On the road and feeling lonely? A new wave of “travel social network” apps are designed to help turn wallflowers into social butterflies. The following are our favourites (others we tested tend to feature far too many shirtless photos). Regardless, always remember to use common sense.
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This app works with LinkedIn to connect business travellers visiting the same area. You’ll see the profiles of people nearby, whether they’ve checked in to any conferences recently and whether they are locals or fellow road warriors. The aim is to encourage networking (“Hey, I went to DeveloperWeek in San Fran, too”) and, according to the makers, stop “unproductive evenings alone at the hotel lobby bar.” Professionally speaking, of course. Free, iTunes
While not geared specifically toward travellers, Highlight could prove a useful tool. Working with Facebook accounts, it shares information about other users nearby, alerting you to any shared friends and interests. The makers of the highly regarded app (it’s a favourite of tech website Gizmodo) also see it being used for things like finding a ride or someone to see the latest Bond flick with. Free, iTunes and Google Play
It happens on every extended trip: At some point, you get sick of restaurant food. A home-cooked meal would be welcome – but how to score an invite? Kai Stubble, the founder of SupperKing, offers this app – inspired by his own wants while travelling – as a solution. In a nutshell: Extremely social hosts offer to prepare a meal that any user can attend for a reasonable fee. If you’re in Oakland, Calif., on Jan. 16, for example, you could attend a “post holiday drunken feast” including ham and Cuban-style beans for $5. But note, as the app was just launched in December, it’s slim pickings right now. Free, iTunes
The international social network is a collection of community groups, divided into different interests (tagline: “neighbours getting together to learn something, do something”). While aimed at locals, events are often attended by travellers just passing through. As an amateur but avid photographer, you can go on outings with fellow photographers and discover a city’s neighbourhoods through the lens of your camera. The site claims to feature more than 105,000 groups across 45,000 cities, so odds are you’ll find something that interests you, even if only mildly. Groups range from run of the mill (book clubs and writing groups) to more esoteric (UFO hunters and shamanic circle groups). Don’t see one that tickles your fancy? Create your own group and see who bites. meetup.com
Add a language barrier to a move abroad and you further complicate your chances of befriending the locals. That’s not to say you should sit back and let your creative hand gestures do the talking. The best way to integrate into local society and make friends is to improve your language skills, and that’s where Polyglot Club can come in. The language exchange forum was created in Paris in 2003 and the model has since been exported to Bangkok, Berlin, Barcelona, Sydney, Guadalajara, New York and Toronto. The idea is to let both globetrotters and locals practise their language skills at social soirees. For instance, every Friday night at a designated bar in Paris, well-travelled members are obliged to speak in French for one hour – an opportunity for expats and other foreigners to brush up. When the bell tolls, speakers switch over to English for those who want to improve their skills, mainly for work-related reasons. The common denominator among these Polyglot members? Most are cultured people, which makes for interesting conversation. polyglotclub.com