How to Make Friends While Travelling Alone

How to Make Friends While Travelling Alone
Photo: Jacob Lund, Shutterstock

Travelling alone can be a deeply rewarding, restorative experience. I’m a huge proponent of solo travel. I’ve logged alone time in Cambodia, Germany, Montana, and who knows how many layovers in between. I’m not saying I’ve “found myself” in all these new places, but I’ve certainly learned how to enjoy my own company. I’ve also learned some tips and tricks to meet new people. Even on trips where solitude is the goal, there will always be times where I want to put myself out there and make some traveller friends.

Making friends while travelling alone doesn’t sound like a heavy lift, but you have to be strategic. In addition to being outgoing and approachable, you have to know how to put yourself in the right situations to befriend strangers. Even if you aren’t looking to form lifelong friendships, there are plenty of times during your solo travel where it helps to have safety in numbers. If you’re looking to meet other travellers along your solo journey, here are our tips to make friends quick.

Join group tourist activities

Organised group activities are by far the most effective way to strike up a conversation with fellow travellers. Sure, it sounds obvious, but there’s a smart way to go about it. Before booking any old tour, make sure you read the reviews for any indication that the event has downtime to strike a conversation with the other people in your group. On top of travel-centric sites (like Expedia or Viator), Eventbrite has a travel-specific filter to browse a wide range of activities. This is especially helpful if you want to do something geared toward meeting people, like an organised bar crawl.

Stay in a social environment

Lodging can make or break a vacation. There are plenty of reasons why hotels are preferable to Airbnb these days (e.g. comparable costs, guaranteed cleanliness, and more convenient locations). But if you know you want to meet new people, you might want to consider foregoing the privacy of hotels.

If you’re trying to make friends — or at the very least, drinking buddies — nothing compares to the hostel experience. While hostels are associated with young, drunk students on their “study abroad,” I’ve met travellers of all ages and backgrounds staying in hostels.

If you don’t want to rough it in communal living, then my advice is to book Airbnb or Couchsurfing hosts that advertise themselves as social and hands-on. And if you do opt for the hotel experience, try to spend time in communal spaces, like the lobby or meal area.

Take out your Air Pods

Look, I love a good travel playlist. But if you keep your headphones on, you might miss the opportunity to strike up a conversation with a fellow traveller. This tip is less about the Air Pods, and more about generally making yourself look approachable.

Make use of social media

Get a head start on meeting people before you even reach your destination. Facebook groups, Reddit boards, and friendship apps like Bumble BFF are all fruitful ways to find other people who are interested in making friends during your travels. If you feel safe doing so, you could even post to your existing social network that you’re “looking to meet up with friends (and friends of friends) in [insert place] from [insert times].”

Quick tip: For Facebook and Reddit in particular, try browsing different keywords in addition to “traveller,” like “expats” or “day-trip buddies.”

Final thoughts

Solo travellers can be an overly trusting bunch. Keep in mind basic safety tips, like always watching your drink and never revealing where you’re staying to a total stranger.

Similarly: Respect strangers’ boundaries. Whenever you’re trying to befriend someone, make sure they’re equally enthusiastic. You don’t want to be “that guy” who gets in the way of someone’s quest for solitude.

At the end of the day, remind yourself you don’t have to make friends everywhere you go. But good for you for giving it a shot.

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