Tips for Making Friends Abroad

by Megan Eileen McDonough

It might be freezing outside but that hardly means you should stay indoors all winter — especially when you’re spending your holiday break exploring a new city for the first time. Making friends while traveling is easy for some and harder for others and when you throw language barriers and cultural traditions into the mix, the adventure really begins. Wherever you’re headed to next year, these five smartphone apps will help you get the party started.

1. Untappd

Untappd will help you discover local beers and bars in your area. The more you use the app, the more it will pick up on your personal tastes and preferences, which can and should lead to some pretty satisfying nights out. Depending on how obsessed you are with beer, you can use features like sharing photos and leaving reviews. Similar to FourSquare, the checking-in aspect can become highly addictive and in turn, might make you feel like a borderline alcoholic.

2. Now

If you’re a social traveler, Now is an invaluable resource to discovering local trends and events. In a nutshell, it’s basically a living map of everything cool and noteworthy going on around you. The interface feels very familiar and everything is laid out on a Google map-like grid. If something is trending on Instagram or Vine, a condensed description appears on the map. Categories like “Top Parties,” “Concerts” and “Arts & Culture” will help you narrow in on exactly the type of experience you’re on the hunt for.

3. Grouper

Grouper takes the pain out of meeting new people by doing all the work for you. Beware that, although this is not a dating site, it might feel like one when you're organizing your first outing. Grouper matches you to a guy or girl. Then, you and this other person each need to recruit two friends, pre-pay for the first round of drinks, and set up a time and place to meet. Grouper does a pretty good job of matching you up with interesting people you don't yet know, and the venues they work with are legit.

4. HomeDine

We all know that drinking on an empty stomach is a major no-no and that’s where HomeDine comes in handy. If you're traveling solo, and even if you aren't, this will quickly become your go-to for making friends and experiencing authentic culture. Locals open their homes to travelers and supply home-cooked meals for a reasonable fee. You can even view the menu before booking — and it's also a good idea to ask your host for his or her suggestions for fun bars in the area.

5. WeHostels

Disclaimer: My husband started this app, but I really do use it all the time when I travel. WeHostels is a mobile-only booking site targeted toward young travelers who are on a budget but looking to make friends — because sometimes the party doesn't have to leave your hostel dorm room. Unlike other booking apps, WeHostels lets you see who will be at the hostel before you book, and users can also plan activities together before or during their trip. And from a design standpoint, the images and interface are top notch.

Image: WeHostels/Facebook