Solo Female Travel

How to make friends while traveling solo

One of the things that seems to worry new solo travelers a lot is whether they’ll meet anybody when they’re abroad. If you’re going by yourself, it’s easy to worry you’ll be alone all the time– but that’s the furthest thing from the truth!

It’s very easy to make friends while traveling, though it might mean adjusting some of your habits. If you’re an introvert, for instance, you can’t wait for someone to strike up a conversation with you.

You have to take charge. You have to be active and start conversations with people wherever you go!

This can be exhausting (speaking as an introvert myself), but if you want to make friends it’s really the only way to do it consistently.

The other thing to consider is that travel friendships tend to be contingent on the thing you have in common: traveling. You may or may not come away with intensely deep friendships that last decades. Maybe you will! But if you DO, consider that a bonus rather than an expectation.

The other thing is: if you want to travel in a group of people, you might have to put that group together yourself. You really can’t expect to be picked up and carried along. It may happen! (It happened to me on Jeju Island, actually.) But if you want a thing to happen you have to MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Traveling can be magical and you can meet lots of people doing it. But you have to make an effort and put yourself out there.

All that said:

Here’s a few ways you can make new friends while traveling. I’ve actually done these all myself and they’ve made me dozens of friends all around the world.

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Stay in hostels…and use the common area.

Hostels are the easiest way to link up with other travelers, as they’re full of people doing the same thing you are. The key, though, is to 1) use the common area(s) and 2) start conversations with people!

Don’t just hide in your dorm behind your bunk curtain. Go to breakfast and say “good morning!” to people. Join hostel events, like free tours or pub nights. Use the hostel group chat, if they ave one.

You really do have to start conversations yourself, as well. Everyone thinks that if they wait long enough that someone will start talking to them, and occasionally that happens. But more often than not those same people are waiting for YOU to start talking!

I always check Hostelworld for places to stay. They’re great for finding cheap hostels in popular cities, AND when you book through them you get access to a group chat for the city/hostel you’re staying in. Lots of people use those chats for meetups!

Offer to take photos for solo travelers.

The key to this is to use the photo as an ice breaker. If they don’t look like they’re in a hurry, after taking the photo ask a simple question like “have you been to many other places here?” Then depending on how they answer, follow it up with “well, I’ve been to [whatever] and it was really cool!” or “Oh I’ve heard about that place! What did you like about it!”

This is how I made a friend on Jeju Island! We were both solo travelers wandering through Manjanggul Cave and we happened to be the only ones at the end of the tube. I offered to take her photo, and we got to talking. Eventually, we met up again in Seoul and did a bit of sightseeing!

Join tour groups, even short walking ones.

These are great for meeting other solo travelers, or even couples/groups of friends who don’t mind someone tagging along after the tour. Like the hostel, though, you probably have to make the effort to start a conversation yourself!

An offer to go somewhere the tour guide recommended for lunch or dinner works wonders. Everybody wants to try a local place, but maybe they’re nervous about doing it themselves. Going together is a great way to break the ice and start conversation flowing.

I did exactly this after one of my walking tours in Hanoi! Myself and two Australians went to a sandwich shop after the tour, and got to talking.

Go to meetups and events for hobbies.

Use Facebook events, and other such things to find local events for hobbies or interests you have! If you’re part of a club at home, see if there’s any branches in the places you’re traveling to. Or if you like to hike, most places have an outdoors group that meet up regularly.

I’ve done several Geocaching meetups with other travelers over the last two years. One time we all went to a Japanese izakaya and tried different skewers and drinks!

Post on Facebook groups.

There are dozens and dozens of FB groups for travelers of all types, and some have ways for people to meetup (safely!). Try looking through this list of 90+ active Facebook Groups for travelers to find something that may work for you.

As always, if you’re meeting someone from the internet be sure to meet in a PUBLIC SPACE. And let someone you trust know that you’re going to be there at a specific time, etc.

Tips on breaking the ice & having good conversations

Here’s the thing: people are awkward.

It may seem like everyone has their shit together, but the longer you travel and meet new people, the more obvious it becomes that we’re all just trying our best.

After staying in dozens of hostels and starting hundreds of conversations, I’ve found that people tend to ask the same few things: where are you from, how long have you been traveling, where are you going next, etc.

I don’t mind answering those, BUT what annoys me was hardly anybody ever answers back! I’d straight up ask them “where are YOU from?” and half the time it’s like they can’t hear me.

After a few months of this, I realized…it’s because they’re worrying about their own trip and trying to get ideas for where to go and what to see, and they’re focused on that.

Sometimes it came off like they were trying to mine me for travel info, which tbh is a real turn off. It’s not that they were trying to be rude, it’s that they’re awkward conversationalists.

So, try not to do that yourself. 😛 It’s okay to ask for info, but be genuinely interested in their answers.

Try to actively listen, and ask them follow-up questions about their own feelings/experiences, not just facts on when the boat leaves or whatever. The friends I care for the most are the ones that I made an emotional connection with!

If you want to make genuine connections with people, you need to have conversations that involve them, not just their activities.

That said, here’s some tips for breaking the ice besides the typical backpacker itinerary questions:

Conversation starter ideas (low effort!)

Have you been in this city/country long? What’s one cool thing you’ve seen/want to see?

Hey, your backpack is really cool! How comfortable is it?

I found a free walking tour that’s starting in a few hours. Want to tag along?

Share food — offer a candy or a snack. And then start talking! Food always breaks the ice, even if they don’t end up eating it. Bonus if it’s a local snack that can’t be found in other countries: you can try something new together!

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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