Without a doubt, the biggest question that plagued me before I embarked on my first solo adventure 3 years ago was how will I meet other travellers? I was so shy when it came to approaching new people that to me, the idea of making friends while travelling solo was about as foreign to me as the countries that I planned on travelling to!
I think it’s fairly common for first time solo travellers to worry about how to meet people travelling – after all, solo travel is all well and good, but nobody wants to be totally alone for months on end! I actually already wrote about how to make friends in hostels so I thought that in this article, I would expand a little on what I said in that, as well as provide you with a whole host of other places you can meet people while travelling.
How to Make Friends While Travelling Solo
Breaking the Ice
The most difficult thing by far about making friends while travelling solo is breaking the ice. That initial point of contact with a stranger is always nerve-wracking, but once you’ve started talking, you’ll soon realise that you were worrying about nothing!
If you want to meet other travellers, just scout out somebody who looks the part (it’s always easy to spot a backpacker) and ask them if they have any recommendations on where to grab a bite to eat/buy a beer etc. Travellers are super friendly people, and as soon as you’ve initiated conversation, you’ll find that the small talk comes very easily. Chances are, you’ll get chatting about the generic backpacker stuff – How long have you been travelling? Where have you been? Where are you going? – and before you know it, you’re drinking a beer and planning your journey to the next city together.
You just have to break the ice.
Making Friends in Hostels
Making friends in hostels largely depends on your choice of hostel. When you’re choosing a place to stay, make sure to read the reviews carefully and if people say that a hostel ‘lacks atmosphere’ or makes it ‘difficult to meet people’ then stay the hell away. The best kinds of hostels to meet other travellers are party hostels as they tend to have events on every night and staff members whose job it is to get people socialising, but even if partying isn’t your thing, you’ll be able to find a friendly hostel no problem.
The best way to meet other travellers in your hostel is by talking to the people you’re sharing a room with. Say hello when you arrive and make some small talk with them. In hostels, it’s completely acceptable to talk to someone for 5 minutes and then ask them if they want to grab a beer in the hostel bar. Don’t believe me? Try it 😉
If your room is empty or your room mates don’t seem up for talking, just head to the hostel’s bar/common area and get chatting to someone there! If you see a lively table of people, just walk over and ask to join – they are guaranteed to say yes and you’ll only feel silly for a minute, I promise.
Join a Free Walking Tour
When I’m travelling around Europe, I love to take advantage of the Free Walking Tours that you can find in most major cities. Not only are they a great way to familiarise yourself with your surroundings and learn some history, but they’re also a great way to meet people while travelling as they’re full of – you’ve guessed it – travellers!
As you walk around the city, you’ll naturally end up speaking to your fellow travellers, and most walking tours even stop at a bar or cafe midway through the tour, giving you an even better chance to get to know everyone! If you feel as though you’re getting along with people, just ask if they want to go and grab a beer after the tour has ended – chances are, they do!
Tinder may not be something you expected to see on this list, but I love to use Tinder to meet people while travelling. Simply say in your bio that you have a few days in the city and want to find some cool local bars to relax in. Not only do you get to be shown around the city by someone who actually lives there, but they might end up being your soulmate as well! That’s a win/win I’d say.
(Note: only do this if you actually want to hang out with people face to face. Nobody likes to be bombarded with questions from people just using the app as a kind of TripAdvisor.)
I personally have never hitchhiked while travelling, although friends who have have told me that hitchhiking is a great way to meet people while travelling. First of all, it takes an eccentric to stop for a hitchhiker, so you know from the get go that you’re going to meet some interesting people, and the nature of hitchhiking means that you’re going to be in someone’s car for however many hours getting to know them. You never know, maybe they will invite you to some cool party when you reach your destination!
For some tips on how to stay safe while hitchhiking as a solo female traveller, please check out this link!
Join Travel Communities on Facebook
Not only are Facebook travel groups great information sources for travellers, but they are also great ways to connect with other likeminded people and meet other travellers! There have been so many times when I have seen people posting to groups saying that they are travelling alone to a certain destination and would like to meet up with someone, and the posts get inundated with comments from other solo travellers and locals who want to connect and show people around their city!
Another thing that makes these groups so great is that solo travellers can post if anything goes wrong and receive love, advice and support in response. I’ve seen solo female travellers post about being sexually assaulted and within minutes, local girls from the area have been offering to meet up to console them and help them to file a police report etc. They really are fantastic resources to have as a solo traveller, even if you’re not trying to meet people while travelling!
Take a Class
No, I don’t mean go back to school, I mean learn something fun or unusual while you’re travelling! Whether you’re into cooking, yoga, surfing or salsa dancing, every country has a tonne of classes perfect for solo travellers who are interesting in making friends while travelling and picking up a new skill at the same time!
While I was living on Koh Rong, so many tourists wanted to learn fire spinning and hula hooping, and there were always some friendly hippies willing to teach them! There were also daily yoga sessions on the beach as well as the chance to become a certified diver. The obvious bonus about meeting other travellers in this way is that you have a shared interest right from the beginning. What are you waiting for?
Workaway is a website that facilitates volunteer work by putting travellers in contact with people from around the world who need help running their various businesses in exchange for free food and accommodation. Whether it’s helping out in an animal sanctuary, renovating a house or helping someone’s kids with their English, there will be something to suit your interests and skillset on Workaway.
While Workaway’s primary purpose is of course to allow travellers to find volunteer work,it’s also a great way to connect with local people and ensure that you will never be on your own!
While most people know CouchSurfing as a site designed to connect backpackers with locals for free accommodation, not as many people know that CouchSurfing is also a great way to meet people while travelling, even if you don’t want to stay on a stranger’s couch! Not only are there regular meet ups in most major cities (where Couchsurfers will meet together in a bar for example), but there is also a section on the mobile app called Couchsurfing Hangouts, where users can connect with other online Couchsurfers and meet for coffee, or a beer or whatever.
I’ve used the Couchsurfing Hangouts a couple of times to meet people when my hostels weren’t too lively and I’ve ended up meeting some super interesting people! The really good thing about CouchSurfing is that there is a reference system, meaning you can look at someone’s profile and see what other people have had to say about them. This is a really great way of making friends while travelling but safeguarding yourself at the same time.
This just about concludes my list of different ways to meet people while travelling! Making friends while travelling is so easy, and with these tips, even the shiest solo traveller will have no problem meeting other travellers! What do you think? Have you tried any of these methods of making friends while travelling? Did they work? Let me know in the comments below!