Meeting people, whether locals or other travelers, to share experiences and stories can be one of the most enjoyable parts of traveling.
But how do you meet people while traveling?
Whether you’re planning a vacation in your own country, or are going to travel to some remote destination on the other side of the world, there are many ways to connect with people while traveling.
I’ve spent most of my adult life traveling and living abroad. I have never been the most outgoing person and have never found it easy to just walk up to strangers to start a conversation.
But, over time I did learn how to connect with people and how to make friends while traveling. And in this article I want to share some tips to make meeting people easier.
When traveling, it can seem ideal and convenient to choose a hotel or airbnb instead of staying in a hostel.
But hostels can offer a social aspect that other accommodation often lacks.
Hostels generally have several communal spaces such as a kitchen and a living or dining room. These are great places to meet other travelers from all over the world.
The dorm rooms that hostels offer are also a perfect way to meet other travelers. But, if you don’t like the idea of sharing a room, most hostels also offer a small number of private rooms.
I’ve stayed in many hostels all over the world. And yes, they are often quite basic (although definitely not always!) but they have been a great place for me to meet people while traveling. In fact, I’ve made some lifelong friends in hostels!
Especially if you are traveling alone hostels are great places to meet other travelers.
If you’re looking for a hostel, anywhere in the world, Hostelworld.com is a good website to use.
And if you are a digital nomad, staying in a coliving space is a good option as well.
Also Read: The Pros and Cons of Staying in a Hostel
Spanish is one of the most popular languages to learn and it’s an official language in 21 countries around the world.
I once spent 6 weeks in Guatemala to learn Spanish at a local language academy. That was a great way not only to learn the language, but also to meet both foreigners (the other students) and locals (the teachers and management).
But, even if you aren’t traveling to learn the language, memorizing a few words and phrases can really open doors and help you connect with the locals.
No matter how difficult the language is, just trying to say hello and thank you in their language will generally be appreciated a lot.
One of the many benefits of visiting a country where they speak the language you’re learning is that you can practice and can pick up on dialects and regional variations. For example, if you’re wanting to learn English, then you’ll be aware that certain regions have different words for the same item, a funny example being the bread roll. Visiting different areas or countries will teach you a lot about how the same language is used differently in different parts of the world.
Whether you’re visiting a place for a few days, or for an extended stay, making an effort to experience the local culture can be a perfect way to meet people and make new friends.
Go to a local sporting event, check out the weekly market, or find out if there are any festivals happening.
Depending on where you are traveling to, Meetup.com can be a good website to find local activities. And check if there is a Facebook group for the city or area you are visiting. If so, those Facebook groups tend to have a lot of information about local events and local must-visits, plus you could post a message there asking if anyone is interested to meet up for a coffee, a walk through the city, etc.
Taking public transport is also a good way to get a glimpse of local life and meet people.
And, if you have enough time, you could consider volunteering abroad.
Go with the flow!
Not everything will go to plan when you’re traveling. And while it’s good to be organized and plan your trip, it’s just as important to be able to readjust your expectations.
By not having a strict itinerary, you’ll find it a lot easier to go with the flow, making you more open to random chats with people that might lead to new friendships.
By leaving your guide in your ho(s)tel room, you can explore the area and get to know the locals without following an itinerary. And if you get lost, assuming you are in a safe area of course, then you can ask someone for directions which is a great way to meet people while traveling.
Stepping outside of your normal comfort zone can also make you test your own limits and help you find out more about yourself.
This is actually one of my favorite ways to meet people when I travel alone.
Go on a walking tour to learn more about the city and get to know both a local guide and a lot of other travelers. Or, one of my favorites, see if there is a food tour. Food tours generally take you to the best places to eat and let you taste local delicacies you might not have tried otherwise. Plus, over a drink and a nice snack it always seems easier to connect to new people.
But you can also sign up for a fun activity. In fact, one of the reasons I learned to scuba dive is because that’s a great activity to do when traveling alone. Since you shouldn’t dive alone, you’ll just go to a dive shop and sign up for a group dive. This way you get to dive and meet a group of people who are interested in the same thing you are.
But there are so many other group activities you can book depending on where you are. Hiking, horseback riding, zip-lining, etc.
And taking a class, a cooking class for example, is also a great way to meet people when traveling.
As I mentioned I love going on a food tour. But, it doesn’t have to be a tour to help you meet people.
Mealtimes offer the perfect opportunity to talk to the people you’re eating with and give you the opportunity to pass on some of your own experiences. Trying local cuisine and getting to know other people is a memory that will stick with you.
Strike up a conversation with the street food vendor, even if there is a language barrier. Or propose to cook a meal together with people you met in the hostel.
And if you find yourself alone in a restaurant or cafe, check if you can sit at the bar. I find sitting at the bar makes you a lot more likely to connect with people.
If you’ve had a long day walking around the city, it can be really tempting to go to bed early and say no when you get invited out.
Or you might say no because it feels outside of your comfort zone.
I once said no to an invitation to swim with sharks in South Africa. I was young, it sounded scary, I had only just met these people in the hostel… So yes, I made up excuses in my head not to go. And I still regret that now!
Say yes to new experiences. As long as you make sure you stay safe, it’s often the random invitations that create the most memorable experiences.
In India I was invited to a wedding of people I didn’t know. It felt so strange to say yes to that but I did, and it’s still one of my most memorable experiences.
Traveling is a great way to meet new people.
Some of the people you meet might become lifelong friends, others are a beautiful memory of a shared experience.
As much as I think there is value in spending time alone, and I love solo travel for that reason, sharing experiences with others is priceless.
Seeing the world through other people’s eyes while you get to know locals, or bonding with new friends from all over the world is so rewarding!
And I hope this article has given you some practical tips for how to meet people when traveling.
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