Travelling by yourself can be a scary thing to do. Without the backup of your usual travel buddies, things like a hostel common room, going to a bar or eating at a restaurant all suddenly become daunting tasks to undertake alone.
And while doing all of those things by yourself is perfectly fine, a solo trip presents an opportunity to make a wealth of new friends from all different walks of life who can join you. So keep an open mind, be friendly, step outside of your comfort zone and discover a world full of potential pals.
Read on for our top tips on how to make friends on a solo trip.
1. Stay in Hostels
The most obvious of all things – staying in a place built on socialising is a great place to, well, socialise. Instantly surround yourself with other like-minded people out to explore the destination, have a good time, and most importantly meet new and interesting people – which is where you come in.
Step outside your comfort zone and talk to strangers in the dorm, in the common room, the kitchen, the hallway, anywhere. Ask questions about their travels, what they suggest seeing, where they’re from. If you’ve been travelling for a while and are tired of the same conversation with every new person you meet, change it up and ask what they dislike about the place. There’s always people in a hostel ready to make new friends.
Make sure to read the reviews of hostels though – you can usually tell which the party hostels are and which are a bit quieter.
2. Sign up for a bar crawl
Or any other social event – another great thing about staying in a hostel is that they’re always organising something that gets people out and about on the town together to have a good time. More often than not, it’s a bar crawl though. Lots of drinking games coupled with the exuberant tour leaders doing their best to make sure everyone is talking to each other and having a good time, you’ll be making mates in no time.
No one is saying you need alcohol to have a good time – but alcohol does make it a lot easier to forget your hang ups and talk to new people when you’re travelling solo, just don’t overdo it.
3. Have a Deck of Cards
In case there’s no bar crawl going on at the hostel, bring the party to the common room instead. Busting out a deck of cards is a great way to get some interaction going and form a new crew. Knowing the rules to a handful of standard card games, and more than a handful of fun drinking games, is knowledge that is always going to be useful.
4. Use the Common Room
Be open and available to being approached by strangers as much as you can. Sit in the common room while you chill, rather than holing yourself up in bed. Take your book or just scroll through your phone, but if the opportunity arises to talk to someone else who is also kicking back near you (which it usually does), take it.
5. Get an App
Nowadays there are more apps that make meeting new people easier than ever. The first app that probably comes to mind is Tinder, which can be used not only for hook-ups nowadays but as a way to meet some locals. Use it without any expectations though, as obviously a lot of people will be sceptical about your intentions.
The best app for meeting other travellers has hands down got to be Backpackr, which shows other travellers backpacking itineraries so you can see when they’ll be where. It’s widely used, so chances are high that someone will befriend you.
6. Share Some Food
There’s nothing like getting to know some people over some food. My favourite way is to get something that can be easily shared, like tapas. There’s no better way to forge new friendships while trying a delicious local delicacy, or baulking at something else that tastes so completely weird you can’t imagine why the locals enjoy it.
If you decide to stay in, learning a few simple and tasty recipes to cook at the hostel is another way to make some new friends, or impress the other people in your dorm who you went out with last night.
7. Book a group tour
If you can’t be bothered planning out a whole itinerary, take the stress out of it all by just booking a group tour. Companies like Contiki, Busabout and Topdeck, are full of young travellers keen to socialise and make new friends. There will be groups of friends, solo travellers, and couples on the tour, and through the sheer amount of time you’ll all spend together on the bus, seeing the sights, eating, and drinking, you’ll definitely make a new group of friends. It’s a sure fire way for a solo traveller to stave away those pangs of loneliness.
8. Join Tour Groups
Get out there and experience things, join tours, go to language exchange nights, enrol in short educational courses – and as long as your being yourself and having fun you’ll meet amazing people along the way. Learn how to make pasta in Italy, or hike over a glacier in Iceland – the experiences you share with a core group of people usually binds you together.
9. Learn the basics of the language
Learning a few basic phrases of the language can actually take you a long way in making friends with the locals. Doing your best to order a drink or converse with someone in their own language can both impress them and start up a conversation. And while it’s probably just them making fun of your horrendous accent and pronunciation at first, amazing friendships can potentially blossom from these encounters. Plus, local friends can take you to some unexpected places that you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.
10. Be open to changing your plans
Finally, get ready to change your itinerary. If you’re on a big trip and meet some new friends you’d like to spend a bit more time with, give up your time at the beach in Barcelona to instead take that train with your new buddies down into the Balkans. Not only will you get to know your new friends a lot better, but the adventures that await you when you go with the flow like this will be ones that you’ll never forget.
Always be open to saying yes to something – it’s one of the best ways to make friends when you’re going it solo.