How to Use Tinder (Safely!) While Traveling: Introduction & General Safety

As I mentioned in Pt. 2 of my Kuala Lumpur series, I've had a fantastic time using Tinder in several cities around the world to meet new people and experience unfamiliar lands through local lenses. For those of you who don't know what Tinder is (idk, those kinds of people exist, right?), it's basically a dating app where you judge people based on a few pictures and a couple lines of description. If you like them, you swipe right, if you don't, you swipe left. If they've swiped right on your profile too, you match and can start a conversation. And while Tinder may be known as a hook up app, I promise it's also one of the best ways to explore a new place and meet some of the most interesting people.

Before we begin, I want you to figure out what it is that you're looking for. The way that you use Tinder is going to depend heavily on what exactly you want to get out of it. Are you with a group and mostly looking for recommendations? Are you traveling solo and looking for company or a tour guide? Are you trying to use the app for more ~traditional~ purposes?

All of these reasons are completely valid, but they all require thinking about how to do things in very different ways. And so, I've decided to give each its own individual guide!

Each guide will include tips on how to (where applicable):

  • Tailor your profile
  • Swipe strategically
  • Assess your matches
  • Have a successful meeting
  • Get out of a less than stellar situation
  • + Specific safety considerations

But before we get down to the particular details, I also have a few tips for general safety that can be applied to any Tinder situation (abroad or at home!)

Be careful with your personal information

By default, your Tinder profile includes a lot of information that's available on your Facebook (your first name, age, school, and job being among the most sensitive). Though you can't change your name or age without affecting your Facebook, you can decide to show/hide your education and work. I think that having some of that information isn't a bad thing (they do provide opportunities for commonality/topics of conversation, after all), but if you went to, say, a really small school or work for a small company or one that has a lot of employee information online, I might think twice about leaving that information up. Personally, I keep only my university on my profile. 

Tinder also gives you the option to connect your Instagram account to your profile, which can also be a great way to start up conversations, but, again, is something that you should be careful about. Make sure that if you do decide to connect it, you don't have any pictures that show sensitive information or are too revealing about where you live, etc. Even if your account is on private, if you've got it connected, the pictures will still show up on your profile (though they won't be able to see your entire feed). 

Don't always take things at face-value

Because a lot of the information that appears on Tinder is from Facebook, and because Facebook doesn't require you to verify that everything you enter into your profile is true, it isn't hard for false information to pop up on Tinder profiles. I can't tell you how many peoples' profiles claim that they went to Hogwarts or the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too. But not all of the false information is so obviously fake. You'll also come across scores of people claiming to have graduated from Harvard or work for Apple or who are the CEO of such and such. I'm not saying that all of the people who claim those things are lying, I'm just saying you should think twice before blindly believing that people are exactly as they say they are.

Check your matches' social media accounts

I personally tend to be much more likely to swipe right on someone who's got their Instagram attached to their account (or who have their Twitter/Snapchat/etc handle written in their profile) because while it's easy to fake information, it's a lot harder to fake months/years of accumulated social media posts and interactions. Don't be afraid to get a little creepy and stalk the heck out of them. Go look at pictures from three years ago, read the comments left by their friends on #tbt posts, click until somehow you're at their cousin's best friend's sister's dog's page. Social media stalking is a great way to gauge who a person is and how trustworthy they are. (Just be careful where on the page you're tapping!!)

Always let someone know where you are

This one's a no-brainer, and thanks to modern technology, even if you're in a foreign country, as long as you've got data on your phone (which should actually be the precursor to literally any of this), you can basically guarantee that it's possible for someone somewhere to know your whereabouts at all times. In fact, this could probably be a whole post on its own, but for now, I'll abbreviate (if you do want more information, just let me know, and I'd be more than happy to share!). Here are some things you can do:

  1. Start a group chat with your friends, from multiple social circles and time zones if possible. That'll increase the chances of someone seeing your updates every time you message.
  2. If you decide to meet up with someone, send screenshots of their profile + whatever other information you have (phone number, social media handles, etc.) to the group.
  3. Send your location every time you move to a new spot. Alternatively, if you and your friends have iPhones, keep your Find Friends feature on. (I can't really speak to similar features on Androids, sorry!)
  4. Have a code phrase or some sort of formula that you can send to your friends every time you update them to let them know it's really you. For example, send the title of a song by your favorite musician or work in a cat pun into every message or consistently misspell a particular word.
  5. Have another code phrase that means "Hey, this date sucks. Call me so that I have an excuse to be dropped off somewhere/leave."
  6. If all that seems a bit tedious or over cautious (tho really when it comes to safety, you can't be too careful!), at least do your best to document your whole time out on Snapchat or Instagram stories. Use geofilters and timestamps and try to get shots of your date as well. But let's be honest, you'll probably be doing this anyway!

Have a plan 

I'm not going to sugar-coat this and say that following my guides exactly will mean that everyone you decide to go out with will have the exact same intentions you do. It is Tinder, after all. And sometimes people, no matter how good they look on the surface, might have ulterior motives. I'll go into the specifics of what to do in that sort of situation in each guide, but one thing that I feel applies to any situation is to go in with a plan. Decide what you are and aren't comfortable with, and force yourself to stick to it by letting your date know before you have the chance to be persuaded to change your mind. If you're going out for dinner and want to make sure you're in the right mind to make good decisions, tell your date that you don't drink. If you want to be sure to be back by a certain time, tell your date from the start that you have unchangeable plans later in the day. And above all, stay accountable to yourself. Don't be afraid of hurting feelings or offending anyone if it means keeping yourself safe and comfortable.

I've been on over twenty Tinder dates, and while I don't consider every single one of them a "success," I never once felt uncomfortable or unsafe. There are some creeps on Tinder, for sure, but I hope that by following my guides, you're able to avoid them and have the trip of a lifetime!

One caveat to these guides: I'm writing from the perspective of a straight young woman for an audience of the same demographic. While a lot of what I have to say can apply to a wider range of identifications and orientations, just keep that in mind!