How to meet people while travelling
The road can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are travelling on your own, it can be daunting to strike up conversations or meet people who you can hang out with, knock back an absinthe with, eat goat curry with or visit that cat cafe with while visiting a new city, country or continent. While travelling solo does have its perks, sometimes it’s also great to have people to experience that perfect Greek Isles sunset with, go halves in an Eastern European meat platter or bunk down with at a questionable pension. Here’s some ways to meet people while travelling in a totally non-stalker-ish way.
Stay in a hostel
You’ll have more chance of meeting like-minded travellers and people your age if you opt for a hostel over a hotel. Sharing a room with four, six or eight (or more!) backpackers in bunk beds is a surefire way to strike up a conversation, get tips about where to go and what to do, and find out what everyone’s plans are for the night or the next day. There’s also communal areas like the kitchen, TV room and lounge or outside spaces to hang out and chat.
Join a small group tour
Even independent travellers can enjoy a small group tour. Your group will generally have a mix of couples, friends, family members and other solo travellers who are also looking to see the sights with others. Choose a tour provider that caters for youth, like Contiki, Topdeck or Busabout, and you’ll also have people your age. A hop-on, hop-off style tour is great for independent travellers as you can still craft your own itinerary and find people who are doing a similar trip in the same timeframe and route as you to travel together/alone with.
Before you go, you can also check out the Topdeck forum, get on Contiki MeetUp or register for MyTrip on Busabout to find out who else is travelling on your trip or tour so you’ll know someone else before you even join the group.
Eat at the bar
Dining alone? Seek out a bar or restaurant with a counter where you can eat with other solo diners and also chat to the bar staff and locals, rather than a table for you and your guidebook. Get recommendations on what to eat, try local cuisine (and drinks!) and find out where to go afterwards and hopefully some people to go with! Remember to stay safe (that includes public transport!) and know your limits while drinking.
Like Tinder and POF (Plenty of Fish) are for dating, there’s also apps for platonic get-togethers with other travellers and locals wherever you are in the world. Skout proclaims itself as the world’s largest network for meeting new people and the Skout Travel feature means you can get tips from locals and meet-up offers from students even before you land. UK-based Tripr is another iPhone app that connects you with people who will be in the same place at the same time and also let you know of activities where you’re headed.
Meet your peers
If you are spending more than a couple of days in a destination, why not research what activities are available? Learn to surf in Hawaii, take a foodie tour in Rome or find out where the local running group meets in Brooklyn via sites like Meetup. Airbnb is a great way to stay locally and with locals while travelling, and you could also try other peer-to-peer sites like EatWith, which pairs travellers with a homemade meal at a local’s house in over 150 cities worldwide, or Vayable, a site that hooks you up with unique experiences from local insiders – think a night photography tour in Paris, a street art workshop in Berlin or a shebeen tour in Soweto.
Whether you care for animals in a sanctuary in Africa or work with street kids in Cambodia, a volunteering holiday is an opportunity to really immerse yourself in a community and work with other like-minded people from around the world for a life-changing experience. There are overseas volunteer programs available from a few days to a few months where you’ll make fast friends with locals and your workmates and really make a difference to the lives of others. Win-win.