- 1.58k views
Traveling alone can be a liberating experience. You are free to go where you want, when you want and change your plans as you please. Statistically, solo travelers also tend to meet far more people than those traveling in groups. But this doesn’t happen automatically, especially for the more introverted or naturally shy.
For anyone looking to meet people or make friends while traveling solo, we bring you our top 19 solo travel tips for initiating interactions and starting up conversations. Here are our top tips on how to make friends while traveling to make sure you don’t get lonely on the road.
Forget blending in. Be yourself; be a tourist. In many places, especially those that see fewer tourists, local people are curious about foreign visitors and are often eager to start a conversation. Don’t be afraid to connect with the locals and ask about their culture, the place, or simply the directions. At the same time, people who seem over-eager, pushy or aggressive may have ulterior motives, so be on your guard and use your common sense.
The easiest way to meet fellow travelers when traveling alone is to stay in a hostel. Hostels usually have common areas and are set up specifically to encourage people to interact, making them ideal places to connect with like-minded people and share stories.
If you are keen to spend time learning about the local customs and way of life, a great option is a homestay. Staying with a host family, eating with them and sharing their daily routine is a much more authentic way to experience a destination and also helps support the local people or community. You can also try Couchsurfing, an online community of travel enthusiasts who are willing to give others a place to stay for free simply for the pleasure of the exchange.
Whenever arriving in a dorm room, taking a seat on a bus or in any other situation, always be the first to say hello. It is easy to ignore other people or wait for them to speak first, but you will come across as aloof or unfriendly, and you won’t meet anyone that way. If you’re a shy person, try to force yourself to do it at the beginning — after the first few times, you will quickly start to feel more confident.
If you want other people to talk to you, be aware of your body language and make yourself approachable. Instead of avoiding eye contact or looking away when somebody looks at you, meet their eyes and smile back, and you will already have taken the first step. Playing with your phone is another sure way of sending out a signal that you want to be left alone. Forget about chatting with your friends back home or checking your Facebook feed — put away your phone and try meeting some new people in the real world instead.
There are many ways to break the ice, and you don’t even need to be that creative. Ask a question about visiting a local attraction, enquire about the food in the hostel, ask somebody if they have tried a certain tour or ask to borrow a phone charger — then take it from there. If you don’t know what to talk about next to a fellow traveler, start by asking about their trip.
However you break the ice, always be positive. The bus that is two hours late might be making you crazy, but don’t start a conversation by complaining about it. Instead, make light of the situation you are all sharing and make a joke of it. Nobody wants to talk to a moaner.
Make it easy for other people to break the ice, too. Advertise your interests and give other people an easy cue to follow if they want to start talking to you. The book you’re reading or an unusual souvenir you’ve just bought strategically placed on the table can offer an easy way for other travelers to approach you.
If you’re staying in a hostel, talk to the staff. Ok, don’t get under the feet of the busy receptionist who is trying to check in a queue of new guests, but you can talk to someone working in the bar or the restaurant. If you’re staying there for a few days, you’ll quickly get to know them — they’ll be able to give you lots of information and you might even end up becoming good friends.
If you’re staying somewhere for longer, consider volunteering; there are so many initiatives that allow you to do your bit helping local communities. You will immediately have much more meaningful contact with the local population as well as being integrated into the current group of volunteers. If and when you decide to take this up, however, make sure you do your research on ethical volunteering in the country you are in, and avoid short-term volunteering directly with vulnerable populations.
For solo travelers, one of the most obvious ways to meet people is to join an organized tour. It might be a day trip to visit some temples or it could be a week-long trek into the jungle, but whatever the activity, you will hardly be able to avoid speaking to people, sharing moments, and making new friends.
Another tip for how to make friends on vacation is to take a class. It could be a language course that lasts a month or perhaps a cooking lesson that fills just a few hours, but again, you will instantly find yourself with a group of new people. What’s more, since you are all sharing the same course, you will all have something in common to talk about.
People who travel for diving, climbing or yoga, for example, never have to worry about being lonely when traveling alone. As soon as they arrive at the diving school, climbing center or yoga retreat, they know they will be surrounded by people who share the same hobby. If you travel for a specific activity, it is always easy to find friends with something in common.
Try to spend a few months learning the basics of the language before you leave. Knowing a little more than just a few simple phrases will make it easier to interact with the locals, and show you’ve made the effort will go down well. Also, if you use a language exchange app to learn, you might even be able to make friends in the places you’re visiting before you arrive.
If you belong to an organization or a club that has a presence abroad, look them up. This might include organizations like Rotaract or even a branch of your company — anything that gives you a contact where you are planning to go can help with meeting people while traveling.
In some places, you might feel like running away from tourists from your country, but in areas that see fewer visitors, it might do you some good to speak to someone from ‘back home’. If you hear somebody speaking your language, don’t be afraid to start up a conversation. Also, locals who speak foreign languages other than English can be particularly keen to practice — so if you find you have another common language, take advantage of it.
Traditional festivals draw locals and travelers alike, and at events like these, people are likely to be more willing to speak to strangers, making this a perfect opportunity for new and sometimes unexpected encounters. Many small towns and certainly most larger ones also have weekly meetups organized through Couchsurfing, and this is another excellent way to meet people traveling from around the world who are currently in the same area as you.
If you have a friend who lives where you want to go, get in touch. Or perhaps a friend of a friend can show you around. Talk to friends and family members about your holiday plans and see if they have contacts in the destination. Having a local guide who knows the area can be a great way to visit places other tourists don’t see while meeting new people at the same time.
Perhaps the key to successful solo travel is always remaining open to interacting with strangers whenever the opportunity arises. At the same, don’t impose yourself on anyone who obviously doesn’t want your company and be aware that some more unscrupulous people may try to take advantage of solo travelers to cheat them or worse. That said, when done properly, successful solo trips can provide some of the most vivid experiences, the most memorable encounters, and some lifelong friendships. If you are considering traveling alone, the best advice is to just give it a try.