Traveling on your own or moving abroad is a great opportunity to make new friends! But how can you make new friends when you don’t even know where to start? Here are ten awesome ways to meet people while traveling abroad!
Hostels are not only cheap; they are a great way to meet people! Sharing a space with a bunch of fellow travelers is a great opportunity to connect with other people. Plus, there are most likely other people traveling solo and looking for companions. Many hostels have bars and common spaces that are natural places to socialize.
Staying in the home of a local is another great way to meet people during your travels. Plus, you have the added benefit of immersing yourself in the local culture and daily life. By staying with a local, you can tap into that person’s knowledge of the area. This can lead to opportunities and experiences that you might not have had on your own or with other travelers. And they may just introduce you to friends and family too!
Homestays are a particularly good way to meet new people because you can authentically learn about the place you are visiting. And you will have an even greater time if you treat the experience as an exchange. Don’t just take away – food, experiences, lessons. Share your own culture and experiences with your host too!
If you are looking to stay in a homestay, a good place to start is with https://www.homestay.com/. You can look for more location-specific options by searching for homestay organizers in the area you plan to visit. (For example, you can type “homestays in Chile” into Google).
As always, be mindful and respectful when you are staying in someone’s home. Check out these useful tips on homestay etiquette from Go Overseas.
Shared apartments through Airbnb
Have you ever booked a private room through Airbnb? Unlike when you book an entire home or apartment, you often share the space with the host or other guests. This can be a great opportunity for you to meet locals or other travelers, without the craziness of a hostel.
If this is your first time using Airbnb, you can sign up using this link to receive a $35 credit!
Couchsurfing is a site through which locals and travelers can meet.
Staying with a local for free on Couchsurfing is a good way to save money and make a new friend while traveling. Through Couchsurfing, you can make new friends from around the world and engage in cultural exchange. I personally have some safety concerns with Couchsurfing, so I have not used the site for stays. (But there are many people who have and love it!)
Did you know that there are also events and conversation threads on Couchsurfing? This is how I have used the site, and I have made friends this way during my travels. Whether you attend a group salsa class, ask a question about the best cheap eats in the conversation threads, or directly contact another person with similar interests, Couchsurfing provides many ways to connect with other travelers and locals during your time abroad.
If you worry about couchsurfing safely, check out this girls’ guide to couchsurfing from Chantae was Here. I think most of her tips apply to both women and men who are planning to try couchsurfing!
Meetup brings people from a local community together for events or gatherings. You can go to the website, enter your location, and find groups of people who share your interests. Why not join a weekly hiking trip? Go to a workshop on startups? Participate in a book club meeting? Or just head over to the local pub for a fun social gathering? Whatever your aims, you are likely to find many ways to connect through Meetup.
Tea with Strangers
Tea with Strangers is exactly what it sounds like: a community that connects total strangers to meet up over tea! (Don’t worry, people are usually ok if you order coffee instead!)
You might think this sounds awkward. I mean, what would you have in common with a complete stranger? Surprisingly, quite a lot!
At my first Tea with Strangers in Boston, I met two other young women who I found engaging and inspiring. It was as if we had been friends for a long time! We exchanged contact information, and one of them even came to my apartment for a get-together.
Tea with Strangers is best for people who plan to settle in a city for some time, since its focus is on building a local community. You can even apply to become a host!
Tea with Strangers is currently only active in a limited number of cities, but it is expanding! If you are in one of these cities, you are in luck: Boston, Chattanooga, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Nairobi, New York City, Philadelphia, Princeton, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
Plus, they are coming soon to the following cities: Austin, Berlin, Cambridge (UK), Detroit, Miami, Portland, San Diego, and Toronto. If your city is not listed, you can submit it on their website.
There are a bunch of Facebook groups that are good for connecting with other people while traveling.
You can join travel groups on Facebook such as Girls Love Travel, Girls vs. Globe, Female Digital Nomads, or Men Who Travel. These groups sometimes have lists of people with their current locations, so that you can contact people directly. Or you can post on the wall and see if anyone else in your area would like to meet up!
Many cities also have their own Facebook groups where people advertise events and meet-ups. For example, if you plan to visit Boston, join the Secret Boston group for a pretty comprehensive view of what is going on in the city.
Language exchanges are a mutually beneficial way to meet new people. You can practice your foreign language skills, help your partner with theirs, and hey, you might just make a new friend!
You can find language exchanges through Meetup. You can also search on Facebook for groups of expats in the city you will be visiting or on Google for language exchanges in your destination.
Volunteering can be a great way to give back to the community and make friends while you’re at it. A good place to start looking for volunteer opportunities are websites focused on travelers, such as WWOOF (volunteering on organic farms), Worldpackers, and Workaway. You can also search Google for volunteer programs in your area or ask on that city’s Couchsurfing threads for recommendations.
However, there are many ethical concerns you should consider when you are volunteering abroad. Look for a program that genuinely puts the needs of the community first. For a good resource on how to find an ethical volunteer program while traveling, check out this guide from Maria Abroad.
Finally, let your friends know that you are traveling! Often your social network stretches further than you might think.
When I decided to move to Mexico for a few months, I had meals with a couple of friends, mentors, and professors before leaving the country. Almost all of them had a friend, coworker, or other connection in Mexico who they were more than happy to put me in touch with!
Plus, you might even have a friend in the country already! Last year, I had an 8-hour layover in Dublin. I posted on Facebook asking if anyone had any recommendations for what to do for 6 hours in the city. One of my best friends from high school wrote to me and said he actually lived in Dublin! It was a win-win; I got to see a good friend AND get a personal tour around the city!
(If you’re wondering how I didn’t know my good friend lived in Dublin, there’s no good excuse. I knew he had moved to Europe with his German girlfriend, so I just assumed he had moved to Germany!)
A note on safety
As always, exercise caution when you plan to meet strangers. Always do so in a public place, preferably during the daytime. Always trust your gut and remove yourself from any situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Making new friends abroad is an amazing experience. But be sure to look out for yourself, especially when traveling solo without anyone around to help you out in a pinch!
What are your favorite ways to meet people while traveling?