How to make friends when travelling solo

A guide to meeting kindred spirits in places you don’t have existing networks 🥰

2 mins
Written by:
Catherine Bouris

Making friends as an adult can be famously difficult; it feels like everyone already has a set friend group from high school, or university, or work, or all of your friends are in different life stages between moving cities or countries, changing careers, or having kids. Doing so while travelling complicates things even further; how will you connect with people if you don’t know the local language or where anyone your age hangs out?!

But though you may have some awkward moments, the process of making friends while travelling can actually be pretty transformative. You’ve already got a love of travel in common, which makes finding things to talk about that much easier. Travelling long term and meeting other people doing the same is a delight, as you suddenly have friends who are at a similar stage in life to you and looking for the same things – new experiences in new locations.

So where can you meet these kindred spirits in cities where you don’t have existing networks? Fortunately, I’ve been there and done that, and I’ve got you covered.

Photo by cottonbro studio

Hostels

It’s a classic for a reason; the most common method of making new friends while travelling is undoubtedly at your hostel. Even if you opt for a private room, most hostels have common spaces (some even have their own bars), as well as social events like bar crawls that will make it easy to mingle with other guests. But what if you’re no longer about that hostel life?

Photo by Komang Gita Krishna Murti

Group tours and day tours

Group travel through tour agencies are a fantastic way to see the world with a built-in friend group; you can join a tour with your existing friends, of course, but many people choose to sign up on their own and make friends along the way. If you’d rather travel on your own schedule, you can still meet people by signing up for single-day tours through platforms like GetYourGuide and Viator. A particularly good option for younger people looking to meet like-minded people are pub crawl tours, which can be found in most tourist hotspots; or walking tours, which are a fantastic way to learn about the area you’re in and are often guided by an in-the-know local.

Photo by NONRESIDENT

Facebook groups

Facebook isn’t the thriving platform it was 10 years ago, but its groups continue to be a fantastic way of meeting people with similar interests. If you search the name of whatever city or country you’re in, you’re bound to find multiple groups aimed at travellers and migrants, as well as travellers with specific identities, like women. There are also more general Facebook groups for travellers regardless of where they are in the world, such as Host A Sister, which has over half a million members and is aimed at helping women offer and find accommodation around the world as well as potential friends to meetup with.

Meetup.com

Meetup.com, a website that – you guessed it – facilitates meetups, has been helping travellers meet new people no matter where in the world they are since 2002. All you have to do is sign up, set your location, and scroll until you find a group or event that catches your fancy. Many Meetup events are particularly aimed at people who are staying in one place for a significant length of time, so this option would best suit people on a working (or remote working) holiday or migrants.

A jewellery-making workshop | Photo by cottonbro studio

Eventbrite

While not a platform specifically designed to facilitate meeting new people, checking Eventbrite for events in whichever city you’re in can be a great way to get an idea of upcoming events like festivals, classes, and shows at which you could potentially meet people with similar interests. Facebook is also good for keeping abreast of upcoming events in any given location.

Bumble BFF

While Bumble is best known for being a dating app, it has two additional modes: BFF, for making friends, and Bizz, for career-related networking. Bumble BFF is how I’ve had the most success meeting friends while travelling, personally, so allow me to proselytise.

You create a profile and swipe left or right on people like you would with a dating app, and once you match with someone, you have 24 hours to message them before the match expires. While matching with people one by one is a fine approach, two friends I made in Paris used a method that I think worked fantastically.

Each of them matched with a handful of women and invited them to a prosecco picnic in Paris’ Parc des Buttes Chaumont, as well as adding us all to a WhatsApp group for planning purposes. The picnic, which was attended by over a dozen people, was the perfect way to meet a bunch of people at once and get to know one another over a glass of bubbles. Most attendees were English-speakers from all over the world - the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, as well as a few locals – some of whom had just arrived in Paris (c’est moi) and others, like the organisers, who had been living there for years.

The friends I made at that picnic ended up forming my social circle for the duration of my stay in Paris. We used the WhatsApp group to organise other outings, like seeing Barbie, celebrating Bastille Day, and enjoying afternoon tea at Musée Jacquemart-André, and suddenly, my social life was the most active it had been in years.

Barbie! | Photo via Cathy Bouris

So that’s my advice to you: match with a number of people in the city you’re in and then plan a group outing. In addition, using Bumble’s travel feature allows you to match with people in the places you’re going to ahead of time, so you can have friend dates lined up before you’ve even set foot somewhere! It’s also a great way to meet potential travel buddies – I met one friend in Athens on Bumble and ended up joining her for a few days in Milos two weeks later!

Making friends while travelling can force you out of your comfort zone - you have to put yourself out there and put in the effort to make new friendships in a way you may not have had to do to make friends at home - but if you’re travelling on your own, you’re already well aware of the fact that outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens.

Prosecco picnic in Paris | Photo via Cathy Bouris

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