How To Meet People
Travelling solo can be a challenge; looking for your accommodations, figuring out transport, the currency, and having to navigate your way around a new city can be exhausting. Knowing how to meet others can make your trip so much more enjoyable when you need some extra company.
Meeting other travellers means that there’s someone to look after your bags whilst you pop into a shop, someone to remember landmarks as you wander around with, someone to talk to, have dinner and experience the nightlife with and just someone for some company. Even if you prefer figuring it all out for yourself, it can make it all so much easier.
Maybe you’ve been on your own for the third day running without interacting with a single soul (except maybe the occasional waiter), and you’re beginning to get bored of your own company and feel that you’ve lost the ability to have a decent conservation. Then it’s time for some company.
So how and where can you meet these amazing people to share your travels with? Here's my guide on how to meet like-minded others on your trip.
N.b. If you're ready to plan your solo trip but are unsure how to do it, read my how to plan a solo trip article.
Hostels were created with the idea of mingling with strangers, and you’ll find many holding daily or nightly events. Any hostel will do but the best hostels to integrate with others are the smaller, more independent ones.
Unless large hostels have social nights it can be difficult to strike up a conversation with others so the smaller the friendlier. Speak to others in your dorm room, sit in the common area and ask people for tips on what to see and do.
Travellers are a friendly bunch especially if they are solo as well and you’ll often find that they will just invite you to go exploring with them for the day. Ask the reception desk if they have any tours or nightly events that you can take for guaranteed company.
If checking into a hostel by yourself is a little daunting, I recommend booking through Hostelworld. They are a great platform as you can see who is staying in your hostel before you get there so you can meet your potential roommates before you arrive!
Okay, so we admit it can take a lot of courage to even walk into a bar by yourself (it’s better than a restaurant though honest) but they are actually good meeting places for solos. The best place to sit is right at the bar so you are in other’s sights as they order drinks and even the barman will talk to you. If you’re nervous, get there earlier so that you’re not walking into a packed bar.
Not only are they free (you just make a donation at the end), they are great for solo travellers. Even if you’re not one to approach people, you’ll be guaranteed that someone will have struck up a conversation with you by the end.
With tours lasting between two to three hours, there’s plenty of time to engage with others. Keep your time free at the end for any impromptu drink or meal offers. (This also applies to any kind of day tour).
It is so easy to strike up conversations with people on buses or trains and you never know who will come into your carriage or have the seat next to you. All you need to do is just ask them to mind your bags whilst you grab a coffee and offer them one too or just ask “where are you heading to?” and a conversation is born. This is even easier on buses where you are all squeezed in and within inches of each other.
Travellers tend to stick together so if you’re about to cross a border overland you’re guaranteed there will be another traveller there who is a bit dubious about the logistics of crossing and is more than happy to join forces until you get to your chosen destination (and may even share the transport costs there).
Some border controls make you wait whilst they check your passport giving you time to strike up conversations in the meantime. This is also true when you arrive in a country for the first time and everyone is looking for accommodation. This is a great situation for joining forces and finding somewhere together.
Solo Meet Ups
These are a great idea and a chance to meet other solos (hence the name) especially if you’re staying in hotels and away from sociable accommodation. You just rock up to a city, check if there is one, then turn up.
These come thoroughly recommended by solo travellers and are an ideal way to meet other solos just like you plus you can choose from writing groups or various interests in over thirty-five cities too.
If staying at a stranger’s house doesn’t sit comfortably with you, you can always choose to meet someone on Couchsurfing instead. As well as being somewhere to find accommodation for the night, it’s also an online community which connects you with locals who can meet you for a coffee, dinner or show you around their home town.
You can just put where you’re going to be and on which date and then let people contact you, so you don’t even have to approach anyone.
If you are in a Spanish speaking country, there’s bound to be an ‘intercambio,’ or a language exchange. You can also arrange to meet people online through sites or just speak to them through Skype if you’re not in the same area.
It may seem a bit daunting to speak solely in a language which isn’t your native tongue at first but people are just as keen to practice their English with you, so you’ll often find it’s an exchange of languages. Just take along a phrase book and an open mind. You can always do dome groundwork before you go with online programmes such as Duolingo and Conversation Exchange.
Whether you’ve got a secret desire to be a culinary chef, a ballroom dancer, or a first-class diver, taking a class or even a course when you travel will not only enhance your travelling experience, but will give you like-minded people to learn with too.
Try Thai cookery classes in northern Thailand, diving in Honduras, or tango dancing in Argentina. Look in local newspapers, on posters, expat sites or just ask the locals if they know of any classes. Hostels are also good for this information so check their websites too.
Establish a routine
Go to the same coffee shop each day, eat lunch in the same restaurant, have a drink in the same bar, and soon people will recognise you and be ready to strike up a conversation. Being somewhere for a while will guarantee that people will notice you and soon take an interest in you.
This may not be an instant way of meeting people and in countries such as Mongolia where locals can take a while to build trust with strangers but if you’re going to stay somewhere longer term, this definitely works.
Just start talking
Whether you’re sitting in a restaurant, mooching around a museum or sitting in a park, just strike up a conversation with the next person who smiles at you. If they don’t interact then move onto the next one. Offer to take a photo of someone in exchange for one from yours.
Ask someone a question in their local language or just smile. Just saying that you’ve just arrived and were wondering where the best restaurant is, what there is to do in the area or what they recommend will be a conversation starter.
You’ll be surprised how friendly people can be, especially those in local towns who are more open to conversations and have the time, as opposed to those on their lunch break in the cities.
In countries such as Cuba, locals just sit outside their houses or play chess or cards in small parks so sitting, smiling and observing is a good way in. People love talking about where they live and will happily give you pointers. Ask questions about people and be genuinely interested.
Join an Expat community
With so many Facebook groups being set up for virtually every city, there’s bound to be an online community of people in the same area as you. You don’t have to be an expat either but this is a good way of meeting others if you’re staying somewhere for longer than a month.
Regular events are a big part of an Expat lifestyle so find out if there’s an event coming up and confirm your attendance to go as once you’ve confirmed, it’s easier not to back out. Just Google the words ‘expat’ and your ‘city’ to find websites.
Get a Travel Buddy
Meeting people on the road can be intense. Whether you spend an hour, a day or a week with someone can be the highlight of your trip, and if you’re away long-term many people will come and go in your travelling life.
Some will just be an exchange of words in a street, in a bar or a bus, but others will make a lasting impact and can even change your course of travel. Travelling opens up possibilities for romantic encounters and you may even find you have a short-term relationship whilst you travel.
Finding a like-minded person with the same travelling style and interests is the key to the prefect travelling partner, otherwise you may wish you were alone sooner rather than later if you’ve made a commitment to travel with someone for a while and it’s not quite working out.
Find out what their daily patterns are like – are they an early bird too or do they prefer to spend half the day in bed nursing a hangover whilst you prefer to be up and about sightseeing in the mornings.
Finding a travel companion is so easy thanks to the internet and you can even line up a travel buddy before you begin your trip. There’s many solos looking for others to travel with and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to travel with a stranger compared to a close friend you’ve known for years.
These are just a few ways to meet others, but you can actually meet people in the most unlikely places, such as market places or hostel lobbies, or you can ask friends and relatives if they know anyone in the area you’re in. If you’re travelling on a particular travellers route then you’ll be surprised at how many people you’ll keep bumping into.
Of course, there may be times when you are really happy to be alone but for all the times that you’re not, there are plenty of opportunities to make friends. If you travel with an open mind, you can meet people anywhere. The best way to engage and meet others – is just to smile…