I’m predominantly a solo traveller. Or I used to be. I can’t count how many times I’ve being asked “Are you going by yourself?” with a look of surprise when I tell people about my next trip.
Technically yes—I’m catching a flight out of Australia on my own but I’ll hardly be alone—I’ll be meeting people as I go or catching up with people I’ve met in other travels.
These days I’ve met so many people in my travels that often I’m couchsurfing with people I’ve met in my past travels. Or I’ve organised to meet someone I met overseas on the other side of the world. Or I just met three people at my hostel.
[Couchsurfing is an online site where locals share their lives, homes, cities and post regular events happening in cities around the world. There’s always something to do and new friends to meet.]
In the past year, I’ve couchsurfed in Boston with a girl I met in Peru and next up we’re doing a tour in Jordan; I completed a 10-day trip to Greece with a Canadian I met while au pairing in Italy; and toured Maui with a friend I met while teaching English in Hungary.
Here’s six ways to meet people when you’re a solo traveller:
- Go on a tour
If you’re worried about travelling through a country by yourself, join a tour group. I’ve done a couple of organised tours in Central and South America and had a great time.I met a bunch of fantastic people and many of them I’m planning to catch up with again on my next trip.
There’s many tour companies out there that aren’t just photo stops and parties. G Adventures, Gecko Adventures and Intrepid Travel are among the most popular outfits.
- Join city walking or bicycle tours or go on an organised day trip
Many cities offer walking or bicycle tours. This is one way you can meet people. Usually I’ll just introduce myself if I hear an Aussie accent –which seems a fairly common occurrence pretty much anywhere overseas. It’s hardly ever awkward, I just ask them what part of Australia they’re from. You’ll get an idea pretty quick if they want to chat or not.
You can also easily meet people on day trips. I’ve done a couple of organised day trips to hiking spots or caves and just started chatting to a few people on the tour bus and then we met up again later.
- Stay in a hostel
I’m 32-years-old but I still choose to stay in hostels instead of hotels. Some hostels have an age limit, while others are child and sometimes even pet friendly. Staying in a hostel is a great way to travel cheap and also meet people. These days many hostels offer private rooms with their own or shared bathroom so you don’t even have to share a dorm.
There’s some beautiful hostels out there that offer modern, stylish and clean facilities and many offer group activities such as pub crawls or walking tours. Join in on these and you’ll be making friends in no time.
I’ve met many people in hostels either in my dorm, the hostel bar or in the common room. I met a Dutch guy in a hostel in Estonia at the hostel bar and we ended up travelling for a week in Estonia, Finland and Russia. It’s easy to say ‘hi’.
Or when I was in the Norwegian town of Odda going to do the Trolltunga hike, I chatted to the people in my dorm. We ended up doing the hike together – way better than slogging through 22km of mud and snow by myself.
A great way to meet locals and find out about the best spots in the country you’re visiting is to Couchsurf. I’ve met some really nice people while couchsurfing – many who have driven me around their town and shown me the sights. It’s a great way to see a place and it will also help you save some money.
Another great way to meet people is to give something back. Volunteer your time to teach English, make beds in a hostel, or help out at an organic farm.
I volunteered to teach English for a week in Hungary and met some great Hungarians as well as travellers from across the world. Many of them I keep in touch a year on and a couple I’ve travelled with since.
- Ask your friends
Reach out to your friends and see if they know anyone in the areas where you are travelling. Chances are your friends know someone or have a friend of a friend who knows someone, and they can connect you. It’s great to tour a place with a local and you might also score a couch to sleep on.
See you out there!