As a person who has been traveling the world for several years, I can tell you that making friends while traveling is not as complicated as you may think. I have made so many friends during my travels (99% have been local people) – many of which would bend over backwards to help me if I were to call them today. I’m not talking about simple acquaintances, I am talking about strong friendships.
So how do you make friends while traveling solo?
In general, making friends while traveling is an easy thing to do. Making friends can initially happen offline, or, begin online and then move offline. The key is to put yourself in situations where there are other people who are interested in meeting people, also (especially foreigners).
Why Meet Local People While Traveling Abroad?
Before I started to travel the world continuously, I went on a few trips to different countries for short periods of time. After arriving back home I always had flashbacks of my adventures. I would always remember the moments in which I interacted with local people.
For some reason this seems to be the most authentic, real, and interesting part about my travels. These were by far the experiences that I enjoyed the most. When I decided to start traveling the world continuously,
I made it a point to interact with as many local people as possible. I can tell you with 100% confidence that my favorite part about traveling the world has been, and probably always will be – meeting local people, exchanging culture, and building friendships.
You can also save money while solo traveling by meeting local people. They can help in various ways, such as informing you about the free activities in the area, teaching you about cheaper forms of transportation, or even offering accommodation.
Making Friends ONLINE While Traveling The World
There are multiple ways to meet people while traveling abroad. There are many websites dedicated to connecting local people to foreigners – or foreign people to locals. The goal is basically to connect with people on the internet, and then meet in person. This allows you to build basic trust with them before you arrive.
After you both feel comfortable with each other, you can arrange a meeting point. You may simply choose to have coffee for an hour together, or go on a long all-day adventure together – the option is completely up to your discretion.
List of Websites / Apps To Help You Meet People While Abroad
- Couchsurfing. To be honest with you, this is the only website that I use to meet local people. There are other websites which I will list below, but I have only recently researched them. I tried to give you multiple options to choose from. I have used Couchsurfing in almost every country and have met some of the most amazing, helpful, generous, and fun people. Many of them, I am still in contact with to this very day.
Before I go to a new location, usually about a month in advance, I will make a posting telling people about myself and what I am trying to accomplish when I arrive in the area. Depending on which country or city I am planning to visit, I am often bombarded with messages from people who are willing to help me or simply go out for a meal together.
I try to make it a point to meet as many people as possible within my given time frame. Sometimes I cannot meet everyone individually so I coordinate a meeting with multiple people at once. Sometimes we all go out for a meal, coffee, or even a beer!
The following apps are those of which I cannot say much about, because I have never used them personally. However upon doing a little bit of research for this particular blog post, I have interest in downloading a couple of them and may start to use them. Feel free to look into them all as well! Who knows, maybe some of them are better than Couchsurfing!
- World Packers
- Facebook – Search for & join random Facebook travel groups
- Travel Pal
Making Friends OFFLINE While Traveling The World
Though the vast majority of my friends have come from connecting online first, do not underestimate the power of offline connection. I have met countless people offline. Here are some things to consider to make and meet friends while traveling solo, offline.
When Making Friends, Location Matters
a) Where will you sleep?
Take a look at the fundamental difference between staying in a hotel or staying in a hostel. If you stay in a hotel you are generally quite isolated from everybody else. You have ultimate privacy. This obviously decreases your chances of meeting new people. But if you stay at a hostel, you are surrounded by many other travelers, both foreign and local.
This significantly increases the odds of meeting people. Often, hostels will organize local tours around the area. If you go on one of these tours, you will be surrounded by other solo travelers and you will be able to hang out with them for the length of the tour. I have met a lot of interesting people this way.
b) Where will you visit?
Non touristy areas.These are probably my absolute favorite places to visit in any country. The look on people’s faces when they see me walking in their neighborhood is usually priceless. I remember walking through an area on the outskirts of a city in India. Within 5 minutes, I was surrounded by people who could not believe that a foreigner was in their neighborhood.
A local man could speak English and he said that the last time anybody had seen a foreigner in this area was more than 30 years ago. Needless to say I was the center of attention for the entire day. Everybody wanted to take me into their house for tea, show me around the neighborhood, and simply be my friend. And yes, this is only one example of meeting people in a village.
If I had $100 for every time I met a new person in a non touristic area, I could retire on my own private island with maids and butlers. Do not underestimate the power of visiting a non touristic area. It’s so easy to meet new people and make new friends. These are gold-mines, metaphorically speaking.
c) Say Hello to a stranger
Whether I am walking in a non touristic area or even a touristic area, one thing that always helps initiate a conversation is to simply say ‘hello’. I know, a shocker, right? You are in a foreign country and maybe you feel a little bit shy, and that’s normal. Even though the other person is in their native country, they may also be a little bit shy when they see a foreigner.
If you fight your shyness and simply smile and say hello to someone, most often they will say hello in return and the fear of initiating a conversation is now virtually gone. Now they are more likely to ask you a question. Do not be alarmed if they respond in their native language, one that you do not understand.
You will be prepared by having Google Translate downloaded and ready to go on your phone, so you can speak into your phone and give them a response of any kind. I usually start by telling them my name, where I am from, and what I am doing in this particular area. This is sometimes the start of a very long and fun conversation.
d) Ask a Question to a stranger
Whether you are in a touristic area or not, you can always take out your phone and prepare a question through Google Translate. You can approach anyone and show them your phone and they will be able to read your question. This can be a simple question such as ‘where is the nearest restaurant’, even if you already know where it is.
Using body language, you must tell them to speak into your phone and they will do so which will give you response. This usually leads to more questions and the conversation becomes fun and interesting.
On multiple occasions people, have invited me to hang out with them the next day or even go to their house for dinner. And sometimes the most interesting part about these invitations is that neither of us speak each other’s language. The whole friendship is based on the translation through Google Translate. Such a cool experience!
Can Meeting Local People Be Dangerous?
If I said no, I would be lying. One of the disadvantages of traveling solo is the fact that you are an easier target in the eyes of criminals. Obviously there’s a chance that you will meet a local person and they have bad intentions. Maybe they will rob you, maybe they will do something far worse. I absolutely have no idea. However, I can tell you that I have been to a large number of countries and I have met thousands, and thousands, and thousands of people. I have only had two moments where people have bad intentions.
On one occasion, someone pickpocketed me and stole my phone. On another occasion, someone went in my bag and stole my travel cash. One was met online, and one was met offline.
Based on sheer numbers of people that I have personally talked to VS people who have bad intentions, I would say that the chances of this happening is slim. Out of all of the areas that a person could travel and try to meet people, in my opinion, the most dangerous places are usually the tourist areas. Local people know that the ‘rich and naive’ people visit the tourist areas. So, unfortunately, that is where danger is most prevalent.
The second we travel outside of the tourist areas is usually when a country becomes magical. People are friendly, happy, and generally quite surprised to see you because most foreigners do not exist in the tourist area. In general, solo traveling is safe.
How Meeting Local People Will Affect Your Travels
Generally the outcome of meeting a large number of local people is going to be positive. Like I said in the above paragraph, it is pretty rare for someone to come at you with bad intentions. My favorite part about every single country that I have visited,, has been the people. Meeting people is so much fun!
Young people, old people, rich people, poor people. It doesn’t matter. All walks of life are fun to communicate with…especially when I am using Google Translate and we cannot communicate to each other without it. We live in a perfect time. Go back to 2005 and this technology didn’t even exist.
When in recent history have you spoken to a person in a different language without the use of a human translator? Never. Meeting local people who speak a different language is a new territory. And it is absolutely amazing!
I encourage everyone who embarks on a solo traveling adventure to meet as many local people as possible. It is awkward at first, but eventually you will get the hang of it, and maybe you’ll become an expert at it. Meeting people and making friends is my absolute favorite part about traveling the world!