreadsheet of travel resources with more of these options as I find them.