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Whether you’re travelling alone or with a partner, it’s not like you can take all your friends and family with you.
While travelling alone can be peaceful and can give you some much needed R&R, it’s easy to feel lonely our out of place in new surroundings.
Travel is all about opening up yourself to some new experiences, and in this case, some new friends too!
Personalities vary, and it can be hard, especially as we get older to make solid connections. Fortunately, there are so many ways of getting in contact with one another now that it can be incredibly easy to connect with new people.
How to Make Friends Abroad
As soon as I saw you, I knew a grand adventure was about to happen – Winnie the Pooh
Hostels are designed to be social. It’s really hard not to be when someone you just met is sleeping a mere foot away.
Even if you choose to have a private room (let’s face it, they’re far more comfortable), there are still plenty of ways to interact with other travellers.
Remember that most people in a hostel are there for the same reasons you are, so don’t hesitate to join in on a conversation or introduce yourself to some bunkmates.
Common areas are a great way to meet other travellers, designed for both working, hanging out and conversation, these gathering spaces are a hub of buzzing excitement.
Hostels usually have on-site bars with themed nights that are great for getting in on the hostel action, while many hostels also organize game nights, tours, and other events to get their guests involved.
Another great way to meet new people at a hostel is by simply volunteering or applying for a job. It doesn’t matter if its full time or just a few hours here and there, hostel staff are usually pretty friendly as they are often travellers themselves.
Find a Local Host
Making friends, acquaintances, or just chatting with a local can be your key to the city.
This task is easier than you think. With the power of the internet, you can find local hosts through a variety of websites.
Choosing to stay in a private room on Airbnb, opting for a rental with the owner on-site, or even renting a room in a bed and breakfast gives you a much more intimate experience than staying in a hotel.
Whenever we’ve chosen one of these options for our accommodations, we’ve always lucked out with friendly hosts (many of which became friends) who were filled with interesting facts about the city and their lives.
Some hosts will even offer to show you around, take you to one of their favourite restaurants, or suggest you tag along with them to an outing.
Workaway is a work exchange program where travellers help out in different areas all over the world in exchange for food and a place to stay. This is also a great way to make solid connections with new friends since you’ll be staying in their home and working closely with them.
Local hosts can also be found through Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a website designed to connect travellers with hosts around the city.
These hosts usually have an extra room, bed, or (as the name suggests) a couch for guests to crash on for free.
Travellers shouldn’t use Couchsurfing as a free hotel and should always arrive ready to share what they can whether it be a meal cooked for the host, language lessons, or simply travel stories.
We’ve relied on Couchsurfing a lot while backpacking across Europe. Not only did it save our asses in last minute situations, but we really enjoyed the experience of joining in on someone’s everyday life in a new city.
As you can imagine, sharing a meal with your hosts is common, and we’ve been introduced to a smorgasbord of incredible tastes and ingredients because of it.
Some hosts have a lot of space and will allow more groups of Couchsurfers to bunk together. This is also great because for a short while, it’s like you have a small travel family.
Even if you’re not hosting or staying with a Couchsurfer, there are events and forums users can take part in.
Simply choose the area you’re in and select events and you’ll see a number of options including simple meet-ups to bar crawls and art tours.
These events are usually free and specifically designed for the wandering travellers on Couchsurfing.
This is also a great place to reach out to other members if you’re ever looking for a travel partner, suggestions, or just someone to go to an event with.
Please remember Couchsurfing is not a dating website and it is really annoying when people make unwarranted comments to members. Don’t do this.
MeetUp works pretty much the same way Couchsurfing events does. It’s a website and app where you can find a variety of events around the city.
These events are organized by different groups on the site, and by joining these groups, you’ll be able to connect with members and find out details about their events.
There are groups for every niche. Professionals, artists, LGBTQ+ and fitness lovers are all included in the list of groups available to join.
Groups will usually have niche-related events. For example, the singles dating group had a special “Spectate an Orgy” for $200.00 (not a great example, but a note I simply had to share. Don’t worry, events are usually much tamer than this).
Many of these events are free, or usually cost a low fee ($1 or $2). If you’re attending an event like dance lessons or a conference, any extra charges will be noted.
Again. Please remember MeetUp is not a dating website and it is really annoying when people make unwarranted comments to members. Don’t do this.
Use Social Apps
With apps like Tinder and Happn popular in major cities around the globe, it’s easier than ever to chat with locals and assess whether they’ll be a great addition to your trip – all from the comfort of wherever you are.
While these apps are known to be used for dating and hook-ups, I’ve also made great platonic connections while travelling as well.
That being said, if you aren’t single (or “looking”), it can be a little odd using these apps and sites. Thankfully, the Bumble app has made a friendlier solution.
Bumble originally started as a dating app but now they have a “BFF” option for those looking for new friends! I’ve made great connections around the world this way also.
Using apps to find friends might sound weird to some including our older travellers but hey, I’m from the MSN era.
You’ll often find pub crawls in a variety of cities, especially bustling downtown cores. Pub crawls are advertised in a variety of places including hostels, travel websites, and even college campuses.
These pub crawls are usually open to the general public and especially invite those who are new in town to join in.
This is a great way to see some of the city’s best nightlife while making some local and foreign friends of your own.
No matter the pub, city, or bar tour, be sure to always practice the same (if not heavier) safety precautions than you would when you’re out on the town back home.
If boozing until the wee hours isn’t your thing, maybe some adventure sports will be more up your alley. The sites above are great at finding activities in the city in a variety of niches from hiking to pole-dancing.
Ever wanted to take up ballroom lessons? Travelling is the perfect time to try something new. And classes are a great way to meet new friends who are interested in the same things that you are!
Being involved in community activities makes it easier to open up to new people, and who knows, your new dancing partner could become your next reliable travel buddy.
Strike Up a Conversation
As simple as it is, this isn’t as always easy as it sounds (especially for introverts) but if you take the time to start a casual conversation with strangers, depending on the city, they’ll often be pretty open to a chat.
It doesn’t have to be deep conversations about life, it can be anything from asking for recommendations to complimenting someone’s shirt.
When I’m in a different country and notice an accent foreign to the region, if the situation is right, I’ll usually ask where that person is from. That simple question has led to bigger friendships than I’d ever have imagined.
Be mindful when starting conversations abroad as you would anywhere else. For example, if a girl is sitting alone, she might not be receptive to certain questions from foreign men. In the same sense, you wouldn’t want to bother someone with their headphones on a busy train ride.
How do you make friends when you travel?