6 Ways to Meet People While Traveling Abroad Alone

See recent posts by Claire Shefchik

Solo travel might be one of the most fulfilling things you can do, but it can also turn into one of the loneliest, especially if -- like many of us -- you’re shy, an introvert, or don’t speak the local language. But the good news is that it doesn't have to be. Believe it or not, there are plenty of friendly tourists and locals who are just as eager as you to make a connection. 

During a recent three-month solo trip to the Caribbean, I learned how to never truly be alone for more than one day at a time. From the Greek scuba diver who showed me the ropes in Honduras to the Washington, D.C. writer I swapped stories with in Belize, my social network is now filled with faces and stories of people I encountered during my travels. They’ve helped me network, offered me a place to stay on future trips, preserved my connections to places long after I've left, and simply made for an entertaining afternoon abroad. So what's the best way to meet people while on the road? Here are six simple ideas.

1. Check Out Hotel Bars

This one might be a given, but still deserves a mention. Solo trippers around the world congregate at hotels, motels, and resorts to meet fellow travelers, share a glass of wine or a cocktail, and swap stories. Of course, even for extroverts, it’s not always easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Turn to your neighbor at the hotel, train station, or airport bar and ask which IPA to order or whether that art museum is open on Mondays. You might be surprised how often one comment can turn into lively banter.

2. Try Hostels & Couchsurfing

Tailored toward budget-conscious and solo travelers, hostels make for a great place to meet other visitors. Make sure to read reviews and choose locations that offer a community atmosphere. Once you’ve arrived, hang out in the common room to strike up a conversation with others. You might even end up making plans to sight-see together. If you’re not staying in a hostel, stop into the bar for a drink anyway. And sites like Couchsurfing.com, which connects travelers to locals (many of whom will even let you crash on their couch), is another useful resource.

3. Use Social Media and Apps

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Alexandra Zakharova

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Alexandra Zakharova

For women and men who are traveling solo, Tinder and other dating apps can be a valuable tool. With a single finger swipe, folks can interact with locals and other adventurers in the area. Make sure to take the same safety precautions abroad as you would at home, including meeting in a public place and telling someone where you’re going beforehand. Facebook also features groups like Solo Women Travelers and Girls vs. Globe, which have thousands of members that are never far away from where you are. Travelers can also search Facebook for groups devoted to a region (think Backpacking Thailand or Expats in Panama) in order to discover unique events and opportunities.

4. Sign Up for an Event

By signing up for an event or conference, travelers will not only have the chance to lodge alongside fellow attendees, but will also have conversation fuel based on shared interests. Interested in art? Yoga retreats? Blogging? A quick search might turn up events, conferences, and seminars taking place in your dream destination. Even if it requires a fee to attend or take up accommodations, the connections you’ll build may pay off handsomely.

5. Take a Course

Ever wanted to learn a foreign language or how to scuba dive, kitesurf, and mountain climb? Similar to registering for an event, signing up for a course — either one-off or longer-term — is a great way to learn a new skill and bond with folks who share similar interests. Oftentimes, travelers will also get a designated place to stay. For example, in Utila, Honduras, open-water certification courses can include lodging, and in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, students are offered homestay options with locals in order to get immersed in the Spanish language.

6. Work or Volunteer

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Daniel Thornton

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Daniel Thornton

Sign up for a membership on a site like Workaway, which offers thousands of global opportunities that range from pitching in on a llama farm in Australia to helping out at a hostel’s front desk in Bali. Generally, accommodations and food are free in exchange for working a set number of hours per day. Use your free time to sightsee and socialize. The best part? You’ll be working alongside fellow travelers from around the world. Those searching for something more short-term can check out institutions like Casa Guatemala, an organization that provides education and health care to children in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. Here, travelers can volunteer for a day or two to bring cheer to the residents. After all, there’s no chance of feeling lonely when you’re working toward a common goal of brightening a child’s day.

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