Now that dating apps have gone well past taboo to become social norm, it’s common for single travelers to experiment with their utility abroad. But what’s the best way to approach dating apps in a foreign zip code? Can one really right-swipe their way to romantic travel bliss?
For Valentine’s Day, we surveyed a handful of people to get their stories (and tips) on using dating apps while traveling. Experiences varied, but one thing is clear: they’re a great tool for going beyond your typical travel itinerary—and you don’t even have to make extra room in your carry-on.
How To Use Dating Apps Abroad
—Safety first: Always meet in public places.
—Tell someone you know where you’re going and who you’re meeting. Send a screenshot of their profile and contact info.
—Set your intentions clearly. If you’re only going to be around temporarily, the people you’re matching with have a right to know you’re just visiting. State it right in your profile! This will optimize matches with fellow adventurers.
—Tinder seems to be the best, most versatile vehicle for this kind of thing, but is by no means the only option.
—Paid apps like Tinder Plus and Raya let you match with people abroad before you land in their time zone.
—Have fun! The pressure’s off.
Stories of Roaming Romance
On making memories and joining forces:
Accountant, 32, Woman seeking men
Location: San Francisco, California
While at a boozy brunch in San Francisco, I messaged a guy I had matched with and asked him what our dream date would be if we met up that evening. He said he would pick me up from my hotel on his motorcycle, take me on a drive through his favorite parts of town, over the Golden Gate bridge, and up to a scenic lookout to watch the sunset. And that’s exactly what we did! It was by far one of my most memorable dates, and he was so cool that my friends and I ended up meeting up with him and his friends the next night for Thai food and drinks at a local’s bar. It was great because the pressure was totally off since it wasn’t likely we’d see each other again. We were able to focus on just making a connection and having fun.
He said he would pick me up from my hotel on his motorcycle.
On gettings recs:
Editor, 29, Woman seeking men
I went to Dublin at a time when I wasn’t really dating, but I’m always curious to get a sense of a place through its singleton landscape. Dublin has a very uneven ratio of single men to single women: 1 to 7. I really feel for the single, straight Irish ladies. There were definitely plenty of men on the app, but no one I felt compelled to meet in person. There were several that were very intrigued that I was only in town for a few nights. I asked them all for restaurant and bar recommendations, and more than one person pointed me towards Grogans, which upon further investigation is exactly the kind of place a single Irish bro would like. Dark, dive-y, without pretense. These men certainly weren’t trying to romance me, but I’m grateful that I was able to sample the pub’s famous Ham & Cheese toasties at a place I may have overlooked otherwise.
On proving the world is sometimes a little too small:
Social Media, 23, Man seeking men
He had a picture with me in his profile—I’m randomly in the background of the picture, which was taken at a nightclub in New York. We matched—but then he unmatched with me when I told him it was me in the picture. Suffice to say, we did not meet up.
We were both looking for someone to go on an adventure with.
On finding a fellow adventurer:
Customer Service, 24, Man seeking men
We were both looking for someone to go on an adventure with. We took a flight together from Bangkok to Pai and stayed at this beautiful Airbnb in the jungle. We stayed together for a few days and then said our goodbyes. It was a great way to meet someone during solo travel.
On taking things to the next level:
Customer Service, 25, Woman seeking men
Location: Pacific Northwest, USA
While on my first ever solo trip, I was a bit nervous and intimidated about how to get through two weeks in a new place all alone. While I am 100% an introvert, traveling solo can be a very weird, lonely experience, with ups and downs of feeling independent and then feeling isolated. I spent a couple of weeks in the Pacific Northwest and wanted to explore more outside of the major city I was in and do things like hiking, which I had never done alone (I have the worst sense of direction and knew I would get lost in the woods). I met a guy on Tinder and ended up spending the whole weekend with him going to bars and to his favorite breakfast spots. On my last day there, we went on The Best Date of My Life Thus Far: We woke up at 4am and drove about 2 hours to hike to these remote hot springs in Mt. Hood National Forest. He packed a thermos of tea and gave me a pillow and blanket to sleep on the way there. He played Bon Iver the whole ride through the trees and fog. It was a real epic PNW hipster dream date. Then we made out in the carved log tubs for like four hours. 10/10 would recommend!
He played Bon Iver the whole ride through the trees and fog. Then we made out in the carved log tubs for like four hours.
On letting technology do the work for you:
Photographer, 44, Man seeking women
Location: Oslo, Norway
I was with seven of my buddies for my 40th in Oslo. We walked into a bar and started talking to some attractive locals. After awhile they started laughing and one of them says, “Wait a minute, we recognize every one of you from Tinder!” The good news is that all seven of us wound up pairing off.
On doubling the fun:
Writer, 23, Woman seeking all of the above
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
My friend and I each had a person from our respective dating apps (she’s a Bumble-r, I’m a Tinder-er) meet up with us on our last night in Mexico City. We love a buddy system meet-up! Safety is cute! But luckily, the chemistry was right all around, and when my guy invited everyone up to his roof to drink a few beers, we readily agreed. On the roof, it didn’t take long until the casual, communal small-talk transitioned into separate conversations. Knowing what I wanted (this dude was… gorgeous), I led him over to the balcony and told him to kiss me. We wound up getting along so well that my friend and I didn’t call an Uber back to our hotel until 3:30 a.m.—for context, our flight out was at 6:30 that morning. Even with the rush to pack up all our crap and get to the airport on time, the experience was well worth it. I mean, he and I are Facebook friends now so, like, you could say it’s pretty serious.
I led him over to the balcony and told him to kiss me.
On the value of transparency:
Communications, 30, Woman seeking women
Location: Upstate New York
I told the people I matched with that I was in town visiting and looking for good places to go out with friends. Everyone I matched with was great and had excellent location suggestions! We didn’t meet up, but I think they all generally wanted to after finding out I was in town with a bachelorette party. If you’re transparent with your profile and in your conversations with matches, you can find some really great places to visit and even some new friends.
On playing the long game:
Editor, 30, Woman Seeking men
Location: Los Angeles, California
I travel from New York to Los Angeles often for work, usually staying for 48 hours or less. This means plenty of time to swipe, but a very short window of time to actually start chatting. Back in New York after a quick work trip in December, I got a message from someone who I had matched with in LA. The conversation flowed but what’s the point when you live on the other side of the country? Still, when another trip popped up on my schedule the next month, I reached out to see if he’d be down to grab a drink. We met up at The Dresden, talked about art and music and NY vs. LA for a couple hours, then went our separate ways. I wasn’t interested, but it was a fine way to spend an evening. He still watches all my Instagram stories.
On cursory connections:
Urban planner, 25, Woman seeking men
Location: London, UK
App: Coffee Meets Bagel
I was in London only for 2 days. I matched with a guy and we actually had a friend in common because he was an American doing graduate studies there. We did not meet up because he was in the process of moving apartments and preparing to enter medical school in the UK. I just updated him a bit on America since he left and then we just stopped talking when I continued on to the rest of my travels. It was nice to talk to a random person and get some great recommendations. He suggested dropping by Tate Modern, and it was such a great place to visit.
On getting ahead of yourself:
Social Media, 21, Woman seeking men
Location: London, UK
App: Tinder Plus
While in London, one of my top goals was to have tea at Sketch. My friends on the trip didn’t want to go because it was too expensive, so I downloaded Tinder Plus before the trip to find someone to go with! The premium version of Tinder allows you to search for people in any location, which allowed me to find someone in London before I arrived. It was my first time using a dating app. I was super upfront about my intentions in my description. Ended up going to afternoon tea with a guy and it went off without a hitch. It was fun getting to know a local and experience afternoon tea. Definitely wasn’t seeking love and it was a perfectly friendly vibe. Not sure I would do it again unless my friends abandon me, but it is a fun story to tell now.
My Tinder date stood out as the only guy in the club with a shirt on.
On living up to your surroundings:
Entrepreneur, 30, Woman seeking men
Location: Berlin, Germany
On a solo trip to Berlin I met up with a smiley, shy software engineer from Spain. He picked the bar—a lively dive in Kollwitzkiez. For Tinder date expectations, he was a romantic: Arrived early, saved us seats, had a cold beer waiting. We chatted about expat life, Andalucía, Berlin, cooking. Three hours passed. It was a Friday night and I planned to see one last sight: KitKatClub, a famed hedonist’s nightclub. He asked if he could join me. I said sure. Fridays were gay night—we learned in the queue out front. People came prepared with duffel bags filled with costumes. There must have been 2000 people in the club and less than 5 were women. Men were fondling one another on mattresses, in cages, on the trapeze, in the swimming pool. My Tinder date stood out as the only guy in the club with a shirt on. We danced and laughed and tried not to be obvious about ogling the bodies. Around 3am, we ducked out. He gave me a sweet kiss on the platform while we waited for the tram. My, the contrast to the sexual revelry we had witnessed all night.
On spicing up business trips:
Management Consultant, 36, Man seeking women
Location: Anywhere north
I’ve used Tinder while traveling for work and fun countless places, but nothing compares to Moscow, Stockholm, and Toronto. It’s a constant stream of matches—seemingly all of whom have no problem meeting up with an out-of-town visitor and prefer to start at the hotel bar. It might not be the best way to actually see the cities, but those winters are really cold and the extra warmth in the bed is great.