Having nobody to travel with shouldn’t stop you from visiting the destinations you dream of going to. In fact, meeting others on the road is a lot easier than people think. To help you make friends while traveling solo, use the tips below.
Strike Up Conversation On Public Transport
Taking public transportation is a great way to meet other travelers and locals. You can ask the person next to you about where they’re going, and about where they came from. For example, on a train journey through Germany, I met a young artist from Holland who was traveling the world indefinitely. Not only did he tell entertaining stories about being arrested for doing graffiti in New York, but we also ended up exploring Munich together.
Stay In Hostels
While many people may shudder at the word “hostel” as they picture a seedy, run down crack house, this is absolutely not the case. In fact, after backpacking myriad countries and staying in dozens of different hostels, I tried staying at one in my home city because I loved them so much. While you may not get a private bathroom and the room may not always be as quiet as you like, hostels offer travelers a social accommodation experience. First of all, you are sharing a room with other travelers who are also exploring a foreign land and looking for adventure. These types of people are usually open and looking to meet other travelers to share stories and experiences with. Moreover, many hostels offer social spaces and activities, such as common rooms with games, on premise bars and clubs, and organized pub-crawls. If you are traveling alone, I would recommend looking for these types of amenities when choosing a hostel, as these are great ways to meet other travelers and make friends.
Sit Alone At The Bar
It may sound strange, but eating alone at a bar is actually a great way to meet others. While eating alone at a table may not help you make connections, eating by yourself at the bar makes you approachable. Additionally, you’re more likely to encounter other solo travelers doing the same. And if all else fails, you’ll still have the bartender to talk to.
Opt For Free Walking Tours
Many cities, especially in Europe, offer free walking tours that are not only educational, but also great ways to meet other backpackers. When I backpacked Europe for the summer I did about five of the free tours, and on every single one of them I met other travelers whom I ended up sightseeing and exploring the nightlife with. What is helpful with these tours is that the companies who organize them also usually host nightly pubcrawls. Because of this, a lot of the people you meet on the walking tour during the day end up being your drinking buddies later on that night.
All Travels Use Money Exchanges
Oddly enough, this is where I met most of the travelers that I actually stayed close with. One guy I met in a money exchange ended up becoming one of my favorite travel buddies, so much so that we have visited each other in our respective countries after the Eurotrip was over. Everyone who travels needs to exchange currency, and that includes backpackers. Usually people do this right when they get off an airplane or train, when they still have their backpack on. When other backpackers see that you are one of them, it is an instant conversation starter.
Book Organized Trips
While doing excursions on your own will save you money, booking an organized tour will help you meet others. You’ll not only be interacting with the travelers on the tour, but also the local guide. Many times I’ll ask the guide about interesting places to see and fun places to go out, which leads to groups of people making plans to explore together.
Be Open To New Experiences
If a stranger invites you to go dancing, if a local wants to bring you as a guest to a wedding or if you get invited to dinner at someone’s home, take the opportunity. Again, it’s a great way to have an authentic experience while getting to know locals. That being said, always trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling about someone, get away immediately.
When traveling, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask other travelers about their trips, a local baker about how they bake fresh bread, a cab driver about the types of people they encounter or a hotel owner about what inspired them to begin a business. Every person you encounter is an opportunity to learn something new, and make a new connection.
Everyone Loves A Picnic
This was my favorite way to meet people when backpacking Europe because it involves food and wine. Because you can drink in public in Europe, it is common for people to gather in major squares or plazas in an area and drink wine and eat. Pack a lot of food and some wine and head over to one of these areas. Approach some other travelers and offer to share your goodies. This is a great way to meet people as well as try some delicious cheese and vino.
Volunteering is a worthwhile way to spend your time in any city. Not only will you be helping a community in need, you’ll also be immersing yourself in a culture and getting to know locals and volunteers. A good idea is to do a homestay, as this helps you get an authentic experience of a place while becoming close with the people you’re living with. Before choosing a program, read this guide to responsible volunteering.
Use Social Media
Social media isn’t just for sharing funny pictures and telling the world how you’re feeling; it can also be used to meet other people when traveling. A lot of times when I’m going on a trip, I’ll put a tweet or Facebook status out telling others my plans. Even if nobody else will be in the city I’m traveling to, they may have a friend or family member who will be.
While couch surfing can be a great way to get free accommodation, you do not necessarily have to stay with someone to meet them. Many people who sign up for couch surfing are interested in meeting people from other countries and learning about different cultures. Try sending a message to someone from the region your in via the couchsurfing website and ask if they would like to get dinner or a drink. This is a great way to not only make friends but to also learn first hand about the local culture.
How do you meet people on the road when traveling solo?
This post was adapted from my original post on Gadling