NEW YORK, May 24 — No matter how much you do it, solo travel can be intimidating.
It’s perfectly natural to be nervous about dropping into a foreign, new place on your own, whether you dread getting lost, feeling lonely, or just not knowing what to do when you’re eating dinner alone. But don’t order that room service cheeseburger — download these four apps, which will help you feel more sure-footed abroad.
Even if you’ve started your trip alone, you may end with a network of new friends.
Audio city guides you’ll actually love
The founder and former chief executive of Groupon, Andrew Mason, has found a new industry to disrupt: The audio guide. His latest app, Detour, launched softly in 2015 by offering immersive, offbeat audio tours in just a handful of (largely West Coast) cities. Yesterday, it expanded to include 115 tours in 17 international markets, from Portland, Oregon, to Paris. Many are narrated by influential locals; in New York, for instance, Harlem’s first globally-recognised chef, Marcus Samuelsson, offers a highly personal walking tour through his neighbourhood. In Washington, there’s a Detour about the history of espionage, narrated by two former intelligence officers. The focus on documentary-style storytelling means that the experience is more like listening to a compelling podcast than an audio version of Lonely Planet. Bonus: The guides have built-in GPS, which means you’ll never hear about a place before you actually arrive there. Free to download, iPhone and Android. Tours cost US$5 (RM21.50) each.
Group tours that don’t feel touristy
Peek lets you choose your own adventure in 22 cities around the world — generally in the company of like-minded travellers. It offers a curated list of activities from vetted third-party operators, ranging from bike tours to food crawls and themed excursions: A James Bond tour of London with lunch at Heatherden Hall (which served as the Spectre headquarters in From Russia With Love), or a day riding ATVs in Eldorado Canyon, just outside Las Vegas. The app maintains real-time availability and a best-price guarantee so you can book online worry-free — even last-minute. Free, iPhone and web.
Communal dinners in local homes
EatWith is the Airbnb of restaurants: It allows locals in 200 cities around the world to open up their homes for hosted group dinners. Plug in your desired dates and destination and you’ll be able to scroll through a variety of menus — some paired with cooking classes. In Paris, for instance, you can learn to make soufflés and then eat a late lunch at a local’s apartment in the Marais; in Barcelona, you can crash a Mediterranean-style Shabbat dinner, complete with Zaatar-infused challah and lamb kibbeh. Online only.
All solo travellers encounter nagging thoughts about safety at some point or another; for women, it can be an especially pervasive concern. Enter personal safety apps such as Companion and SafeTrek. The former lets you channel your location to designated friends, family, or companions, and it includes an “I Feel Nervous” button that will flag their attention. It also lets you skip that precautionary step and go straight to calling the police. (Americans used to dialling 911 won’t get far in other countries without this type of direct line.) Free, iPhone and Android.
By comparison, SafeTrek cuts right to the chase. It asks you to press a button on the screen as long as you feel safe; if you let go, you’re prompted to enter a predetermined four-digit pin code, or the app will automatically summon the cops to wherever you are. Better safe than sorry. US$2.99 per month, iPhone and Android. — Bloomberg