Let’s face it, one of the biggest deterrents when it comes to solo travel is the inevitable fear and self doubt that you won’t make any friends. I’ve definitely been there and it’s still something I struggle with to some degree when I decide to travel alone. So why do I still travel solo and how do I manage to make friends along the way? I’ve discovered a few easy ways to meet people while in a new country over the years. So I’ve set out in no particular order, 11 ways to make friends while traveling solo and/or living abroad!
1. Stay in a Hostel
This seems like an obvious tip but it’s probably the best and easiest way to meet people when traveling alone or if you’re in a new place. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had times where I haven’t met anyone through my hostel, but those experiences have been few and far between!
Hostels are great, especially if you’re in a dorm room with multiple people. I usually go for the largest dorm room (8-12 people on average). Aside from it being cheaper, there’s higher chances of meeting some people I have share similar interests with. If you’re not great at striking up a convo, the easiest way to get talking is by asking the people you meet where they’re from. It never fails to get the ball rolling and if you’ve been to their home country or vice versa you may have lots to talk about. Share a meal and drinks with your hostel mates, go hangout by the beach, go on a hike… the possibilities are endless! Hostels usually have activities spread out throughout the week where you can tag along to meet new people that aren’t in your room – a pub crawl being a classic.
Just be sure to check out the type of hostel you’re planning to stay at before booking. If you’re not really a party animal, you may want to find a quieter hostel. On the other hand, if you’re looking to meet people to go out drinking with, there are plenty of hostels for you! My favourite way to search for hostels is through HostelWorld. It’s an easy layout with numerous filters and more importantly, reviews. You can usually get a pretty good feel about a hostel based off what the majority of people are saying about it online.
While HostelWorld is excellent for searching for accommodation, I usually try to book directly through the hostels website or by calling them up. Sometimes HostelWorld can be a bit more expensive due to their unbeknownst ‘booking fee’. If you’ve read my post Cheap Travel Hacks, you already know that I live for a good deal!
2. Do Things Alone
Okay I know what you’re thinking… How am I just magically going to make friends while traveling solo on my own? While hostels are a great way to meet people, you may not always make friends from your hostel immediately and that’s perfectly fine. Don’t let that stop you from exploring the new city you’re in or doing other activities.
Go out and do what you imagined or planned to do when you booked your trip. When I got to Switzerland and hadn’t met anyone from my hostel I was honestly pretty discouraged. The next day I set out to do a hike by myself I knew that was something I wanted to do. By the time I got to the top of the Alps I had made two kiwi friends and had long forgotten why I was worried about meeting people!
If you don’t really have any specific plans in mind, think about going on a free walking tour if you’re in a city. I swear almost every city has one and they’re packed with other travelers who are most likely looking to make friends as well.
3. Group Tours
If you’re staying in a hostel and still struggling to find people with similar interests, going on a group tour. Whether it’s just a day trip or a few days – it’s a sure fire way to make some friends. During my recent trip to Darwin and after arriving to my hostel late on a Thursday night, I found it difficult to meet people the next day. With it being a short trip, time was of the essence, so I decided to find a tour through my hostel to go on.
I jumped on the 2 day Kakadu tour and ended up meeting a British girl that I spent the rest of my trip with. She recently moved to Melbourne and we were able to meet up again! Don’t knock the guided tours until you’ve tried it!
4. Use Meetup/Dating Apps
Bumble, Tinder, Hinge … You name it. We’re all aware of how they work, but did you ever think about using it as a means to meet travel companions when you’re in a new country by yourself? While Bumble sets out an easy way to make friends with Bumble BFF, you can essentially use any any dating app to meet up with new people. It goes without saying that meeting up with strangers from an app comes with a safety risk, but honestly what doesn’t these days? If you’re planning to travel alone, chances are that you’re aware of the possible dangers that come with solo travel. If not, keep an eye out for my tips on how to travel safely as a solo traveler in the near future!
Meetup is another great way to make friends when you’re living in a new city. I personally didn’t utilise this platform when coming to live in Melbourne which wasn’t the best move. The majority of the friends I ended up making had in fact met each other through going running Meetups. It’s such an easy way to meet like-minded people based on your interests.
5. Take Public Transportation
Not only will this save you money (a theme in my life if you can’t already tell), but you may meet some interesting people along the way. It’s easy to spot other travelers on overnight trains, busses etc because they’ll probably be wearing the same gear. See someone with a backpack? Go strike up a convo. Worst case scenario they won’t be in the mood to chat. Best case scenario you’ll make a new pal! Definitely an interesting way to make friends while traveling solo.
6. Airports/Plane Rides
Flying is a huge part of travel and you can often meet some pretty cool people during flights if you’re open to it. While I was waiting for a delayed flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne, a girl from NYC started chatting me up because she was reading the same book as me at the time.
On that same flight I ended up sitting beside a couple – the girl was from LA and the guy was from Melbourne. Once we got chatting I found out they were pretty successful actors (the girl’s in commercials for companies like Netflix and the guy played Aladdin in the show Once Upon A Time). Getting to know them a little better definitely made the 16 hour flight more bearable and I’m always intrigued by new people.
I recently flew from London back home to Toronto and ended up making friends with a woman who had moved with her children to Canada from Qatar to give them a better life. It was awesome and humbling to hear her story and give her some tips to meeting new people in the Toronto area.
That’s simply just a few examples of times I’ve met some interesting characters while on my way to a new place. Don’t discount these short-term friendships. They’re vital to your sanity when you’re spending hours in the airport or on a chunk of metal flying through the sky. It’s a surprising way to make friends while traveling solo!
7. Embrace your Hobbies
When you’re traveling alone, perhaps discovering a different side of yourself, it’s easy to feel the need to put on a different face. You may be trying to fit in with the people you initially meet because you’re scared you won’t meet anyone else. At the end of the day you probably don’t want to spend time with people who don’t share the same hobbies as you do – so why hide them?
For example, I recently started making homemade kombucha and while it’s not something everyone does, it’s been a great conversation starter with new friends. I never shy away from expressing my interests or quirks around new people and neither should you. You’ll be happy you did when you make friends while traveling solo this way!
8. Have a Speaker and Deck of Cards Handy at All Times
I think it’s safe to say that if you bring a speaker and/or deck of card along with you, you’re bound to make some friends.
Sitting next to someone on a long-haul flight? Whip out those cards! Started talking to some people in your hostel who have mentioned going out that night? Slyly mention that you brought a speaker with and you’ll be sure to get an invite!
9. Say Yes
When you travel alone and start meeting new people you’ll probably get invites to hangout with them or go do an activity together. If you hadn’t originally planned on doing something or it doesn’t sound the most appealing but it offers up a potential to meet more people – take it. It goes without saying to follow this rule within reason, but you should saying yes to opportunities. You’ll have more chances to meet people that could end up being a great friend for the rest of your time in a new city/country.
10. Don’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover
It’s easy when you first meet people to make initial judgments and immediately discount someone based off a few simple things. When you’re trying to meet people you can’t judge everyone immediately. Try to figure out what you may have in common. Having travel in common alone is often enough to start a good friendship with someone you wouldn’t typically expect to get along with!
You honestly never know what people are going to have the biggest influence on your life. Some of the best people I’ve met while traveling or living in a new country are people who I didn’t assume I’d be super close to right off the bat.
11. Ask Questions
When you’re flyin’ solo you can’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s safe to say that 99% of the friends I’ve made while traveling have started with a simple question. Whether that’s asking someone for directions, where they got the dress they’re wearing, what country they’re from (pretty standard and often my go-to), etc., you’re bound to get into some great conversations with new people.
Living abroad can sometimes be harder to build solid friendships quickly. If you’re staying a hostel you may make some great friends. It could also be discouraging if many of the people you’re meeting are just passing through. Whatever the case may be, don’t shy away from asking questions.
Take it from the girl who was walking up and down a busy shopping district in Melbourne looking for a job. I was handing out resumes and happened to meet someone who introduced her to an amazing group of friends. I simply asked the girl in the store if they would hire someone on a working holiday visa. That turned to finding out the girl I was speaking to was Canadian as well. Then that eventually led to an invite to her birthday party. I don’t know where I’d be this past year and how different my experience would’ve been if I hadn’t taken an interest in this girl’s life and put myself out there a little!
So that concludes my current tips on how to make friends while traveling solo or living abroad. Yes, approaching new people isn’t always easy but when you travel alone you’re forced to reach a little (or a lot) beyond your comfort zone. When push comes to shove you’ll always end up meeting people and having a great time if you’re open to it.
Have you ever traveled alone? How did you make friends while traveling solo? Leave a comment below & connect with me on Instagram!