Ever been alone in a picturesque city, wishing there was someone you could pal around with to see the sights, share a coffee or cut expenses? Take heart! Now you don’t have to tramp the streets alone.
Stephanie Rosenbloom’s recent article for The New York Times is packed with smart online solutions for connecting with friends, and/or friends of friends, in cities all over the world. Excerpts from her article:
Taking their inspiration from websites like Facebook and OkCupid, fast-growing social sites such as Couchsurfing, Airbnb and Planely are aiming to connect travelers and their friends—especially those going solo—so they can save money and enjoy more authentic cultural experiences. What they have in common is a desire to make touring a city full of strangers a little more friendly and a little less costly.
EASYNEST Maybe you’d like to stay in an upscale hotel but are traveling on your own and don’t want to pay the single occupancy price tag. Solution? Easynest, a new website that enables solo travelers to share a room and split the cost. Sign up with your Facebook account, then create a profile with a description of yourself (like a dating site). You can browse hotels where other members want to stay, or post places where you’d like to stay and wait for another member to contact you.
Be advised: Easynest is a great idea but doesn’t always yield results. It’s new, and time will tell if its number of successful match-ups increases as more people discover the site. Also, there are potential safety risks. A seemingly friendly “roommate” online could turn out to be a slob, or worse, dangerous in person. Easynest members have not been vetted, nor verified to be who they say they are. Advice: do your homework. Try crosschecking what members say with things published about them elsewhere online and in public records. If possible, Skype a few times with them before agreeing to check into a hotel together.
FRIENDS OF FRIENDS TRAVEL An emerging social network for travelers 18-35, this free site allows members to share accommodations, luggage lockers, travel tips or a cup of coffee in a foreign city with friends and friends of friends. The aim: for travelers to meet new people, save money and have a more rewarding experience. Key advantage: for solo travelers, Friends of Friends Travel provides an extra layer of security by connecting them with friendly faces in unfamiliar locations.
GRAPH SEARCH Want to sort all your Facebook friends by country? This new tool from Facebook lets you do just that by typing “current countries of my friends” into the search bar on your Facebook page. International flags will appear, along with the names of friends who live in that country. Graph search also allows you to find friends, and friends of friends, with the same interests. For example, you can search for “friends of friends who like traveling” and essentially create your own personal travel network.
TINT.TRAVEL A Facebook app, Tint uses Facebook to connect friends of friends who can help them find someone to host them in a foreign city, show them around, or share dinner. Once you’re on the website and have logged in using Facebook, click on “select a city” to see a slide show of cities where you have friends. Upside: Tint allows you to post a “public” message to everyone who is using it in a particular city so that anyone (even strangers) using the app can send you a message. Downside: Until masses of your friends become “Tinters,” it’s easier to just post a message on Facebook or use graph search.
VOULEZ VOUS DÎNER Introduced in Paris in 2010, Voulez Vous Dîner encourages people in cities around the world to provide meals in their homes for travelers who prefer a home-cooked meal with a local than to dine in a restaurant every night. You can register to either cook or consume the meal, which you can choose by price and theme (organic, vegetarian, ethnicity). The cost of the meal is determined by the host and appears on the dinner’s presentation page. After booking, you’ll receive the host’s contact information so you can chat before you arrive. Bon appétit!