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How to Meet People & Make Friends While Travelling Solo
Putting yourself out there to meet people and make friends while travelling solo is a common fear of many newbie travellers.
Especially if you consider yourself to be shy, introverted, socially awkward or don’t speak the local language.
But meeting new people doesn’t have to be scary. You just need to know where to look and how to approach it.
You also discover that many solo travellers are just as anxious as you when it comes to putting themselves out there to find connection and make friends.
In this article, I highlight 5 of my top ways to meet people and make friends whilst travelling alone to prevent loneliness or homesickness.
1) Stay in Hostels
The first great way to meet people when travelling solo is to stay in hostels or shared accommodation. Especially if you’re wanting to find someone to explore a city or do things with.
If you’re an introvert, reserved, shy or lack self-confidence, hostels are a great way to meet people without having to put much effort in or go anywhere.
You can make friends:
- in your dorm
- whilst cooking in the kitchen
- hanging out in the common room
- on pub crawls and
- hostel events.
You can even have some great chats to the staff, who are often fellow travellers too.
Using me as an example, you don’t need to be a party animal to meet people and make friends while travelling solo.
- How to book cheap accommodation when travelling solo
How to meet people and make friends in hostels
Personally, I love hostels because you can choose a dorm room based on your preferences and mood – there’s so much flexibility.
You can choose to have your own private room or share a room with other travellers.
During my year of travel, there were times when I craved some alone time and space to myself.
In these circumstances, I’d book a private room within the hostel and use the common areas and kitchen to meet people if I felt like it.
If I didn’t feel like being social, then I could retreat back to my room for space and quiet.
It gave me so much freedom, and the ability to cosy up with a book or my laptop without being interrupted, or having people constantly entering and leaving the dorm.
It was also a cheaper way to have my own room compared to booking a hotel.
How to find & book a good hostel
There are many websites that you can use to find and book a hostel, regardless of whether you’re a party animal or not.
When booking a hostel some key things to consider are:
- Does it fit your budget?
- Is it in a safe, touristy and walkable location?
- Does the hostel have lockers for your valuables and good security?
- Does it have high quality & positive reviews?
- Do you want a party-hostel or not?
- Does it have a kitchen where you can cook your own food?
- Does it have wifi?
- Does it have strict check in & check out times?
There are many other things to consider, but that should give you a good starting point.
Here’s a list of the main sites I use to book my hostels:
2) Do Some Day Trips & Group Tours
Day trips and group tours are another way to meet people and make friends when travelling solo.
This was personally one of the best ways that I made friends when travelling. Some of the people I met during my travels have even turned into life-long friends.
How to meet people and make friends on Day Trips & Group Tours
The great thing about day trips and group tours you meet people with like minded interests.
It also gives you a break from travelling on your own, and having to organise every detail of your trip.
This is especially true when it comes to longer trips.
Sometimes it’s nice just to sit back and let the tour guides do the work and organise everything. Especially in places like Africa, where public transport is limited, unreliable and unsafe.
It’s also a great technique if you’re naturally more introverted or shy. Being stranded on a bus or van together gives you more time to pluck up the courage to break the ice.
You also have more time to learn about your travelling counterparts before “making a move” which can boost your confidence and help you choose those you think you’ll bond most with.
How to find and book Day Trips & Group Tours
There are many different ways to book say trips and tours.
Here are some of my favourite day trips & group tours I have done on my travels:
- 40 days Overland camping from Cape Town, South Africa – Kenya (G-Adventures)
- Horse-riding in Petra, Jordan to Mount Aaron (Red Rock/ IBS Tours)
- 7-night Budget Egypt Tour (G-Adventures)
- 14-night Highlights of Morocco Tour (G-Adventures)
- Sumatra, Indonesia – North Sumatra Tour (Sumatra EcoTravel)
- 3-Day Isle of Skye, Inverness, Highlands and Glenfinnan Viaduct Tour (Edinburgh, Scotland)
My favourite websites that I use to book tours and meet people whilst travelling are:
- Tours Radar
- Get Your Guide
- Airbnb Experiences
3) Volunteering, Homestays & Work-aways
If you’re wanting to meet people and make friends while travelling solo, volunteering is an awesome way to do it.
In my opinion anyway!
I have made at least 2-3 lifelong friends from volunteering in different places across the world.
Homestays and workaways are also a great way to meet locals, immerse yourself in the true culture of the place you’re visiting and meet like minded people.
They can also be a great way to save money on your travels.
How to meet locals and make friends with Homestays & Workaways
Personally, I LOVE volunteering.
No matter where I travel, I like to ensure that I do at least one positive or impactful thing whether it be:
- Teaching English
- Environmental & Animal Conservation
- Being an Au-pair
- House sitting or pet sitting etc.
Although some volunteer programs can be pricey, it‘s a great way to take a break from usually backpacker life and you get to stay in one location for a longer period of time (usually), or even just for 1-2 weeks.
In most cases, the volunteer project will even include your food, accommodation and sometimes activities.
You can read more about some of my volunteering experiences here.
How to find and book a Volunteering Project
One thing to keep in mind when booking a volunteering project is that NOT ALL volunteer projects are legit or ethical.
You want to make sure that you do your research, check reviews and ensure that the company/ charity running it is authentic. Especially in poorer countries, such as Asia & Africa.
There are many volunteer projects that exist but don’t actually benefit the locals or the animals that are a part of them.
Instead they provide another tourist trap, for those thinking they’re helping and doing the right thing, but are actually endorsing a money pit for those running the project.
Here are some of the volunteering projects I have done on my travels:
- Volunteered at a Centre of rescued and orphaned elephants in Chiang Mai Thailand (Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)
- Volunteered at an animal conservation reserve in South Africa (Shamwari Conservation Experience)
- Taught English to children and adults in Zanzibar, Africa (African Impact)
- Taught English in Warsaw Poland to corporate professionals
How to find and book Homestays & Workaways
For homestays and workaway my favourite website is workaway.info.
There is an initial start up price, however it’s worth it given how much money you tend to save doing work-always whilst travelling.
You will need to create a profile outlining who you are, what you’re looking for and what you’re good at.
Sometimes, it can be tricky and competitive to find places to accept you, especially if you haven’t done a work-away before and have no reviews from hosts.
BUT, once you catch a break and get your foot in the door, it becomes much easier to apply and secure work-aways all over the world, which can be freaking awesome.
Here are some of the work-away and home stay experiences I’ve had throughout my travels:
- Spent time as an Au-Pair in Florence, Italy looking after 2 kiddies, helped them practice their English and helped them with their school performances
- Spent time in Southern Spain, babysitting 2 dogs, 2 horses & a foal.
- I was able to ride one of the horses through the countryside, got to train a baby foal and also helped one of the dogs give birth to a litter of puppies
4) Couchsurfing & Airbnb
If you’re interested in meeting locals, then Couchsurfing and staying in Airbnb’s can be a great way to go.
Unlike hostels and hotels, with Airbnb, you can choose to stay in a room within someone’s house in your chosen destination, or even book out the entire house.
By booking out a room within a local’s house, you may experience the benefit of them showing you around the local area and the cool hang outs.
Obviously, you need to take the right precautions and research your host.
That time to read reviews and ensure that their place is located in a safe location. If you take the time to do this right, it’s unlikely you’ll have a terrible experience.
I did a lot of couch surfing and Airbnb stays during my full year of travelling, especially in Europe.
I had one negative experience where I felt uncomfortable, but other than that, the rest were fantastic and convenient.
I even got to experience things locally, that many other travellers would never see.
How to Find & Book Couchsurfing Opportunities
If you’d like to get a taste of what couchsurfing is all about, the simplest way to start your couch surfing journey is to sign up for Couchsurfing.com.
First, set up your profile and search for local hosts in your target destinations that you could get along with.
In my opinion, it’s a good idea to find a host in good time before you arrive in your destination. However, couch surfing can also be a handy for last minute accommodation or if you need to escape your current accommodation (eg. For safety reasons)
Similar to workaways and home stays, it can take a bit of time to get your first gig because people rely on positive reviews to get an idea of what you’re like before accepting you into their homes.
However, all you need is someone to take a chance on you and leave a positive review, then you’re good to go!
5. Using Public Transport to Make Friends while Travelling
Surprisingly, public transport has been another way that I met people and made friends whilst travelling solo. Especially when travelling between cities or to a faraway destination.
Given you’re stuck in a bus, plane or even a boat, there’s not much to do but either chill and have time to yourself, or start a conversation with a stranger.
I usually did the former because I enjoyed using my transit time as downtime BUT many have used public transport as a place to share travel stories and meet other travellers going to the same destination.
Regardless of whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, public transport can be a handy place to meet people, and is often overlooked.
Other ways to meet people and make friends while travelling solo:
If staying abroad for a while you could join local classes or activities
- Local cooking classes, learning the local language, etc)
Join traveller facebook groups
- Great if you’re wanting to meet up with other travellers who may be in the same area as you or want advice
Use the Meet-up website/app.
- Especially great if living or studying abroad for a while and wanting to make friends
Travel & Friendship Apps
- Some apps that can be helpful to meet people when travelling include Bumble, Tinder, Backpackr or even Tourlina.
Learn the language before you go
- If you’re worried about language barriers, then it can be helpful to learn some of the local language before you go. This can help you to connect and communicate with locals, and also could make your trip a lot smoother and less stressful.
- There are many language phone apps as well as newbie books & dictionaries that can help
Listen for your language
- Another “outside of the box” way to meet people whilst travelling is to listen for your language.
- If you’re staying in a hostel, or out touring the streets, it can be cool if you hear something with a similar language or accent as you.
- It gives you an excuse to reach out and connect with an ice breaker like “Oo you sound like you’re from Australia. ME TOO!”.
- Even if you’re wrong, it can be a great way to start a conversation anyway and ask where they’re from
5) Additional Tips for Meeting People & Making Friends When Travelling Solo
- Be Open minded
- Be Positive
- Be Flexible
The thing about travelling solo, is that you’ll meet SO many new people, even if you’re afraid you won’t or are a shy person.
Whether it’s bumping into them the evening before you leave or when you arrive at your hostel for the first time, making friends isn’t that hard when you know where to look, and what to say to start conversation.
Be open minded.
When you find someone you truly click with, regardless of age or background, there’s no reason why you can’t change your plans and go on a little adventure together.
That’s the beauty of travelling solo and having complete control over your itinerary.
Be aware of your body language.
If you notice that you’re avoiding eye contact, have your arms crossed or are on your phone all the time, people are unlikely to approach you.
Be mindful if you have a “resting bitch face”.
This will definitely impact whether people come up and talk to you. Most will give you a wide berth due to feeling like you’re intimidating or not up for a conversation.
Instead of avoiding eye contact or looking away when somebody looks at you, make a deliberate effort to meet their gaze and smile back.
That is literally the first step in making friends. Which way you decide to break the ice, always be inclusive, positive and friendly. Even if it’s just saying “Hi” or asking someone for directions.
My top 5 ways to meet new people and make friends whilst travelling solo are:
- Stay in hostels to meet other travellers
- Do some day trips and group tours
- Look at doing some volunteering, home-stays or work-aways to immerse yourself in local culture and meet a mix of locals and travellers
- Consider couch surfing & Airbnb to meet locals
- Use public transport to your advantage
- Local classes & activities
- Join travel Facebook groups
- Use the Meetup App
- Learn the language
- Listen out for other travellers who speak your language