How to Make Friends in a Hostel (Even as an Introvert!)

Before I went travelling, there was one fear that plagued me – what if I couldn’t make hostel friends?

Although I’m not overly shy, I do find it difficult approaching a stranger or groups of strangers – hell, I find it difficult enough to speak to somebody I don’t know on the phone, let alone face to face!

However, what I quickly found out as soon as I embarked on my solo travels was that you are never really alone when you travel, even though you may be travelling alone!

In fact, it’s actually easier making friends in hostels as a solo traveller than it is when you are travelling with friends or as part of a couple, no matter how shy you are!

How to Make Friends in Hostels While Travelling Solo

If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, the thought of just going up to a group of strangers and asking if you can hang out with them sounds insane.

Chances are, if you’re sitting in the park with a couple of friends and a random dude asks to join, you would be more than a little creeped out, and the same goes for a bar situation – you’d just assume that you were being hit on and make your excuses.

However, in a hostel it is totally different.

You won’t look like a weirdo if you strike up conversation with someone or ask if you can join whatever drinking game they’re playing.

People who stay in hostels are generally always open to meeting new people, and for the most part, hostels are judgement-free zones. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t the popular kid at high school – in hostels, everyone is equal, no matter their differences, and making friends in hostels is super easy.

If you’re unsure about what to expect when staying in a hostel, just check out my guide to staying in hostels!

hostel friends
My first solo trip – Bali, Indonesia, 2015

How to Make Friends in a Hostel

1. Smile!

People really will approach you more if you smile.

I’m not talking about sitting alone with a stupid grin plastered across your face because that just looks borderline psychotic, but if  you make eye contact with somebody in your hostel then just smile and say hello!

The best way of doing this is to say hello to the people in your room as the hostel staff member is showing you to your bed. You can just give them a quick nod and that’s it!

Nine times out of ten, the person will then strike up conversation with you by asking where you’re coming from or introducing themselves, essentially doing the rest of the work for you!

2. Sit in busy areas

It sounds obvious but if you want to make hostel friends, you’re not going to do it by hiding away in your dorm bed. Most hostels have some sort of common area, so just go and sit in it!

Eventually somebody is bound to start a conversation with you. Just make sure you aren’t staring at your phone the whole time because people will assume you want to be left alone.

greg & tom party hostel
Greg and Tom Party Hostel in Krakow

3. Break the ice

If you’re wondering how to make friends in a hostel, by far the quickest way in is to break the ice.

Something that I always do to break the ice is just ask someone a random question. You could ask someone for the WiFi password, or if you smoke then asking for a cigarette lighter is always guaranteed to be a conversation starter.

Something that I usually do is ask somebody if they know of a good place to eat nearby. More often than not, they will say something along the lines of ‘oh yeah, I’m super hungry too actually – mind if I join?’ and bam you’ve made one of your first hostel friends! This is the way that I’ve made a tonne of hostel friends and is always my go-to.

The beauty of using an ice-breaker like this is that once you’ve done it, it’s a lot easier to continue the conversation by introducing yourself and asking the person how long they’ve been at the hostel etc. Not only that, but it’s a good way to find out if someone is up for chatting – if you get a shrug or a one word answer then this is probably not someone looking for company!

making friends while travelling meeting people while travelling meet other travellers
Wearing a shirt saying “I love Polish boys” is always a good icebreaker

4. Ask to join

This is definitely the most difficult way to approach people if you’re travelling alone, and is the one that I find most intimidating, but it is pretty much guaranteed to make you hostel friends if you’ve brave enough to try it.

If there is a crowd of people playing a card game or drinking game, or simply chatting in the hostel bar, just walk over and ask if you can join them!

This is a perfectly normal thing to do when it comes to making friends in hostels and nobody will think anything of it – they’ll just tell you to grab a chair and probably offer you a beer!

The best way to gauge whether a group will be open to you joining them is to quickly assess the dynamics – 3 girls who are clearly travelling together and are huddled quietly in a corner may not be so open, but if it is a large group of backpackers of different ages and nationalities then chances are they were all strangers not too long ago and won’t mind a bit!

old town hostel kotor
Hostel friends in Kotor, Montenegro

5. Make use of the free breakfast

Hostels in a lot of countries provide free breakfast in the morning which is a great way of making friends in hostels.

Just find a table with a few spaces, sit down and say hi!

Even if you only end up exchanging small talk, it still paves the way for further interaction later in the day.

6. Get involved!

The vast majority of hostels will organise some sort of event aimed at getting everyone socialising. If you are staying in a party hostel then this will likely be a beer pong tournament (a fantastic way of making hostel friends), a booze cruise or a pub crawl.

Quieter hostels will often offer free walking tours, movie nights, family dinners, excursions to nearby attractions and BBQs and more.

I highly recommend getting involved in whatever event is going on at your hostel (even if it isn’t necessarily something you fancy!) as you are guaranteed to meet tonnes of people who are also looking to make hostel friends!

hostel friends
Gender swap party in Thailand

7. Relax!

Finally, and most importantly, relax!

Sometimes you’ll get unlucky and end up in a hostel where nobody wants to socialise. It happens. But you know what? It isn’t the end of the world! Just suck it up, find something to do on your own and know that tomorrow is a new  day and you will definitely meet people soon.

Making Friends in Hostels | Final Thoughts

Now, I want to hear your thoughts!

Do you have any tips on how to make hostel friends?

Do you find it easy, or are you shy like me?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!


17 thoughts on “How to Make Friends in a Hostel (Even as an Introvert!)”

  1. You will absolutely make friends in just about every hostel you stay at as long as you are not the only guest staying at the hostel. That can be the case in some destinations, but a hostel all to yourself also has its advantages. If making new backpacker friends is a main part of your travel plans stay on the popular backpacker gap year circuits

    The only way you wouldn’t make friends at hostels that have other guests is if you are one of those people who scare others in hostels.
    2 ways you could scare others:
    1. Be hyper sensitive of all aspects of sharing space with others and express it by sighing loudly, making up rules and demanding people follow them, knock loudly on toilet door so person in there knows you expect it to always be available when you need to use it and a few more.
    2. Never make eye contact and never greet or talk with anybody in your dorm room or other parts of the hostel. Just go about your buisness as if nobody else is there.

    1. Yeah, I’ve definitely encountered a lot of #2s! Some hostels that I’ve been in have had people that clearly want to keep to themselves and ignore any attempt at communication, but those people are definitely in the minority and you’re right – the most popular backpacker hostels are definitely very social!

      I’ve also been the only person staying at a hostel on the odd occasion and it’s actually been nice to enjoy a couple of days peace and quiet!

    2. A few years ago, I stayed in a hostel in Skopje where I was the only guest for half of my stay and one of two for the other half. It was amazing. The owner was very nice as well. He had a few single rooms so he put me in one of them for my stay instead of the big dorm, which I hadn’t paid for. He also checked up on me a lot, since I was there alone.

  2. This is super useful information. When I did the two-week, four country trip I worried I’d feel lonely, but the only place I was alone was in Macedonia and it was because I was the only guest at the hostel. I did, however, meet a really nice guy who lived there who showed me around a bit. He was the volunteer who fed the stray dogs and I’d asked about how they’re cared for. The only other time was at first in Sofia, Bulgaria. And that’s because I was working while I was travelling, so the first day I spoke to no one because I wanted to get the project done. After that, I approached people and made friends. πŸ™‚

  3. I love this! I have stayed in many hostels and I definitely think the key is involving yourself in all of the social events! Hostels have them pretty much every night and it’s the best way to meet people! I have done pub crawls, movie nights, day hikes and way more! Everyone is usually really friendly and open to meet people on these types of things.

  4. I have never stayed in a hostel ,but idea of making friends with strangers always fascinated me..may be someday ..thanks for sharing useful tips

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