Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Ask Kate: How Do I Meet People When Traveling Alone?

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Welcome to our new weekly segment — Ask Kate!  Email your travel questions to kate [at] adventurouskate [dot com] with the subject “Ask Kate.”

Hi Kate,

I’m looking to go to Europe in the spring and do not have anyone to go with me so I decided that I should go alone. I’m a little nervous but I have been to Europe before. I would love to go back to London, I was there 10 years ago and would love to go back.  I’m in need of some advise.

Would you recommend that I stay at a hostel? I was looking at airbnb.com and find that sort of interesting.  I think my biggest concern is that I’ll get lonely, and all I can think of to go is pubs. Do you have any other suggestions?

First of all, I would not recommend going to pubs to meet people — it’s good in theory but not really in practice, and can be both difficult and awkward in a big city like London.

Staying at a hostel definitely helps you meet fellow backpackers, but it’s not the only way to meet people while traveling.  Here are a few of my suggestions:

Join Couchsurfing and look for local events.  This is, I’ve found, the absolute best way to meet people in a new city.  Each major city has its own group on Couchsurfing, as does London, and each group has a message board filled with events and activities that the Couchsurfers are going to.

If not, put out a request on the Couchsurfing message board.  Simply say, “Hi, I’m in town from Wednesday to Saturday and I’d love to meet people.  Anyone want to hang out?”  I did this in Buenos Aires and got more invites than I knew what to do with!  Couchsurfers LOVE to introduce newcomers to their city.  You’ll probably get a few invites to everything from concerts to parties to dinners out!

Join tours and activities.  Most cities do free walking tours — here’s one for London — and joining a tour, activity, or class allows you to connect with people who share your interests.  London has everything from bike tours to food walks to art classes.  Also, sign up for Groupon London a few months before you arrive for discounts on cool activities.

Look for friends’ connections in your destination.  London is a big enough city that you probably have a few friends of friends living there now.  Put up a Facebook status seeing if any of your friends know anyone currently in London.

If someone mentions their friend or cousin, drop a Facebook message asking if he or she has one or two specific activities to recommend to visitors (something more specific than the dreaded “Do you have any advice for me?”).  Exchange a few emails and if there seems to be a bit of friendship chemistry, offer to take him or her out for a coffee as thanks.

Find a party hostel and hang out in the bar or lounge.  If you want to meet young backpackers, this is where you go!  Hostels are also chock full of activity sign-ups, like pub crawls.  Keep in mind that hostels in cities often have key-card security, but most of the time the bar is open to all.

Just be open.  Be friendly.  Talk to people you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to at home.  Try things you wouldn’t ordinarily try at home.  Ask people questions about themselves.  When you’re open, you never know where you might find friendship.  I’ll never forget the night that I stumbled into an art gallery in Ubud, Bali, to avoid the dogs on the street and ended up making so many new Indonesian friends!

And keep in mind that most people in London are a bit reserved — but that doesn’t mean they’re unfriendly.

PS — I live in London now.  And I love meeting up with my readers.  :-)  Hopefully I’ll be around when you’re visiting.

How do YOU meet people when you travel alone?

Comments

30 Responses to “Ask Kate: How Do I Meet People When Traveling Alone?”
  1. Awesome adive. My go-to when I travel alone is always Couchsurfing. Most memorably, I happened to hook up with a girl in Croatia when my travel buddy decided not to go at the last minute. K picked me up, bought me lunch and, as it turned out, was interning at UNESCO! I’d say that the more complete your CS profile, the better it will be to find people with like interests.

  2. 30Traveler says:

    Going to meetups related to an offline interest is something I like to do. Like when I’m in NYC, I sometimes go to the meetup of a design group. Joining in with local cycling and walking groups who do day trips is another good option.

  3. kami says:

    these are some really good and useful advices! I always go either for CouchSurfing or meeting people in the common areas of hostels and these never disappointed me! just depends if I’m in a mood for fellow travellers or local people, these two can always provide me some!

  4. I love walking tours as a way to meet people – when I first visited London six years ago, I became a little addicted to them!

    I think there’s also a difference between meeting fellow travellers and meeting locals – hostel bars good for one, random art galleries good for the other.

  5. Michelle says:

    These are definitely all great tips! While I have no traveled alone, me and my bf always seem to find other people to do the rest of our traveling with. Usually we meet them at the hotel bar!

  6. Good tips! Some of these I haven’t thought about and like the ideas. Traveling solo can be tough and at times lonely. I’ve been there. However, I think some of these ideas are great for younger travelers but may not work for older travelers. I’ve got a few ideas for things that I do. You have to step out of your comfort zone at times and make the effort. Be creative with ideas as well.

  7. Julika says:

    Great post! It’s so very true that if you’re open you won’t be lonely for a second! When I stayed in a hostel on my own for the very first time, it took me two days to get into the “hostel vibe” and after that I just talked to every new person who came into my dorm – and within less than a week I had friends from all over the world! An amazing experience!

  8. Emma says:

    I sent you an email a few months ago saying that I was having trouble meeting people while traveling solo and you suggested a number of these things to me in your reply. Just wanted to say that I’ve found couchsurfing and organized tours to be amazing ways to meet locals and other travelers. Thanks so much for the advice!

  9. Megan says:

    I just wrote about this very thing for another blog.
    Try communal dining. There are organisations (grubwithus in America is a good one) that put together dinners and you simply buy a seat, turn up and eat. If we’re talking London, check out meetup.com. Sooo many groups such as the London Wine, Dining and Travel Group. Just pick your flavour and head along.
    If you’re active find a running or cycling group and tag along. A quick search online just then turned up an event this week called “Saturday Running and Social Brunch” in Kensington Gardens and open to anyone. There are lots more just like that.
    And as you’ve already mentioned Kate, CS Forums are travelling gold.
    Yes some of these take a bit of effort and research. Although I met my fair share of fun people in the hostel too, I personally have had much more rewarding experiences by connecting with the community and place I’m visiting.

  10. Very helpful post. I’m going to send this to a few friends – more people should know that traveling alone is actually a GREAT way to meet people, and it turns out that very little of the time are you actually by yourself! I’ve met a lot of people at hostels, sometimes by cooking food and offering whatever I have left over to others who are staying at the hostel. Food is always a pretty safe bet.

  11. How do you NOT meet people when traveling alone?! ;)

  12. Dami says:

    I have only ever travelled once alone and I met through people through tours and in my hotel

  13. Kara says:

    Great advice, Kate. A friend of mine was just texting me asking me about a Europe trip she is planning. Her sister just backed out of the trip. These are some great tips to pass on to someone traveling solo. You don’t have to be alone, if you don’t want to be!

  14. Joy says:

    Hostels and tours have been my best places to meet people. Yes you have to pay for tours but sometimes after wandering around a city it’s nice to not have to think about all the logistics for a day.

  15. Amanda says:

    Great advice, Kate! Especially like the Couchsurfing and joining tours and activities tips!

    Also, LOVE the “Ask Kate” idea.

  16. Shaun says:

    Walking tours are great, in Dublin the same people that put on the walking tour during the day hosted a pub crawl in the evening. So it was kind of like we already knew each other….. and I don’t remember the rest. lol.

  17. Sofie says:

    I have to admit I haven’t traveled alone just yet, but whenever I travel with friends, we always easily meet new people. I think staying at a hostel is a great way to accomplish that! Also when you’re walking around, don’t be afraid to ask someone for advice on something, the road to somewhere are where to grab a bite. You never know what it might lead to!
    Also, be social on the plane. On my last trip I’ve met the greatest people just by talking to my neighbours on the plane. You might get lucky and sit next to a local who proposes to give you a little tour on your first day in the country. That’s about what happened to my friend and I when we were going to LA!

  18. Love these tips, and definitely agree with the CouchSurfing forum tip. I’ve organized so many get-togethers on there that have worked out great. Also, the money exchanges seem to be great places to meet people, especially in Europe :)

  19. Carla says:

    Meeting people when you’re traveling along is so much easier than it sounds! Another good place to check out is the local kennel of the Hash House Harriers. That is, if you like beer… and a nice short jog. You’ll most likely end up in a local bar or pub with them, afterward!

  20. Katie says:

    Loved the article. I think meeting people when you travel is one of the best parts of the experience.

  21. Couchsurfing is definitely an AWESOME way to meet people, and meet more people through those people. Great article Kate!

  22. Ava Apollo says:

    I think “just be open” is the key here. I would never randomly join a table of people I didn’t know at a restaurant in LA, but have no problem on the road. Hostels are the best! Love meeting people in dorms.

  23. Sojourner says:

    Great suggestions. I love couchsurfing and I’m definitely going to try to join a class the next time I set off solo. I like that idea.

  24. Although this post is London specific, in general whilst travelling solo (on my first ever solo backpacking trip across South East Asia now) I have found CouchSurfing and fellow backpackers to be two ways of making some good friends. Some of the folks have been very helpful and kind, and some of the friendships are made for a lifetime.

  25. Edward says:

    you forgot to mention the website meetup.com, Meetup is a great way to meet new people in a new city, its full of cool fun things to do, from going to a museum or park, to a pub crawl, to playing a sport, to dinner, everything in between. Usually people who just moved to a new city use this website to meet other people who just moved to a new city as well. I made some great new friends within a week after moving to san francisco this summer. Definitely give it a shot, you join whatever groups / activities / events sound interesting to you.

  26. Shani says:

    Thanks Kate for writing this! I’m totally going to London this winter on my first solo trip! Thanks for the advice! I was kind of nervous going to Europe by my lonesome but I know I’ll be fine!

    Thanks again!

  27. Ian says:

    It helps that you are female too ;) haha

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