How to make friends as a solo traveler

by Roxana Mihailescu
Step one

There’s no step one. You just need to put yourself out there. I know that traveling solo can be very scary and intimidating. I was terrified before my first trip too, especially when having a past when making friends wasn’t something that would come easily to me. But traveling was the thing that built my personality into the easy-going, spontaneous and sociable person I am today. If you identify with that description and you want to make friends when traveling abroad, this post will give you the basics of how to find people willing to hang out and approach them without feeling weird. 

Here are 5 ways to make friends while traveling solo.

1. Stay in a (social) hostel

If you are an introvert, meaning that you charge your batteries from being by yourself and not surrounded by lots of people, that’s okay. Many people who travel alone are like that, wanting to have time for themselves being the reason they choose not to embark on a trip with a huge group of friends. When you are in a hostel there are many ways in which people will let you be, if that’s what you want. You can hang out in the common area and have your headphones on or read a book and people won’t bother you. When you feel like socializing, they will not judge you for not being talkative all the time. In hostels, you will find mostly solo travelers who also need their time to work or relax. 

I am an extrovert, I love meeting new people all the time, hearing their stories, and making friends. Here is how I do it: 

  • First, I look at the reviews when looking for a social hostel. I do that on www.hostelworld.com, where I choose the hostel with most comments (meaning it’s a popular one) and see what people say about the social or party atmosphere. 
  • Hanging out in the common area/kitchen/bar. Most of the time, someone will come and start a conversation, but if that’s not the case, I will go to a group of people, introduce myself and chatting. People are mostly super open and friendly, so it’s super easy to just ask to do something together (play a game, cook something, watch a movie etc). 
  • Sometimes, there are free walking tour offered by the hostel. Do them. You will find people and have a common topic to talk about.
2. Attend a guided city tour/ free walking tour

In Europe, free walking tours are a very popular way of getting to know the city. They are based on a system of paying what you think the tour was worth, something like a tip. If you are on a budget, 5€ is considered a decent tip, and the guide will appreciate it.

Guided tours are a fun way to get to know people and make friends. Most often, the guides are well-trained professionals who know a lot of history about the place + the hidden gems and places where locals go to eat in the city.  Here is a website where you can browse through many free walking tours in all the cities of Europe.

If you are staying in a hostel, there is a chance that they organize their own free tours or have partnerships with other hostels. Is a good idea to ask at the reception!

3. Search on Facebook groups related to solo traveling

If you are not a fan of meeting people online, this one might not be your cup of tea. But I made some of my best friends just by chatting on Facebook and then meeting up in person. If you know me, you know about my hype about Yes Theory. No? Okay. I need you to open a new tab, go on Youtube and search for Yes Theory. After you see any video (my personal favorite is helicopter bungee jumping with Will Smith), go on Facebook and request to enter the group called Yes Fam. There, you will find people from all over the world who share the same passion for adventure, traveling, saying yes to new opportunities and things that make you go out of your comfort zone. Most of the time people just chat, but sometimes, before COVID, they would plan meetups. There are sub-groups based on the country or city. My first meet-up was in Belgium, where I met some lovely people whom I visited later on in their own countries. We met in the city of Ghent, went for a coffee to get to know each other, had a Friends-inspired photoshoot in the café, grabbed some drinks and then spontaneously decided to go to a skating rink. 

For girls, there is also a group called Girls Love Travel. I swear that is the most supportive community of women traveling the world. Apart from the fun and girly chit-chatting, no matter where you are, if you have a problem, write it there and somebody will help. There are also meet-ups, but I never went to one.  

Other groups: 

  • Host a Sister
  • Solo Female Travelers
  • The Young Adventurers Fam – this is the group I have created for all the young adventure seekers out there. Here, you can connect with like-minded people and share your adventures, build friendships and, why not, visit each other around the world and organize meet-ups.
4. Attend a Couchsurfing event

Couchsurfing is a platform where you can book to stay with a local for free, the philosophy being it being that you get to experience the local culture and you can pay it forward later on by hosting someone. However, it is not required to also host, but I will talk more about this in my “How I keep costs low while traveling” blog post. 

The app works also as a social platform, meaning that there are events that gather travelers together, which you can find based on the city you’re in. The last one I attended was in New York and over 70 people participated. I even met a Romanian girl from my home city and we one year later in my

5. Hang out in a bar/café

This one might be a bit intimidating, but not impossible. I remember that I was once alone at a party (still New York City) and I started having a conversation with a girl, also by herself. We had some drinks, danced and by the end of the night became best friends. 

My favorite thing when traveling solo is hanging out in a café. I don’t look for conversation, just some moments with myself. It’s usually the time when I book accommodation, transportation or simply read a book on my well-traveled Kindle Reader. 

In the end, if you smile and look like you want to make friends, it will happen naturally. If you don’t, don’t feel judged, it’s more common than you’d think. Solo traveling is an experience of self-discovery, so take the time to get used to it and enjoy every moment.

If you still feel that traveling alone is a scary experience and you are looking for advice or a group to travel with, I have created a Facebook community just for that! Join the group here 🙂

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