How to Make Friends and Meet People While Traveling

Adventurous Kate contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

One of the questions I get asked most often is how I make so many friends while traveling on my own. I travel solo most of the time, and while you think it might be lonely, it’s not. I’m able to meet so many people on my travels.

Here’s the truth — I’m not the most social person in the world. I’m an introvert who always has her nose in a book and needs a few days to recover after a party. Most readers who meet me say I’m much quieter than they expected, and making friends isn’t the easiest thing for me.

You can meet people while traveling, even if you are an introvert. If I can do it, you can.

For the past ten years, I’ve been teaching women how to travel the world on their own safely. Over the years, my travel style has changed — while I used to be all about the party hostels and social dorms, these days I don’t stay in dorms at all and tend to pick more high-end places.

How to Meet People While Traveling

I originally wrote this post in 2011, back when I was a hardcore backpacker, and times have changed since then. I’m still able to meet people while traveling — but it’s about more than just beer-soaked hostel bars and boozy river tubing.

That’s not to say hostels are bad. Far from it. Hostels today are SO much better than they were ten years ago, and they’re for all kinds of travelers. They’re not the only thing that has changed since then — the internet has become more advanced and now it’s easier to meet people all over the world, based on what you’re into.

A lot of people think that if you travel solo, you’re alone nearly all of the time. And that’s not necessarily true — you’re only alone if you want to be. I like to be alone for some of my travels, but I LOVE meeting new friends, too.

This post was last updated in January 2020.

Here are some of the ways I make friends while traveling solo:

Friends on the beach in Belize
We had a GREAT time sailing for three days in Belize!

Multi-Day Trips

When I think back to where I’ve made the most friends while traveling, multi-day trips come to mind. Sailing Croatia, snorkeling Belize, exploring Australia’s Top End. When you have a few days together with the same people, eating meals together, doing activities together, being trapped on long bus rides together, that’s when friendships happen!

What is a multi-day trip? It’s a group tour, essentially, but only for a few days. Tours that last a few days and are part of a longer trip. I find that adding a multi-day trip helps me make a lot more friends while traveling.

Still, if you’d like to travel friends for even longer, I recommend joining a group tour for your whole trip. I highly recommend tours with G Adventures, and they have trips all over the world. Whether you want to hike to Machu Picchu, sail Croatia’s islands, or go on safari in Tanzania, they’ve got adventurous small group tours on seven continents!


Read More:

Sailing Down the Coast of Belize


When the guy looks like Jesus, you need to do The Last Supper!

Stay in a social hostel

Yes, I mean it, even if you’re over 30 — staying in a hostel is NOT just for twenty-somethings anymore. Please hear me out. Hostels these days are SO much better than they used to be, and a social hostel is very different from a party hostel. Most hostels have private rooms these days, and lots are adding luxurious amenities. They cater to mid-range and budget travelers who like getting good value for money.

And you know what? I haven’t slept in a dorm since I was 30. But I do continue to stay in beautiful, interesting, even luxurious hostels. And many of these hostels have been some of the best places to meet people while traveling. I stay in a private room but I hang out in the lounge and sign up for activities through the hostel.

That picture above was taken at Gallery Hostel in Porto, Portugal, one of my favorite hostels on the planet.

Gallery Hostel is absolutely gorgeous and has the most comfortable beds — but where they shine is the group activities. You can join in a cheap group dinner, or do a port tasting, or go on a free city tour, or have a cinema night at the hostel.

There are plenty more — I loved the social atmosphere at Los Amigos Hostel in Flores, Guatemala; the tapas tour at Oasis Backpackers Sevilla; the bagel breakfasts at The Green Tortoise in San Francisco; the rooftop celebrations at Vietnam Backpackers Hostel in Hanoi.

How do you find hostels like these? Start by taking a look at The Grand Hostels: Luxury Hostels of the World, written by my good friend Kash Bhattacharya, aka The Budget Traveller. Kash coined the term “luxury hostel” and for years he’s been writing about the world’s best hostels on his site.

Hostel lounges are where I met so many of my friends. And whether you hit the hostel bar or join a local activity, it’s an easy way to meet fellow travelers.

Just one thing: do your research and try not to book a notorious party hostel, like Kabul in Barcelona or The Flying Pig in Amsterdam. Unless that’s what you’re looking for…

How I made friends while traveling in social hostels: I first spent time with Chris, Jon and Mona at Monkey Republic in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. We then ran into each other at the Garden Village bar in Siem Reap, and after that, we traveled together to Bangkok, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang! They are one of my favorite groups I’ve ever traveled with.

Friends in a cave holding candles
One of my favorite tours — swimming in caves in Semuc Champey, Guatemala

Tours, activities and excursions

Whether you do an adventure sports activity, like bungee jumping in New Zealand, or a food activity, like a pastry tour of New York, you inevitably end up getting to know some new people while traveling.

Where do you find activities? Lately I’ve been a big fan of Airbnb Experiences — they are tours given by interesting locals who love sharing the world, and it’s a lot less corporate than the big tour companies. Other than that, you can find a ton of tours and activities on Viator.

I find that some activities are better for making friends than others. Physical activities, especially adrenaline-rushing activities like whitewater rafting or bungee jumping, have a way of bonding you as a group! Alcohol-focused activities like cocktail tours add a lot of social lubrication, too.

Find a tour or activity that interests you, learn people’s names, and keep hanging out. It seems like tons of activities naturally progress to the bar afterward. And if they don’t, you can always see if someone wants to get a drink or a coffee.

How I made friends through group tours: I made friends on a fashion tour in Tokyo, I made friends on a fruit tour in Medellín, I made friends on a local food tour in Asheville, I made friends on a free historic walking in Munich, I made friends on a rafting trip in Montenegro, and a few months ago I befriended my photographer from an Airbnb Experience in Florence.

Kate and friends in Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng was once a hell of a party town.

Join the Party — Safely

If you’re looking to party while traveling solo, but have no idea how to go about it when you don’t know anyone, there are ways to do so. Towns like San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, or even New Orleans can be a lot of fun solo!

I recommend looking for organized bar crawls or cocktail tours to join. These will help you meet people in the same mindset, and alcohol makes most people more talkative and friendly.

Otherwise, look for scheduled events — like the Sunday Funday party in San Juan del Sur, which is part pool party and part bar crawl on the laziest day of the week. Some bars have trivia nights or poker nights; others have theme nights. And don’t forget about booze cruises, which turn into day parties themselves.

As always, it’s important to watch your drinking when you’re traveling solo. Drink less than you usually would, keep an eye on your drinks, and continuously ask yourself, “Do I want to be more out of control than I am now?” And remember that there’s no shame in heading back at 10:30 PM.

One last thing — some of the best friends I’ve ever met have been late at night in the ladies’ room at the bar. Of course, we never see each other again, but I LIVE FOR THOSE HEARTFELT CONVERSATIONS.


READ MORE:

How to Travel Solo to a Party Destination


Kate with friends she met through Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing friends on my first solo trip ever to Buenos Aires in 2008!

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is WAY more than just free accommodation! The Couchsurfing community is most famous for letting you stay in people’s homes for free, but that’s just a small part of what they provide.

Couchsurfing is a great resource for local meetups. These meetups are for both locals and whoever happens to be passing through, and most major cities have a weekly Couchsurfing meetup. Whenever I’m visiting a new city, I take a look at the local Couchsurfing group to see if any meetups are going on. They are a great place to meet well-traveled people.

Beyond that, most people who have Couchsurfing profiles are interested in meeting new people. It’s completely fine and expected to drop someone a note, mention that you’re visiting their city soon, and suggest meeting up for a coffee while you’re there.

How I made friends Couchsurfing: My first solo trip ever was to Buenos Aires in 2008 and I was nervous about meeting people while traveling. Before I arrived, I connected with tons of Couchsurfers. Once I landed, I was invited to club nights out, birthday parties, concerts, and even a Thanksgiving dinner! I met tons of people the first night and was treated like a long-lost friend the rest of my time there.

Protestors at the Women's March in NYC
Protestors at the 2017 Women’s March

Reddit

If you’re a Redditor, I don’t need to explain. If you’re not a Redditor…well, maybe you’re best off not getting into Reddit, because it is an addictive site that will consume your waking hours.

That being said, destination subreddits are a great place to meet people while traveling. Look up the subreddit for a city you’re visiting, whether it’s Lisbon or Denver, and see what people are posting. If it’s a larger city, they might have a subreddit specifically for meetups, and you can post anything — even “Hey, I’m visiting this weekend and I’d love a museum buddy” or “Looking to join a bar trivia team this week!”

New York, for example, has a subreddit for impromptu meetups, as well as a weekly meetup at the Peculier Pub that all are welcome to join.

As always, read through the sidebar before posting in the group. There are usually rules and you won’t want to break one right off the bat.

How I made friends from Reddit: While I haven’t used it for my travels yet, I have made friends from reaching out to people on the AskNYC subreddit who were going to the same political events as me and asking if they wanted to get a coffee beforehand!

Kate and her new friend Mario drink shots at a club in Bogota.
Kate and Mario drinking aguardiente in Bogotá

Ask your friends for contacts

If you’re planning a trip to a certain conversation, ask your friends if they know anyone living there. This may be a bit more challenging in, say, Mongolia, but if you’re visiting a popular city like London or San Francisco — or even a popular expat spot like Chiang Mai or Bali — it can pay off.

I recommend keeping things casual. Reach out and say you’ll be visiting their city on your own, and offer to take them out for a cup of coffee while you’re there.

My fellow introverts, I know making a request to a stranger like that can be terrifying! But this gives them the ability to choose what they’re in the mood for. If they offer to give you suggestions over email instead of meeting up, that’s fine, it’s their decision. But many people will be down for a coffee, and if you hit it off, sometimes they’ll invite you out with their friends later.

How I made friends through contacts: My friend Amelia’s husband is from Colombia, and when I planned to visit Colombia, she offered to connect me with his cousin Mario in Bogotá. I dropped him an email and he invited me out dancing!

Kate, Alise and Climate Activists in Nairobi Kenya
Meeting with climate activists in Nairobi

Find your community abroad

This all depends on what you’re into — and I have to admit that this is much easier for me as a travel blogger. I’ve been building a community around the world for a decade. But there are lots of different ways to do this.

If you’re part of a global community or international organization, do some research and see if you can meet up with potential members.

And if you’re simply a person with hobbies, meet people who are into those hobbies! I find that Meetup is a great resource for that, whether you’re looking for a hiking group, a collection of political activists, or just some people to play DND with. Some cities have Meetup groups called “I wanna do that, just not alone.”

How I meet people who are into the same activities: Wherever I go, I meet up with fellow travel bloggers — and sometimes even my readers.

Oh, Marcos of Barcelona, you still have my favorite Tinder photo ever.

Tinder and other dating apps

Can you use Tinder while traveling? Absolutely! Is it safe for a woman to use Tinder and date while traveling? It can be, but it’s smart to take more precautions. Here is what I recommend:

Decide what you’re looking for and what you’re comfortable doing with a date. Clarify to yourself what your expectations are before you start swiping, and remember that you can always change your mind.

Get a local SIM card. It helps to always be able to call an Uber or cab if you need one, and not rely on wifi.

Keep a friend at home up-to-date on your plans. Get the WhatsApp or other contact info of your date, and send that to her along with his photos. Check in before, during, and after the date.

Meet your date in a public place. Bar, restaurant, coffeeshop, park, etc.

Keep an eye on your drinks. Only take drinks from the bartender, keep an eye on it, and don’t leave it when you go to the bathroom.

Have condoms. Better to be overprepared than to risk an STI.

Remember that you can always say no. Even if he paid for everything. Even if it’s late. Even if he seems like a nice guy. Even if you felt like it earlier but you don’t anymore. If you’re not enjoying yourself, it’s okay get up and walk out. It’s not like you’re ever going to see this guy again.

How I’ve used Tinder to meet people while traveling: Once when I was with a bunch of friends in Guatemala, we decided to use Tinder to invite as many guys to the bar as possible. It actually turned into a really fun night!


READ MORE:

Top 10 Travel Safety Tips for Women


Kate with new friends in Bali, all in white dresses
Kate and her new Indonesian friends in Bali

Travel somewhere friendly — and be open

This one is a bit tougher to implement — sometimes you’ll meet friends by chance, and sometimes you won’t. But there are places around the world where it’s incredibly easy to meet new people.

You’ll find nice people all over the world, but not all cultures are outwardly friendly to visitors. That’s not a knock on those places; it just means you need to make more of an effort.

Some places where I’ve found particularly friendly, easy-to-befriend locals are Ireland, Lebanon, Newfoundland, Scotland, Bali, Colombia, Australia, and Asheville, North Carolina.

Some places where I’ve found it more challenging are England, Finland, Paris, and New York. In these places, you can absolutely make friends — I just recommend going with one of the previously mentioned methods.

How I’ve made friends while being open: In Colombia, I ended up hiking in the Valle de Cocora with two girls who asked me for directions. In Newfoundland, I gabbed up a storm with a couple I met on a dining adventure. In Bali, I met a local girl and she invited me out to a white party with all her friends. You can’t predict it, but it’s serendipitous when it happens.


Traveling solo?

Read more of my solo travel advice here.


How to make friends while traveling solo | Adventurous Kate

Have you made friends while traveling solo? What do you suggest?

66 thoughts on “How to Make Friends and Meet People While Traveling”

  1. Great post and some really good advice. I think being alone makes it even easier to make friends, in fact, it can be hard to get time alone when your travelling solo because people are always conscious that they should make an effort to include you.

    The backpacking scene is so different to the ‘real world’. If I see a person sat in a bar by themselves I would always make an effort to have a little chat.

    I found that travelling as part of a couple can sometimes be the hardest way to meet people. Couples always seem happy together and you’re never sure whether or not you should interrupt. And then groups of guys or groups of girls rarely approach a couple.

  2. The simple answer is go for beers when people are going. It happens every night and is a sure win.

    Traveling as a couple is only cool if both members are outgoing, if not it’s an “ISOLATION STATION” aka no good.

  3. This post was very reassuring. I’ve traveled solo before, but only during short trips in Europe. I’m going to be embarking on my own trip around SE Asia next year, by myself, and I will be heeding your advice.

    This is making me feel more excited and much less apprehensive!

    1. Hi Amanda
      I’m not sure why I’m replying this but I know what it’s like to travel alone. So if u r in sunny Malaysia or south east Asia, you are welcome to look me up and let me show you around.!!! 🙂

  4. This is one of my favorite posts you’ve ever written. I think this is the number one question people have when heading off for a solo trip… and you answered it well!

  5. I guess I always just thought you can easily make friends for all the reason you mentioned however though most of them as fly by night. You meet them and then a few days later they are gone. Possibly never to see or hear from again. That thought is what would get a me the most not so much as traveling alone.

  6. Hello Kate, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been reading you blog for awhile now and I love it! This advice is great and I love hearing your stories. Definitely giving me inspiration for my future travels!

  7. Well I just found out about your blog, and I really like it, as I also am a solo female traveler. It’s true than even being shy, you meet people. The only thing I don’t do is go to a bar by myself, so yes I went to sihanoukville, I even stopped by the monkey republic bar but couldn’t stay, too shy to be in a “partying” bar by myself, it just seems odd.
    I also use couchsurfing, so far I’ve met great people, but I dont receive any emails when I first log in 😉 how should I take that ?! 🙂

  8. Awesome post! So few people use couchsurfing but I just love it! Met up with some fun locals in hawaii that seriously made my trip! i was worried the first time I traveled alone in israel and within a day I’d already made a few friends and made plans to travel to another city with them during my stay! I was surprised how easy it was to meet people and even more surprised and how quickly you can bond with a stranger!

  9. Hi Kate, great points! Unfortunately, for men I believe it is quite different. A guy traveling alone will not be able to meet as many people as a pretty girl. Its a lot easier for a woman to be accepted, especially when they are good looking. Guys, be prepared to feel a bit stupid at times when trying to talk to others. Gravitate towards those that send good vibrations.

    1. As a guy who is travelling alone I can confirm that this is 90% true. If your the kind of guy who makes friends easily back home then your probably going to make great friends to travel with but if you’re a quiet shy guy whom conversation doesn’t come easy and you find it hard making friends back home for these reasons, you’re probably going to find it hard to make friends travelling too. I have been on the road for nearly a year and don’t have any friends to show for it. Generally, people move on too quickly to form decent friendships and the conversations rarely move passed the “where you from? where you been? how long you travelling?”. I can’t help but feel that Kate’s observation is of groups of guys who banter confidently that form these bonds of travelling kinship and that guys like me have been overlooked, I was never in any groups and was always on my own. I stayed in hostel dorms and ate in the hostel kitchens and bars but at one point in Australia went nearly 3 months without a single meaningful conversation anyone which was honestly a really painful experience. This isn’t exclusive to guys though, if you’re anyone who doesn’t often get approached and you’re quiet or not great at striking up conversations, you should probably work on your people skills if you’re worried about making friends whilst travelling.

  10. Reading this article makes me want to pack my bags and travel – Both to see a new place and to meet interesting people. Had gone to Thailand 2 years back and we ended up staying in hotels, and yes, did not meet any people. The last 2 days we stayed in a hostel and it was one of those nights was the best nights I had over there.

    Agree with you on this! Nice one.

    Arjun

  11. I think it is because you are a girl. I don’t have many friends in general, only a few close ones. I tend to be a very quiet person that comes off as intimidating to others. I’d love more friends, but people just don’t like me.

    1. Hi Joe

      Just want to say that I often feel the same as you and althougg I am not always quiet I still feel like people just don’t like me but remember not everyone is going to like you. I don’t like everyone I meet but you don’t have to be best friends. I would keep asking them questions about themselves and hopefully they will get talking but some people are hard work. Just try to relax, don’t try too hard and react to the other person so if they don’t look interested try another topic, if they don’t get your jokes try asking them about favourite music. Some people just aren’t very nice and can be shallow but you won’t be missing out on anything but don’t let it put you off. Pretend to be more confident than you feel and you will have a headstart! Not always possible but definitely possible!

  12. Hey… this article really helped… i am travelling to Cyprus this December alone for the first time and really needed some in sites… It really helped. I love making friends but never traveled alone abroad and made frds.. really looking forward to this. Cheers!

  13. I am a 24 year old male. All my life I have wanted to travel but the thought of doing it alone is holding me back! I have a good social circle at the moment, but due to money/circumstances can not find anyone interested in travelling with me. I would like to travel SEA and Newzealand/Aus. Is there any male solo travellers out there that can put me in the picture. Would I not have too much trouble meeting new people and have fun? Or would I end up alone and miserable? Cheers.

  14. Hi, nice blog 🙂 Do you have a problem with guys trying to be funny with you even though you just want to be friends or just hang out with, have a travel companion? 9/10 guys (caucasian usually) i met are touchy, how do you get them to not be and just stay platonic? Are other women having this problem? I wear glasses and am decently dressed, not exposing myself, am chinese , petite. Thanks for any advice.

  15. Deaf backpacker

    I am deaf and I was a solo backpacker in South America and Thailand. The main challenge for me was communication with hearing backpackers. Before I went ahead to trips, I was worried so much how to deal with hearing backpackers if they would accept me as being a deaf person. Overall, my experiences, I sometimes had rough times and wonderful times. I just learned something was simply to move on although some backpackers distracted away from me. I simply took easy and ignored specific people and moved on continuously to meet some wonderful backpackers who were interested in communicating with me in sign language. Also the key is to be assertive person and not be passive!!!
    Oh boy I still miss my trips!!!

  16. I very much agree with the going on excursions and participating in activities to find people you most connect with. In my experience, staying in hostels (or hanging out in hostels in general) was not the experience i was looking for. I am more interested in meeting locals than travelers. Would love to get your thoughts on my post about making friends while NOT staying in hostels: http://bit.ly/1XrKayi
    Thanks:)

  17. It’s also really easy to start talking to people cooking in hostel kitchens. You’re sharing a bench or stove and end up talking about where you went that day or what you’re planning tomorrow. Inevitably you’ll end up traveling the next day together.

  18. I wish I have read this way before!!! But now better than never. Already signed up on couchsurfing and even the other options mentioned can work really well.
    Thanks for posting!!

  19. As someone who gets nervous concerning making friends abroad, this offered me a wealth of knowledge. I’m about to set off for Bali and now I know for sure to stay in hostel dorms, something I was hesitant about doing before.

    I always find other travellers are just as keen to get to know new people as I am, especially if they are travelling solo aswell!

  20. im heading on my first solo trip this august. im nervous and excited at the same time. im super shy , socially awkward and get nervous meeting people. But really do want to make some friends and not be by myself all the time. your article is very helpful and reassuring.

  21. What about if u are travelling at an older age
    Such your 40s and you are not a backpacker and want to meet people similar to you?

    How would you go about it?

  22. So I am much older than you guys did 15 African countries in my youth. But now I am older and wiser would like to know tips on meeting an age diverse group of nomads

  23. I find it difficult as I am 54 , gay , and I don’t drink . Travelling has been stressful and lonely . I feel like some alien being that just landed on some strange planet .

  24. I’ve been travelling for 4 months in SEA and now Australia and I have made 0 friends staying in hostel dormitries and communal area’s, I’m a shy person and other people don’t seem to aproach me and when I do try to talk with people our conversations tend to be awkward and short. The outgoing guys tend to bond the most but I always end up on the outside of these groups. and with the cost of everything here it looks like I can’t have the road trip experience alone unfortunately.

  25. I’m travelling solo through Europe. Spent a month in Spain. I’m now in France. I don’t speak any French, which makes it challenging. I love hiking and rock climbing, and would love some companionship while hiking, and to share a wine or 2.
    I am 53, but that shouldn’t be a barrier to have a blast, and exploring this amazing world. I have been staying at airbnb, and on a budget, so I haven’t eaten out much.
    Would love to meet some like minded travellers.
    Cheers, Libby

  26. The only thing is you end up knowing more fellow tourists and more of their culture than the locals of the place you visit. Besides the CS option, would be nice to get tips of how to meet THE people too welcome

  27. As an introvert, I thought this piece was excellent. Especially your advice about hostels. I am 68 years old, and I always thought of hostels as alcohol sodden hook-up hell. I finally took a chance on a trip to Lima, did my research, and chose Enjoy Hostels (I don’t think there’s more than one) and hoped for the best. It was great! The staff was so helpful, and I had some interesting conversations with people from all over the world. (I have noticed that other cultures are far less dismissive of old people than Americans.) Anyway, I found out about a free walking tour which was excellent, again meeting some fascinating people. I am adventurous, but not adventurous enough to share a room and a bathroom!

    1. One thing you point out — that other cultures are less dismissive of older people than Americans — is interesting.

      I find that in America, it’s only white people who are dismissive of older people. I lived in a black and Dominican neighborhood for awhile, and have spent time in lots of Asian neighborhoods too. In communities of color in America, older people are given enormous respect.

  28. With all the ways to communicate with your phone. You can be very selective and choosy of what type of people you want to meet. The meetup app is amazing because you can choose a city and see if there is any group meetings to join. I done this a few times and it kind of sets the ball rolling for breaking the ice because we are all there for the same reason. Great article. Travel Safe!

  29. I think that these are all great tips and have successfully used quite a few. I am a big fan of Couchsurfing for meeting up for a coffee with locals or doing excursions with fellow solo travelers.

    That said, I think that one of the most important life skills anyone can learn is to figure out how to be OK alone too and be content on one’s own.

    All of these techniques are hit or miss depending on the destination or the particular trip. Sometimes I have found fabulous people to hang out with, sometimes I have completely struck out.

    Either way, I was ok because I was mentally prepared to be ok by myself no matter what.

  30. Hi Kate,
    We LOVE your website!
    And we couldn’t agree more that Asheville, NC is a great place to make friends on the road. In fact, my daughter is there this weekend on a bachelorette weekend with her friends!
    And we also find we can easily make friends just about anywhere in NC too!
    Thanks for the article!
    Mike and Susan

  31. Great article Kate! Completely agree to all the tips and especially joining the group tour for multiple days. I did join a group tour as a single participant and made life long friends.

  32. I love this post; I think it’s really important to make friends and meet people abroad. Some of my best vacation memories are with the amazing people I’ve met on my trips. I really resonate with what you said about being open, and I think its the most important piece of advice for this topic (along with couchsurfing and finding mutual friends).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to the blog: