How to Meet People While Traveling Alone

by wheretheroadforks

Solo travel gets lonely. There is no avoiding it. While traveling alone, you may spend days in transit without speaking to another individual. When you finally arrive at the hostel ready to socialize, putting yourself out there to meet fellow travelers can seem daunting. Particularly for those socially anxious. This guide outlines 19 ways to meet people while traveling alone.

Stay in a Hostel Dorm

This is the easiest way to make friends while solo traveling. By living in such close quarters with other people, you basically have to socialize. Even if you don’t feel like starting a conversation, sooner or later, one of your dorm mates will start asking you the classic hostel questions such as “Where are you from? Where are you going? How long are you traveling?”, etc. These basic dorm room conversations are so common that they become tiring after a while. The good news is that they usually end up in a new hostel friendship.

Use Social Media to Connect with People Online Before your Trip

These days, some people find making friends online much easier than in person. This is totally fine. Use sites like Meetup or Couchsurfing to meet locals, fellow travelers, and expats. Post your travel plans on your personal social media accounts to see if anyone wants to meet up. Who knows, maybe a friend of a friend is in town. This way, you can arrange an activity or simple meet up with your new friends before you even arrive. You may even find a travel buddy.

Choose a Social Hostel

The hostel that you choose plays a big role in how easy or difficult it is to meet people. Some hostels are designed to help you meet fellow travelers. Other hostels are designed for peace and quiet. They are usually full of local students or workers. Meeting people here can be a challenge.

To increase your chance of meeting people at the hostel, choose one with a large common area and bar. Also, look or hostels that serve meals. This is an excellent time to meet fellow guests. Party hostels are ideal for meeting other travelers if you’re into that scene. 

a hostel dorm room

A typical hostel dorm room

For more help, check out my guide: How to Choose the Best Hostel. Here, I break hostels down into 12 categories to help you pick the best one in each city.

Use Online Dating

These days, this is probably my favorite way to meet people in a new city. The main reason is that I get to spend time with a local rather than another tourist. The date becomes a legitimate cultural experience. Your date can show you some cool local spots and teach you the dating culture in their country. Also, you never know, you may even meet your soulmate.

For whatever reason, the dating app of choice depends on the region you’re traveling. I stick to the free ones. Tinder seems to be the most popular around the world, these days. You can also try Badoo and OkCupid.

You should take a few safety precautions while going out on a date in a foreign city. Meet in a public place like a park, cafe, restaurant, or bar for your date. Watch your drink so you don’t get drugged. You also have to watch your wallet. Occasionally a date may try to take advantage of you because they assume that you’re rich, as a traveler.

Have a Drink at the Hotel or Hostel Bar

This is probably the best way to meet people while traveling. While enjoying a couple of drinks, it’s easy to strike up a conversation with the bartender or whoever is sitting next to you. Ask them to recommend a local drink. Ask them about something in the city. A simple question can turn into a conversation.

After chatting for a while, offer to buy the next round of drinks. Now you have a friend. If you’re anxious or have trouble talking to people like me, having a few drinks makes socializing easier.

Go on a Free Walking Tour

These have become incredibly popular all over the world. To find one, simply do a search online or ask at your hostel reception. You’ll usually meet the group and guide in the city center and spend a few hours walking around the main sites. This gives you a great opportunity to meet fellow travelers in your tour group.

A free walking tour in Prague

A free walking tour in Prague

Keep a Positive Attitude

Your chances of making friends improve greatly if you appear happy and upbeat. Try to smile and stay positive. People are naturally attracted to positive people. Nobody wants to spend time with someone who’s constantly negative and complaining about everything. Don’t be a Debbie Downer.

I struggle with this. I often experience depression, even while traveling. During these times, I find it harder to make friends due to my negative attitude. To remedy this, I use the ‘fake it till you make it method.’ Basically, I pretend to be friendly and happy. Eventually, I’ll make some friends and my mood will improve.

Ask Everyone in the Common Area if they Want to Join You in an Activity

This one takes a bit of nerve, but you’re almost guaranteed to meet someone. Simply announce what you’re going to do in the common area and say that anyone is welcome to join. You could invite them for a meal, to go for a walk around town, to go sightseeing, to go to a shop, to go for a drink, etc.

This sounds kind of awkward while I’m writing this out but in reality, it’s not. If there are 5 people in the common room, chances are someone will take you up on the offer almost every time. Particularly if they are traveling alone.

Once, while I was sitting around a hostel common area in Quito wasting time on my phone, an English girl walked and loudly asked if anyone wanted to go for a walk. I didn’t have any plans so I decided to join her. We ended up having a nice afternoon taking photos and wandering around the city. After that, we went back to the hostel for dinner and a few drinks.

Share Your Food or Drinks

As the saying goes, the fastest way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. You can make an instant friendship with someone by sharing your food or drinks with them.

If you know how to cook, go to the hostel kitchen and whip up a big plate of your favorite meal. Offer some to fellow travelers. If you don’t know how to cook, buy some cookies or pastries and share them with people in the common area or even the staff. You’ll make friends pretty quickly.

Buy a bag of fresh fruit and share it with fellow travelers in the hostel common area

You could also buy a 6 pack of beers and drink a couple in the common area. Offer other travelers a beer. It’s almost guaranteed that they’ll take you up on it. If someone’s giving out free beer, wouldn’t you want to make friends with them?

Try to Look Approachable and Friendly While Traveling Alone

Unfortunately, your looks can have a major impact on your ability to make friends while traveling. For example, if you dress in all black and frown all the time, fellow travelers will be far less likely to strike up a conversation with you.

I have trouble with this sometimes. I’m a tall guy with a shaved head and a beard. My natural facial expression doesn’t look very friendly. I know that I don’t look too approachable sometimes. To remedy this, I try to dress decent and smile to make myself appear more friendly and willing to meet people.

Sign up for Hostel Activities or Outings

Many hostels offer free outings and activities like walking tours, pub crawls, dance lessons, barbecues, etc. Some hostels have a travel agency where you can book inexpensive day tours to see the major sites in the region.

If you’re feeling lonely, sign up for one of the hostel activities. You’ll end up spending the day with a small group of fellow travelers. Chances are, you’ll meet some fellow solo travelers in the group. During the activity, you’ll easily make some new friends.

a group of people on a hostel outing

Stay with a Local Host or Couchsurf

Homestays and Couchsurfing give you immediate friends in a new country. From the moment you arrive, you have somebody to talk to. Most hosts are happy to take you out and show you around their city. They’ll introduce you to their friends and family as well. They expect nothing in return but some good conversation. Of course, it’s nice to treat your host to a meal or a few drinks as a thank you.

Meet Other Travelers While in Transit

While traveling, you spend countless hours sitting around on buses, trains, planes, and ferries. This is a great opportunity to strike up a conversation with a fellow traveler. Many people would be happy to have a conversation to help pass the time. If you’re heading to the same destination, you can exchange contact info and meet up later.

While taking the ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, I struck up a conversation with the guy I was sharing a cabin with. He turned out to be an interesting guy who worked in IT in St. Petersburg. When we arrived, he gave me a ride to my hostel and we enjoyed some coffee together.

a long distance bus

Chatting with someone on a bus is a great way to pass the time.

Learn a Few Words of the Local Language

This is a nice icebreaker when meeting locals while traveling. People usually appreciate it when you make an effort to learn a few words in their language. Particularly when the language is uncommon outside of that country. Try to learn simple words and phrases like hello, thank you, how are you, you’re welcome, good morning, etc.

While waiting for my food in a restaurant in Cambodia, the waiter thought it would be fun to teach me a few words of Khmer, the local language. Over the course of my meal, I picked up a few basic phrases. For the remainder of my time in the country, I used the words when interacting with local people. They always got a kick out of hearing a foreigner speaking their language. Oftentimes this led to a conversation and quick friendship. One guy even gave me a beer while I was waiting out a rainstorm.

Take a Class

Maybe you want to study the local language or learn a new skill like cooking, diving, surfing, etc. Taking a class while traveling is a great way to learn something new as well as meet people with similar interests. When taking a class, you immediately have something to talk about with everyone involved. Chances are, you’ll spend time with your classmates after class as well.

I did this in Thailand. I always wanted to learn to scuba dive so I signed up for the open water course at a dive school on Koh Tao. During the day, I took lessons with a small group and went out on dives. In the evenings we ate meals together and enjoyed a few drinks. We all stayed in the same dorm as well. Over the course of about 10 days, I made some good friends.

Look for a Club or Community of People with Similar Interests

Whatever your interest, chances are you can find a group of people with the same interest in most decent-sized cities. For example, maybe you like to ride bicycles like me. You can probably find a bike club in most any city. Rent a bike and join them for a ride. The same is true of surfing, rock climbing, chess, etc.

Volunteer or Work Abroad

Sites like Workaway or WWOOF allow you to work in exchange for food and housing. Opportunities like this exist all over the world. Farm and hostel work are probably the most common types of jobs available for travelers. You can stay anywhere from just a few days to months on end. It’s up to you and the host. 

While working these types of jobs, you work alongside travelers just like yourself as well as locals. During your time off, you can go out with your new friends to explore and enjoy the area.

Volunteering works the same way. You spend your days working with a group of people with similar goals and interests to yourself. Chances are, you’ll build a quick friendship with the people working alongside you. 

Ask Questions

One great way to meet people is to ask them questions. In the hostel, you can ask people about their trips, their plans, or where they’re from. When talking to locals, you can ask them about the culture or recommendations of things to do in their country.

People will almost always answer your questions out of kindness, even if they don’t want to talk. If you don’t make a new friend, at least you’ll learn something.

Meet Up With Friends or Family Abroad

Maybe you have a friend from back home who’s living abroad. Maybe you have family in another country. Instead of making new friends, you can spend time with the ones you already have. This way, you know you already have a connection.

Remember, You Don’t Need to Meet People Everywhere You Go

You don’t have to constantly be talking to people and trying to make friends at all times. I notice some travelers do this and they just come off as trying too hard much of the time. It’s perfectly fine to do things alone. Personally, I often prefer being alone. I’m a bit of a loner though.

One strange observation that I’ve made over my years of traveling is that some solo travelers seem to base the success of their trip on the number of friends that they made and people they met. If they don’t make friends in a particular city, then it’s a bad city.

It’s also important to be able to enjoy a place on your own because you’re not going to make friends everywhere you go. I do, however, understand that people can leave a more lasting impression than many travel destinations.

A man hiking alone

Doing things alone is perfectly fine. You don’t have to constantly be meeting people while traveling if you don’t want to.

The Reality of Meeting People While Traveling

If you go in expecting to form deep bonds and lifelong friendships while traveling, you’re going to be disappointed. Most friendships you form will be brief and relatively shallow. You’ll share some drinks and laughs and see some sights, but that’s about it. After a few days, you or your hostel friends will move on. They’ll go make new friends at the next destination and so will you.

Chances are, you won’t stay in contact with the people that you meet during your trip for more than a few months after you return home. It’s still well worth putting in the effort. Even though the friendships may not last a lifetime, the memories will.

Every once in a while, you will make a real, lifelong friend while traveling. There are a handful of people that I’ve met during my travels that I’ve kept in contact with years after meeting. Some, I’ve even met up with in their home countries or different places around the world.

Final Thoughts: How to Meet People While Traveling Alone

To make friends while traveling, you have to put in a bit of effort. Once you get talking to someone, friendships form quickly.

If you’re about to head out on your first solo trip and are worried about not being able to make friends, the best thing you can do is to stay in a social hostel and visit the bar. Even if you just sit there, you’ll meet people most of the time. 

The best piece of advice that I can give about meeting people while traveling is to put in an effort to interact with locals. It’s easy to fall into a habit of just making friends with fellow travelers because you already have something in common with them.

The language barrier and cultural differences may make interacting with locals feel a bit intimidating or difficult. It’s still worth the effort. Locals can teach you things about the region and culture that you can’t learn otherwise. It’s also an awesome experience to form a connection with someone from a completely different culture from your own. It just shows how similar people are around the world. 

How do you meet people while traveling alone? Share your experience and tips in the comments below!

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