After traveling the world as long as I have, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from curious readers about all types of things like cost of travel, homesickness, safety etc. Most of these questions are exactly what I wondered myself before leaving on my solo trip around the world. Now that I’ve got some experience under my belt, I can answer these questions myself!
One of the main questions I get from people is: How do you make friends while traveling solo?
Trust me, I wondered this same exact thing before going abroad! Would I be able to make friends? Would I get lonely? Am I going to have to eat every meal by myself? I was pretty nervous about all of this and leaving my good friends in San Francisco wasn’t helping matters.
How To Make Friends While Traveling Solo
I’m not a SUPER outgoing person although some people would call me that. Others would say I’m a total introvert (ask my mom). I consider myself an Extroverted Introvert. At my true core, I’m an introvert. I recharge when I’m by myself and love having alone time. However, I also have periods where I crave people interaction and making friends. If I’m in my introvert mode and have to meet people it’s hard for me, and if I’m in my extrovert mode and have to be alone it’s also hard.
So, because I’ve got two personalities (jk jk) I was a bit nervous about the whole ‘making friends while traveling solo thing’.
Well, to my great surprise it’s NOT hard AT ALL to make friends. I even found times when I didn’t want to make friends because was way too tired only to end my day with 5 new friends!
Making friends while traveling solo will be easy for you regardless of if you’re an extrovert or introvert…I promise! You’ll make them even when you don’t want to…like me!
Don’t believe me? Below, I’ve got you covered.
Here are the 9 Painless Ways to Make Friends While Traveling Solo
1. Stay in a hostel
This is my top tip and I’m not joking around on this one. If you want to make friends the easiest possibly way, stay in a hostel. Chances are you’ll meet more solo travelers, people who have traveled to similar places as you, or someone who just wants to grab dinner later. The best way to meet people is to stay in the dorm rooms (I usually opt for the 4-6 person vs. the huge ones) because you’ll be able to chat without distraction. I’ve had crazy party nights with my fellow dorm room members and it’s been so fun.
2. Say these phrases to spark ‘non-awkward’ conversations
If you’re staying in a dorm, or just sitting and reading in the common room, take out your headphones and say these powerful words to potential new buddies. Take it from the friend making pro (haha), I’ve used all of these phrases probably 100x or more and they all work. They are 100% the easiest way to strike up a conversation while traveling, and chances are your conversation will keep going after that. People love to talk about themselves!
- “Where are you from?”
- “How long have you been traveling in (insert country you are in)?
- “Where are you going after this?”
- “How long have you been traveling in total?”
- “Do you have any travel tips for XX location?”
- “I’m going to grab some lunch/dinner. Anyone else hungry and want to join?”
3. Just be a solo traveler and smile 🙂
The fact that you’re solo is a STRONG benefit in making friends quickly and painlessly. Why? You’re way less intimidating to talk to than a group of 2 or more. When it’s just you sitting there, you’ll notice that people will come up to you more and you won’t have to do any work. You can sit there reading or chillin’ on your phone and if you look up and acknowledge or smile at people walking by, chances are they will stop and talk to you.
4. Book a day adventure, free walking tour, or excursion through your hostel or hotel
Day excursions or overnight treks and camping trips are an awesome way to meet people. I’ve met some of my best travel friends through doing this. When you book tours through your hostel you’ll typically have other like-minded people who have also booked the same tour. Free walking tours are also and excellent way to meet people. I’ve done tons of these and always meet great new friends!
5. Hang out in the common room of your hostel
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s a great way to meet new people when you’re by yourself. Sometimes I check in on a Friday night to a new hostel in a new city where I clearly have no friends yet. This is sometimes a bummer because I’ll want to go explore the night life but don’t have anyone to join me. If there’s no one in my hostel dorm room to chat with I’ll go hang out in the hostel common room. I’ve noticed that if I do that, there will always be people in the main room and it’s known to be a social area so chances of meeting friends is high.
6. Book an actual country-wide tour group
There are many companies that specialize in tour groups that go on some pretty amazing adventures. I’ve tried Contiki before in Vietnam and had a blast. I met a lot of people that I still constantly keep in touch with as well! There are also tours like GAdventures, TopDeck Travel, and tons of local tours within each country. These tours are like joining a sorority, you’ll get instant friends because you’re with one another the whole trip! 😉
7. Go on a pub crawl
Pub crawls always bring out the outgoing side of people and can be a fun and easy way to make friends while traveling solo! As a solo female traveler, I typically don’t go to the pub crawls 100% by myself, but I’ll try to join in with an organized group from the hostel going already or ask people I’ve met to come along. Along the way I’ve met a lot of solo travelers who’s main way of meeting people is through pub crawls, so if you like to party, then this is the perfect option for you!
8. Chat people up on buses, ferries, or planes.
I personally don’t like to chat with people on planes or most public transportation where I’m trying to relax. Sometimes though, if I see friendly looking people that look like they are also backpacking I’ll ask them where they are headed and where they are coming from. I was lost at the train station in Kuala Lumpur one time and didn’t know what to do. I walked up to these guys who looked like they were backpacking as well and asked them if they knew where the taxi stand was. Turns out they were headed to my same hostel! We shared a cab together and the rest is history.
Another time I was on a ferry to a small island in Malaysia and sat next to a girl who was backpacking solo. I asked her where she was from and we became instant friends and hung out the rest of the time on the islands! So, it can happen! 🙂
9. Take a class
There are tons of ways to learn while abroad! You can take a cooking class, language class, scuba diving certification class, workout class (yoga, karate etc), art class, even a coding class like I did. These are wonderful ways to meet new people with similar interests!
Remember that most people out in the world traveling are also looking to meet new people. But, if you’re feeling particularly shy or are a natural introvert, just realize that you really have nothing to lose and chances are you won’t have to do much work anyway because other people will probably approach you!
Do you have any other tips to make friends while traveling solo? If so, I’d love to hear them!
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I <3 this post.
I must agree so much with everything you’re saying! It has been the way I made most of ny friends traveling. Another thing that helps me a lot is the Couchsurfing app feature “Hangouts”.
Yess! I need to try the couchsurfing app feature out! Seems like a lot of people are having a lot of luck!
This is such an amazing post. I am an introvert but I have actually tried a lot of these. Sometimes they have worked perfectly and I have made good friends. But there were many times I saw people get uncomfortable or don’t pay much attention to me specifically because I am brown and come from an Asian country. They would turn to their other friends who are more similar to them. I am not generalising but this has happened a lot to me.
Thank you! I’m glad you liked it! Also, I’m so sorry. I’ve definitely had situations with unfriendly people as well, but have had to just realize that those aren’t the people I need to be spending my time around in the end! Thanks for reading!
Yay!! You’ll love IOC so so much! I sure did. Also, yes I think I missed the Couchsurfing bullet! I personally haven’t used it yet, but need to try it out!
These are awesome tips! As a super introverted person afflicted by chronic social awkwardness, I can totally attest to the fact that traveling solo actually makes it easier to meet people and make friends. I don’t know what it is, but somehow I have no problems meeting people abroad. I think it has something to do with the whole “solo travel makes you more confident” thing.
YES! It’s so weird cause I was freaked out to travel alone, but it all works out and I always meet people. Glad you have the same experience.
YAY! I’m so glad 🙂
Thank you for sharing your experience, it looks very personal but it gives very good tips at the same time. I really appreciated this post! 🙂
Thanks, I’m so glad!
I am also from Idaho and a 2-3 month travel around Europe is a dream of mine. I just got back from Thailand and after coming home I realized how much happier I am when I am traveling, meeting new people and overall, getting out of my comfort zone. My company just did a huge layoff, so I just found myself without a job and really want a big change in my life. I feel like this may be it.
I love your blog
I am a recycled teenager in my 70s, an American and would like to travel in Europe for 3 months. Would love to travel Eastern Europe to start. Are there hostels for my age group? Had thought to rent a place in Germany and use that as my home base and travel outwa da from there but was concerned that I would be double paying if I decided to stay somewhere for a while. Thanks
Hi Elaine –
I’m not sure of hostels for your age group, but I recommend using Hostelworld to read reviews. YOu’ll be able to decipher the party hostels from the regular ones! We had a lot of older people in my hostels while traveling eastern Europs so you should be fun! 🙂 Have so much fun!!
I love this post! I just recently turned 18 and would love to travel around eastern europe for the summer. Do you often find young travelers or college students?
Thank you!! Yes, tons of young people your age were traveling and in hostels!