How To Make Friends And Meet People When Travelling Solo.

michael-huxley-making-friends-when-travelling-solo

Travelling solo is one of the best ways to travel, but a lot of people worry that they will get lonely or that they will be alone most of the time. This simply isn’t true. Here are some of the best ways on how to meet people and make friends when you are travelling solo around the world.

The vast majority of my backpacking adventures have been solo, and it is without doubt the best way to travel the world. Of course there have been times where I have felt a little lonely or wished someone was there to experience something with me, but that is just a normal part of the human experience and I am just as likely to feel that at home from time to time.

The rest of the time spent on the road I have managed to make great fiends and spend time with a lot of truly awesome people. On the whole I honestly think I have spent more time with other people than I have alone. The difference is when you are travelling solo you have a choice. You can be on your own when you want a bit of time to yourself, and join up with some truly great people and make a lot of great friends when you don’t.

And it is a lot easier than people think too. Here’s how I do it. 

Say hello.

how-to-meet-people-when-travelling-solo

This is all a lot of it boils down to. Backpackers and travellers are in general quite friendly, mostly outgoing people and often pretty damn awesome too! All you have to do is go up and say hello. Start a conversation. Even if you are really shy at the very least you have the common ground of travel to talk about, and this will help you come out of your shell a little bit and give you some of that all important confidence.

Stay in hostels.

Now this isn’t a prerequisite for backpacking obviously, and I happily admit at least half of the time now (depending on where I am travelling) I will choose a private room in a guesthouse over a hostel stay. Upgrading to flashpacker status once in a while is one of the perks of an aging backpacker! That is perfect for when you want a bit of time to yourself to relax, read a book or just rest.

But when you are in the mood to socialise and want to meet a bunch of like minded travellers just like yourself, then you can’t go wrong with a hostel.

hostel-dorm-common-room-room-backpacking

Talk to the other travellers in the same dorm as you, go to the hostel bar or common room and ask if you can sit with someone. Hostels are just full of people just like you, and many of them will be travelling solo just like you. Pretty soon you’ll be sick of the same tick list ‘where have you been, how long are you travelling for conversation, and you will be planning to have an awesome night out or even spend a few days together with the people you have just met.

Join a pub crawl. 

Gap year

Most hostels will have some sort of activity schedule, and a lot of the time these involve sampling copious amounts of the local nightlife. These social nights out are quite often filled with other travellers who have only just or not long arrived in town, so what better way to meet new friends than when you are partying together?

If you are shy or nervous about meeting new people, then it helps that you often have extremely outgoing hosts who are great at creating a social atmosphere, well, that and the alchohol doesn’t hurt either!

Just remember drink responsibly but still relax and have a good time, and shit can get crazy on the road so whatever happens on a night out stays on that night out, and protect yourself! You know what I mean!

Meet in transit.

Whether it’s a long distance bus or an overnight train, the traditional choice of transport for overland backpackers tends to have – surprisingly – a lot of other backpackers on it, so why not use the time to strike up a conversation? It can be a small bonding experience when you are stuck on the same bus or train for 12 hours or more, and odds are they are going to the same places you want to see too, so it’s a perfect time to suggest getting a tour or some shared transport together for a few days. At the very least you should be able to swap a few destination tips!

Do a few day trips. 

Philippines Busay Waterfall

Surprisingly enough even independent backpackers can take a day trip or an excursion from time to time! Sometimes it is even necessary if you want to do something specific like the Inca Trail, and these are a great way to meet other like minded travellers. I have met some of the most amazing and inspirational people I know when travelling like this.

You can usually find travel agencies in backpacker hotspots, or hostels and guesthouses are usually full of brochures and posters selling all sorts of day trips, from mountain or jungle hikes to sunrise treks and city tours. You just have to pick out which ones take your fancy.

Tour Agency Indonesia

The more specific the activity, the more you are likely to have in common with the others in your group as well. You never know who will be on those trips with you and you can meet some genuinely awesome people.

Do the occasional longer excursion.

Meeting people when travelling solo forest trek in Romania.JPG

Backpacking around the world throws up a whole range of choices for two or three day excursions, doing a bit of jungle trekking in Columbia or Thailand, walking the famous Inca trail, doing a desert trek and camping under the stars every night, whatever the activity itself might be, being thrown together with a small group for a few nights can often be quite an intense bonding experience and is a great way to meet new friends.

Take a class.

One of the best things about world travel is the opportunity to expand your horizons and better yourself, so take a cooking class, a dance class, a martial arts lesson or two,  whatever it is that sparks your interest. Either way, they are amazing ways to meet new people.

Sign up for an adventure activity.

how-to-make-friends-when-travelling-solo

If you have ever wanted to learn how to mountain climb, go canyoning, learn to dive, abseil down a waterfall or two or indulge in any adventure fantasy that Indiana Jones himself would be proud of, then a gap year is the time to do it!

There are countless opportunities to tick items off your bucket list and add feathers to your cap when travelling the world,  and travelling solo is not a problem. It won’t just be you doing it! Many adventure activity outfits take out small groups at a time and the shared experience is often a great ice breaker to meet and chat to your fellow adventurers.

Continue the adventure after the activity.

meeting-people-when-travelling-solo-gap-year

When you meet people on an excursion, an activity or a day trip, it is inevitable that you will get chatting and make new friends, but it really doesn’t have to end there. It is genuinely a common thing for a group of travellers to meet this way and at the very least go out for a meal or a drink after it all ends and you find yourself back in relative civilisation. This is a great way of simultaneously solving the problem of eating alone too if that is something you haven’t quite gotten used to yet. Quite often if solo travellers hit it off they may travel together for a few days until inevitably heading in separate directions again. This is normal on the road.

Spend time with locals too. 

Bemused Backpacker Michael Huxley

It isn’t just other travellers you will meet on the road, you will meet a lot of people from all over the world and from all walks of life, and meeting and speaking with locals will enhance your travel experience as much as anything else with. This is one of the reasons I love staying in local, family run homestays as opposed to hostels or certainly hotels, because quite often you get to experience the genuine hospitality of the hosts too, who are often very willing to introduce you to their culture. It is also worth remembering that whilst it is sound advice to be aware of your surroundings and wary of local scams, not every local who talks to you has ill intent either.

So if you think travelling solo means you will be alone all of the time, you’re wrong. Meeting new people is one of the best parts of backpacking around the world, and you will have no problem doing it either. So don’t let fear of being alone stop you from travelling solo!

What do you think? Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or please join in the discussion on my Facebook or Twitter pages on this important topic, and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons and spread the word.

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Michael Huxley is a published author, freelance travel writer and founder of Bemused Backpacker. He is also a charge nurse by vocation with an interest in emergency nursing and travel medicine, but his real passion is travel. Since finding his wanderlust a decade ago in South East Asia, he has bounced from one end of the planet to another and has no intention of slowing down.

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45 comments on “How To Make Friends And Meet People When Travelling Solo.
  1. Barry says:

    Maybe it is me or maybe it is my age (mid 40’s), but I have found loneliness a problem when I am travelling, more for the lack of quality contact than anything else. Add to this I am a bit anti-social at times and the problem is exacerbated.

    One way that helped me overcome this was to force myself to use AirBNB, where I have a room in the house with the houseowners as opposed to renting a whole apartment. It kills several birds with one stone as such – staying with locals, socialising, living as they do, and cheaper than renting a whole apartment (not as cheap as a hostel obviously). It has also led to long lasting relationships with many of these people. I have done this at least a dozen times.

    The other thing I did in places like China, Chile and Japan was to look for local meetups that might interest me and go along. Drinking in an Irishbar in Santiago with 60 Chileans and 2 Americans was a real highlight. So was the meet up in Shanghai disguised as an English meetup that turned out to be an allsinging/dancing karaoke praise the lord halellluuuuuuyahhh session. Ths is a great way to meet locals, and if you are an English speaker they will want to practice their English skills.

    Love the article Michael.

    • Thanks Barry, and that’s a great tip. The sharing economy is a great way to meet locals too. I do know what you mean about being a bit anti social at times, that is definitely me too as I get a bit older! But that is why I love solo travel, because I can pick and choose and get the best of both worlds, I can have company and meet new people when I want (even hook up for a group trek or something for a while), and then when I am feeling the need for my own space I can go my own way. Thanks so much for the comment. 🙂

  2. Ellie says:

    Saying hello, such a simple yet underated skill! I do understand that many people out there are shy and don’t find that so easy but it’s only one word. Give it a go!

  3. Joe says:

    Excellent post, and I can confirm that after being a bit worried about this myself before travelling I met a ton of new mates in hostels and on treks and stuff. I don’t know what I was worried about!

  4. Louisa says:

    I know this sounds daft and irrational after reading this but meeting people is a genuine worry of mine, not so much where or how to meet them but more because I am genuinely really shy and I don’t really talk all that much. I’m genuinely worried most of my upcoming travels will be very lonely.

    • It doesn’t sound daft or irrational at all, and that is part of what I was saying. It is perfectly natural to feel shy and there’s nothing wrong with it, backpacking doesn’t mean you have to suddenly be the life and soul of the party, but it will push you just a little bit past your own comfort zone so that you can grow as a person. For travellers who are really shy things like small group treks or activities where you will be put together with a small group of people for a day or two are perfect, as you can meet new people and it isn’t hard talking with them when it is more one to one, as everyone will be talking to each other and approaching you too. That will give you the confidence to say hello to the next traveller you meet in the hostel dorm or waiting for that overnight train.

    • Barry says:

      I am sure you will be fine Louisa, and Michael has given you some great advice. It’s all about taking small steps, staying calm and being patient. I noticed you said “upcoming travels”, and that alone is a HUGE step on your life journey, so a big congrats to you.

  5. You do absolutely meet so many amazing people when travelling, and a lot of the time you find they were just as nervous as you were about meeting people!

  6. Sue says:

    Feeling shy or nervous can be a real hold back for a lot of people, its great to hear some positive encouragement and some reality on what its really like. I hope this gives a lot of people the confidence boost they need to travel.

  7. Wai Xianyi says:

    This is so true. Its always possible to make friends of other travellers.

  8. Lindsay says:

    Hostels are amazing places to meet people, especially in shared dorms and especially when you take part in some of the activities and pub nights. Its where I get a lot of on the ground local info of where to go and what to do as well, and there is usually someone to share some transport with.

  9. Gupta says:

    Making friends is a very good thing. Just say hello.

  10. Lindsay says:

    Loving the positivity in this! It is definitely true that sometimes you will get lonely travelling alone but there are so many ways to meet so many people when travelling.

  11. Harry says:

    Exactly, I know it can be a bit daunting if you’ve never travelled before but there is no reason at all to worry about never meeting other travellers. Great post.

  12. Sarah Quirk says:

    Well said. I think its important to remember that yes travelling takes you out of your comfort zone with relation to being alone from time to time, meeting new people etc, it quickly lets you find a new comfort zone too and that shouldn’t be feared.

  13. Amelia says:

    Truth! Making friends is not so hard when backpacking, and one of the major upsides to it. Plus I think world travellers tend to be amazing, interesting people anyway.

  14. Olivia says:

    Travellers are always the best people to hang out with, they have all the best stories!

  15. Zascha says:

    Great advise! I found it hard in the beginning, but now I’m an expert in meeting people on the road 😀

  16. Danielle says:

    ‘All you have to do is say hello’. Exactly!

  17. Gemma McConnel says:

    I suppose its something everyone worries about until they are actually travelling and find out they were really worrying for nothing.

  18. thebatanguenabackpacker says:

    To add, join in couchsurfing event in the area. 😀

  19. Elena says:

    I love this, such a beautifully written post and so true. Meeting other travellers is not hard and is one of the best parts of travelling.

  20. Molly says:

    It sounds really stupid but you have no idea how reassuring this is!

  21. Julie says:

    This is very true, friends can be everywhere. Travelling you always meet new people.

  22. Dawn says:

    I have to admit I have asked myself more than once if I will be lonely or if I will meet anyone (first time solo trip) so this has been really reassuring thank you.

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a published author, qualified nurse and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent 15 years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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