You’ve found a great deal on a flight, but aren’t able to get a friend to tag along. Don’t let this deter you from booking your dream trip. There are plenty of others out there in the same boat and you’re likely to meet them on the road.
How to Meet People While Traveling
Traveling solo doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. I often find it’s easier to meet new people while traveling than it is when I’m in my hometown. There are many different ways to meet others on the road, and you may even make a life-long friend. Here are some of the best ways to make new friends while traveling solo.
The Hotel Bar
Grab a seat at the bar, order your drink of choice, and chat away with other travelers looking for some conversation after a day of traveling or sight-seeing. Happy hour is the best time to sidle up to the bar for cheap drinks and the potential to meet some people who may want to share a meal or check out some of the local culture.
Even if the bar looks empty, the hotel bartender is often a go-to source for some of the best information on where to go locally and where to meet some friendly locals or ex-pats around town. They have most likely worked elsewhere in the local service industry scene and can point you to the best places based on their experience.
Free Walking Tours
Not only a chance to see some highlights of the city, a free walking tour often attracts other travelers looking to make new friends. I usually find these tours to be more interesting than paid tours as well. While they are more prominent in European cities, free walking tours can be found worldwide.
Some tours just have a meeting time and location, while others may require you to sign up beforehand. The guides typically work solely on a tip-based income so remember to bring some local currency if you’d like to show your appreciation. Often, the company offering free walking tours will also have other paid tours to delve deeper into more specific interests around the city.
I’ve often shown up to a free walking tour solo, and within a few hours, had a lunch date or a plan to meet up for some drinks or visit an attraction later that day.
There are many ways to volunteer while traveling and sometimes giving just a few hours of your time per day can get you free lodging and/or meals. Sites like Workaway and Volunteer HQ compile volunteer opportunities all over the globe and even connect travelers looking for a travel buddy.
Volunteer opportunities range from storm relief or helping out at a local soup kitchen to teaching English abroad. Whatever you choose, ask the right questions and make sure your “voluntourism” is actually helping and not hurting the local population.
Stay at a Hostel
Hostels are probably the easiest way to make new friends while traveling solo as they attract travelers who are looking to meet others. Make sure to read reviews and choose a place that is known for a social environment. Hostels often have activities geared towards getting people together and if you choose to stay in a shared dorm room you’ll pretty much guarantee an opportunity to strike up a conversation with your roommates.
Hostel accommodations have improved immensely over the years and you can often find places with a private room if sharing rooms with strangers isn’t your thing. Hostels are generally a younger crowd, but there are certain places that cater to the young at heart. If you prefer to stay in a different environment, it may still be worthwhile to stop by a hostel bar or tour desk for a good chance to find a few new friends.
Meetup and Social Media Apps
Find meetups for a wide variety of activities at Meetup.com. This site is a great resource to use all over the world to meet people with a common interest. There is even a calendar feature so you can see specific events happening wherever you happen to be on any given day of the week. This site will be most useful in larger cities.
There are many other sites and social media apps that can be used to meet like-minded people in your area. EatWith can be used to find dinner parties and Couchsurfing does more than searching for a couch to crash on. It’s also a great place to find meetups organized by locals or other travelers. Whatever site or app you use, take the necessary safety precautions when meeting people in-person and always meet in a public place.
Take a Class
Want to learn the local language where you’re traveling? Group language classes are a great way to get the basics or advance your previous skills. Plus, you’ll likely meet some other travelers in your classes or locals at the school who will be happy to speak a new language with you. Many language schools also organize group activities throughout the city.
You can also find many other types of classes or lessons to take where you’ll be able to meet some new people. Cooking classes, surf or ski lessons, exercise classes, if there is something you want to learn, check to see if there are any classes available in your destination.
If you like to play sports, finding a pickup game going on is a great way to get some exercise and meet people at the same time. Near the beach? Find a volleyball net and you’ll likely find some people looking for another player. In a city? Look for a park with some sporting facilities like basketball hoops or soccer nets and you might be able to find a pickup game.
Sports that require little or no equipment are the easiest to find pickup games. If you just want to get some exercise without playing an organized game, you can try to find an organized run or bike ride to join. Find a local running club or a bike shop to see if there are any events happening while you’re traveling.
Whether you book in advance or from the tour desk at your hotel, a group tour can be a great way to meet some new friends. You can even find multi-day group tours that you can join as an individual and have your itinerary planned ahead of time. For those that like a little more flexibility in travel plans, join a bike, bus, or boat tour of the city or a full-day excursion where there will be a chance to meet others.
Traveling with friends definitely has its advantages, but it can often be hard to coordinate schedules and many trips get left on the shelf never to be taken. It can be a big step for some to take a solo trip, but I recommend it if there is a place you really want to go. Joining a group tour is one of the best ways to meet others for those that are new to traveling solo.
Header image by yuttana Contributor Studio; Hostel image by GaudiLab; Take a Class image by Monkey Business Images; Pickup Sports image by oneinchpunch; and Group Tours image by ProStockStudio via Shutterstock.