TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE
How to Make Friends When Solo Traveling the World
Heather Markel, Writer, Photographer, Speaker, World Traveler
(New friend made on a tour of Halong Bay.) Solo travel has it’s perks, but loneliness isn’t one of them. Here are some ideas to help you make friends while you travel.

So you want to see the world and you learn that nobody is available to go with you, they don’t have the money, the time, the desire. ..One of the biggest pain points I see in various forums and posts is how solo travel can get lonely and requests to know how to make friends while traveling. For those of us that are living a nomad life with no definitive plan on how long we’ll travel, making friends becomes even more essential. I’d like to share some tips. Here are 10 ways to make new friends while on the road.

A new friend in Costa Rica – from a coffee shop I went every day!
Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018

1.

Take a tour. This has been, hands down, the best way I’ve found to meet people. I think something about the high likelihood you’ll be with other people that share your interests. I’ve met people on just about every tour I’ve taken and, frequently, these end up being people I have dinner with after the tour, and stay in touch with! One of the best tours I did recently was a trek in Sa Pa, Vietnam with a homestay. It was a grueling trek and I made lots of friends along the way!

2.

Exchange contact information. You know what the worst feeling is? Meeting someone you connect with only to walk away and realize you forgot to exchange information and will probably never see them again because you didn’t get their last name so you can’t look them up. At the very least exchange Social Media handles, and even better, make sure you have WhatsApp so you can easily send messages while traveling.

3.

Stay in a place that makes it easy to meet people. Typically hostels or low budget hotels give you at least the chance to sit near people at breakfast. Staying at high end hotels you’re more likely to be surrounded by newlyweds, couples, or groups that aren’t as interested in meeting new people. It’s worth the sacrifice of service if meeting people is your priority.

4.

Speak up. Now is not the time to be shy. Seriously, you may find it easier when people approach you, but if you want to avoid being alone, you need to commit to at least asking one question to someone. “Where are you from?” is the perfect way to start a conversation with most people

New friends in Portugal.
Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018

5.

Take a class. Try a cooking class or some bizarre class you’ve never heard of or done before. Chances are other tourists will be there too and it’ll be easy to strike up a conversation. As with tours, you’re also very likely to meet people that share your interests if you pick a class that excites you.

6.

Join Facebook groups. There is one for just about every location in the world, as well as larger groups like Girls Love Travel, and, even solo travel and +35 groups to accommodate every interest. Post a hello and where you’re going. There’s almost always someone there who’d love to connect.​ 

7.

Go to the same restaurant or shop every day. If you have the luxury of staying in one place for at least a few days, or those of you living someplace for a while, this is a great way to befriend some locals! In fact, you should make sure you think about local friends, not just travelers, if you’re in one place for a longer time. In Costa Rica I got to know a great friend by going to her coffee shop every day. She invited me to join her and her husband for dinner at a place I’d never have found on my own. We are still in touch.

8.

Eat in. If you’re staying at a place that offers dinner, try eating in frequently. I got to know the hotel managers at two of the places I stayed in Costa Rica. One of them offered me alcohol made from palm trees after several nights! The other owners are just darling friends, one of whom makes the best margarita I’ve ever had! In Vietnam I ate dinner every night at one of the places I stayed and got to speak a little with the owner and her daughter, a real treat. I also got to meet various people staying at the same homestay. It was delightful!

A new friend made on a bus ride!

9.

Ask your network. Ask your friends and family if they have contacts wherever you’re going. Chances are they’ll be able to put you in touch with someone you’ll know is reliable and trustworthy. And, bonus if you become friends! Either way they can likely suggest places where you’re most likely to meet people since they are so familiar with their town.

10.

Visit Cultural Sites. Some places are so small that there just aren’t any tours or classes. In that case, especially, find out what local attractions there are. It might be a local hangout (I stayed in a town with fewer than 100 people in Portugal and their “sociedad” was the town hangout and sole attraction), it might be a museum or church. Get yourself there. Again, if you’re not meeting tourists, you’ll definitely meet local people. The more you go, the more likely you’ll make friends! AND, even if you don’t speak the local language, just a little bit of time struggling to communicate with the same people every day works wonders!​

11. (Bonus!)

Give Up Age Barriers. Friends come in all ages. They may be much younger or much older than you! Instead of looking for people your age, just look for people that seem friendly.​

12. (Another Bonus!)

Get A Greeter! In New York City, I used to be a Big Apple Greeter. I volunteered to give tourists a New Yorker’s perspective of New York and met great people. When I went to Buenos Aires, I got a greeter for myself! It was wonderful to get to know the city from his eyes, and we even met up a few times while I was there. Check out The Global Greeter Network to see if you can find a greeter at your next destination.

Remember that your accent, which you never think about, is sexy to someone else when you travel! It’s so strange, but true! Dare to speak up because your accent alone may attract someone who wants to get to know you.

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