12 shows to check out for your next trip, whether you’re a polyglot or a mountaineering maven.
Hearing stories about travel can sometimes be as fun as the travel itself. So much so that this year, AFAR ventured into podcasting territory, too, working in partnership with The Moth to bring some of our favorite stories from the magazine’s pages to life. But podcasts for travelers come in lots of genres—they might be personal essays, reported nonfiction, conversations with experts, or even language lessons. Here are 12 of our current favorite travel podcasts, no matter why you love to roam.
For the fiction listener
This science-fiction comedy pokes fun at the gig economy (and there are monsters). Set in a place called Fairhaven—a town literally encircled by a bubble to protect its residents from beastly critters that roam outside in “the Brush”—a group of friends becomes monster killers for an app called Huntrs. Hilarity and adventure ensue. The dialogue is sharp and the story fast-paced, with acting from folks like comedian Cristela Alonzo and indie darling Tavi Gevinson; the eight-episode narrative is perfectly bingeable for a flight or drive, clocking in at around four hours. But what earns this podcast a place on a list for travelers is what is at its ultimate heart: a journey with friends.
For the language learner
Learning a new language as a busy adult, outside of a classroom or other immersive setting, can be difficult. Enter Radio Lingua and the Coffee Break series. Whether you want to brush up on that German you studied in high school, or learn a new language for your next trip, you’re likely to find a good fit—podcasts are available in French, Spanish, German, Italian, and, since 2017, Mandarin Chinese. Episodes are about 15-20 minutes long, ideal for a coffee or lunch break, organized as a language curriculum would be. Every language besides Mandarin offers different proficiency tracks, so if you’re beyond bonjour, you can, for example, explore negative infinitives. Listen to dialogues with native speakers, learn new grammatical constructions, and emerge with a solid grasp of conversational skills by the end of the 40-episode season.
For the language lover
Though Lindsay Williams launched her site, Lindsay Does Languages, back in 2012, it wasn’t until late 2017 that she began a podcast (many episodes have accompanying videos, too). Language Stories follows Lindsay and her husband, Ashley, as they travel around the world, learn about different languages, and get to know some of the people who speak those languages. In season one they traverse the Americas, from Montreal to Paraguay, delving into lesser-known languages such as Nicaraguan Sign Language and Paraguay’s indigenous language of Guarani, as well as the many varieties of Spanish and English spoken throughout. In season two, which started in November, Lindsay journeys through Southeast Asia.
For the foodie
For more than 20 years, The Splendid Table has been a beloved radio show, sharing stories about food, food culture, and food policy with listeners. In 2018, food writer Francis Lam took the helm after longtime host Lynne Rossetto Kasper retired. For the past year, Lam has continued to explore the world of food with a modern lens. In each episode, Lam welcomes chefs, food writers, and other people from the culinary arts to discuss topics that range from the practical (how to elevate a sandwich, the best holiday cookie recipes) to the philosophical (eating in the age of Instagram, the implications of food tourism) and the cultural (ingredients from indigenous kitchens, enjoying Filipino food).
For the Spanish speaker
This award-winning podcast is not just for the world’s 400 million Spanish speakers. It’s for anyone interested in long-form journalism covering Latin American communities, wherever they may be. Each episode takes a deep dive into a single story, be it an account of the Cuban physicians who go on humanitarian missions around the world or the effects of a 2008 Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raid on the small town of Postville, Iowa, that led to the detainment of 400 undocumented workers (300 of whom were deported). Although this is a Spanish language podcast, English transcripts for each episode are available on its website.
For female travelers of color
On She Goes (OSG) is a digital platform developed in 2017 by women of color to encourage and empower other women of color to travel more confidently. Its podcast has evolved over the course of its few seasons (season three began in summer 2018); if you’re starting from the beginning, Aminatou Sow, whom you might know from the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, hosts; starting in season two, a whole team of badass women of color are running the show. Each episode features travel tips and discussions with the OSG team and their guests about topics as varied as immigration, ancestry, road trips, and outdoor adventure.
For outdoor adventure aficionados
For over a decade, the small but mighty team behind The Dirtbag Diaries has brought independent tales of adventure travel to listeners: a man’s quest to ski all of Washington State’s glaciers; a woman who rides her motorcycle around the world to fight against wildlife trafficking; a trans man who founded an outdoor company for members of the queer community to experience the wilderness. And that’s just from this year. The extensive archive of stories will make you want to lace up your hiking boots or toss some climbing gear into your backseat and conquer majestic mountains.
For the practical planner
Founded in 2005, Amateur Traveler is one of the most established travel podcasts around and has a simple premise: Every week, creator Chris Christensen talks about where you should travel and locals’ suggestions for what to do once you’re there. Whether you’re heading to Hong Kong or Mauritius, Alabama or Mexico City, Christensen’s chats with locals—who give itinerary ideas and tips for getting off the beaten path—will be helpful. Christensen himself is a fount of travel wisdom, too; he’s been to more than 60 countries.
For the news junkie
Keeping up with the news may feel more overwhelming than ever. That’s where BBC’s The World This Week comes in. Every Saturday, BBC correspondents synthesize the past seven days of news from around the globe, highlighting the most important events in trade, economic policy, and politics. Episodes are available for 30 days, and in true BBC fashion, reporting is reliable and straightforward.
Four years ago, when Annie Sargent returned to her home country of France after two decades living in the United States, she wanted to rediscover her homeland. So she launched this podcast with friend Elyse (a licensed tour guide and American expat living in France, who still appears regularly on the show). Each episode details tips for traveling in specific parts of France. Want to learn about the architecture of Notre Dame? They’ve got it. Want to run the Paris marathon? They’ve covered that, too. Need some guidance on Paris restaurant dos and don’ts? They’ll steer you in the right direction. And if you want to see France with them, in 2017 they launched Addicted to France, small-group tours to France. Bon voyage!
For culture vultures
Since January 2017, this monthly transatlantic conversation between hosts Chrystal Genesis (based in London) and Heta Fell (based in San Francisco) has focused on the arts, culture, and current affairs, with a decidedly global point of view. Each episode (usually about an hour) interviews or profiles poets, political activists, artists, filmmakers, and more who are bringing their voices to pressing societal issues. Whether they’re sharing the experiences of North Korean refugees, dissecting the importance of Donald Glover’s Atlanta, or entering the musical world of Oakland, California’s Afro House scene, Fell and Genesis bring a thoughtfulness and depth to cultural criticism.
For the curious traveler
This NPR podcast defies easy explanation. Its two seasons are short (only five episodes each), but hefty; reporting for “The Congo We Listen To” in season one earned multiple awards. Each episode focuses on a different country, examining interesting moments of cross-cultural communication. Sometimes it’s about something being lost in translation—the premier of season two grapples with a botched apology between Japan and the United States, for example—but other times it’s about understanding unspoken societal codes (“The Refugee’s Dating Coach”) or shifting platforms of equality (“Intruders.”) But all tell true stories that will get listeners thinking about how what we say—and how we say it—matters in an increasingly globalizing world.