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 your destination ready to socialize, putting yourself out there to meet locals and fellow travelers can feel intimidating. Not everyone is good at socializing. The good news is that solo travel is one of the easiest ways to meet people. It does take a bit of effort on your part. To help you out, this guide outlines how to meet people when traveling alone. We’ll talk about hostels, tours, social apps, bars, and more.
Over the past 12 years, I’ve spent about 1/3 of my life solo traveling. I’ve met some incredible people but also had some lonely times. I am an introverted traveler who sometimes struggles with meeting people. In this guide, I’ll share how I make friends while traveling. Hopefully, this guide helps you form some quick friendships on your next solo trip.
How to Meet People When Traveling Alone
1. Stay in a Hostel Dorm
Staying in hostels is the easiest way to meet people while solo traveling. Hostels are designed to promote interaction between guests. You sleep in a dorm room with fellow travelers. There are common areas where you can chat, cook, eat, drink, play games, or watch TV with other guests. Many hostels also host parties, movie nights, communal dinners, drinking games, pub crawls, tours etc. This all makes it extremely easy to meet people in hostels.
By living in such close quarters with other people, you basically have to socialize. When you stay in a hostel, sooner or later, a fellow traveler will strike up a conversation. If nobody talks to you, you can break the ice by asking someone simple questions such as where they’re from, where they’re traveling, or where they’ve been. These basic hostel conversations are extremely easy to start. They usually end up in a new hostel friendship.
You don’t have to stay in a dorm room to take advantage of the social aspects of hostels. these days, most hostels offer private rooms. Even if you’re not staying in hostels, you can still go to hostels to socialize. Most hostel bars are open to anyone. You don’t have to be a guest.
The hostel that you choose plays a big role in how easy or difficult it is to meet people. Not all hostels are social. I sometimes struggle to meet other travelers in hostels. Sometimes people keep to themselves. Some hostels are quiet.
If you’re staying in a hostel with the sole purpose of meeting people, try to choose a social hostel. You can determine whether or not a hostel is social by reading the reviews. Some hostels are designed to help you meet fellow travelers.
To increase your chance of meeting people at the hostel, choose one with a large common area and bar. Also, look for 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.
2. Go on a Walking Tour
Walking tours have become incredibly popular all over the world. To find one, simply do a Google search for walking tours in your destination or ask at your hotel or hostel reception. Most cities offer free walking tours.
You’ll usually meet the group and guide in the city center and spend two or three hours walking around the main sites of the city. This gives you a great opportunity to meet fellow travelers in your tour group.
Everyone you meet will be new to the city. It’s common to meet fellow solo travelers on walking tours. It’s easy to strike up a conversation about the sites you’re seeing.
After your tour, you could invite some fellow travelers to join you for dinner or drinks. Alternatively, you could exchange contact information and meet up the next day for sightseeing.
Free walking tours aren’t completely free. You are expected to tip the guide at the end if you enjoyed the tour.
3. Use Social Media to Connect with People Online
Some people find making friends online to be much easier than making friends in person. This is totally fine. Use sites like Facebook, Meetup or Couchsurfing to meet locals, fellow travelers, and expats. You can arrange an activity or simply meet new friends before you arrive. You may even find a travel buddy.
There are a number of ways to make friends online while you solo travel. Probably the best way to meet people online is through Facebook groups. There are Facebook groups for travelers. Every large city has expat and digital nomad groups. You can also join local Facebook groups to meet people with similar interests.
Meetup.com is a social media platform that is used for organizing in-person events. It’s a great way to find people to hang out with. There are groups for all types of hobbies and interests.
Couchsurfing is also an excellent resource for meeting locals as well as other travelers when you solo travel. You can find other solo travelers in the city, start chatting, and make plans to meet up before you arrive. You can also meet local hosts who can show you around.
Another option is to post your travel plans on your personal social media accounts to see if anyone wants to meet up. Simply post ‘anyone in (location) and want to meet up?’ Who knows, maybe a friend of a friend is in town.
4. Have a Drink at a Local Bar
Bars are excellent places 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.
There are lots of different types of bars to visit. If you’re into sports, you could visit a sports bar and watch a game. It’s easy to strike up a conversation about the game. If you like dancing, you could go to a club or a bar where live music is playing. Many bars also hold events like trivia night, karaoke, or salsa night. These events are great ways to meet people while you solo travel.
5. Take a Class
Taking a class is a great way to meet people while you solo travel. As an added bonus, you’ll pick up a new skill. There are classes for every interest.
Maybe you want to learn the local language. You could take a language class. This is extremely popular in Latin America. Most travelers study Spanish. You could also take a class to learn a new skill. For example, you could take a cooking class or a photography class. You take a class to learn a new sport like skiing, 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 the other students. Chances are, you’ll spend time with your classmates after class as well.
I always wanted to learn to scuba dive so I signed up for the open water course at a dive school in Thailand. During the day, I took lessons with a small group and went out on dives. In the evenings the other students and I 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 great friends. I also took a cooking class in Mexico that was a lot of fun.
6. Take a Small Group Tour
If you’re having trouble meeting people while you solo travel, join a group tour. You could book a day tour to visit a nearby sight or even sign up for a multi-day tour around the country. Just because you’re traveling alone doesn’t mean that you have to travel independently.
During your group tour, you’ll spend time with other travelers. You’ll have plenty to talk about because you all share a similar interest in the sight you’re visiting. Many group tours also include meals. This is a great time to sit down and chat with like-minded people. You can also chat with the guide. It’s hard not to meet anyone on a group tour.
When booking group tours, try to choose small group tours with 15 people or fewer. It’s easier to meet people on small group tours. Everyone naturally becomes friends. If you book a group tour with a large group of 50 people, meeting people becomes a bit harder. Also, try to book a group tour that matches your interests and age group. Some group tours are designed for young travelers who are very active. Others are designed for older travelers who may prefer to move a bit slower.
There are a couple of drawbacks to group tours. First, they’re generally more expensive than independent travel. There is also a chance that you won’t get along with some of the people on the tour. You never know who the other travelers on the tour will be.
I often take day tours when I travel. I find that they are a great way to see the sights quickly and easily. Usually, I meet some interesting people as well.
7. Use Online Dating
These days, this is probably my favorite way to meet people in a new city while I solo travel. The main reason is that I get to spend time with a local rather than another tourist. Dating in a foreign country is also a bit of a cultural experience.
Your date can show you some cool local spots. They can teach you about their culture. They might even introduce you to some of their friends. As an added bonus, you may even meet your soulmate. You never know. At the very least, you’ll make a friend.
The dating app of choice depends on the region you’re traveling in. Tinder seems to be the most popular around the world, these days. You can also try Badoo, Bumble, or OkCupid. There are also dating apps dedicated to specific countries. It’s usually pretty easy to get a date when you’re traveling because you’re an exotic foreigner.
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. Keep an eye on your drink. You also have to watch your wallet. Occasionally a date may try to take advantage of you because they assume that you’re a rich traveler. Romance scams are also common in some countries.
8. Keep Your Plans Open and Be Flexible
Book your flights, hostels, and activities as you go instead of booking in advance. Also, try to travel slowly. This allows you to be more spontaneous while you solo travel. If you meet someone and they invite you to travel with them, you can. When you make a nice group of friends in a hostel, you can stay for a few extra days and enjoy more time together.
If you already have everything booked, you might have to pass on these opportunities. If you’re moving every few days, you won’t have the chance to grow friendships. One of the main benefits of solo travel is that you have complete control over your schedule. It can make it much easier to make friends if you slow down and keep your plans open. Freedom is the best part of solo travel. Take advantage of it by leaving your schedule open.
9. 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 or some baked goods. Offer some to fellow travelers. If you don’t know how to cook, buy some cookies or pastries from a local bakery and share them with people in the common area. You’ll make friends pretty quickly. Travelers are always hungry.
Alternatively, you could buy a 6 pack of beer and drink a couple in the common area. Offer other solo 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?
10. Keep a Positive Attitude
Your chances of making friends improve greatly if you are happy and upbeat. Try to smile and stay positive. People are naturally attracted to positive and happy 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 improves.
11. Sign up for Hostel Activities or Outings
Many hostels offer free activities like walking tours, pub crawls, dance lessons, shared dinners, drinking games, themed parties, etc. Take advantage of these activities. They are designed to help the hostel guests meet one another. You’ll end up spending time with a small group of fellow travelers. Chances are, you’ll make some friends.
When booking hostels, look for properties that offer these types of activities. Usually, they’ll mention them in the description on the booking site or on their website. Sometimes guests will talk about the activities in the reviews.
12. Ask Everyone in the Hostel Common Area if they Want to Join You for an Activity or Meal
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 ask if anyone wants to join you. 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. 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.
To increase your chance of success, research some affordable restaurants nearby. Go into the common area around lunchtime or dinnertime and ask if anyone wants to join you. Most likely a hungry traveler will join you.
Once, while I was sitting around a hostel common area wasting time on my phone, a girl walked in 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. I tried the same thing at another hostel. I ended up going for lunch with a fellow solo traveler.
13. Try to Look Approachable and Friendly While Traveling Alone
Your looks can significantly impact your ability to make friends while you solo travel. For example, if you wear old dirty clothes, never groom, and frown all the time, fellow travelers will be far less likely to strike up a conversation with you. If you’re well-dressed, groomed, and have a smile on your face, people will be more likely to approach you and talk.
I have trouble with this sometimes. I’m a tall guy with a shaved head and a beard. I naturally don’t look very friendly. I know that I’m not too approachable. To remedy this, I try to dress decent and smile to make myself appear more friendly and willing to meet people.
14. Go Couchsurfing or Stay With a Local Host
Couchsurfing is a great way to meet people while traveling solo. 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 may 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. Couchsurfing ghosts are verified and rated by previous guests.
As an alternative to Couchsurfing, you could do a homestay. You’ll stay with a local family and learn about their way of life. A number of homestay programs are available online. Most commonly travelers choose homestays when studying a new language. Immersing yourself by living with native speakers is the fastest way to learn.
The biggest benefit of Couchsurfing or homestays is that you get to learn about the local culture. You’ll sample local foods, experience day-to-day life for locals, and learn about local customs. You’ll also live in a local neighborhood outside of the tourist zone. Of course, you’ll also make some great friends.
15. 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. Chat with the people sitting around you. Most people would be happy to have a conversation to help pass the time.
If you get to choose your seat, try to sit next to a person who is traveling solo. Preferably a fellow backpacker. Most likely, you’re heading to the same destination. You can exchange contact info and meet up later.
To increase your chances of meeting fellow travelers while in transit, try to book tourist buses rather than local buses. In some countries, separate bus companies cater to tourists. This is common in Southeast Asia.
While taking the ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, I struck up a conversation with the guy I was sharing a cabin with. We chatted on the ferry in the evening. When we arrived, we enjoyed some breakfast and coffee together then he gave me a ride to my hostel. I also met an interesting group of fellow travelers on a train in India. When we arrived at our destination, we ended up spending a couple of days together. On a train ride to Istanbul, I met an Irish traveler. We chatted on the train and then spent the day sightseeing after we arrived. You never know who you’ll meet while in transit.
16. Learn a Few Words of the Local Language
Speaking the local language is a nice icebreaker when meeting locals while traveling solo. People usually appreciate it when you make an effort to learn their language. Even if you only learn a few words. People will be much more likely to open up and chat with you when you try to talk to them in their language.
Before your trip, try to learn simple words and phrases like hello, please, thank you, how are you, you’re welcome, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, etc. Use these phrases while interacting with locals. You can use them when ordering a coffee, when taking a taxi, or you can chat to people you meet on the street. They’ll at least get a laugh out of listening to you try to pronounce words.
If you can get to the point where you can hold a conversation in a foreign language, this opens up your opportunities even more. You can interact with people who don’t speak English. This makes travel much more fulfilling.
There are plenty of online tools you can use to learn the language. Duolingo is a great option. You can also simply look up words on Google Translate. To learn more, you can also simply ask locals how to say different words in their language. Most people love sharing their language.
I have made some quick friendships while practicing the local language. While waiting for my food in a restaurant in Cambodia, I tried speaking a few words of Khmer with the waiter. He thought it would be fun to teach me a few more words. Over the course of my meal, I picked up a few more 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.
17. Look for a Club or Community of People with Similar Interests
Whatever your interest, chances are you can find a group of people who share that same interest in the city you’re visiting. For example, maybe you like to ride bicycles. You can 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.
You can find groups on social media. Search for local Facebook groups that interest you. Try searching Meetup.com for your interest to see if there are any upcoming meetings.
18. Volunteer or Work Abroad
A great way to make friends while traveling solo is to volunteer or find some work abroad. You will spend your days working with a group of people who share similar goals and interests to yourself. You’ll work alongside travelers as well as locals. It’s easy to make friends with the people you’re working with. You can bond over the work you’re doing. Chances are, you’ll build a quick friendship with the people working alongside you. During your time off, you can go out with your new friends to explore the area with your new friends.
Sites like Workaway, WWOOF, and Worldpackers can connect you with hosts and organizations who are looking for volunteers. In many cases, you can work in exchange for food and housing. This allows you to travel longer or save some money. Opportunities like this exist all over the world. There are thousands of hosts looking for volunteers.
Farm work and hostel work are the most common types of jobs available for travelers. Another option is to join the crew of a boat. There are endless volunteering options available. You’ll find jobs for all types of interests. You can volunteer for just a few days or find a place to work for months on end. It’s up to you and the host to work out the details.
Before you volunteer or work abroad, consider the legality. In most cases, it is illegal to work in exchange for room and board. This is considered income in most countries. It is generally not allowed on tourist visas. Keep this in mind when planning your trip. It’s best not to break the law. Volunteering is often legal on a tourist visa, as long as you’re not getting paid in any way. Sometimes you need to apply for a special volunteer visa.
It’s important to be cautious about which organization you choose to volunteer for. There are plenty of corrupt organizations that do more harm than good. Some are straight-up scams. Some organizations even charge people to volunteer for them. To ensure that your volunteering efforts have a positive impact, it’s important to do proper research on the organization before signing up. This may include reading reviews from past volunteers, checking out their website and mission statement, researching the financials of the organization, and talking to other volunteers.
19. 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 language or culture. You can ask people for recommendations of things to do or foods to try in their country. You can ask your taxi or Uber driver about the area you’re driving through. If you’re lost, you can ask for directions. You can ask your server questions about the food in restaurants.
This is a great option for shy travelers. It’s an easy ice breaker. Asking a question gives you a valid excuse to talk to someone. People will almost always answer your questions out of kindness. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in a conversation and you’ll make a new friend. If you don’t make a new friend, at least you’ll learn something new.
20. Always Say ‘Yes’ When Someone Invites You Out
While traveling, people will invite you to do things with them. Maybe someone in the hostel invites you to go sightseeing. Maybe a local invites you for a coffee. You might even get asked out on a date. Always say yes when these opportunities pop up, even if you’re not in the mood. Most likely, you will have a positive experience.
Of course, you do have to exercise caution when people invite you to do things. There are a number of common scams to look out for. Someone could invite you out and then expect you to pay for everything. A criminal could take you to a place where their accomplices rob you or overcharge you. You have to use your best judgment and take some basic precautions. If someone from the hostel invites you out, it’s generally safe. If a random person on the street invites you out, be extremely cautious.
21. Meet Up With Friends or Family Abroad
You don’t always have to meet new people when you solo travel. You can meet up with people you already know. For example, maybe you have a friend from back home who’s living abroad. Maybe you have family in another country. Maybe you could meet up with a friend you made on a previous trip.
Instead of making new friends, you can spend time with the ones you already have. This way, you know you already have a connection. You’ll also form deeper and longer-lasting friendships this way.
22. Offer to Take a Photo for Someone
If you see a fellow solo traveler taking selfies, approach them and offer to take some photos for them. Alternatively, you can someone to take a photo for you. This is a great opportunity to strike up a conversation. Chat about the sight you’re visiting. There is a good chance that you can make a quick friendship. If you don’t, at least you got some nice photos out of it.
While visiting Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio, I asked another traveler to take a couple of photos for me. We ended up chatting and walking around the sight for a little while. It was nice to have someone to talk to.
23. Stay in a Shared Airbnb
Staying in a shared Airbnb can be a great way to meet other solo travelers and learn about the local culture. Airbnb hosts are usually locals. Sometimes, they will take you on a tour of the city, introduce you to their favorite restaurants, or simply share stories from their lives. If you’re staying in a shared Airbnb, you might also make friends with the other guests.
I stayed in an Airbnb in Brazil with some amazing hosts that invited me into their home for a fresh fish dinner. We drank wine, talked about travel, and played some card games into the night. I stayed in another Airbnb in Mexico City where the host took me out for tacos.
24. Invite People to Play a Game With You
Playing games is a great way to make friends while traveling solo. Pack a deck of cards or a travel chess set and invite people to play with you.
A deck of cards is extremely versatile. It takes up very little space and you can play dozens of different games with it. You can teach people your favorite games and ask them to teach you a new game.
Games can transcend language barriers. If you both know how to play chess or hearts, you don’t even have to speak the same language to enjoy a game together. If you’re alone, you can play solitaire to pass the time.
25. Follow Travel Bloggers, Travel Vloggers, and Influencers
Sometimes travel content creators host meetups for their followers. Attending one of these meetups is a great way to meet fellow travelers who share a common interest. You’ll also get a chance to chat with one of your favorite content creators. These types of meetups attract solo travelers.
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 while traveling solo. 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 naturally.
One interesting observation that I’ve made over my years of traveling is that some solo travelers seem to base the success of their solo trip on the number of friends that they made and the 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 while solo traveling. Sometimes you will be alone. There is no avoiding it.
I do, however, understand that people can leave a more lasting impression than many travel destinations. Some cities I enjoy more than others thanks to the people I met. I love Stockholm because I made a great group of friends in the hostel.
The Reality of Meeting People While Traveling
If you go in expecting to form deep bonds and lifelong friendships while traveling solo, 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 with your new friends, but that’s about it. After a few days, you or your friends will move on to the next destination. They’ll go make new friends at the next destination and so will you. If you’re lucky, you might meet some people to travel with for a little while. Eventually, you and your friends will move on. That’s the reality of solo travel.
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. Once you go back to your normal life, it’s hard to stay in contact with travel buddies.
That said, it’s still well worth putting in the effort. Even though the friendships may not last a lifetime, the memories will. You can always contact your old travel friends if you’re passing through their neck of the woods on a future trip. Even if you haven’t spoken in years, they’ll still be happy to hear from you.
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.
My Experience Meeting People While Traveling Alone
I almost always travel alone. Over the past ten years, I’ve met hundreds of people while staying in hostels. I also make an effort to meet some locals as well while I travel. Meeting people is one of the main reasons I love solo travel. A few people stick out in my mind. There are a couple that I am still friends with years later.
In Nairobi, I met an Irish guy. We ended up traveling all the way to Cape Town together over the course of around 4 months. In Cambodia, I met a Belgian guy who visited me while he was traveling through California. In Thailand, I met a group of travelers. We ended up traveling through several Thai Islands together. In Prague, I met an Australian guy who I traveled with for a few weeks.
To make friends while you solo travel, 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 you solo travel 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 solo? Share your experience and tips in the comments below!
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Zachary Friedman is an accomplished travel writer and professional blogger. Since 2011, he has traveled to 66 countries and 6 continents. He founded ‘Where The Road Forks’ in 2017 to provide readers with information and incites based on his travel and outdoor recreation experience and expertise. Zachary is also an avid cyclist and hiker. Living as a digital nomad, Zachary balances his professional life with his passions for hiking, camping, cycling, and worldwide exploration. For a deeper dive into his journey and background, visit the About page. For inquiries and collaborations, please reach out through the Contact page. You can also follow him on Facebook.