How to Meet People While Travelling Solo
As much as I love travelling solo and exploring the world alone, there are some real benefits to meeting new people while travelling solo. You get to share stories, moments and tips and tricks, sometimes building lasting friendships in the process.
Making friends while travelling solo can vary in difficulty, depending on how comfortable you are about talking to new people. Today, I’m going to be sharing a few tips on how to meet people while travelling solo.
Meeting People While Travelling Solo
Some of us are quite confident when it comes to meeting new people, some of us aren’t. Either way, it’s going to be ok. It can take a little bit of practice and some comfort zone expansion, but I promise that there are things you can do to help you meet new people while travelling solo no matter what your confidence levels look like.
1. Go on a day tour or a walking tour.
When you’re travelling on your own, it can be easier to meet new people when you’re offered a talking point. That’s where day tours and walking tours come in. Many of the people on these tours will be your fellow travellers, but some could be locals looking to learn a little more about their surroundings.
You can usually start a conversation with those around you about the things you see or the things you’re learning about quite easily. Just asking for a stranger’s opinion can be enough to start up a conversation and get a feel for who wants to talk and who really doesn’t.
While some tours can be quite expensive, there are free tours available in many major cities. I always advise being careful with these as it would be more appropriate to call them pay-what-you-want tours. You get to tip whatever you want at the end, but it’s a less transparent business model.
2. Take a class in something you enjoy.
When I’m staying somewhere for a few weeks, I always try to find a cooking class to learn how to cook some local treats. After joining quite a few of them, I’m happy to say that they offer a great opportunity for you to meet a variety of people, from other travellers to elderly locals who have amazing stories to share.
The best thing about this method is the fact that you can really focus on something you enjoy. Art enthusiasts might be able to find a drawing or painting class, while those who enjoy rock climbing might be able to find a group with the same skill level. There’s something for everyone.
When you’re in another country and you don’t know much of the local language, language classes are another great option. Whether it’s a one off or a course you keep attending, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to meet new people.
3. Learn a little bit of the local language.
A little bit of the local language can go a long way when you’re travelling. With a few basic phrases and some charades practice, you can often communicate with others around you.
You don’t have to be fluent either! Try your best and many locals will try to help. Practicing small talk and making sure you’re learning the right phrases is important. You probably won’t be describing the layout of your home and all of your belongings to strangers like some lessons in school would have you believe.
Back before I could speak Japanese, I learnt just how easy it can be to get an idea across to another person with a single word and gestures. Using the word “hana” and mimicking sneezing, I was able to let a pharmacist know I had hay fever and he made sure I got the right medication.
There are plenty of ways to practice a language before you go to a new country. I recommend using apps like Duolingo and Memrise, but finding the one that best suits your learning style. There are also online classes and platforms that are designed to connect language learners, like HelloTalk. It’s all about finding what works for you.
4. Use your hobbies to your advantage.
What are your hobbies? Do they enable you to meet other people who enjoy the same things as you? Hikers will often find themselves bumping into other hikers on the right trails, while campers will meet other campers at campsites. When you’re suspended in your own hobbies, it can be easier to talk about them with those around you and there’s less pressure involved.
I would still always recommend being careful if you’re out in the middle of nowhere. Trust your gut and make sure that you keep yourself safe.
Is there anything new you’ve been dying to try? I’ve found that new activities can be a really fun way to meet people, especially if you find a class that’s designed for beginners. No one is immediately great at anything and the challenge of something new can be a unique experience. You can ask for tips, try to help other people and occasionally work in groups, depending on the class.
5. Find an event that focuses on your interests.
I love attending festivals in other countries that feature some of the music that I hold closest to my heart. For example, Tuska Open Air in Helsinki and Download Festival at home in England. While attending those festivals, I’ve met locals and people from all over the world.
Meeting people who love what you love can be enough to break the ice. Talking to strangers can be difficult, but in an environment where you’re comfortable and having fun, half of the battle is over. Even if you’re not confident enough to strike up a conversation, you can almost guarantee someone else will be.
For me, a festival atmosphere works best. It never feels like you’re truly alone, especially not when you’re distracted by what you enjoy. But, there are events for every type of person. Wine tastings, art installations, bar crawls, book club meetings, readings, stadium events…it’s all about what you enjoy.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
A huge part of meeting new people while travelling is breaking the ice. The easiest way to do this and to show an interest in other people can be to ask questions. Some people won’t like this and you will be able to tell, others will love telling you all about their adventure, where they’re from or what they’re doing.
When you’re striking up a conversation, asking questions can be a good way to go about it. With locals, you could ask them for their recommendations…or anything that they would recommend avoiding entirely. With other travellers, you could ask them if they’re enjoying their trip and how long they’ve been travelling for.
Swapping stories with other travellers can be a lot of fun, especially when you find out you’ve crossed paths. Locals can offer you an insight unlike any other and you might find yourself building lasting friendships with them. Talking to strangers in some countries is more socially acceptable than others and it’s worth looking into that beforehand.
7. Get used to starting conversations.
As someone who is relatively introverted in most situations, I find asking questions and starting conversations to be the biggest part of the challenge. But, it starts to feel a little bit easier as you keep doing it. No matter what the situation is, it can be a little bit hard to talk to someone new for the first time.
Complimenting someone’s style or their clothing can be a great way to break the ice, but you should only do that when you’re being both genuine and respectful. Asking for directions will always be a good little icebreaker too as you can usually gauge whether or not someone wants to have a conversation. I prefer initially asking someone if they’re from the area, prior to asking for directions.
If there’s a language barrier, let your enthusiasm, language attempts and charades shine through. But, pay attention to the behaviour of the person you’re talking to. You’ll be able to tell whether or not they want you to stop talking to them.
8. Set off on a group tour.
Similar to a day tour, but much longer. A group tour takes you to different locations with the same group of travellers. Lots of travellers on group tours are solo travellers, all ready to share the experience with like-minded people.
If this is the type of setting you’re looking for, I would always recommend looking for small group tours of no more than a dozen or so people. I find that that’s the best way to really get to know those around you, opposed to large group tours where you might only bump into people a handful of times.
Sometimes, you’ll be sharing your accommodation with the same-sex members of your group, giving you even more time to get to know each other. Local leaders will be around to showcase the best of the area you’re visiting, while also helping you to avoid the dodgier sides of your destination. All in all, group tours are a great way to meet new friends who want to see what you want to see.
9. Start volunteering.
If it’s locals you’re looking to meet, volunteering might help you to meet people you wouldn’t get the opportunity to meet without it. You’ll get to meet new people, spend time with other volunteers and help along the way.
I would always recommend thoroughly researching any volunteering opportunity before taking it. Safety practices should be in place and it’s worth looking at each option from an ethical perspective. Some programs unfortunately do more harm than good.
When volunteering, I like to make sure that I know exactly where my money is going. The cost of a volunteering program alone isn’t a good indicator of how ethical it is, but transparency can be. Any company should be able to tell you what percentage of your money goes where. My own rule of thumb is to consider whether or not I’m actually qualified to do what’s being asked of me. If I’m not, I’m not the right person to be helping in that situation.
10. Think about staying in a hostel or doing a homestay.
Some travellers find that hostel-type accommodation environments offer them the best opportunities to meet other travellers. This makes sense too. You’re often surrounded by people from all over the world who are happy to meet other people and share adventures.
I don’t talk about hostels very often. As a victim of sexual violence, my “fight or flight” mentality is almost always switched on and I struggle to settle in areas where I’m surrounded by lots of people. Because of this, I rarely talk about hostels on Hill of Stars, they’re just not an area I have a lot of experience with. I find that homestays are my happy middle ground.
Some homestays will offer you a place to stay and meals in exchange for general help. The locals you stay with will be able to show you their home through their eyes, introducing you to a unique side of your destination. They’ll know where all of the hidden heartbeats away from the tourist trail are tucked.
Meeting New People While Travelling Solo
If there was one piece of advice I could give you for meeting new people, it would be this: Usually we’re all a little bit nervous about conversations with new people. Even those of us who look like we’re not sometimes are, but we’re just good at playing pretend. Pay attention to the words and mannerisms of the person you’re talking to and you’ll know whether or not to continue the conversation. But, most of all, have fun.
Do you have any tips for meeting new people while travelling solo? I would love to hear about them in the comments below.