As travelers, we often float just outside the daily rhythms of a city, observing but not participating. But if you're determined (or even just mildly inspired), you can find ways to forge friendships that can open up your destination and strengthen your connection to the place you've chosen to visit. When you're looking for friends and friendlies, you've got two main pools to draw from: locals and your fellow travelers. Here are tips for finding and befriending both.
Join the Sharing Economy
Find future friends, save some money, and create travel memories to last a lifetime with the sharing economy. From sharing an apartment with a family in Edinburgh via Airbnb to mingling with locals at a cool dinner pop-up in Barcelona, the possibilities for connecting with locals and likeminded visitors are endless when you're willing to make a connection.
Stay Somewhere with a Shared Breakfast
There's something about the communal giddiness of travel, the optimism of early morning, and an authentic local breakfast spread (think tomatoes and sausages in England or pickled veggies and soup in Japan) that opens the door to friendly chats and inquiries about the day. While you shouldn't foist yourself on people who don't want an additional travel partner, you can usually spot a potential friend-seeker as you as you scope out the room upon entering.
RELATED: 9 Secrets to a Happy Vacation
(Photo: Middle aged couple eating breakfast via Shutterstock)
Connect with locals and make the world a better place by volunteering. Volunteer opportunities span the spectrum from caring for elephants in Thailand to teaching English in Romania to turtle conservation in Costa Rica to helping at a school in Jamaica. Volunteering can connect you to two pools of potential friends: other volunteers (with whom you already share common interests) and the locals who run and participate in the programs. And since many volunteer gigs are in smaller cities or towns and require you to stay there for at least a week, it creates a situation in which making friends with locals may come more naturally.
(Photo: Doug Beckers via flickr/CC Attribution)
Take a Tour with a Local
Make a friend—at least for the day—by taking a tour with a local. Cities around the world offer local-led group or individual tours. Some are even free—though group tour guides tend to live on tips, and one-on-one tours usually require you to pay transportation and entrance fees for your guide. But here's the thing: guides, especially on free tours, tend to be friendly and excited to share the best of their city (and in foreign cities, to practice their English). It's a bit like renting a friend for a few hours, one who can show you the cool stuff and give you the inside scoop on your destination. You can find local guides in most cities, but free standouts include Big Apple Greeters in New York, Tokyo Free Guide, and Sandeman's larger group walking tours in cities around Europe.
(Photo: Naturalist local guide via Shutterstock)
Book a Hostel or a B&B
Forget what you think you know about hostels and B&Bs. Sure, many hostels still cater to a student crowd, but an increasing number are redefining themselves as affordable upscale alternatives to hip and trendy boutique hotels.
And if you've discounted B&Bs because you're doily-averse, there's good news: More are now identifying as inns with a variety of decorative styles and andpersonalized service. At both hostels and B&Bs, you'll find yourself in an automatic community, a place where animated breakfast conversations easily lead to adventure buddies and meal companions.
RELATED: Will Airbnb Be the Death of Hostels?
(Photo: Felix Montino via flickr/CC Attribution)
Head to the Hotel Happy Hour
Ever wonder why everyone else in your hotel is there? Find out at hotel happy hours. More and more hotels are offering complimentary wine and snacks daily between about 4:00 and 6:00 pm. Not only can these casual lobby-parties be a great way to relax between the end of the day and the start of the evening, they can be a potential-friend treasure trove as well as a great place to swap activity and restaurant ideas with your fellow guests.
(Photo: Close Up View of Hands of Bartender via Shutterstock)
Join a Group
Just the word "tour" can make some people bristle. But even if you're not a tour-bus type, there are plenty of tours that can help you get an inside look at a destination while offering the chance to befriend both locals and other travelers. Take a snorkeling trip in Aruba, join a tapas tour in Madrid, or sign up for arunning tour on any continent. And at the end, when you find yourself exchanging contact information with your new friends and plotting how you might meet up in other cities, you'll understand the glory of tours.
RELATED: What You Learn by Traveling Alone
(Photo: friendship, travel, vacation via Shutterstock)
Ask Locals Questions
The world belongs to the curious. Ask locals questions and you'll likely not only find interesting answers but also create openings for friendly locals to share their world with you. A word of warning here: In some cultures, asking about things obliges people to offer them to you. Do a little research in advance and, if you're headed to a particularly giving culture, express interest carefully.
(Photo: two male tourists via Shutterstock)
Become a Regular
The first time you enter a cafe, you're just another face in the crowd. But when you show up for the third or fourth morning in a row, you'll be far more likely to get a friendly nod—perhaps the person behind the counter will even start your order before you place it. That's your in. While you don't want to monopolize employees when they're busy, if you time your visits right you can strike up a leisurely conversation with the barista or server. Are they going to invite you to their house for dinner? Probably not. But they may well be a source for great local advice, and their acknowledgement when you walk in the door will go far in making your destination feel like home.
(Photo: Young man sitting at cafe via Shutterstock)
Scour Your Network
Connecting with friends and friends of friends is a travel perk of a robust social media network. Reach out to your friends and followers on sites like Facebook and Twitter to see if anyone knows anyone in your destination. (If you're worried about security and privacy, you can keep your travel dates vague until you connect with an individual). It's an easy way to find people with shared friends, and an even better way to connect with those social media friendlies you may not have met in person yet.
More from SmarterTravel:
- This Is the Happiest Place on Earth
- Locals Tell All: The Most Annoying Things Tourists Do in Their City
- How to Travel with Your Friends— and Survive
(Photo: Facebook login page via David Molina G/Shutterstock.com)