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Flying solo gives you the freedom of choosing exactly what to do on any day without worrying about anyone else.
I was always worried that this freedom would come at the expense of having somebody to share the experience with. But, if there’s one thing I’ve realised over 4 months of solo travel, it’s that travelling solo doesn’t necessarily mean travelling alone.
There are many advantages of travelling alone, one of these is the people you meet along the way. I’ve found ways to meet people that I’d never have imagined.
From the typical hostel dorm room friendship to random encounters with travellers on ferries that have turned out to be great friends. Most of the time these friendships will happen naturally, but that’s not always the case.
If you need a little inspiration to help get things going, here are 12 ways you can meet your next travel companion.
1. Organised trips
The ultimate way to guarantee yourself some travel buddies when travelling solo is to book an organised small group trip through companies such as G-adventures, STA Travel or Intrepid Travel.
This is also a great way to get to grips with the culture of a new place without being thrown in at the deep end. You’ll have a tour guide who will help you mingle, and you’ll spend so much time with these people that it’s inevitable you’ll click with someone.
The downside to these tours is that they are very expensive compared to doing it yourself and you lose a lot of freedom to choose your own itinerary.
2. Hostel bar – try a game of pool or cards to break the ice
If you’re looking to make friends whilst travelling alone, a hostel bar is always the best place to start. Going to a bar by yourself if something that takes time to get used to, it can sometimes feel awkward joining a strange individual or group of people.
Remove the awkwardness by using a game to break the ice, see if anybody wants to play pool or carry a deck of cards and get to know a few games for 2 or more players. If you’re not feeling a great vibe with these people, you can always move on without feeling to awkward after a few games.
If your hostel doesn’t have a great social area or bar, don’t be afraid to visit other hostels. Even if you’re not staying there, they’ll usually be happy for you to hang out in their bar and most won’t even notice you’re not a guest.
3. Local guides
Most of the suggestions here will help you meet fellow travellers, but sometimes it’s nice to make friends with a local or someone living in the area. It is possible to stumble upon locals willing to hang out with you naturally, but if you need a little assistance try hiring a local guide. In tourist areas they can be very forthcoming but if not, ask local tour operators or at your hostel/hotel for recommendations.
4. Group day trips
Most tourist destinations will have easily accessible group day trips, sometimes these may be free such as walking tours but usually you’ll need to pay for them.
TIP: I generally book day trips through my hostel so that I can make friends with other travellers that are also staying there. Often you’ll pay a small premium for not shopping around but I’m happy with this. You could look to get a better deal through nearby tour agencies.
There are often opportunities to work or volunteer whilst travelling and it can be an easy way to bond with both fellow volunteers.
Volunteering at hostels is a popular choice, this is also an easy way to meet other travellers staying at the hostel and it will often come with free food and accommodation in return for a few hours a day working.
6. Take a class – e.g. cooking, fitness, crafts, etc
Is there a better combination than learning a new skill and making new friends at the same time?! Most destinations I have visited have some sort of cooking class which is a great way to learn about local cuisine whilst meeting new people.
Fitness classes are also becoming very popular, particularly yoga. But there are a huge array of unique things to try including languages, sports and art.
7. Facebook groups
Social media has revolutionised the way people travel, from following travel bloggers to immediate sharing of photos with family and friends. It’s also a great way to meet new people whilst on the road.
Have a look if there are any Facebook groups relevant to the area you are visiting. As well as other travellers, these groups also attract locals offering advice and services which could be cheaper than using tour agencies.
Be cautious when meeting people you have only ever spoken to online. It can be easy to let your guard down whilst travelling solo. Always check out their profile to ensure it’s genuine and meet in a public place.
8. Homestay’s – look for family dinners or group activities
The family vibe of a homestay provide a great atmosphere to get to know the family and to meet fellow travellers. I always seem to meet incredible people in homestay’s or family-owned guest houses compared to typical hostels. However, sometimes the intimate environment can be difficult if you’re looking for some down time.
Tip: Look for homestays that hold family dinners or other group events such as cycling or bar crawls. Often these activities will be mentioned in reviews.
Finding a good Couchsurfing host can be a great way to meet a local (or often an expat or long term traveller) who also has knowledge of the destination and a ready made network of friends. Sometimes there will be a number of Couchsurfing guests too adding to your list of new friends.
Although I must add, it doesn’t always pan out that way so finding a good host is vital. This guide to choosing a couch surfing host might help.
10. Online dating
I can’t confess to personally using this method to make friends whilst travelling alone but I know people that have used it with success. Tinder is widely used across the world by both travellers and locals. If you’re not looking for something romantic then it’s best to be clear about this in your bio.
11. Social apps – MeetUp, Travbuddy, etc.
There are apps for everything these days, including many for meeting new people. One app that comes up over an over again is MeetUp.
MeetUp has groups with different interests all over the world with most major cities having some English-language groups set up by expats or digital nomads so you’re sure to find something wherever you’re staying. Find one that appeals to you and show up to their next event. The host will usually be really welcoming and help you integrate without feeling awkward,
This app isn’t just for travellers though, if you’ve permanently moved to a new city, are an expat looking to find some new friends or simply make some friends in your 40’s, there are heaps of Meetup groups to choose from.
FliptheTrip is another app which was designed to help meet new people whilst travelling alone, or alternatively Showaround is better suited to help you meet locals and expats with a little more knowledge of the area.
12. Keep in touch
This one may seem a little obvious but swapping details with people you meet is really important as you never know when you may end up in the same place. This can often happen if you take typical travel routes such as the banana pancake trail in South East Asia. Don’t be afraid to ask for somebody’s social media handle or phone number, even if you’ve only known them for a short time.