One of the biggest fears I find that people have about traveling solo is the fear of loneliness. It’s a valid fear, in fact I had it myself not too long ago. In 2017 at 31 years old, I left my job and went backpacking around southeast Asia solo for a year. My first thoughts were, “I’m too old for this, nobody is going to want to hang out with someone in their 30s” or “I have great friends back home what if I can’t find new friends?” However, looking back, I can tell you I had nothing to worry about. It is so incredibly easy to make friends while traveling solo and I’m here to offer all of my advice on how to do just that.
How to Meet People at your Accommodation
Choosing the right accommodation will have a massive impact on how easy it will be to meet new people. By far the easiest way to make friends is by staying in a hostel and the best place to book is on Hostel World. Now I know what you’re probably thinking, a hostel in your 30s?! Yes of course! If you’ve never stayed in one before, you probably have a negative perception of what they’re really like. Just as there are good and bad hotels, there are good and bad hostels. I’ve stayed in some of the most incredible hostels that have put even the nicest hotels to shame. You just need to choose the right one.
Hostels are great places to meet people for a few reasons. Firstly, everyone there is a fellow traveller, which means you already have something in common. Secondly, hostels usually put on fun social events which make it easier to meet fellow travellers such as free walking tours, dance lessons, bar nights, etc. Lastly, they’re cheap, so you’ll have more money to go out and enjoy activities to hopefully meet more people! Also, just because you’re staying in a hostel doesn’t mean you have to be in a dorm room with 10 other random strangers. Whenever I stay in one, I opt for a private room, that way I can enjoy all the social benefits but still have my own space. Here are some photos from some of the amazing hostels I’ve stayed at on my travels.
Share Villa or House (Homestay)
If you’re still not sold on a hostel, then my next suggestion would be to stay in a private room in a villa or shared house (aka homestay). You can easily search for places like this on Airbnb using their private room option. You’ll probably meet fellow travellers here too, you just won’t have all of the organised activities and information desk as you would at the hostel. You can then go to the hostel in the evening to participate in the social activities they put on but return to your own space afterwards. Here is a photo from my Airbnb in Play del Carmen Mexico where I opted for a studio apartment so I could work during the day, but still go to a hostel in the evening to meet people.
Since I’m a massive foodie, one of my favourite types of tours to look for in each place I visit is a food and/or wine tour. It’s a great way to discover the local cuisine and taste a little bit of everything. One of my favourite companies to use for booking tours is Get Your Guide.
Another easy (and cheap) way to meet fellow travelers is by going on a free walking tour. You can find what’s on offer by just googling “Free walking tour [city name]. These are usually run by hostels or the local tourist centre. While free, most of the guides are volunteers so it is customary to tip.
In addition to the free walking tours, you can usually find guided group tours of the local attractions by looking on Airbnb, Trip Advisor, speaking to the local tourist office, or just by googling “[City Name] tours”. For instance, in Vietnam, I went on a Junk Boat tour of Ha Long Bay and met some really fun people. Or in Play del Carmen, you can find loads of Cenote or Mayan ruin tours that host small groups.
Lastly, as an avid scuba diver, I’m always looking for day diving trips! If you’re not a diver, you could also look for snorkeling or boat trips.
Courses and Lessons
Again, being a foodie, I always tend to look for cooking courses in most places I visit. It’s a fun interactive way to meet the locals and fellow travelers. You also get a lovely homemade local meal out of it! Here I am at my first Thai cooking course in Bangkok in 2017.
If dancing is your thing, you could also look for lessons in the area. I recently went to a salsa lesson at Selina hostel in Play del Carmen and met loads of great people and we ended up going on a night out after.
I’m sure you can find a lesson for anything you’re after, just have a look online!
When I was traveling around south-east Asia during my year off, since it was such a common route for students on their gap year, sometimes I just had a hard time meeting people my own age. Cue Tinder. What I love about dating apps is you can filter exactly who you want to meet. It’s a really easy and quick way to have an instant dinner or drinks buddy and see if you vibe. If not no worries, at least you had some company and who knows, maybe you’ll meet your Prince(ss) Charming!
As digital nomads become more and more common, so do co-working spaces. If you’re on a short holiday, then this option probably isn’t for you, but if you’re on a long backpacking trip and have some work or studying to do, booking yourself into a co-working space is a great option to meet people. Look to see if there’s a spot in your destination and google the day/week/monthly rates and see if this could be an option. Co-working spaces also tend to put on networking events to help their customers meet people so take full advantage of this.
This one is probably for the younger crowd, but I have to admit I’ve had some pretty fun times on pub crawls back in the day lol. You’re all there to have a fun night out so this is an easy option to make new friends.
Let me know in the comments if you found this post helpful or have any other tips to meeting people while traveling solo.