How to Travel Solo to a Party Destination

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Kate at Sunday Funday

Imagine walking into a bar and knowing nobody inside. Everyone is laughing and drinking and seems to have been best friends for ages.

Do you find that as terrifying as I do? God, it’s the stuff of nightmares!

I’ve talked a lot about how to make friends while traveling solo. But party destinations are a special case — you’re not here to take a walk by yourself in the early evening and photograph the city. You’re here to get crazy with other people — people who are strangers to you.

Maybe you’re heading to Koh Phi Phi, or Ibiza, or Puerto Viejo, or Koh Phangan. You’re traveling on your own, but you want to experience the legendary party scene for yourself.

I recently found myself in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua — and boy, is that a party town. A huge strip of bars, tons of hot Canadian surfers, and a massive weekly party. For me San Juan felt more like the atmosphere of Vang Vieng in 2011 more than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

I was lucky in that I didn’t experience San Juan completely on my own — my friend Alex was already there and we spent most of the week together. Going into bars full of strangers is far less intimidating when you’ve got a friend with you. But it got me thinking — how do you conquer destinations like these when you’re traveling by yourself?

Alex and Kate at Sunday Funday

Oh, it’s more than possible. Here’s what to do:

Stay in a party hostel. If partying is your priority, head to a party hostel, or at least a social hostel. A good benchmark is whether or not the hostel has a bar and whether the bar seems to be a happening place. Are there special deals or nightly treats at the bar? Then there’s a good chance that it’s a party hostel. These kinds of hostels are great places to start your night and meet new people.

Choose organized nightlife activities. Does your hostel have a pub crawl tour? What about a nightlife tour? Hostels are often a great resource for these. If you’re heading to a larger city, Google “pub crawl” or “nightlife tour” with your city name. Alternatively, if you book any kind of evening tour, whether it’s a food tour or an architecture by night tour, there’s a fair chance that some people will want to mingle and get a drink afterward.

In San Juan, I went out to a pub crawl one night and joined the infamous Sunday Funday pool party crawl. I was just part of the crowd and for that reason, it was easy to meet other people.

Check bar schedules. In San Juan, Bar Republika has different activities every night: trivia, poker, name that tune, even chess tournaments. Special events like these at bars are great ways to meet people and start your night without any awkwardness. Take a look at some local bars and see if they have anything scheduled.

Do activities during the day. In San Juan, I did yoga a few times and made a few friends there whom I ran into later in the week. But nothing was better for meeting people than the organized catamaran ride I took (which was pretty much a booze cruise). Cowgirls from Alaska, brothers from Michigan, a brilliant septuagenarian couple who used to own a hip-hop label in New York — everyone became friends as we sailed along the coast, sipped on mai tais, and jumped into the emerald green water.

When you do social activities during the day, you make new friends and plans could end up continuing into the night. And in a place as small as San Juan, you continue to run into the same people all the time.

Kate at Sunday Funday

Strike up conversations with both locals and travelers. Being talkative can sometimes feel like a struggle if you’re on the introverted side (which I absolutely am), but often people are just as introverted and need someone else to break the ice in order to open into a conversation. You never know — you could meet a friend that way!

Talk to everyone. Talk to the ladies who make your smoothies. Talk to people hanging out in your accommodation’s lobby. Talk to the jacked Canadian guys serving poutine at the Loose Moose Bar (that one may be specific to San Juan). Ask questions about the area. Or just introduce yourself. You never know what could lead to a friendship.

Check out Couchsurfing. I’m a big advocate of using Couchsurfing to meet locals, and it applies in party destinations just as much as it does everywhere else. Join your destination’s local group and see if there’s a calendar of events. If not, post a message in the group or reach out to people on Couchsurfing looking to meet people for “coffee or a drink.”

Use Tinder. I’m serious. I couldn’t believe how popular Tinder was in San Juan, and if you’re looking for a hookup, it can’t hurt. Plus, getting a match is great for your self-confidence.

If all else fails, just go into a crowded bar and start talking to people. I know. It’s incredibly intimidating. But when you’re visiting a party destination, people are there to relax and have a good time — and they’re a bit liquored up already and more open to talking. Go to the bar, order a drink, smile, and ask someone near you, “Where are you from?” Take it from there. If there’s chemistry, keep talking; if not, break away kindly and find someone else.

Other ways to break the ice when you don’t know anyone in a bar:

“I love your necklace/shirt/hair!” This is a great way to strike up a conversation with a girl.

“What drink is that?” Perfect for someone drinking an unusual-looking cocktail.

“How long have you been in town?” Everyone has an answer for that.

Watch your drinking. Yes, you do relax the more you drink, but please be careful not to drink too much. It’s important for any traveler, but especially so for solo travelers who don’t have friends looking out for them. Before you get another drink, always ask yourself, “Do I want to feel more out of control than I am now?” If not, have a water.

Feel free to pull the plug anytime you’d like. Don’t be afraid to leave and go snooze at 10:30 PM (I may have done that myself) or say goodbye to a guy you’re not that into or take a taxi home even if your accommodation is close by. It’s all about you — the beauty about solo travel is that you can do anything you want.

Have you been to a party destination? How do you recommend meeting people?

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79 thoughts on “How to Travel Solo to a Party Destination”

  1. I really love how open-minded you are about [traveling] hook-ups. It is often a normal and fun part of the experience and yet most writers are too prudish to ever address or even acknowledge it.

  2. Really what you did is the best idea, is traveling solo and have a fun and freedom too. Just the traveler must be careful and take attention that’s all.
    Between us i jealous you 🙂

  3. This is great, I’m so bad at randomly talking to strangers and these pieces of advice might be just what I needed to push me in the right direction. Once you’ve made the first contact and started a conversation, how do you go about asking to join that person’s group for the night?

  4. Great article! It is true that it’s hard to be in a party place when you’re alone and you’re giving a couple of nice tricks I haven’t used before. I’ll have to try them, definitely.

  5. Great tips!
    I’ve traveled to a few party destination myself (Koh Phagnan, Hvar, Lagos, Montanita) and I’ve applied a lot of those tips. Another easy “pick up” line at a bar is when someone is empty handed just be like “Hey how come you don’t have a drink?” Works all the time for me!
    And the pub crawls are a classic, it’s impossible to not meet like-minded people during those.
    Because of missed flights for my friends, I ended up alone for the Full Moon Party. Still wanting to enjoy it to the fullest I decided I wasn’t going to spend it alone so I started chatting with 2 guys that were also waiting for the ferry. The next two nights were of epic proportions with probably the best parties I’ve had in years!
    My advice: don’t be shy, at party destinations everyone is there to meet people and have fun. You’ll end up being the awkward one if you don’t overcome your fears of talking to strangers.

  6. It’s easy to lose control in party destinations. Taking breaks in between drinks will keep you sane and under control all night. And trust me, it’s a lot more fun than getting wasted. I learned this in the full moon party in Koh Phangan and during the Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, Philippines. These are two must-try parties in Asia

  7. Hahaha, I love that you include “Use Tinder” on the list! Staying in a party hostel is definitely a great idea – I did that in Puerto Viejo and will definitely do it in San Juan when I arrive!

  8. I’ve gotten to the point that I’ll prefer to book a private room at a hostel, but in Galway I was definitely glad I was in a shared room since it ended up meaning instant friends for the night! While we didn’t go party like crazy, it was definitely nice to have some new friends for the night to go out to the pubs with (and fortunately they also wanted to head back and go to bed at a reasonable hour, to get up in time for day tours like I did!) So even if you don’t want to stay at a party hostel, staying somewhere with more communal areas will definitely help meet people!

  9. @adventurouskate
    really, couldve just summed it up with “alcohol” (:

    but who organized the “organized catamaran ride”? thats a good idea.

  10. Ma’am,
    Read ur recent blog of partying solo..
    Most of my travels are solo as well..I was happy about it untill recently a conversation with an acquaintance got me down on excitement for solo travelling..he told me that he felt pitty for solo travellers as they can’t find a partner..and they r depressed and not friendly..and so on..was a bit annoying for me..although I told him that even my nxt trip is a solo byk trip to himalayas..he started laughing..m feeling low on it now..
    I don’t know if u’ll read this but still I’ll be waiting for an inspiring reply..

  11. All great advice! But I feel the need to point out that I have enough chins for two people in that photo, which really makes it like you were hangin’ in a party of three

    (Just kidding, cute picture and fun memory 🙂

  12. These are fantastic tips 🙂 I found that typically a hostel with a welcoming bar area, and if you were in one that had 6-8 bed dorms it was so easy to meet people travelling solo. Like you say, things in the daytime can trigger the most spontaneous and fantastic memories. I remember asking for a photo to be taken in St Mark’s Square in Venice by two Danish girls passing by. We enjoyed exploring the islands all day, and later invited them to join my hostel’s Redentore festival party, where everyone lined the waterways of Venice, eating, drinking, dancing and watching the fireworks which celebrated the end of the end of dreadful plague from the 1500s. (I’d like to flesh this story out on my blog — with time). Soo, in summary, I’d also like to add, don’t be afraid to ask questions to friendly people you don’t know, like ‘Do you mind if you take a photo for me?’ 🙂 And if you’re feeling extra brave, ask them to jump in!

  13. I went to San Juan del Sur as a solo traveller and I ran into about 10 people I’d met before on my travels – some from as far away as Mexico. One great thing about party destinations is that, if you’ve been travelling neighbouring countries beforehand, you’re almost guaranteed to see people you know there. I went to SJDS for 2 nights and stayed 10!

  14. Lots of good advice. I would agree that hostels and activities are two of the best ways to meet people, and it’s definitely worth doing a little research in advance as like you say, some hostels have more of a reputation as party hostels than others. It’s also worth researching the local social events specific to where you’re staying. For example, in Koh Phangan there’s a beach soccer/beach volleyball in the build up to every Full Moon Party which is an excellent way to meet people.

    I would also agree about not drinking too much, and on a personal level I know that alcohol sometimes works on a half hour delay with me, so if I want to make sure I last the full evening then I slow things down.

  15. Nice post Kate. 🙂
    Have I been to a party destination? Sure! That was in the old days obviously, when I was single and free to mingle LOL!
    Having said that, I still go to a lot of social events/networking/parties etc in Berlin where I may or may not know anyone. Most of the time I do, but sometimes when it’s “business”, I don’t. My tip: Compliment the girls on their outfit, hair, make-up, shoes! For boys: Where are you from? What brought you here? You sound like a Kiwi, American, British.. type of thing?

    As for the “real” parties. Most people are in the mood to socialise so look around for smaller groups and ask if you can join them. 99% of the time it’s a yes. Shake hands, take a sip of your beer, wine, champs, shot. A quick “Yeah! Whoop!,” then take it from there LOL!

  16. What an original post, i like it 🙂 i find that when i arrive at a destination, if id like to party i choose a more party style hostel and choose a dorm, but if i arrive somewhere and i really need a quiet night or two then i choose a small guesthouse and private room .. Or meeting locals in the bars and restaurants they usually tell you whats on in the area that night and what i should go see while I’m in town 🙂

  17. I absolutely love using Couchsurfing events when in party destinations. CS’ers are some of the most open-minded and down to earth people, so going to events by them, there’s usually already a person who will jump in your face to introduce themselves or find the nearest circle of people to introduce you to. That’s been my experience in Barcelona at least! Great article!

  18. Great article Kate! I was in San Juan Del Sur myself as a solo traveler recently; it certainly can be a tad intimidating, especially if your a lad on your own! Everyone is super friendly though and YES – Tinder is great for meeting people! 🙂

  19. Great tips, thank you ! I’ve traveled a lot on my own to a few party destinations and I’ve applied a lot of those tips. I would agree about not drinking too much to enjoy safely.

  20. Great tips for solo travelers, Kate! I recently visited Boracay (Philippines) and the best thing I could do to meet people was moving from a hotel to a hostel. The hotel was so anonymous – nobody talked to each other! Once I moved to the hostel, I went out every night and met so many great people 🙂

  21. I just went to Vang Vieng on my own and met people on the tuk tuk to tubing that I spent the day partying with. Just be friendly, break the ice asking where someone is from or ask a stupid question about the activity! And i’m extremely shy and introverted.

    Also, where there is live music, it’s so easy to just go grab a drink and watch solo. If there are other people sitting near, striking up a convo about the band and surroundings is easy, and if not, you still get to enjoy great music and feel like you’ve “gone out.”

    There is nobody on tinder in southeast asia….haha
    At least not so far!

  22. I am about to embark on a solo travel adventure through Europe and this post is great for a first time female solo traveller keen to not have to miss out on the fun! I have heard that hostels will always allow you to mingle and make friends with like minded travellers. Will definitely be trying out the guided walking tours as you have suggested!

  23. Great advice- I especially second the hostel and day activity recommendations, you meet so many people just by staying in close proximity and sharing experiences. Recently spent two weeks in Australia solo and loved it!

  24. TIP 1: Best advice I ever received was to simply pick a hostel with an open area where people must pass through to enter/leave the hostel. This encourages others to mingle.

    TIP 2: Just like before a date, take a couple shots to get warmed up. 2 shots of whiskey and I can talk with anyone anywhere…

  25. Good advice. This definitely takes a lot of courage! Sometimes I go to bars or salsa dancing in my neighborhood alone and it always ends up being fun, but a full blown party vibe is pretty intimidating. I was in Savannah alone over St. Paddy’s last year and didn’t bother trying to find party friends in advance and it was impossible to break into the crowds of friends who were already hammered. I had fun anyway but didn’t partake in the typical festivities for that reason.

  26. Hi there.

    I am Kris. Nice blog and travel advetures. I also like traveling to a party destinations. There is nothing better than a couple of crazy days and nights with my mates.

    Ps. Looks like you guys had a lot of fun 🙂


  27. This post got me excited about travelling again! It can feel like an exciting adventure or a lonely affair walking into a bar alone depending on your mood! Some great ideas 🙂

  28. How intimidating! Going out all alone in a city is both super awkward and super liberating at the same time.

    Although we feel there’s some sort of a stigma behind using dating apps, we agree that using Tinder is probably one of the best, modern ways to get to know random people! Nice tip!

  29. Wow, I have to say that this was a pretty cool article to read – you give some good tips and honestly you showed a side of you that from reading your articles I didn’t know existed. To be honest I kind of thought you were a little on the uptight side from reading your articles and I would’ve never imagined reading about tinder, hooking up and party tips on this site haha. That was pretty cool though I liked reading that it shows you have a broad audience for this blog and cover a long range of topics as well.

    I agree with the hostels – if I’m traveling solo for months there’s no better place then to meet people at hostels. I also like the idea of going to organized pub crawls or going on tours (whether for the nightlife or daytime tourist tours) as well.

    The option that’s the hardest I think is going into a bar or a club by yourself knowing nobody – that’s a psychological barrier that’s hard to get over as I have found in the past that while I’m normally a social guy and have little problems striking up conversation, in this setting of walking into a bar or a club alone I “get inside my head to much” so to speak when I’m trying to meet new people. Also, girls bitch shields can run pretty high in a nightlife setting.

    1. Hey, I can see why you felt that way, Kyle. You probably wouldn’t have if you read my stuff back when I was in Southeast Asia. Times were CRAZY back then.

      Agree — walking into a bar is the most difficult barrier. Especially when it’s loud.

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