4 Ways to make friends while solo travelling

Lizet Wesselman - 14/01/2023

4 Ways to make friends while solo travelling

Lizet Wesselman - 14/01/2023

Would you like to travel solo, but are you afraid of getting lonely? Or are there certain activities you’d prefer to do with a travel buddy, but you don’t know how to meet people who want to travel with you? No need to. After all, you’re not the only solo traveller and there are several good ways to meet people while solo travelling. Here are 4 tips to make friends while travelling.

1. Hostels

Hostels are literally made for people who travel alone and would like to make friends while travelling. Hostels come in all shapes and sizes and if you read reviews carefully, you will know exactly which one suits you. Does the thought of a shared room scare you a bit or do you value your privacy? Then you always have the option to go for a private room. But you’ll still have the benefits like a bar, common room, kitchen and maybe a rooftop or a pool, where you can still meet the other people in the hostel. Hostels can roughly be divided into 4 groups, there’s something for everybody.

Party hostels

The name kind of says it all, here you’ll mostly meet partypeople. Often young people who want to party all weekend and then lie in bed until sometime in the afternoon. These are often hostels with a bar in the hostel itself. Some stay here all night, others have a few drinks here and then go into town. This definitely doesn’t mean that all hostels with a bar are party hostels! And sometimes the isolation in these hostels is really top-notch, which means that the bar doesn’t bother you much, but you can still have a good time. Many party hostels also organise activities themselves such as pub crawls or activities in the hostel such as a pubquiz or karaoke.

Pros: Always people who are up for a drink, dance, fun and a party. Probably lots of extroverts who will strike up a conversation with everybody, so ideal if you find that hard yourself.

Cons: It can be noisy, most people coming back drunk in the middle of the night aren’t very quiet. Fat chance that people will come barging into the room at 11pm to get ready for going out. So if you want to sleep early, this is often not the right place.

Business hostels

Huh? Yes. You can also call them coworking places, but these tend to be more focused on long stays. You also have hostels where they make space for working travellers. You will recognize these by looking at the photos, they often feature working people. In these hostels, you’ll find people who’ll be up early, don’t drink excessively and are more often up for a Saturday morning hike, or visit to a museum or Sunday brunch, than a late-night party. The hostel is quiet with few activities organized by the hostel and often a bit of an older crowd. Like people in their 30’s or over.

Pros: Quiet, perfect for early birds who just wants a good night of sleep and usually a good option for slightly older travellers.

Cons: Sometimes people solely stay in these hostels to save money over a hotel, and aren’t interested in meeting people. So it’s a bit of a hit or miss if you come to meet people.

Actieve hostels

Hostels located in nature or on the outskirts of cities are often mainly chosen by people who prefer being in nature rather than in the city. Most people really come to hike, ski, surf or do yoga and are often out early. During the day, these hostels are really deserted, but most people come back around dinner time to freshen up and grab a bite to eat. So, here you can easily find hike buddies, but also someone to have dinner with and have a nice chat. There’s a bigger chance of sports-related activities than parties, but you definitely have these kinds of hostels where you can do both.

Pros: Easy to find likeminded people, you can be pretty certain that everybody here loves nature and an active lifestyle. People will go to sleep early so you’ll have a good night’s sleep.

Cons: Because people come for nature, they might not hang around a lot for a chat, drink or meal so you might be flying solo a lot. There might also be very early alarms for people who want to see the sunrise.

Pod hostels

Pod hostels are quite a new concept, coming from Japan. You have them in different shapes and sizes, but the basic concept is that you have your own “pod”, a single room with a door, but usually not bigger than the actual bed. So, basically, it’s a bunk bed, but with a door. Usually, there are a lot of pods in 1 open space, instead of 6/8/12 beds in a closed room. You won’t have much more space than in a bunk bed, although you have pod hostels where you have a tiny room that fits a bed but also offers room for luggage. You can meet absolutely every kind of people here. Some you won’t see because they are either out or in their pod. Like the business hostel, people might simply choose this as a cheap option over a hotel. So if you want to meet people, check the common areas. If there’s a bar, kitchen, rooftop or game room you’ll be able to meet people there.

Pros: Your own little closed-off place to revert to after a long day, when you don’t feel very social. Usually not too noisy.

Cons: It can feel very claustrophobic if the pods are small and you have to check the common rooms to ensure you’ll actually have the option to meet people.

Number 1 tip: check the reviews!

Of course, there are also hostels that do not fit into these categories. Hostels that organise activities, but do not have a big bar where people hang out all night. Or a hostel where a lot of people work during the week, but there is a party on Saturday night. These are actually a great option if you are open to everything, and therefore not specifically looking for something quiet or loud. You can meet people there incredibly easily, but also retreat much more easily than, say, at a party hostel. In any case, the most important tip is to read the reviews carefully to see what kind of vibe there is, then you will know exactly what kind of target group comes to it. People who stay in hostels really follow these reviews, so if it says it’s a quiet hostel, only quiet people will keep on going. It’s actually quite hard for a hostel to get rid of the image, once the reviews start flowing in.

2. Contacts through social media

Social media can be an incredibly great medium to connect with people you would otherwise never meet. Instagram is bursting with travel accounts, and everywhere you go there are people who would love to meet other travellers. Connect with people before you travel to see if you have a click, and then ask if they fancy hanging out.

Another option is Facebook. There are endless Facebook groups for travellers, but also local groups for expats or digital nomads. Post a message there saying when you’ll be around and that you would like to discover the hidden places with someone who lives there. Also, if you want to do a day trip, you can often find people there who’ve had that on their list for a while but haven’t gotten around to it yet, they are often happy to join.

You have groups with the sole purpose of finding a travel buddy, or general groups about travel where you can always ask for people to meet up. Or find local “digital nomad” or “expat” groups for specific locations. For the women there are plenty of female specific groups like “Girl gone international” groups that can be found in almost every city, “Solo female traveller” or “Host a sister”, where you could even ask to stay with people to save money on accommodation.

Pros: You can already set up something before you go or even before you book. You can already chat with people up front, to get to know them a bit and make it feel like you’re meeting up with an old friend.

Cons: You’re meeting up with a random stranger you met online. Unfortunately, you’ll never know who’s behind the account, and they might not be who they say they are. Please be careful and meet in a public place. However, this is my absolute go-to, everywhere I go, and it’s always been a success. But ALWAYS trust your gut feeling.

3. Events and tours

You don’t necessarily have to be in a party hostel to join the events. For example, many hostels offer a pub crawl for anyone who wants to join. It often costs a few euros and sometimes there is a discount for hostel guests. Other events and tours like a day trip to another city, a bike tour, (free) walking tour, yoga class, salsa class or trip to a popular hotspot are also simple ways to do what you want to do and get to know people at the same time.

You’ll often find a wall in your hostel or hotel with leaflets featuring local tour operators, but other options are:

  • GetYourGuide – Professional tours and with locals
  • Viator – Professional tours and with locals
  • Tiqets – Professional tours. You can also buy entry tickets to musea and stuff here, so everything in 1 place. But do check if you’re booking a tour or just an entry ticket.
  • Bajabikes – Bicycle tours all over the world. Usually organized by Dutch people, of course.
  • Book a trekking – Join a hiking trip. All trips are for multiple days, with a 2 day minimum.
  • Tours & tickets – Professional tours and entry tickets for musea and such.
  • City Unscripted – Tours with locals
  • Airbnb experiences – Tours with locals.
  • Free tours – Free walking tours. You decided what kind of tip you give at the end, they do count on something but it’s up to you.

Pros: 2 Birds with 1 stone, you get to do the things you wanted to do anyway ánd meet people while doing it. Even if the group isn’t all that fun, you still got to see what you wanted to see.

Cons: You never know who else is joining. You might be in a group of couples or families and still be solo. But even if that’s the case, you’ll usually get to chat with the guide if they’re not talking about the sights.

4. (Volunteer)work abroad

This might get hard during your long weekend away, but if you want to spend a longer period abroad, this is an ideal solution to get to know locals and to easily get into the community. When volunteering, you often have a few hours with chores around the house, for example farm chores, helping out at a B&B or babysitting the kids. Or choose the options where you can actually use your skills or education, like taking photo’s for a tour guide company or help building a new website for a company. In return for your help, you get free accommodation and often meals. Many also offer extra services such as language classes or creative workshops that you can join for free.

Paid jobs include teaching, working with animals or a job as an au pair. There are several websites dedicated to this, which don’t cost a fortune and where you can choose exactly what you are interested in.

Some examples:

Pros: You meet locals, rather than just fellow travellers. This allows you to really dive deep into a culture and make friends you can always come back to. You often learn a thing or two about the culture and may learn some extra skills like local cooking. For example, you help out at a vineyard in Italy, where you learn about wine making, but you also learn how to make fresh pasta.

Cons: It is work. They expect you to help out for a certain amount of time, so it’s not just a holiday where you can do whatever you want. It can also take a few tries to find a place you really want to go, where they actually pick you. Your application is not automatically accepted, so you might not end up where you hoped.