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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.”
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.