Why Tinder Is My Yelp
Traveling anywhere from Mallorca to Bangkok, Tinder is my most essential travel tool. The dating app, reimagined, helps me find the best local spots to eat, drink and enjoy platonic companionship.
A few months ago, I arrived at my hotel in Bankok after a 30-hour airplane journey, door-to-door. I was covered in peanut crumbs and my own drool, having slept only two hours on the plane due to a seven-year-old seatmate who had three fidget spinners and zero spatial awareness. After setting down my suitcase and screaming into a pillow, I opened my phone. Not to text my parents “I’m alive!!” or to check if anyone had liked my airport selfie—rather, I needed to open Tinder so locals could tell me where to eat.
Before I go any further, I want to address what you’re probably thinking. “That’s not fair! Those men are looking for love, and you’re just using them!” Wrong. Changing your Tinder bio to reflect your intentions— “in town for a few days looking for the best places to eat!” or “not trying to date, just trying to snack”—helps clarify your motives. If you’re straightforward, any assumptions on your match’s part is entirely out of your control.
In Bangkok, I matched with a lovely man from Boston who’d been living in Southeast Asia for over a decade. He helped me navigate the sprawling city streets to visit craft beer places I was eager to try. As thanks, I offered him beers—and lovely conversation, of course. Last year, while traveling through Parma, Italy, I asked local Tinder guys for their favorite trattorias. Perusing Yelp and TripAdvisor can leave me uninspired; the reviews are often written by tourists who are mad there’s no German version of the menu. When I travel, I’m looking for definitive answers from local authorities. I want to know where to eat the most spectacular parmigiana di melanzane and tortelli di zucca from people who’ve been living in the area their whole lives. A handful of men told me I needed to try Trattoria del Tribunale, and that night, I ate one of the best meals I’ve ever had. (Order the massive degustazione di salumi and never look back.)
In addition to being my number one source for restaurant recommendations, Tinder makes a spectacular ride-sharing service, minus the sharing part. On a recent trip to Mallorca, Spain, a small island off Barcelona that is notoriously tricky to navigate without a car, my friend and I wanted to visit the most breathtaking beaches, which are a fair distance outside of Palma, the city where we were staying. I deleted Tinder a few months ago in an effort to “try to read more or whatever,” so we used my friend’s account, writing in her bio that we were looking to go to a beach and needed someone with a car. We got a huge number of matches with cars who, due to rampant unemployment, were free (and excited!) to drive us to Es Trenca, a breathtaking beach by the mountains. After chatting with a handful of men, we settled on one who seemed chill, funny and the most proficient in English. We helped with gas and bought all the snacks, of course, and the three of us had a stunning day by the water.
Obviously, it’s essential to take necessary safety precautions, and I’m not just saying that because my mom will read this. Tinder—like truly all things—can be dangerous for women, particularly when you’re in a foreign country without cell service or a sense of where anything is. For this reason, it helps to have a travel buddy, like I did in Mallorca, though you should also tell other people where you’re going, plus try to meet any match you’re planning on exploring with in person before you hit the road. If you’re too nervous to meet up with anyone, Tinder still works as a wonderful resource for crowd-sourcing food questions from locals, which you can do from the safety of your hotel room bathroom.
Yesterday, looking out onto the shimmering, green-blue Mallorca sea while eating carrots, potato chips and ham under a rainbow umbrella, I thought, for the first time ever, “Thanks, Tinder, for bringing me here.”