If you’re leaving home or traveling solo for the first time, the idea of chatting with strangers might be intimidating. But, believe me, that’s nowhere near as terrifying as not making a single friend because you’re too nervous to say hi. Even if you’re globetrotting with mates, going longer than a week without talking to anyone else is guaranteed to drive you bonkers.
It’s not only completely normal to want to make new friends while traveling – I promise it’ll be one of your highlights. No matter who you’ve decided to go with, there are easy ways to meet fellow travelers and locals. And plenty of people out there who would love to take fifty photos with you in front of the Eiffel tower or go on an Amsterdam pub crawl you’ll never remember.
To answer one of the questions I’m asked the most, I’m sharing my own real-life experiences and proven tips on how to make friends while traveling. Try different approaches to see which suits you and most importantly – if one method doesn’t work, don’t take it personally. Keep trying because you never know who and what you might miss out on.
1. Budget Travel Babes
Budget Travel Babes is an online community for women who want more affordable, responsible, and sustainable travel with 8K+ members (and growing rapidly!). We hang out in real-life through meet-ups and tours, like the action-packed Budget Travel Babes in Bali last November.
To find like-minded, value-conscious females to make friends while traveling:
- Join Budget Travel Babes (requests are approved twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays)
- Post on the wall including your destination/s and date/s
- Use the topics “travel buddies” and/or “meet up” so members can find your post easily. You can also click on these topics and see where other members are currently traveling.
I’ve met up with Babes in Dublin, Chiang Mai, Brisbane, the Gold Coast – and would be thrilled to show you around Galway, Ireland.
Mostly known as a platform for hosting travelers and staying in people’s homes, Couchsurfing can also be used to meet locals and travelers. The community has 15M+ users and an easy-to-use app where you can find events.
The most beneficial feature of the app for travelers who want to make new friends is Hangouts. You can update your status with the activity you are most interested in (e.g. going sightseeing or to have lunch) and other travelers can request to join you. You will then be able to see what other travelers around you are doing and ask to join them, either one-on-one or in groups.
I use Couchsurfing in almost every city that I visit, whether I’m solo, with friends, or my boyfriend, and it rarely fails to introduce me to amazing people. During a two-week trip to Andalusia with my friend, Katie, we used Couchsurfing to wander around and drink wine with other travelers.
Meetup is a website and app where local events are created and categorized by interests. You can sign up for free and then request to join groups in your area based on what gets your attention e.g. Spanish conversation, social singles, board games, etc. Some groups or events may have costs – so read carefully before requesting.
Usually, members are locals and ex-pats staying in an area for a longer-term, so it’s a great way to meet different people away from the backpacker crowd. Meetup has over 35M users in 180 countries. I’ve met awesome people through Meetup groups in New York City, Vancouver, and the Gold Coast.
Anyone who has stayed in a hostel will be the first to tell you that it is hands-down one of the best ways to make friends. Unless you get unlucky or really aren’t looking to meet people. Not all hostels are equal – some have a more cozy vibe with communal areas and shared spaces. A good sign of whether a hostel is social is if they have events, tours, and parties. Just keep in mind if you’re a light sleeper or don’t like too much noise, then you might want to skip the party hostels. You can also check reviews and their social media photos to get an idea of the experience you can expect.
Then when staying in a hostel, strike up a conversation with someone sharing your room or sitting next to you at breakfast. Ask them where they’ve been, where they are going, and what they recommend doing in the city you are currently in. More often than not, you’ll end up meeting people to go on adventures and even travel to another destination together.
5. Friends of friends
Even if you don’t know anyone in the destinations you’re about to travel to, you might have friends that do! Ask around or post your travel plans on social media to see if anyone has any contacts. A friend of mine did this for her solo backpacking trip around New Zealand and ended up being hosted by friends of relatives. I’ve also been asked for contacts and am excited to link people up from different parts of the globe.
Most recently, I moved to Galway and a buddy I met in New York, Paolo, saw my Facebook posts and commented that he had a Canadian friend living here. After Paolo introduced Gg and me in a group message, we became fast friends.
6. Local, ex-pat, and nomad Facebook groups
There are Facebook groups dedicated to just about every destination out there. The key is finding the right group, which can often be created for locals, ex-pats, (digital) nomads – or sometimes a combination. When living in Nha Trang, Vietnam, I joined a Facebook group called “Nha Trang Expats and Locals” which is how I became friends with Laura and Nadina.
Then, while in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), I joined the Saigon Nomad Girls Facebook group and met Angie House. We’ve since met up again in Koh Samui, Thailand for beers and vegetarian food. For those that travel while working online, groups like Digital Nomad Girls are also fantastic for finding new friends.
7. Host A Sister
Host A Sister is another hosting platform, except it’s specifically for those who identify as female. Like Couchsurfing, you can use the group to find other women to host, stay, and meet up with. I used Host A Sister to meet up with an awesome lady while in Penang, Malaysia.
Currently, it is a Facebook group, however, there are plans to build a website soon. The group started less than a year ago and already has over 90,000 members.
8. Muslimahs Who Travel
I met my friend, Sally of Passport and Plates three years ago in a blogging group and we then traveled together through Spain, Estonia, and Latvia. Along with Kareemah of Hijabiglobetrotter and Esra of Arabian Wanderess, they created a special Facebook group called Muslimahs Who Travel.
Muslimahs Who Travel is a safe-space for amazing and adventurous Muslim women from around the world. This judgment-free community was created for members to connect, meet up, share stories and advice, and talk about the issues specifically impacting Muslim women from day-to-day.
9. Trash Hero and eco-friendly events
Trash Hero is a volunteer movement within communities around the world to clean up and prevent plastic waste. In addition to long-term educational programs and sustainability campaigns, they also host regular clean-ups that anyone can attend. While in Koh Chang, Thailand, Max and I joined a beach cleanup and were energized by the passionate volunteers we met. After the cleanup, we had coffee with another couple and we were also invited to a home-cooked Korean BBQ.
Trash Hero’s network is mostly within Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Singapore but also has some chapters in Europe, North America, and Australia. You can use the Trash Hero website to find a chapter in the destinations you are traveling to next.
10. Walking tours and day excursions
If I don’t click with anyone particular in my hostel, then my next go-to for making new friends is walking tours and day excursions. When traveling solo, I love starting my trip off with a free walking tour (tips are given at the end) to get an introduction to the city, culture, and history.
My approach is to move around the group and start a casual conversation with different people in between each stop of the tour. I can then get a sense of who is also looking to hang out after the tour. If you’re more introverted, then you might want to just start by chatting with other solo travelers. I did this while on a walking tour in Barcelona, making friends with Zsófia. We explored various parts of the city together, taking day trips to Girona and Montserrat.
At the beginning of each free walking tour I’ve been on, they usually ask everyone to introduce themselves and say which country they are from. This makes it even easier to strike up a conversation with someone who speaks the same language as you or is from a destination you’ve been to. Who knows, you could even end up in a long-term relationship with someone on your walking tour – just like Max and I.
11. Local hangouts, bars, and restaurants
For those who actually want to meet locals, try hanging out at local bars and restaurants. Depending on their culture and personality, some people may be more curious and direct, approaching you. At other times, you may need to be the one to start a conversation (a little bit of research on cultural norms will go along way here).
On our four-month backpacking trip around Southeast Asia, Max and I traveled through Java, Indonesia where we were often the only travelers. Locals would often chat with us at shopping centers or ask for a photo but there was often a language barrier to prevent a deeper friendship. Then, while having lunch at a popular restaurant in Surabaya called Depot Pangsit Mie 168, we made friends with the owners, Rusmin and his wife. They invited us out for a night of fast-paced drinking and dancing with their friends.
12. Coliving and coworking
Coliving and coworking spaces are mostly associated with (aspiring) digital nomads who are working online while traveling. However, this is not strictly always the case. It could be for professionals who have moved to a new city or are just in town for a conference. Whether you are working remotely, running a business from your laptop, or even on a business trip, coliving and coworking spaces are excellent for tapping into a community of talented and interesting individuals.
My first experience of a coworking community was in Las Palmas, Spain at ReStation. They had weekly breakfasts, Friday lunches, masterminds, and nomad talks. This is how I met the founder of Digital Nomad Girls, Jenny Lachs, as well as becoming good friends with the mysterious Oliver. After leaving Las Palmas, Max and I experienced the convenience of coliving at A Landing Pad Barcelona.
13. Sports camps, yoga courses, and meditation retreats
A sure-fire way to make friends while traveling is by attending a yoga course, meditation retreat, or some type of sports camp. With the rise of active tourism, there are many choices available for the health-conscious traveler depending on your budget, the time you have available, and interests.
Max and I took surfing lessons together at the beginning of our relationship but never seemed to find the time to surf again. Then a few months later, while planning a trip to Lanzarote in The Canary Islands, Spain, we jumped at the chance to stay at a surf school. Calima Surf School offered both shared and private rooms, surf lessons, rentals, and fun, weekly BBQs where we could get to know the other guests.
14. Volunteer and work exchanges
Work exchanges are a backpacker’s dream come true providing access to free accommodation, new friends, and many other perks. For just a few hours of work a day, you could stay at hostels, NGOs, and farms for little to no cost (depending on the work exchange platform’s fees). This is a nice way for solo travelers or couples who want to live with locals and make new friends while traveling.
I applied for two-week work exchange at a hostel in Barcelona, Spain through Worldpackers. In exchange for taking photos for them, I received some meals, activities, and accommodation for free. Best of all, I met wonderful guests who I got to know and go on adventures with during my free time.
15. Group tours
Finally, group tours are a convenient and ready-to-go option if you want to make friends on your next trip. The main draw for tours is the opportunity to meet new people, which means that you’re all there for the same reason. Plus, you’re going to be sharing so many lifelong memories that it will be almost impossible not to form close connections.
I’ve taken month-long group tours across Europe and the United States which were insanely fun. On both trips, I had my own special crew of friends to spend days sightseeing and snap selfies with. As we had a tour guide and set itinerary (with free time), we could just live in the moment not worrying about the boring logistics.
With this list, I have been able to make friends every single time I traveled (either solo, with friends or my boyfriend). There are also a number of apps such as Solo Traveller, Backpackr, Bumble BFF, and Tinder (yes, that one) – which you could also try.
How do you make friends while traveling? Tell us about it below!
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