Making friends is sometimes awkward AF! There are some great ways to make friends while traveling that aren’t hard. If you’re leaving home or traveling solo for the first time, the idea of chatting with strangers might be intimidating. But, believe me, that’s nowhere near as terrifying as not making a single friend because you’re too nervous to say hi. Even if you’re globetrotting with mates, going longer than a week without talking to anyone else is guaranteed to drive you bonkers.
It’s not only completely normal to want to make new friends while traveling. I promise it’ll be one of your highlights. No matter who you’ve decided to go with, there are easy ways to meet fellow travelers and locals. And plenty of people out there who would love to take fifty photos with you in front of the Eiffel tower. Maybe even go on an Amsterdam pub crawl you’ll never remember.
How to Make Friends While Traveling
Try different approaches to see which suits you. But, most importantly if one method doesn’t work, don’t take it personally. Keep trying because you never know who and what you might miss out on.
Budget Travel Babes
Budget Travel Babes is an online community for women who want more affordable, responsible, and sustainable travel with 18K+ members (and growing rapidly!). Babes from the group have actually traveled and hung out in real life.
To find like-minded, value-conscious females to make friends while traveling:
- Join Budget Travel Babes
- Post on the wall including your destination/s and date/s
- Use the topics “travel buddies” and/or “meet up” so members can find your post easily. You can also click on these topics and see where other members are currently traveling.
Babes have met up in Dublin, Chiang Mai, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast. Find other babes to meet up.
Women who travel solo can use this group to find places to park for a night. Roadtripher is a new idea of Jess’s and the group is growing fast. I’ve made a few friends by letting women stay in my driveway. Using this form of travel is all about women stepping outside their comfort zone. Also, it’s about people with homes and driveways to park opening their hearts to women travelers.
Just recently we hosted a gal in our yard. She was super sweet and respectful. Staying one night turned into two due to issues with her vehicle. I feel she was put at our home for a reason. My husband fixed her vehicle so she could get back on the road. (I’m married to a good one)
Mostly known as a platform for hosting travelers and staying in people’s homes, Couchsurfing can also be used to meet locals and travelers. The community has 15M+ users and an easy-to-use app where you can find events.
The most beneficial feature of the app for travelers who want to make new friends is Hangouts. You can update your status with the activity you are most interested in (e.g. going sightseeing or to have lunch) and other travelers can request to join you. You will then be able to see what other travelers around you are doing and ask to join them, either one-on-one or in groups.
Meetup is a website and app where local events are created and categorized by interests. You can sign up for free and then request to join groups in your area based on what gets your attention e.g. Spanish conversation, social singles, board games, etc. Some groups or events may have costs – so read carefully before requesting.
Usually, members are locals and ex-pats staying in an area for a longer-term, so it’s a great way to meet different people away from the backpacker crowd. Meetup has over 35M users in 180 countries. I’ve met awesome people through Meetup groups in New York City, Vancouver, and the Gold Coast.
Anyone who has stayed in a hostel will be the first to tell you that it is hands-down one of the best ways to make friends. Unless you get unlucky or really aren’t looking to meet people. Not all hostels are equal – some have a more cozy vibe with communal areas and shared spaces. A good sign of whether a hostel is social is if they have events, tours, and parties. Just keep in mind if you’re a light sleeper or don’t like too much noise, then you might want to skip the party hostels. You can also check reviews and their social media photos to get an idea of the experience you can expect.
Then when staying in a hostel, strike up a conversation with someone sharing your room or sitting next to you at breakfast. Ask them where they’ve been, where they are going, and what they recommend doing in the city you are currently in. More often than not, you’ll end up meeting people to go on adventures and even travel to another destination together.
Friends of friends
Even if you don’t know anyone in the destinations you’re about to travel to, you might have friends that do! Ask around or post your travel plans on social media to see if anyone has any contacts. A friend of mine did this for her solo backpacking trip around New Zealand and ended up being hosted by friends of relatives. I’ve also been asked for contacts and am excited to link people up from different parts of the globe.
Most recently, Chantell moved to Galway and a buddy she met in New York, Paolo, saw her Facebook posts and commented that he had a Canadian friend living here. After Paolo introduced Gg and Chantell in a group message, they became fast friends.
Local, ex-pat, and nomad Facebook groups
There are Facebook groups dedicated to just about every destination out there. The key is finding the right group, which can often be created for locals, ex-pats, (digital) nomads – or sometimes a combination. When Chantell was living in Nha Trang, Vietnam, she joined a Facebook group called “Nha Trang Expats and Locals” which is how she became friends with Laura and Nadina.
Then, while in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), she joined the Saigon Nomad Girls Facebook group and met Angie House. They’ve since met up again in Koh Samui, Thailand for beers and vegetarian food. For those that travel while working online, groups like Digital Nomad Girls are also fantastic for finding new friends.
Host A Sister is a great way to make friends while traveling
Host A Sister is another hosting platform, except it’s specifically for those who identify as female. Like Couchsurfing, you can use the group to find other women to host, stay, and meet up with. Chantell used Host A Sister to meet up with an awesome lady while in Penang, Malaysia.
Currently, it is a Facebook group, however, there are plans to build a website soon. The group started less than a year ago and already has over 90,000 members.
Muslimahs Who Travel
Sally of Passport and Plates created a special Facebook group called Muslimahs Who Travel.
Muslimahs Who Travel is a safe-space for amazing and adventurous Muslim women from around the world. This judgment-free community was created for members to connect, meet up, share stories and advice, and talk about the issues specifically impacting Muslim women from day-to-day.
Trash Hero and eco-friendly events
Trash Hero is a volunteer movement within communities around the world to clean up and prevent plastic waste. In addition to long-term educational programs and sustainability campaigns, they also host regular clean-ups that anyone can attend. While in Koh Chang, Thailand, Max and Chantell joined a beach cleanup and were energized by the passionate volunteers they met. After the cleanup, they had coffee with another couple and we were also invited to a home-cooked Korean BBQ.
Trash Hero’s network is mostly within Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Singapore but also has some chapters in Europe, North America, and Australia. You can use the Trash Hero website to find a chapter in the destinations you are traveling to next.
Walking tours and day excursions
When traveling solo, start the trip off with a free walking tour (tips are given at the end) to get an introduction to the city, culture, and history.
Move around the group and start a casual conversation with different people in between each stop of the tour. Get a sense of who is also looking to hang out after the tour. If you’re more introverted, then you might want to just start by chatting with other solo travelers.
At the beginning of each free walking tour I’ve been on, they usually ask everyone to introduce themselves and say which country they are from. This makes it even easier to strike up a conversation with someone who speaks the same language as you or is from a destination you’ve been to. Who knows, you could even end up in a long-term relationship with someone on your walking tour.
Local hangouts, bars, and restaurants can help you make friends while traveling
For those who actually want to meet locals, try hanging out at local bars and restaurants. Depending on their culture and personality, some people may be more curious and direct, approaching you. At other times, you may need to be the one to start a conversation (a little bit of research on cultural norms will go along way here).
On their four-month backpacking trip around Southeast Asia, Max and Chantell traveled through Java, Indonesia where we were often the only travelers. Locals would often chat with them at shopping centers or ask for a photo but there was often a language barrier to prevent a deeper friendship. Then, while having lunch at a popular restaurant in Surabaya called Depot Pangsit Mie 168, they made friends with the owners, Rusmin and his wife. They invited Max and Chantell out for a night of fast-paced drinking and dancing with their friends.
Coliving and coworking
Coliving and coworking spaces are mostly associated with (aspiring) digital nomads who are working online while traveling. However, this is not strictly always the case. It could be for professionals who have moved to a new city or are just in town for a conference. Whether you are working remotely, running a business from your laptop, or even on a business trip, coliving and coworking spaces are excellent for tapping into a community of talented and interesting individuals.
Chantell’s first experience of a coworking community was in Las Palmas, Spain at ReStation. They had weekly breakfasts, Friday lunches, masterminds, and nomad talks. This is how she met the founder of Digital Nomad Girls, Jenny Lachs, as well as becoming good friends with the mysterious Oliver. After leaving Las Palmas, Max and Chantell experienced the convenience of coliving at A Landing Pad Barcelona.
Sports camps, yoga courses, and meditation retreats
A sure-fire way to make friends while traveling is by attending a yoga course, meditation retreat, or some type of sports camp. With the rise of active tourism, there are many choices available for the health-conscious traveler depending on your budget, the time you have available, and interests.
Chances are you will meet people of similar interest and background when you are at a retreat. If others are there, it’s because they want to be, not have to be. Making friends with like minded people can be everlasting friendships.
Volunteer and work exchanges
Work exchanges are a backpacker’s dream come true providing access to free accommodation, new friends, and many other perks. For just a few hours of work a day, you could stay at hostels, NGOs, and farms for little to no cost (depending on the work exchange platform’s fees). This is a nice way for solo travelers or couples who want to live with locals and make new friends while traveling.
Chantell applied for two-week work exchange at a hostel in Barcelona, Spain through Worldpackers. In exchange for taking photos for them, she received some meals, activities, and accommodation for free. Best of all, Chantell met wonderful guests who she got to know and go on adventures with during my free time.
Group tours can help you make friends while traveling
Finally, group tours are a convenient and ready-to-go option if you want to make friends on your next trip. The main draw for tours is the opportunity to meet new people, which means that you’re all there for the same reason. Plus, you’re going to be sharing so many lifelong memories that it will be almost impossible not to form close connections.
How do you Make Friends While Traveling?
Did I miss something? There are probably more great ways to make friends while traveling so if you know some, comment and tell me.
With this list there should be no reason a person can’t meet others and make friends. Making friends doesn’t mean you have to spend all your travel time with them. Just getting to know others is a healthy part of life.