Meeting people from different countries and cultures is one of the best things about travelling solo. But is it really that easy to make friends and build long-lasting relationships?
It’s completely normal to feel nervous about meeting strangers and meeting new friends. We are social beings after all 🙂 we feel safe in communities and with people we know.
But travelling solo doesn’t mean you have to be alone…
An important thing to remember is that you’ll meet ALOT of people while solo travelling. You’re going to come across plenty of people who will make wonderful friends.
This list is filled with unique tips on how to strike up conversations and ways to place yourself in fun social situations where making friends is simply inevitable!
So hopefully you can use these tips to find your crowd and make lots of friends while travelling solo.
Can shy or introverted travellers make friends too?
Definitely! I’m exhibit A.
If you’re anything like me, I felt stuck between wanderlust and shyness. I wanted to get out there and travel and meet people, but I felt that being confident and talking to people was one of my weaknesses.
Making friends while solo travelling is definitely possible. Even if you consider yourself a shy or introverted traveller, or you just feel like making friends is a challenge.
How to make friends when travelling solo
But, aside from smiling, and making sure to look up from your phone, here are some fun and easy ways to make friends while solo travelling!
I’ve utilised every tip on here to help me make friends while solo travelling. Using this list, I’ve made friends while solo travelling with people who I now consider my closest friends.
1. Stay in hostel dorms!
Hostel dorms really are the place to be when it comes to making friends while solo travelling.
From 4-bed dorms to 28-bed (yep these exist!), you’ll meet such a wide variety of people of different nationalities and cultures.
Never stayed in a hostel before? Check out my tips for your first hostel stay!
When you share a room with strangers you can’t help but talk. You’ll usually go through a list of questions that are always asked in hostels. Like, where are you from? What are your plans?
Once you’ve started chatting you can then easily ask if someone wants to find a restaurant with you or join a tour together etc.
If you really can’t bear the idea of sharing a room with strangers, private hostel rooms are definitely an option. You can meet people in shared spaces (kitchen, lounges, etc.) while still having your own private space to retreat to. This is one of the best tips for introverted solo travellers too!
2. Overnight tours
Day trips are definitely a great way to meet people, but there’s just something about an overnight tour that deepens the bond of a new friendship.
Whether it’s an overnight trip to a national park or a 3-day live-aboard dive boat trip. Or maybe even a group holiday or expedition! Just like hostels, you’ll
With overnight tours, it’s often even easier to bond as you’re sharing an entire experience together. There will be lots to talk about!
Plus, as you’ll eat meals together or while away downtime together, there’s more time for those ‘getting to know someone’ questions.
3. Always say hello!
Be brave and be the first to initiate a conversation! Whether you’ve just entered a hostel dorm room, reached the meet-up point of a walking tour or — say hello to people!
It’s a simple, friendly gesture that begins any friendship. And it’s always followed by more… like these questions always asked in a hostel!
4. Compliment people
There’s no better way to strike up a conversation than with a compliment! From complimenting someone’s hat, backpack, dress etc. or simply someone’s cooking if you’re in a hostel kitchen!
Make sure it’s genuine of course. But it’s always an amazing conversation starter and just a nice thing to do!
5. Offer them food (or firewood!)
Compliments and food (or drinks!) are two tips I swear by when it comes to initiating a conversation. Whether you’re sat on a tour bus with a packet of biscuits or a bag of sweets at a hostel movie night. Offering food to the people sitting around you is a great conversation starter!
If you’re road-tripping, firewood might also be useful for bringing people over. You can offer to build a fire in the hostel fire pit or if you’re camping next to someone, invite them over for the evening to cook something and sit by the fire.
6. Check out the hostel activities
Hostel dorm rooms and kitchens are already great places to meet people. But if you end up in an empty room, and the kitchen or lounge is empty, seeking out hostel activities is a great way to meet others in the hostel.
Some popular activities you’ll often find in hostels include…
- Game nights + quizzes
- Movie nights
- Walking tours
- Hostel pub crawls
If you drink (responsibly!) and enjoy a wild night out, a hostel pub crawl is definitely a fun way to meet people. You’ll likely all meet up again in the kitchen the next morning as you attempt to cure your hangover with coffee and breakfast.
A hostel I stayed at in Cairns was playing the latest Game of Thrones episodes at their movie nights — this was back in 2019 of course!
7. Travel to remote places
This is something I mention in my tips for shy travellers too as I really believe this can help you form bonds quickly.
In big cities, the changeover in hostels can be quick. For example, people might be stopping in a hostel for one night before catching a flight or moving on to another place, etc.
This can make it harder to make friends as people may be less likely to want to get to know someone. Understandable if you’ve arrived in the evening and are leaving in the morning! Although you might still be able to catch a dinner with someone 🙂
But when you’re in more rural or remote places, I’ve found that most travellers will usually base themselves there for longer periods of time. This might be because it’s harder to get to, or there’s simply lots of beaches, waterfalls etc to explore.
Cultures with a slower and perhaps more relaxed pace of life are generally ideal places for this too. Maybe it’s the island-life or island-time phenomenon! I definitely found this was the case while I was solo travelling in Fiji and Vanuatu. The vibe was so relaxed, the islands so remote (compared to me being from the UK), and the culture so different, that I found it easier to chat with locals and other travellers.
8. Use Apps and Online Groups
Some countries or areas are more geared towards backpackers than others, so if your hostel is empty, or you could only book a hotel, you can try meeting people online!
Whether you use an app or social media group, the ability to chat and talk to people online has definitely revolutionised the solo travel world.
Some of the best apps for meeting other solo travellers include…
Look for Facebook Groups too, for example, general travel groups like ‘Travelling Solo Australia’ or ‘Japan Travelling Planning’. Or you can go more specific, like ‘Dutchies in Canberra’ or ‘Brits in Melbourne’!
Of course, meeting people online comes with a layer of risk. Make sure you know how to stay safe as a solo female traveller. Meet in busy, well-lit places if possible.
9. Be open to saying yes
Obviously, follow your gut feeling. Don’t say yes to situations that might be dangerous! But dip out of your comfort zone from time to time.
If you’re invited somewhere say yes! You never know what experiences you’ll get to have or who you’ll meet.
I ended up hanging out with the one other guy I did my Advanced Open Water Diver course with in Cairns Australia. He had made friends with a big group of people at his hostel and they were all going camping, so he invited me along! I’d already booked into my hostel for a couple of days but went with them anyway. We had a BBQ by the beach, talked by a campfire all night, and then swam in the sea in the morning.
10. Join a class
Cooking courses in Thailand, Salsa classes in Spain or surfing lessons in Australia. Exploring new hobbies or building on skills you already have is a really fun way to make friends as a solo traveller!
Especially if you’re on a course with complete beginners. Everyone can bond and have a laugh while attempting something new.
Also, overcoming new/scary situations together (maybe rock climbing or canyoning) is also scientifically proven to help form bonds!
11. Walking Tours
Whether you join a ‘free’ walking tour, or something more specialised, on walking tours, you’ll meet a great mix of people. You can chat with others as you walk between stops on the tour. And when you have some great restaurant recommendations from your guide at the end of the tour you can invite someone to lunch or to grab a coffee. Or maybe you’ll be invited!
While travelling through Zagreb and Ljubljana one December, I ended up having lunch with someone from each free walking tour I did. And I’ve become close friends with a girl I met on a walking tour in Budapest too 🙂
12. Get the games out!
If you’re in a hostel lounge, see if there are any easy-to-play or quick-to-set-up board games. Or maybe simply a pack of cards!
I’m not the best at remembering the rules of card games, but it’s SO useful for getting a crowd of people together at a hostel.
The Cowshed Hostel on the Isle of Skye had a great selection of board games in their lounge and even a mini arcade game table!
13. Backpacker bars
If your own hostel is quiet and isn’t hosting bar crawls etc. see if there are any nearby hostels or backpacker-friendly bars!
Sometimes it’s nice to be in a quieter hostel (for more chilled vibes or simply a good night’s sleep!). But for nights when you want more of a party atmosphere, just head to another hostel to join in the fun.
There are often standalone bars that are catered more towards backpackers and solo travellers too. These types of bars will usually be called something along the lines of literally, ‘Backpacker Bar’.
14. Crack out the road trip questions!
Have some time to spare? With road trip questions, in about an hour, you could go from stranger to friend…
I’ve used questions like these to get to know travel buddies better. Maybe you’re sat next to someone on a tour bus for a long journey. Or maybe you’ve agreed to go on a road trip with someone you’ve just met!
Speaking of which… I went on a road trip across the Australian outback with my roommate from my diving trip. We had known each other for about 4 days before we set off. But throughout the journey, we went through lists of road trip questions. And we bonded SO quickly. She’s now one of my closest friends.
After going through so many different lists, I’ve created my own ultimate list of road trip questions. It includes a fun mix of questions from weird and funny to serious and profound!
A couple of bonus tips that are nice to keep in mind while making friends as a solo traveller…
Don’t forget to look up from your phone! Make eye contact, smile, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
If you’re worried about coming across the ‘right’ way, just remember that you’ll likely never see these people again (unless you become great friends!), so just have fun with it.
You might befriend some people for one afternoon, or maybe one week, before one of you has to move on. It’s one of the bittersweet parts about travelling. But you’ll bond with some people who will become some of your best friends and maybe even something more 🙂