12 solo travelers reveal their #1 hack for making friends on the fly
There are a lot of things to think about when you decide to go solo traveling. Who will take your photos? (TG for the selfie stick — just kidding.) How will you stay safe without the buddy system? How will you afford everything on your own? While all of these thoughts are daunting, making friends as a solo traveler can be particularly scary.
However, many, many people have come before you, traveled solo, and swear by it. They make friends here, they make friends there — you guessed it — they make friends everywhere. But what’s the secret? If you’re not someone who can strike up a conversation with anyone, how will you make it by?
We spoke to 12 women who have traveled solo, and they gave us their tried and true tips.
They told us where to go and what to do. They shared stories of the great friends they made (spoiler alert: one friend became a fiancé!) and the great times they had. By the end of this article, you might feel just like them: able to travel on your own and have the trip of a lifetime.
1. Skip the hotel
“Try Airbnbs! I thought that I’d be most likely to find friends in ‘foreign’ places when I traveled to Australia solo, but that was isolating. However, if you have a welcoming host in your Airbnb, you can end up with part tour guide/part friend!”
2. Do tons of activities
“Don’t be surprised by how many people are traveling solo. During a trip to Southeast Asia, half the people on my tours were singles just traveling around. There was little to no effort [involved in meeting friends] because people were so friendly. I never let being solo stop me. I booked so many activities by myself and just ended up meeting people along the way.”
3. Stay in hostels
“The socializing that comes with the common area of a hostel is key to finding people to spend your days with. Go have breakfast in the common area and introduce yourself to those around you. Who knows — you might find a friend to go enjoy the city with that very day.”
4. Accept all invitations
“When a person you just met invites you to share a meal, grab a drink, go to a museum, head to a new city, lean into yes. You’re traveling to explore, and opportunities will pop up unexpectedly, all over the place. Embrace the unknown and go with the flow. I always note, though: keep safety in mind. If you’re a woman alone at 2 a.m. in a big, busy city, maybe don’t get a drink with five guys you just met and know nothing about.”
5. Think small
“It’s easier to meet people in a popular, but not super crowded, space. Think small cocktail bar versus a huge concert hall. This has also proven true for me in city/town size. It was a ton easier to meet and make a really great connection in Battambang, Cambodia (an off-the-beaten tourist path town) than Barcelona.”
6. Get chatty
“Introduce yourself and ask what brings them to this country or city. It’s usually well-received and will help you expand your connections. If you’re traveling solo, that one little chat can be a meaningful interaction!”
7. Go outside your comfort zone
“Get uncomfortable! Maybe you’re not used to talking to strangers back at home, but here, far, far away from anyone you know, a stranger could be your new travel buddy. So do things you wouldn’t normally do: go have dinner alone (you never know who could be sitting next to you!), go grab a drink at a crowded bar, stay in shared rooms.”
8. Do the unexpected
“Be open…very open. When on a boat from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, I struck up a conversation with a group of people sitting out on the deck. By the end of the boat ride, I had struck up a friendship with a woman who I ended up splitting a hotel room with that night. Here in the States, I would be very unlikely to split a hotel room with a perfect stranger; but somehow, a world away, a stranger is not strange. They’re just another person on a journey. And when they’re solo like you are, they’re looking for companionship, too.”
9. Go where the people are
“Actually put your physical body in a place where other, friendly people are! Pick a cafe or hotel/hostel dining area instead of room service. Sit at the bar for dinner instead of a table for one. Pick the hiking trail that is more popular to find buddies at the start of your trip. Stay at a hostel instead of the huge hotel. I’ve had a great luck meeting travel friends on group tours (specifically the Fat Tire Tours in Europe, food tour in Hanoi, or guided tour through a museum). All this being said, choose a place you wanted to go, you’ll be more likely to meet people interested in museum-hopping at a museum than at the nightclub.”
10. Stay in dorm rooms
“No matter what your budget, stay in a hostel dorm room that has 4+ beds in it. You are guaranteed to meet other likeminded people who are in the same situation as you and will be willing to eat, explore, etc. I can’t think of a single place I visited that I did not meet people this way. In fact, it’s how I met my future husband!”
11. Don’t judge!
“Everyone around you is a potential best friend; regardless of age, sex, race, nationality, ability, everything. You’re not in high school, you’re in an amazing location that you paid good money to get to, looking for someone to laugh and be in awe with. Be clear about what you’re looking for and find those people. You’re looking for someone interested and interesting, not someone most interested in themselves and perceived popularity (at least, I’m not). Meet people who both share your life outlook and who are drastically different! You never know what you’re going to get.”
12. Remember that you have nothing to lose
“Just ask the person to do something with you. If they say no, who cares?! You’ll never see them again!”
And remember, if you make a friend you don’t like, keep in mind that you can always dump them the next day with zero consequences. As Margaret said, “It’s your trip! Don’t ruin it by sticking around people you are too polite to dump!”