When you are traveling alone, your smartphone can be your best friend, caretaker, travel planner, and lifeline. That means you’d better have the right apps to help you get around and stay safe. Below are the best 27 apps for solo travelers in 10 different categories; consider downloading them as digital companions the next time you are traveling alone.
Note that a number of these solo travel apps require the creation of an account, profile setup, location tracking to be turned on, and other fussing around. Leave time to take care of this before you leave home.
Safety Apps for Solo Travelers
Let’s start here, as staying safe is perhaps the most important consideration for solo travelers.
TripWhistle Global SOS (iOS) helps solve the challenge of knowing the 911 equivalent abroad; it’ll call the local emergency number for you and share your location if you need it. (Here’s hoping you never do.)
The RedZone Map app (iOS | Android) offers the safest route from point to point instead of the most direct, based on various crime and social data. The app tracks incidents in real time to route you around them, although it does depend on reports from what appears to be a small user base at present. I tried it in several areas with which I am pretty familiar, and it did show less safe areas pretty accurately.
My Safetipin (iOS | Android) is an India-based app currently available in only five countries that will assess the area; give it a safety score based on nine parameters including lighting, population density, and transportation; and then suggest where to go. It also has a night mode for neighborhoods that may be less safe at night, and has functions that will allow you to notify authorities if you get into trouble.
Language barriers can loom even larger when traveling alone since you have no companions to fill in gaps in your own vocabulary. Google Translate (iOS | Android) is most folks’ go-to app, but Microsoft Translator (iOS | Android) has been gaining ground of late. For an in-depth comparison of their functions, see this story.
Sure, you could check into an anonymous hotel and hole up in your room on a high floor, but many solo travelers are looking for lodging options that offer more of an opportunity to meet local people. Apps like Airbnb (iOS | Android) and Couchsurfing (iOS | Android) give travelers the chance to interact directly with a local host. If you’re more interested in meeting fellow travelers, consider booking a hostel stay through Hostelworld (iOS | Android).
‘Eat with a Local’ Apps
Dining alone can be one of the more awkward parts of hitting the road by yourself, so “eat with a local” services are some of the most appealing apps for solo travelers. The best of the bunch I tested was VizEat (iOS | Android), which had the most options outside of major capitals, with destinations ranging from Stavanger, Norway, to Nashville, Tennessee.
Social Networking Apps
Want to meet other travelers on the road? Countless apps for connecting like-minded travelers have come and gone over the past few years. At the moment, one of the best social networking apps for solo travelers seems to be Meetup (iOS | Android), available in dozens of countries. On a quick search in my area, I saw get-togethers for hikes, bike rides, yoga, coding, empty nesters, single gamers, Gaelic lessons, pickleball … you get the idea.
Then there’s Tinder (iOS | Android). While it is mainly a dating app, more and more people are using Tinder for simple companionship when traveling, especially when traveling alone. Tinder also recently launched a new feature that connects groups of friends for activities.
Tour and Activity Apps
Joining a group tour can help you find other travelers to talk to if you’re feeling lonely. One app to help you find tours and activities is the Peek app (iOS or Peek.com), which was recently recommended by Melinda Gates. While researching an upcoming trip to the West Coast, I found truly a ton of stuff to do—it would have been almost too much were it not for the “handpicked activities just for you” feature, which narrowed my options down to 33 from more than 400. Those options were based on the profile I generated at sign-in, however, which resulted in a bit more of a narrow selection than I might have searched for myself.
The Outbound app (iOS or TheOutbound.com) produced superb results against my activity-based profile—not just for big cities, but also for suburban areas, remote islands, and more. I even found a couple of new-to-me places within 15 miles of the town in which I have lived for 20 years. This app was my favorite find during the research for this article.
Poking around to discover great restaurants and attractions is a fun part of traveling alone, but it never hurts to get some input from locals and travelers who’ve come before you. There are numerous apps for this purpose, but I haven’t found any that work better than the major ones such as Yelp (iOS | Android) and SmarterTravel’s parent company, TripAdvisor (iOS | Android). Like a Local (iOS | Android) and Localeur (iOS | Android) are also worth a look, but in this space, the bigger apps tend to be better.
Offline Map Apps
For solo travelers, knowing where you are going is a matter of both efficiency and safety, and you can’t always rely on having a connection and/or enough data to get you to your destination. There are heaps of offline mapping apps; you can start with Google Maps (iOS | Android), or check out lesser-known options such as MAPS.ME (iOS | Android) or CityMaps2Go (iOS | Android). Then map your route ahead of time, download the directions, and stop worrying about data charges.
Yeah, I know, you don’t want to hit some familiar chain when you’re trying to see a new place—but consider this one tactic: Prepay enough to cover a few meals on the Starbucks app (iOS | Android), and then almost anywhere you go, if you don’t have any cash and/or your credit cards are getting declined, you can find the local Starbucks and cash in the app cache to get yourself fed while you figure out your finances.
If you’re lost, tired, or out late at night, you might not want to walk back to your hotel or rental by yourself—and that’s where a ridesharing app can help. Uber (iOS | Android) and Lyft (iOS | Android) are the best-known of these apps, but in some parts of the world there might be better options. See The Best Uber Alternatives Around the World to learn more.
What do you think are the best apps for solo travelers? Post your favorite solo travel apps in the comments.
More from SmarterTravel:
- The 9 Best Places to Travel Alone
- 12 Travel Apps You Need on Your Phone
- 7 Things to Hate About Solo Travel (Even Though They’ll Make You a Better Traveler)
Ed Hewitt is a seasoned globetrotter who brings you a biweekly glimpse into the latest travel news, views, and trends—and how they could affect your travel plans.