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Whether you’re a seasoned solo traveler or venturing alone for the first time, making friends while solo traveling can be a little scary. I’ll admit that even after 27 countries, I tend to be a bit shy around people I don’t know and the anxiety of that can get to me sometimes. Because of this, I’ve written up this guide sharing my best tips and tricks for making friends as a solo traveler.
These will work no matter if you’re an outgoing or shy person. I’ll share both tricks to make it easier to say hi on the road and ways to meet people online (thanks, digital age!). So what are you waiting for? Keep reading and find out the best tips and tricks for making friends while solo traveling!
First time traveling solo? Check out my list of 11 things every solo traveler should know!
1. In general…
Be open when making friends, wherever you are. Appreciate that everyone has a unique story that led them to this moment!
It helps to put on a smile and have a relaxed posture with arms and shoulders open. This subconsciously lets others know that you are open to talking. It’s amazing how much a closed body posture and crossed arms will keep others from approaching you.
When you approach others, take a real interest in who they are and where they come from. This will come through your genuine smile and your warm handshake. If you do this, you’ll be making friends in no time.
2. Stay at a hostel
Staying at a hostel where other travelers are is perhaps the easiest way of making friends while solo traveling. Plenty of other solo travelers will be there too, and they will be in the same position as you! Whenever you approach someone, remember that they’re probably looking to meet people, too. More often than not, they’ll appreciate you taking the first step! When looking for hostels, read the reviews ahead of time and see if others say that it’s a social place or it’s a great setup for solo travelers. These are great places to stay for making friends.
In general, hostels have plenty of social activities. Whether this is a common breakfast in the morning, organized drinking games before going out at night, or people just playing games amongst themselves, these are the best times to take a seat next to someone else and jump in. As you eat, talk, and play, you’ll naturally get to introduce yourself to others.
Just say, “Hey! I’m [name]. Mind if I sit down and join you?” Easy as that.
3. Stay at a hostel with a bar
Obviously, if you’re not up for drinking or partying, this tip wouldn’t apply to you. But if you are, generally staying at hostels with a bar will guarantee that people will be more social. Making friends while solo traveling is easy when you can grab a local drink in the comfort of your own hostel (which usually sell drinks pretty cheap, too!), sit down at the bar, and see who comes along. It’s simple: when someone walks up to the bar to order a drink, flash a great smile and say, “Hey! I’m [name]. What’s your name?”
4. Ask someone if they want to get a bite to eat
Everyone’s gotta eat, right? Especially if you see someone hanging out alone in the common area around a meal time, go up to them and ask them if they want to grab a bite. Eating together is a great way of bonding with others and making friends.
5. Participate in pub crawls and drinking games
If you’re up for some drinking, partying with your hostel is a sure-fire way to meet others and make some friends. Join in on drinking games in the evening. Many hostels also offer pub crawls, sometimes in collaboration with other hostels in the area, and these are also a great opportunity to meet others. Everyone will be looking to be social and have a great time, so grab a drink and join in!
6. Go on walking tours
I always suggest going on a walking tour as soon as you arrive in a new destination. It helps you gain your bearings and get some context for the place you’re about to enjoy.
However, walking tours are also a great way of making friends when solo traveling. It’s easy when you leave from your hostel to tell who is on the tour alone. So walk alongside them and start chatting, ask them when they arrived, and if they’ve been there before.
7. Plug your computer charger into another person’s outlet
Okay, now this one might sound a little weird, but stay with me here.
The last time I made a great friend solo traveling, I was sitting in the common area of my hostel in Valencia. I needed to look up a few things on my laptop for traveling to Barcelona next. I needed to charge my laptop, but there was only one outlet in the room.
This forced me to plug my charger into the only outlet, which was also being used by someone else. This forced me to speak to the other person if nothing else to apologize for getting so close to plug in… BAM. Instant semi-awkward conversation starter turned into friendship for the rest of the trip.
If there’s more than one outlet in the room, you can fib a little bit. Plug your charger into someone else’s outlet and use the excuse that your charger isn’t working in the other outlets for some reason. Again, I know it sounds a little strange, but it works.
8. Post on Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing was how I met many of the people who would later become my long-time friends while I was living in Albania. I was living and traveling solo there when my birthday came around, and not wanting to celebrate alone, I put a public post on Couchsurfing asking if anyone would be up for something. Almost immediately, I got a flood of responses, and I ended up on a pub crawl with a whole bunch of great people! Since then, I’ve used Couchsurfing for meeting up and making friends all over the world, from Stockholm to my current home base of Boston.
9. Find groups on Meetup
Next to Couchsurfing, Meetup is also a great way of making friends all over the world. It’s especially great if you’re living somewhere long term. There are all kinds of special interest groups, including those dedicated to traveling. I used Meetup when I lived in Copenhagen and had some pretty good success meeting others.
10. Post on a travel Facebook group
There are so many international travel groups just for girls on Facebook these days. My favorites are “Girls LOVE Travel” and “The Solo Female Traveler Network.” So many girls are making friends in these groups by posting their questions and even proposing meetups wherever they may be. I’ve seen more than one great meet up happen because one of the girls posts about where they are and asks if anyone wants to hang out. So don’t be shy. Propose a meetup and you never know the great people you may meet!
11. Just sit down and say hi
This is so much easier said than done, I know.
But just taking a big gulp, swallowing any anxiety, and sitting down and saying hi can work wonders for making friends.
Like I said earlier, chances are a lot of the people you see at places like hostels and walking tours are in the same boat as you. They also desperately want to be making friends. They’ll appreciate you taking the first step.
As you get used to doing this, it becomes way less scary. I promise.
So practice conquering your fears and just sit down and say hi!
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