When you are about to embark on your first backpacking trip, the question you usually ask yourself is how are you going to make friends solo travelling?. This question has left some people so bewildered they never take the leap and book the flight.
But brave and clever people (like you) research, which makes the first part of your adventure less daunting.
When you follow these simple steps, you will be surprised how easy it is to make friends.
Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, I can guarantee you will make friends when travelling solo.
The trick is to be open and approachable. I have been travelling solo for 8 years now and my closest friends are the ones I met on the road.
How to make new friends while travelling
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Stay in Hostels
Staying in hostels is one of the easiest ways to make friends when travelling solo. Hostels are filled with like minded backpackers who are in the same position as you.
If it is your first time staying in a hostel, I recommend you read the reviews on different places around the area. You want to be looking for a social environment that holds events which will help you meet new people.
A few simple tips on how to make friends in hostels:
Always be open! Say hi to whoever walks into the dorm room. 9/10 times they will say hi back. This could be your opening to strike up a conversation.
Some things to ask could be:
How are they?
How was their day?
What did they do today?
If they have just arrived, ask them where they have come from?
Where are they from originally?
Do they have a travel plan?
Do they have any tips for the area or recommendations?
Have they signed up for the event that’s on?
When you are in the common room or the kitchen, put your phone away. This will show others you are approachable and happy to chat.
It also helps to sit at a table with more than one or two chairs. That way, people can come and sit with you.
When you are a solo traveller, you are a lot less daunting to approach than in a group.
If you engage with a fellow backpacker and get on with them, be brave and ask them to join your plans. Chances are they are probably doing similar activities to you in the area.
BE SPONTANEOUS! If someone invites you for drinks or an activity, say yes. This will help you make friends and also have an adventure.
Like I said earlier, go to social hostels. I love backpackers that allow you to bring your own alcohol. This is, in my experience, the more chilled, social, playing cards around a table vibe. I think it is much easier to make friends when games are involved.
Sign up to Hostel Events
A good way to make friends when you travel alone is to sign up for tours and events hosted by the hostel. Whether it is a free walking tour, a bar crawl or a boat trip, you are guaranteed to have other solo travellers signing up.
Once you have done the excursion you could go for coffee or food after and talk about the experience you just had.
This might sound like a silly tip, but smile. If you lock eyes with someone, instead of being awkward about it, just smile. You are a lot more approachable if you look like you are happy to be there.
Travel with a game
A really simple and easy way to make friends, especially if you are an introvert, is to bring a game.
Go on Group Tours and Hop on Hop off buses
My first ever solo trip was on a group tour around America. I was 21 and a bit unsure about travelling solo and making friends. I decided to book a group tour with Trek America (no longer operating).
It was for 3 months and there were 13 of us! All our travel plans were arranged and all we had to do was turn up. I think this was a great stepping stone to solo travelling. One of the members of the group became a close friend of mine. We have now travelled to three countries together.
Three great tour companies that I recommend are G Adventures, Contiki Tours and Trutravel.
If you want more freedom with travel plans but still want to guarantee making friends, then join a hop on hop off bus.
Companies like Stray and Kiwi experience are amazing for giving you the flexibility to be independent but also the option to have certain things arranged for you.
I highly recommend using this style of travel to make friends and get around the country.
Join Facebook Groups and apps to make friends solo travelling
As social media is now a huge part of our lives, joining Facebook travel groups will help you connect with like minded people.
A really good community to get involved in is The Travel Squad. Two of my friends introduced me to this group as they had already gone on day trips and connected with other travellers in the world through this platform.
Before visiting a new country, I will always type “backpackers in ________” on the Facebook search engine to see what other travellers are up to in those countries.
Hostelworld also has a new app that allows you to socialize and chat with fellow explorers who also love hostels!
Backpackr is another app that lets you post your travel plans and see if anyone wants to tag along for the ride.
Join Volunteer Programmes
A great way to make friends solo travelling and do something new, is signing up to be a volunteer.
Organisations like Worldpackers have volunteer programmes all over the world. They make travelling and volunteering fun, safe, social and budget friendly.
With a community of over 3.2 million (hosts and volunteers combined), you are guaranteed to have a great time and meet some new people. I recommend reading the reviews and picking a position that is going to get you around people.
I also love volunteering at music festivals as they usually have a great atmosphere. This is another great way to meet new people and experience something fun at the same time.
Ask if your friends know anyone in the area
Blind friends’ dates can be so fun! Especially in different countries.
Ask your friends or family if they know anyone in the area that you are travelling to. Then ask them to connect you both and see where it goes.
If your friends are introducing you to other friends, chances are you will have similar interests and get on well.
My friend Jenna set me up on a friend’s date with her friend Alyssa from Athens, Greece. We got on really well and she showed me some local, less touristy spots.
I also met my second cousin in Banff, Canada. We hadn’t met before but our Grandmas talked to each other and realized we were in the same area and connected us. We are now friends who go to new restaurants each week!
Chat to people in transit
If I see someone travelling on public transport with a big backpack, I will strike up a conversation with them.
Chances are, you will be going to the same area. It also helps to ask if they have any plans, so you can take inspiration if you are not sure what to do in that destination.
I also like chatting with people on the plane. Even a little bit of small talk can make all the difference. It is amazing how many different walks of life enter that plane each with a story of why they are flying. Sometimes it’s nice to break the journey up with chit chat.
Take a class or workshop in the area
Whether it is jewelry making, sip and paint, or a food class. Getting involved in a local event will help you learn something new, meet the locals and maybe make some friends.
In summary, be open to making friends whilst travelling solo. Put your electronic devices away and a smile on your face and see what happens. Sometimes you make friends for life and sometimes you make friends for an hour, but that is the beauty of travelling.
As Always, Happy Exploring!