For the past two years, I’ve spent most of my Summer solo backpacking in Asia. After spending 5 weeks in Vietnam and 7 weeks in India, I’ve found there are a few key things to consider when meeting people and making friends when travelling alone.
1. Stay in Hostel Dorms
This is undoubtedly the single most important thing to do if travelling alone. As tempting as a single room and a great night’s sleep can be when you are absolutely shattered after a long flight, save this luxury for a little later into your travels. On the first stop of your tour, chances are it’s a major city and a gateway to the rest of the country. This means there will be loads of other travellers either starting or finishing their journeys, and it’s the optimal time to meet others who will either have similar plans to you and might be your future travel buddies, or to pick up some tips from those who’ve just done what you want to do. Ideally pick a dorm between 4-8 people for the optimal mix of social interaction and sleep.
2. Social Media Apps
When people hear “Tinder” they immediately think dating/hook-ups. Whilst that may typically be the case, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of such apps to meet new people and make new friends abroad. There will be plenty of fellow travellers and locals alike swiping to check out who is in town. Just be friendly, upfront, and say what you’re looking for; chances are you’ll stumble across someone else who is after the same, whether it be going to grab a drink and a bite to eat, or checking out the local sights. And who knows, you might even meet your future spouse whilst you’re at it.
3. Don’t be shy
“Easier said than done” I hear you say, but it still holds true nonetheless. You probably have a finite amount of time abroad and you want to make the most out of your trip, so it’s time to address those inhibitions. If it’s friends you are after, keep an eye out for any given opportunity to find them. For example, any type of transit, whether bus, plane, or train is a great chance to strike up conversation with anyone around you. If it’s a local and they can speak English, chances are they will be more than willing to engage and will probably chat to you first anyway. Another place to find fellow travellers is on group tours. Sure, they might feel “touristy” as you are herded around like cattle, but you’ll definitely come across others who are in the same boat (both figuratively and sometimes literally).
Travelling alone can be a daunting prospect and it’s commonly met by others with an “ooh you’re so brave, I could never do that.” But once you become accustomed to your surroundings, successfully navigate your way from A to B, and meet a huge variety of people from all walks of life along the way, you’ll be pretty glad you did.