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BriefsTravel

Forget love: In search of soup dumplings

When Daniela Castillo was planning a vacation to Mexico City, she opened up her Tinder app. She wasn’t looking for a romantic date at Chapultepec Castle, or even a quick hookup while in town. She wanted travel advice.

Like other solo travelers, Castillo, 27, who writes a travel blog, has increasingly found dating apps like Tinder and Bumble a convenient way to meet locals, see the sights and get recommendations on where to eat and where to go when visiting an unfamiliar destination.

But there are the obvious risks. “You need to make very clear from the beginning what you are looking for,” she said. “Most people do want the romantic aspect, so it is hard and takes a bit of time to find the profile of someone who is OK being friends.”

Link Salas, the creative director for a small technology company in New York, said he used Grindr, a social networking app for gay, bisexual and transgender men, to learn about the places he’s traveling to and to meet men there. “I change my profile to say I am in town and looking for someone to show me around,” he said.

The gay dating app Scruff also recently started a service, Scruff Venture, in which travelers can search more than 500 destinations, and then contact local “venture ambassadors” for advice on where to go and what to do.

And while many solo travelers may indeed be single, and thus potentially open to romantic encounters, still others are on their own because their spouses or partners are back at home, unable to make this trip.

That’s one factor that in 2016 led the dating site Bumble to expand its offerings to friendship (Bumble BFF) and, in 2017, to work-related connections (Bumble Bizz).

Personal safety is always a concern for solo vacationers. “When you don’t know the area and don’t have friends there, it’s even more important to be cautious,” Castillo said. She said she always shares with a close friend the name and phone number of the person she is going to meet, where they are going and when she expects to be back at her hotel.

Other dating app users say they stay safe when meeting strangers abroad by meeting only during daylight hours, in busy parts of town, or in places that do not serve alcohol. And they state clearly that their intent is platonic. If someone tries to push past these parameters online or in person, they advise cutting off the interaction.

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