It may be hard to believe, but one of my top travel stories – in which I was kidnapped, blindfolded, and stranded on a mountain in Greece without any money or a phone – all happened because of a mobile app.
Yes, it was a dating app and yes, it was Bumble.
And spoiler alert, it was for a TV show.
While most people disregard mobile apps as a source to make new friends, it’s easily one of the most effective ways to meet new people.
Along with mobile apps, there are tons of other easy ways to make friends while solo traveling.
So many ways that I’ve gone ahead and put together this article for you with over 39+ easy ways on how to make friends while traveling solo, abroad, or with a partner.
- Approaches & Mindsets to Making Friends
- Experiences to Make Friends
- Shared Accommodations / Spaces
- Travel Communities to Make Friends
- *A Few Secret Bonuses*
Position to Succeed
Approaches & Mindsets
Shared Accommodations / Spaces
Online Travel Communities
Position to Succeed
It can be scary to make friends while traveling solo.
And this is one of the biggest concerns I hear from people before they go traveling solo or abroad:
“Oh no… What happens if I don’t meet any new people or make any friends?”
If you’ve ever been nervous to meet someone while traveling, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
These are the same questions that almost everyone asks themselves before they go traveling alone or abroad.
And to be honest, sometimes I still even get nervous when I’m going somewhere new for the first time and don’t know anyone.
However, everywhere in the world I’ve traveled to – whether it’s been solo, studying abroad as a student, or with a travel partner – I always seem to meet new people and make friends who make the travel experiences and stories that much better.
And of course, not everyone you meet is going to be a lifelong friend. Nor they will all be someone you want to hang out with, and that’s okay.
The majority of the friends I’ve made while traveling solo, just happened.
The #1 thing we can do to make friends while traveling solo is to put ourselves in the position and increase the chances.
There are many components that can increase your chances. These components include:
- Approaches & Mindsets
- Shared Accommodations / Spaces
- Travel Communities
- *Secret Bonuses*
Before we dive into the components, I want to let you in on a little secret…
What most people don’t realize is that traveling solo actually makes you more approachable in comparison to traveling with a group or a partner.
This is because other people feel more confident to come and have a conversation with you because it’s far less intimidating to approach and speak to one person than it is speaking to a group of people.
I personally find it 10X easier to make new friends traveling solo than with others.
Reason being is that when you are traveling with someone else, you are less inclined to want to meet other people because you already have an established relationship with that other person.
Ok, now it’s time to dive into the five components of making new friends. First up is Approaches and Mindsets.
Approaches & Mindsets
There are two sides to this. We’ll start off with approaches first.
The first is to not only approach others but to be approachable yourself.
While this may seem obvious, your body language is probably the biggest signal to everyone else about your approachability and energy level.
1. Avoid Using Electronic Devices: If you are glued to your phone or computer, or if you have your headphones in, this is a dead giveaway that you do not want to be disturbed.
2. Avoid Closed-off Body Language: This includes crossing your arms or legs, rotating your torso/shoulders away from others, and in some cases the direction in which you point your feet.
3. Good Body Posture: Apart from this being good for your physical health, keeping your head up increases the likeliness for eye contact. Also, by standing or sitting up straight, this shows that you are engaged and not bored.
*Bonus* – Smile: Smiling is a universal expression and can brighten up someone’s day, and definitely makes you appear happier and more approachable.
These may seem like no-brainers, but they dramatically increase your likelihood of starting conversations and making new friends.
This can seem really intimidating and scary, even for me… Especially if it’s an attractive person of the opposite gender.
However, the mindset I always go in with is that I’ll probably never ever see this person again, so what do I have to lose. That’s right, nothing!
While this mindset is a good start, it’s even easier to approach people when you have some go-to phrases/questions to use.
Now before I share them, to be clear, all situations are different, so these will not work in every single situation.
Some of the most effective phrase tactics I’ve used when approaching others include:
- Give a Compliment, Followed by Asking a Genuine Question: For example, “I like your backpack, it’s really stylish, what’s the name of it and where did you find it?”
One example that I commonly use is when I see a woman with a Pandora Charm Bracelet, is that I’ll say, “Hey, I love your Pandora Charm Bracelet! My mom has one too and I get her specific charms from all over the world. Do you have a favorite charm?”
- Ask If You Can Join: More often than not, if you ask to join a group of people, whether they are socializing or doing an activity together, they will say yes. Especially if you are carrying a 6-pack of beer in your hand too. It’s important to not just assume and join because that can lead to an awkward situation.
- Introduce Yourself: Again another no-brainer, but by saying your name and maybe where you are from, this opens the door for the other person to connect with you and shows that you are interested in making friends with them.
Pro-Tip: A good way to keep the conversation going is to use the tactic of mirroring.
Commonly used in negotiating, but also effective in conversations, it’s just simply repeating the last one to three words of what somebody said.
When you get good at mirroring, you’ll be able to pick one to three words from anywhere in the conversation.
This makes the other person feel listened to and that you are truly engaged in the conversation.
1. Be Spontaneous & Open-Minded: This means don’t plan out your entire trip because this doesn’t allow for flexibility. Instead, be open-minded to saying yes to things that you may be on the fence about doing. In my experience more often than not, these experiences turn out to be a great time.
For example, if a friend asks you to go to a new restaurant they found, but you have plans that night, either invite them to your plans or try to schedule for an earlier time or the following day.
And also, I highly recommend inviting others to your plans, even if it’s just for going to explore and walk around or grab lunch.
The reason being is that people want to feel included.
2. Remember Names: I can’t say this enough, remember their name. This is a big one, but almost everyone drops the ball here, including me sometimes. It’s just a really easy way to impress them later when they’ve already forgotten your name. Plus, if you don’t remember their name it can lead to an awkward situation.
3. Set A Personal Rule: One rule that I’ve set in the past while traveling solo is to make a point of talking to at least one stranger every day. This tiny rule has helped me make a ton of friends.
Another effective rule is that if you are solo traveling is to avoid sitting at a table and instead sit at the bar as this makes you more approachable.
Experiences To Make Friends Traveling
One of the best ways to make friends traveling is to actually do the things you love to do!
So if you love to do yoga, take some local group classes, or if you enjoy weekend trips or excursions, then book those.
There’s a strong chance that by putting yourself in these specific situations you will be able to meet like-minded people and strike up a conversation over the shared experience.
Exercise: Whether it’s going to the gym or the park for a run/walk or bike ride, people care about their health and it’s something that’s easy to bond over.
Skilled Activities: This is a bit more advanced than general exercise, but common examples include scuba diving, salsa dancing, martial arts, or even other recreational sports, etc.
Here are some friends I made in Phuket, Thailand from Muay Thai fighting classes.
Walking Tours: One of the first things that I do when I arrive in a new city is go on a Free Walking Tour.
Obviously, you tip at the end if you haven’t experienced one already, but it’s a great way to learn the history and culture of the area and also be around new people for a few hours.
At the very least, get the phone number of the guide to ask for recommendations or tips.
Day/Group Trips (Local Experiences): Another great way to be surrounded by new people is by going on day trips and group tours.
If you think about it, you all paid to have a similar experience, so why not meet new people and share the experience together.
Some incredible local experiences where I made friends while traveling including taking a day trip to Chichen Itza, an off the grid weekend in the Rosario Islands at Casa en el Agua, and visiting an elephant sanctuary in Thailand and learning to make papaya salad.
Pro-Tip: Airbnb has a whole section on their website dedicated to local experiences. Highly recommend booking a local-organized cooking class or an outdoor experience through them.
Social Events: Pretty much wherever you are in the world, there are opportunities to volunteer or do work exchanges.
A good website for volunteering and work exchanges is Worldpackers.
Both options are very popular and effective ways to quickly make new friends.
Also, other social events can include local celebrations, Facebook events, or one of my highly recommended tools called Meetup where you can take part or host social events.
Or it can be on the more extreme side such as a music festival, obviously, pre-COVID.
Public Transit: While I can’t help but laugh a little bit when writing this, one unique place where I’ve met new people is when using public transportation.
Whether it be asking for directions, passing the time talking about how good or bad the transportation is, it definitely can be an easy way to strike up a conversation with a new person.
Ok, when it comes to experiences, my #1 piece of advice is to:
Stay true to what you like to do and be open to trying new experiences, and making friends while traveling solo travel, will come as a by-product.
Alright, now it’s time to discuss Shared Accommodations and Spaces.
Hostels + Airbnbs
When deciding whether to book any hostel, I highly recommend looking at their online reviews, usually on HostelWorld.com or a social review site, so you can find out if they are a party hostel or not.
This is important because if you prioritize not being in a loud environment and usually go to bed at an early or set time.
For me, I actually prefer Airbnb monthly rentals because I can negotiate the price and usually can save over 50%.
If you haven’t seen my video on how to negotiate and save money on your next Airbnb stay, then I highly recommend checking it out.
Pro-Tip: Because I’m a fan of Airbnb rentals, what I’ve done before is stay in a hostel for the first few nights in that location, make some friends, get to know the area, and then book a monthly rental on Airbnb.
Ok, so if you do decide to stay in hostels there are several opportunities you can use to meet new people and make friends.
The easiest place to make friends without any effort is in your dorm room.
You can stay in a big dorm room (usually cheaper), and when you meet people, introduce yourself and again, remember their name.
Some additional ideas to meet new people include:
- Showing Up for Breakfast (if they offer it)
- Hanging Out / Working in the Common Areas
- Joining Hostel Activities (Bar/Pub Crawls, Trivia Nights, etc.)
- Bringing Things to Share (Food, Alcohol, Cards, Cigarettes, etc.)
Other Shared Accommodations
I won’t dive too deep into each of these as I did with hostels but all are easy ways to meet new people and make friends while traveling solo.
These shared accommodations options include:
- Couching Surfing – Usually an inexpensive option, it’s the perfect way to meet and stay with locals. I’ll be honest, I haven’t personally used it but have heard hit or miss stories with it. So check the reviews of the place.
- Trusted Housesitters – More of a selection process, but essentially you can watch someone’s pet in exchange for staying at their home, while they are gone on vacation or elsewhere. This is definitely more competitive but the upside is that it can be rent free!
- Co-living Spaces – Co-living is the trend of living with many other people in one space that encourages its residents to interact and work together.
They are usually run by companies and have become a trend in response to the increasing number of young people moving to expensive cities in search of work.
In other words, co-living is a shared space where residents with similar interests, intentions, and values share a living space which tries to emulate a big family feeling.
If you are looking at this Co-Living Spaces, I recommend checking out: Coliving.com
- Airbnb Private Rooms – While most individuals usually rent an entire stay/place, one option is to rent a private room so you have your own space.
But also you get the opportunity to meet others staying there or potentially make friends with the host – who is usually a local and most likely has a ton of tips and recommendations that they can share with you.
Simply put, shared spaces are public or common areas.
Next time you are thinking about reading, journaling, grabbing coffee, or just going out to clear your mind, I recommend going to a public place (e.g., park, coffee shop, mall, etc.).
Or if you are looking for a new work environment, I highly recommend checking out a co-working space for a day.
Online Travel Communities
With hundreds of options we are going to focus on the most popular online communities that you can join to make new friends while traveling solo.
These online community types include:
- Travel Programs
- Facebook Groups
- Online Forum Communities
- Mobile Apps
Usually, the best community is dependent on the format/structure you prefer. There’s definitely a community for everyone here.
Travel programs are usually application-based, pay-to-join programs, in which you are first vetted out to make sure you are a good fit for the program.
Then it usually requires a deposit, followed by a fixed fee, which usually a monthly fee, that pays for your accommodation, a co-working space, and major transportation such as flights.
Some of the top work and travel abroad programs and retreats out there are:
Unfortunately, COVID has definitely affected these programs and limited their itineraries, but they are still an excellent way to not only meet new people but also travel with them too.
Which in my opinion when you live with someone in more than one country inherently adds another layer to the friendship.
The biggest value proposition of these companies is their community.
The travel costs are usually inflated in comparison to finding your own accommodation, co-working space, transportation, etc.
But this is necessary so these companies can be profitable.
While Facebook Groups are a great resource for pretty much everything, they are especially helpful for making new friends while traveling solo.
The best way to find these is by going to Facebook and searching for the location followed by the following keywords:
- “Location” Digital Nomads
- “Location” Expats
Additionally, there are world travel / digital nomad Facebook Groups that are another easy way to connect and make friends.
Some of my top recommended groups include:
- Female Digital Nomads (50k+ Members)
- Global Digital Nomad Network (50k+ Members)
- Digital Nomads Around the World (100k+ Members)
Pro-Tip: You can also join local location-based groups (e.g., search “Playa del Carmen Locals”).
These are a great source for finding some golden nuggets of information – such as effective transportation, local ordinances and restrictions, local celebration details, etc.
P.S. Just make sure to follow the group rules, otherwise, you will probably be kicked out.
Online Forum Communities
The first big travel community is NomadList.
Not only is it cool to track your travel history, see digital nomad scores on specific places, but it’s a great way to connect with people that are going to be in your city.
The best thing to do here is send a message to others through their Slack community.
Here’s an effective outreach message that I direct message to people that are in the same location as me.
You can use this script pretty much anywhere within an online community.
P.S. NomadList is a paid community.
Other notorious online communities include:
- Reddit: If you haven’t heard of reddit, you are probably living under a rock. If you are, that’s okay I’m sure it’s a nice rock – just kidding.
Reddit is one of my go to places for digital nomad and solo travel information. Some popular subreddits include:
- Showaround: Showaround connects all types of travelers (solo, digital study abroad, digital nomads, expats, etc.) with locals who are willing to show you around their home cities.
Please note, some hosts do charge for their time, but there are plenty of hosts who are willing to share their city and knowledge of the culture for free.
- TripGiraffe: What’s cool about TripGiraffe, besides their name and their Instagram profile having pictures of a giraffe with aviator sunglasses all over the world, is that you can create a trip and invite other solo travelers to join you.
Or you can search through the tons of other existing trips and join the one you like the most.
As mentioned earlier, one of my top travel stories, in which I was kidnapped, blind-folded, and stranded on a mountain in Greece without any money or a phone, all happened because of a mobile app.
And yes, there are apps designed for travel that aren’t just the classic dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble, or Facebook Match. Even though those dating apps can be used for finding casual friendships of the same or opposite gender.
Other popular solo traveler apps include:
- Tourlina: With the tourlina app women can find interesting and entertaining female travel companions and locals within a secure and trusted network.
Tourlina has a safety verification process before you can begin swiping on other female travelers.
Think of it as Tinder exclusively for female travel buddies.
- Travello: A social network for travelers, Travello uses your travel interests to match you with other solo travelers.
It’s designed for a broad range of travelers, including urban tourists, digital nomads, expats, travel abroad students, backpackers, and gap-year individuals.
Flip the Trip: Flip the Trip is specifically a great option for finding travel friends for your future trips.
Other solo traveler mobile apps I’ve heard of but have poor app store reviews are Backpackr, Chirpey, and SoloTraveller.
So feel free to check them out but be fair warned.
As you may be able to tell by now, I’m the type of person that loves to under-promise and over-deliver.
So I’ve included a few bonus items to help you make friends while traveling solo or traveling abroad.
- Using Your Network
- Language Communities
#1 Using Your Network
The two big things here are to leverage your network and your friend’s networks.
Warm introductions are usually the best and if they are friends of your friend, chances are you will like them too.
Some effective ways to do this are:
1. Post On Social Media: Friends love connecting you to other friends because it shows that they are a good friend.
So what that means is in your post or story, recommend Instagram stories, to ask your friends if they know anyone in the area to connect them to you.
2. Change Social Media Bio: One popular thing amongst travelers is posting their location in their bio so it makes other people aware they might be in the same city.
3. Search Through Your Phone: This is simply opening up that contact list and scrolling through to see if anyone might be there or if there is a friend you can message who might have a friend in the place you are at.
#2 Language Communities
If you are learning a new language and living in a new location, then this is a home run.
For example, I’m learning Spanish and I have a rockstar tutor that’s not only shown me around her city, but also has introduced me to her friends.
Additionally, there are language communities where you can find a tutor in your area.
Top communities include:
Ok, before we wrap up this post on easy ways to make friends while traveling solo, I want to share my biggest message here and pretty much the underlying objective of this post.
And that is… To not stress about making friends and meeting new people because it will happen and you don’t need to force it.
So don’t get stressed about something you can’t control.
Instead, focus on what you can control and travel with the intent of exploring new locations, having new experiences, and most importantly working on yourself and your independence.
By being yourself, people will naturally gravitate towards you.
And since you’re a solo traveler, if you aren’t digging the vibe of the place and the people, then you just move on.
You have the freedom and flexibility to do so.
Ok, at this point, I’m excited for you because you are now well-equipped to put yourself in positions to make friends while solo traveling.
And if you are ever in the same city I’m in, you’ll always have a friend, just send me a message on social media or email me here: Sam@NewRichNomads.com
Now It’s Your Turn…
Which tactic from today’s post are you going to try first?
- Join a digital nomad community?
- Signup for a local event?
- Post on social media and leverage your network to find more people?
Let me know by leaving a comment below, right now.
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