Dating abroad can be a wondrous and deeply rewarding experience. However it's not for the faint of heart. As with any romantic endeavor there's a bit of risk involved.
Whether you're gazing into the eyes of the literal girl next door, or you're out on the town with a beauty from the other side of the planet, the age old question of "they love me...they love me not" always seems to hang in the balance.
And while it's inevitable that your heart may be exposed while pursuing a serious relationship, there's something you should never leave vulnerable: your wallet.
A lot of people take their international search to the world wide web, and unfortunately they wind up on the wrong site and pay dearly for it (in terms of money and heartache). We're hear to help spare you the trouble.
In this post we look at our top three picks for the best international dating sites. These sites made the cut because of their upfront honesty, their commitment to their users' experience, and because they go above and beyond to help inform and educate their users on how to navigate the waters of international dating.
5 Features of a good international dating site
1) No Pay Per Letter (PPL) fees
If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times. You should never pay to send or receive letters from someone on a dating site. There's an entire industry built around the PPL model*
*(if you're not hip to the the PPL (Pay Per Letter) scam you can read about it here).
Men and women alike are often paid to send letters and answer letters posing as a beautiful yet lonely lady from across the world. They earn money based on how long they can keep you sending letters (and thus racking up PPL fees). Truth be told it's an ugly business.
I cover this scam more thoroughly in our Scam School. Suffice to say, a good dating site will not charge you a fee for each letter/email you send. An honest dating site will charge a flat rate subscription price, after which you can communicate with other users on the site as much as you want.
A Closer look
Check Out Our Scam School Articles And Learn How to Date Safely
2) Allows users to take the conversation elsewhere
Many international dating websites require you to communicate with their users solely through their site. More often than not these sites follow the PPL model and charge you stiff fees to communicate with the ladies from their profiles.
These sites give you the expensive option of texting, video chatting, or the typical letter writing. However these sites do not allow you to exchange personal contact info with any of the women on their site.
A good dating site will allow you to exchange contact info (Skype id, email, phone number, social networks, etc), with the ladies you meet on the site. This cuts out the middle man and allows you to communicate with other users directly.
3) Proactive against scammers and spammers
Unfortunately scammers and spammers are staples of the online dating scene (whether you're using an international site or a local dating site). A good dating site will take an active stance against scammers. This means they will have systems in place to detect suspicious activity, as well as a system in place to help honest users report shady behavior.
4) Authentic profiles
A positive sign that you've found an honest site is that the profiles look and feel authentic. If there's an abundance of profiles of women that seem too good to be true, they probably are. Be wary of overly professional photos with long bios that sound romantically desperate.
The majority of the profiles should feel down to earth. There can be beautiful women on the site (and there likely will be), but what sort of things do these women write in their profiles? You should expect to find a mishmash of personality types and relational demands that you'd likely see in the real world.
Some women will be very serious and want to look for a man to start a family. Others may simply be curious. Some could be shy and not fill out all of their online profile.
One woman might specifically request that only tall men message her. Another may say appearance isn't as important but her man should be healthy. Some ladies might prefer men with a professional level career. Some ladies may be fairly religious...the list goes on.
Also, while many ladies will probably upload gorgeous photos. If it's an honest site some might not. You're liable to find unprofessional photos, and even the occasional homely lady on a quality site. There will probably be a healthy spectrum.
The list of possibilities could go on. I hope you get the idea.
The point is, if the majority of profiles are of supermodels who are looking for a man 20-99 years old, and are begging to be free from their loneliness...something is probably up.
5) Community and information
The idea of traveling to an exotic place to meet sincere women in the hope of a real relationship is exciting, but often times it can feel lonely too. Odds are that your friends, family, and coworkers aren't going to share your enthusiasm for international romance (in fact they might openly criticize the idea).
It can be great to connect with other like minded people who have been through the foreign dating scene. There's a certain camaraderie that occurs when people share their successes and failures.
It's also great when sites put out practical information about dating, travel, and culture. There's a lot of know how that goes into international dating. A dating site doesn't have to help educate it's users, but it's great when they do.
Our top 3 picks for best international dating sites
All sites in this list have made the cut because they are especially proactive against spammers and scammers. They use a combination of automated systems, manual reviews, and user reporting to monitor their profiles. They also each publish articles on how to avoid and detect fraudulent behavior.
1) Elena's Models
Subscriptions start at $19/month
Eastern Europe (especially the FSU)
The story behind the site
Elena's Models was started by Elena Petrova in 1999. Elena was a Russian blogger and columnist who had build up a large readership of Russian women. She wrote mostly about her experience as a Russian woman married to a foreigner, and gave advice to Russian ladies on how to navigate international relationships.
Seeing the international interest men had for her female compatriots, Elena put two and two together and started Elena's Models. What I love about Elena's models is that nine times out of ten the female users join the site after coming across Elena's Russian blog about international relationships. This means that by and large the women who use the site are more genuine and forthright about looking for a foreign man.
Elena's Models features profiles of women from all around the Russian speaking world. Though the majority are from Russia and Ukraine, you will also see women from countries as diverse as Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, other former Soviet republics, as well as countries such as Poland and Israel.
Another awesome feature is the site's free public blog, where Elena herself regularly writes on different topics relating to romance, dating, travel, and the cultural aspects of various Russian speaking countries. There's also a ton of free information on how scam sites work and how to avoid them (and it's all in English!)
2) Christian Filipina
Subscriptions start at $97/month
The story behind the site
The Philippines is probably the most popular destination for western men looking for a serious relationship overseas. The country is also known for its widespread Christianity. It makes sense then that there's a dating site that aims to combine these two features into a single niche dating site.
Christian Filipina's CEO and founder Peter Christopher is himself married a Filipino woman. The site is known for its high standards in safeguarding both its male and female users. Peter himself helped start the International Alliance for Honest Dating Sites.
Christian Filipina puts all of its user profiles through a manual review (this is rare in the online dating world). The site also allows users to report suspicious behavior, thus the community can self-regulate themselves too. CF also uses some of the latest security technology to help ensure a safe and genuine experience.
CF also provides an interesting feature called a second opinion. For a fee you can have a staff member from CF meet with the lady you've been corresponding with, to help gauge her intentions and sincerity.
User base and informational features
Christian Filipina has a good and long standing reputation in the international dating industry. More than half of its 900,000 users are women. By and large these women tend to have traditional family values as well a conservative Christian worldview. This isn't just here-say either, the site took a survey of its female users and published the results on their blog. You can find out more about it in our full review of Christian Filipina.
There is also a large selection of informational articles on the site covering the practical and cultural aspects of dating and marrying a Christian woman from the Philippines.
A real life success story
A Closer look
Bob V's Story of How He Met His Wife on Christian Filipina
Bob V who often contributes to our Living the Dream blog, met his women through the site and has many good things to say about his experience.
If you're serious about finding a Christian minded, family oriented Filipino woman; look no further than this site.
3) China Love Match
Subscriptions start at $11.85 per month
Story behind the site
China Love Match was started by an American-Chinese couple in 2007. Prior to meeting each other the couple had used other Asian dating sites, but were both disappointed with their experiences. The sheer amount of scammers and spammers on these sites made a decent user experience next to impossible.
The couple came up with a simple idea: create an Asian dating site that kept scammers at bay and only accepted real members. Thus China Love Match was born.
CLM uses a manual review process for new member profiles (the site claims they reject as many as 60% of new profiles because a new user is often not who they say they are). They also use a trademarked Scammer prison and Scammer alerts. If the CLM team and has identified a user with a fraudulent profile, a message alert is sent to any site member the scammer had contact with. The profile is then placed in "scammer prison" which is a public listing were all site users can see the blocked profile.
In addition to their manual review process and alert systems, China Love Cupid also encourages it's members to report any suspicious activity from other site profiles. They even offer IP checking, where paid members can request that CLM verifies that the person they are talking to is really located where they say they're located.
China Love Match has about 24,000 new members join every year. The company takes pride that in their 10+ years of operation they have never once posted a fake profile.
The ratio from men to women on the site is roughly 50/50. The age of male users is 24-70 (with most falling between 34-60). The age range of female users falls between 21-70, with the majority between 27 and 60.
China Love Match allows its users to create in-site forum threads and blog posts. Both the forum and the blog are active. Many a couple has formed after someone looked up the author of his/her favorite post.
Topics can range from dating experiences, life stories, hobbies, or even personal philosophy. Site owner John often writes lengthy post covering the cultural aspects of an intercultural relationship with a Chinese woman.
The three sites we've already listed in this article are on our list because they go above and beyond to ensure a good user experience, and they protect both their male and female users. The next collection of sites we're about to mention come from an Australian based company called Cupid Media.
Think of Cupid Media as the PlentyOfFish or Eharmony of international dating. Cupid Media runs over 30+ niche dating sites, many of which are aimed at connecting western men with women from other countries.
These sites aren't bad and have been used by many a man looking for love abroad. Just like the three sites we already recommended in this article, Cupid Media doesn't play the PPL game, and they also have some systems in place to report and weed out scammy or spammy profiles.
However, Cupid Media has taken a sort of one size fits all approach to their sites. With them you don't have the same care, attention, community, or information that you'll find on Elena's Models, Christian Filipina, or ChinaLoveMatch.
Also, it's not uncommon to stumble across spammers on their sites (though no where near as many as a PPL site), even though Cupid Media does use an automated system to find and block fake profiles. With Cupid Media you also don't find any extra cultural info or any of the community features we saw in our top 3 list.
That being said the sites of Cupid Media are a notable option for anyone looking to make a connection with someone overseas. With over 30+ sites, many Cupid Media sites are the largest dating site in their niche.
It's hard to find a larger site than Filipino Cupid if you're interested in the Philippines, Vietnam Cupid if you're interested in meeting someone from Vietnam, or Colombian Cupid if you're looking at dating in Colombia, and so on.
Latin American Cupid
Chinese Love cupid
In a world as small as ours and driven by technology, it's only natural that international dating and the internet often go hand and hand. Not everyone who looks for love abroad chooses a dating site. But for those who do choose to take their search online, there are a considerable amount of choices.
Hopefully this article helped narrow the field a bit. Every site we've listed in this post allows new users to create a free account and browse the profiles of their other members. Of course you'll need a paid subscription before you can communicate with anyone. Still, a free account should help you determine whether or not you've found the site that will meet your needs.
Remember: no matter which dating site you are using, always exercise common sense and look out for any red flags! Dating safely on the internet isn't hard if you use your head.