11 Fun & Easy Ways To Meet People While Travelling Solo
Want to know how to meet people while travelling alone? Well, it’s easier than you think, and no, you don’t need to be a social butterfly. Right now you may be thinking ‘but isn’t it a bit weird to talk to random strangers?!’ To that we say, welcome to the dark side, friends! The normal rules of politely averted gazes and stiff upper lips don’t apply when you’re backpacking, and that’s a good thing. You’ll soon come to realise it’s the people you meet along the way who make travel such a rewarding experience.
Whether you’re eager to meet locals while travelling, or you’re searching for the perfect Roamies group to travel with, we’ve got you covered. Read on for 11 tips to help you meet people abroad like a pro.
1. Give everyone a chance
Away With The Fairies Hostel 📷 @labuschagnehannes
By keeping an open mind when you travel, you’ll meet different people from all over the world that you would never normally encounter back home. Differences such as age become irrelevant and people will surprise you time and time again.
You’ll quickly learn that there are interesting people in every bus, café, bookshop or club; everyone has something to offer if you give them a chance. And guess what, you are interesting too!
2. Always stay in a hostel when you travel abroad alone
📷Lucky Lake Hostel in Amsterdam
Breaking news: Hostelworld recommends staying in a hostel. Seriously though, this is the best way to meet people while travelling solo; you simply can’t beat the social aspect of staying in a hostel. Don’t just take our word for it though: ask any solo traveller and they’ll say the same thing.
And don’t worry if dorms aren’t your thing – even when you stay in a private room in a hostel, you’re guaranteed a social stay. If you’re wondering where to meet people in a hostel, the answer is EVERYWHERE. Traditionally, the hostel bar has always been the heart of the social action, but if you’re not the partying type then fear not, there are still plenty of opportunities to meet other guests: whether you bond over the free pancakes at breakfast, or just find a chill buddy in the hostel’s adult ball pit.
Download the Hostelworld app for iOS and Android (Free)
3. One word: FOOD!
Sharing food with others is a guaranteed way to get the conversation flowing and meet new people, whether it’s in the hostel kitchen or a cool underground supper club. If you’re looking for a unique dining experience that will help you meet both locals and other travellers, then our friends at Vizeat have just the ticket. From wine tasting on a Parisian rooftop to pasta making classes in Rome, there’s a foodie event to suit every taste. Delicious grub + loads of new friends – you’re welcome!
Book a social foodie experience with Vizeat
4. Learn the lingo if you want to meet locals while travelling
It’s usually possible to get by with just English and some imaginative sign language while travelling, but learning basic phrases in the local lingo will go a long way. And a little more than the basics will enable you to connect with people outside the familiar circle of English-speaking backpackers, giving you a whole new perspective on the destination you’re visiting.
So all you have to do is become fluent in every language on the planet. Easy, right? Well, it is if you’ve got the Hostelworld app on your phone: to help you meet locals while travelling and generally make life a little easier, we’ve launched a brand new feature that lets you converse like a near native in 43 languages and counting. All you need to do is download our free app, or update it if you’ve already got it, and select ‘Speak The World’ from the menu. It’s that simple.
Download the Hostelworld app for iOS and Android (Free)
5. Get an app that helps you meet people to travel with
For introverts, a carefully chosen app can be a quick and painless way to meet other people to travel with – whether you’re looking for someone to join you on a two-day trek into the jungle, or someone to travel India with for three months. There are quite a few apps to choose from, but we think our new app features are the best (sorry!) While it might be shameless self-promotion, you can meet new people and get involved with hostel events using some of our most recent app features. The new Hostelworld app has a bucket loads of social features, allowing you to connect and chat with fellow travellers before your plane hits the runway. All that’s left to do is meet people #IRL.
For all you solo female travellers out there worried about unwanted attention, Backpackr lets you configure your settings so that only other female travellers can contact you. Alternatively, give Tourlina a spin – it’s the first female only app that helps you meet people to travel with.
6. Hostel activities are the BEST way to meet people
From surf lessons to Russian dumpling classes, beach picnics to rooftop yoga classes, hostels offer so many cool and often completely FREE events and activities.
And guess what? They’re an amazing way to meet other travellers. Whether you’re sharing your love of food in a Thai cooking class, or laughing at how bad you both are at kitesurfing, you’re guaranteed to have fun and bond over the shared experience. And if all else fails, you’ve always got the hostel bar crawl – the backpacker’s rite of passage and still the best way to meet people in a hostel.
7. Consider a group tour
As fun and liberating as solo travel can be, every now and again it can be nice to be part of a group tour again and not have to make all the plans by yourself. If you’ve been travelling alone for a while, you may want to consider joining a group travel tour for a few weeks.
The tours at Roamies are great for solo travellers, because they’re built around hostels and sweet sweet freedom. You’ll have all the flexibility you love, but without the hassle of organising everything yourself – plus you get to experience the worlds BEST hostels. And you’ll be sharing your trip with an awesome solo travel group looking to get off the beaten track and have fun together.
Book an adventure with Roamies.
Busabout is another great group travel tour company, that customises trips based on your preferences. They’re a Europe tour company so expect to explore the best Europe has to offer with a group of like-minded adventure travel seekers!
8. Be flexible with your plans
The thing about travelling solo, is that you’ll meet SO many new people, often just for an evening before you all go your separate ways. But when you find someone you click with, there’s no reason why you can’t change your plans and go on a little travel adventure together. That’s the beauty of being young, free and backpacking, right?
Even if it’s not possible to charge off together right away, it’s worth staying in touch, because who knows, before long your paths could cross again later on in your trip.
9. Party with the locals
If you love a good party, and want to meet locals while travelling then the ‘Party with a Local’ app is a MUST. The app connects you with party-loving locals in almost any destination, helping you avoid the overpriced tourist bars and clubs.
Just don’t forget to return the favour when you’re back in your hometown for good backpacker karma and the perfect antidote to the post-travel blues.
Download Party with a Local for iOS and Android (Free)
10. Don’t worry so much!
This is by far the most important one: stop worrying. Most people who are travelling are open-minded and want to meet new people. You don’t need clever chat up lines or ice breakers to meet people while travelling. Just be yourself, have fun. Most people will be happy to talk to you, so be confident; you’re no doubt pretty cool if you have the guts to travel abroad alone, so don’t ever forget that!
And if you just don’t click with anyone where you are, don’t sweat it: your tribe may well be waiting for you just around the corner – in the next city, the next hostel, or the next island.
11. Meet people abroad who love what you love
From wine tasting on a Parisian rooftop to skip-the-line tickets to the British Museum, our friends at Musement help you discover and book cool events in cities around the world. They work with locals to find the best things to do in each city, and then organise everything for you so you can concentrate on having fun. And the best bit is that you’ll get to meet people from all over the world who love the same things as you, whether that’s art or cycling.
Book a social adventure with Musement
Got a tip for the best way to meet people while travelling alone? Or just want to give a shout out to a random stranger who made your trip more awesome? Tell us about it in the comments below ?
Introducing The Solo System
The Solo System is your social travel toolkit, a set of new features in our app, designed to make your travelling life more sociable. If you’ve hesitated about taking a solo adventure, let us show you how to meet your people, while experiencing everything our incredible world has to offer.
Download or update the Hostelworld app and you’ll have access to The Solo System.
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From private huts by the beach, to social dorms in the city. There are hostels for everyone, everywhere! Where will you go?
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- 5 lesser-known tours and adventures to get you off grid October 27, 2022
- Go French Yourself: The best hostels in Paris October 26, 2022
- 13 lessons learned as a solo traveler October 26, 2022
- Best hostels in Amsterdam: the ultimate budget accommodation bucket list October 25, 2022
Our aim with this travel blog is to feed and water your wanderlust. Here we share our best travel tips with the help of our favourite travel writers; such as where to find those authentic, soul-filled places, and the hottest hostels to stay in while you’re at it. We’ll give you a sneak peek into hostel life, solo travel and the friend filled adventures you can have on the road! Read on if you’re ready to be inspired to #MeetTheWorld BEYOND the tourist brochure!
Solo Travel Europe: 32+ Tips You Need To Know
Paris, Rome, Vienna, Barcelona–there are so many wonderful cities in Europe to explore.
Porto, Gerona, Arles, Assisi–there are many smaller cities and towns worth exploring solo too.
And while the European Union, with its common currency and no borders, makes travel easier than it was in the past, it’s still a challenge in terms of language, cost, accommodation, and getting around.
Here, you will find my top tips for traveling solo in Europe as well as tips (in italics) from members of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook . The result is another in our 32 Tips Series that you can find peppered around the site. Here are the ones on European Destinations.
Now, on to the general tips for solo travel in Europe.
Table of Contents
Europe Fast or Slow?
If it’s your first time to Europe you may be inclined to cover as much ground as possible. The continent is diverse and everything seems so close – at least to those of us who live in North America or Australia. But in fact, Europe is a big place. Whether your plan is to go fast or slow, it’s good to focus on a few destinations.
Taking it Fast? Here Are Some Tips:
- How far, how fast? Consider how much time you have. If you plan to travel in the day you will need at least three nights per destination. This will give you about 2 1/2 days in each city before moving on, assuming that your travel time takes at least half a day. Another option is to plan just one day in some places and longer in others. It will work out to about the same pace which, I have found, is about perfect. If you plan to use night trains you can expect to cover more territory in the same amount of time. So, for a 14-day trip, with a travel day on both ends, you could make four stops.
- Getting around efficiently. Trains are an ideal way to get around in Europe as they are frequent, fast, go to just about any destination and land you in the city center. Consider a Eurail Pass and using the night trains so that you spend most of your travel time sleeping and saving money. When traveling solo and sleeping on a train it is important to keep your valuables close at hand. Use a money belt, passport pouch or bra stash. I like the latter two. I stash large items either behind my head stuffed into a makeshift pillow or snuggled under my arm. Read Train Travel: Best Way to Book Tickets – Europe
- Take time to breathe in the city. Even though you want to cover a lot of ground, take a couple of hours to visit a market and chat with vendors or enjoy a park and watch how locals experience it. These are the perfect occasions for you, as a solo traveler, to connect with locals. Travel is not all about major attractions like the Eiffel Tower.
Julie – Consider Eastern Europe (Serbia, Romania, Montenegro, Bosnia). Don’t listen to North American news views. They are safe and beautiful.
Ilona – Never leave out the smaller, hidden treasures. I realize when people come to Germany, they focus on the big, famous cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, and Munich, but the smaller and middle-sized ones are the real “typical” German towns: Bamberg, Nürnberg, Heidelberg, Speyer, Trier etc. T hey are full of history and local and traditional food and beverages. Don’t only focus on the stuff you have heard about before. Try to dig deeper.
Taking it Slow? Here Are Some Tips:
- Carve out a smaller territory to cover. Rather than trying to cover too much of Europe, go to Italy or France or Germany: just choose one. You can also choose to stay for a time in a particular area of one of those countries. To travel slow, keep the scope of your travels under control.
- Stay in one of the smaller cities. It is easier to experience the local culture in smaller cities and towns where it isn’t drowned out by a tourist culture. It is also less expensive. Consider hub and spoke travel, where you stay in one place but visit others. For example, from Bologna I visited a number of small towns in the region as well as Florence and Venice.
- Travel between small cities. Rather than booking a Eurail Pass, buy tickets and travel on the less expensive regional trains. There’s no need to book these in advance but if you plan to use the faster, intercity trains, booking in advance makes good sense.
Shelly – I slow travel and rent a flat for two weeks as a home base. I have used Homeaway, WaytoStay and am using AirBnB this fall. I have a complete apartment to myself and can economize by eating breakfast and some dinners at home. I research using TripAdvisor and other travel sites to find out about great inexpensive places to dine and grocery shop. I also take trains and buses to nearby locations as day trips. Being in one place for two weeks guarantees you will see the same local merchants day after day and get to know them. (Wine drinker tip: see if there is a wine barrel store in the area and fill up your water/soda bottles with some of the local wines. Delicious and inexpensive.)
Getting Around Europe Solo
As usual, to get around Europe you have the choice of trains, planes, buses, or automobiles.
- By train. According to Price of Travel, the pricing strategy of trains in Europe is now similar to that of airlines, so book early. You’ll save money.
- Get the RailPlanner App. This train travel app for Europe is easy to use and has the train schedules for all of Europe. It also features a trip planner and discounts for restaurants and tourist services by country that are available thanks to your Eurail Pass.
- Flitting around Europe by air? Travel light. This is when the choice to travel light is really important. Yes, you can save yourself hours at check-in and in carousel lines by traveling with only carry-on luggage, but if you are using a discount airline you will also need to be very careful about the weight of your carry-on. You’ll be charged extra if it weighs too much. You can always wear heavy items or put them in your purse.
- Auto Europe’s rates include all fees so the price you see is the price you get. That’s not always the case with every company and can result in surprises.
- Online you pay in advance and can cancel up to 48 hours in advance of pick-up. If you cancel less than 48 hours before pick-up there is a $75 cancellation fee. If you book over the phone, you can cancel right up to the day you are scheduled to pick up the car.
- In some cases it can be less expensive to pay for 14 days than 13 days. There is no charge for returning the car early, but also no refund for doing so.
- There are a number of countries outside of Western Europe that are not covered by rental car companies. Call to get these details before booking. On a recent trip, I found that Budget Rent-a-Car did not allow any Eastern European destinations yet Avis did. If your trip will include Eastern Europe, check the fine print of the car rental carefully.
Jenell – MegaBus. I took it to travel from Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam. They also go to London. Price is about €10 if you get it early.
Toby – I just spent 3 months traveling alone through Europe. If you don’t buy a Eurail pass, book your train tickets in advance if possible as they get significantly more expensive as the departure date approaches.
Lauren – My favorite tool for getting around in Europe (well, anywhere, really) is Rome2Rio.com. There’s nothing like it.
Steve – I think as a solo traveler, just go and get lost and find your way. Pick a handful of places and wander. I have had no issues ever finding a place to stay solo. Trains, boats, and long walks. That is the part of the adventure I enjoy most. You have the advantage of walking into any restaurant or hotel and being able to see if it feels right for you. If not, keep moving.
Alejandro – My advice is to just go because Europe is quite easy (and more fun) to explore without planning too much ahead. In fact, a good way to meet locals will be by asking them what to do in their city.
Where to Stay in Europe
Accommodation can be a big-ticket item in travel. And while it may not be an issue for those who can share the cost, it is for solo travelers – we carry the entire cost of accommodation ourselves. B&Bs and hostels are my go-to forms of accommodation. They tend to be affordable and friendly. However, you’ll see in the reader tips below that many solo travelers love renting apartments when they travel. I’ve done this as well and found that I’m most successful with VRBO.com. Check out:
Lauren – The most economical way to live (and meet locals) is to rent a room though AirBnB where you’ll have access to a shared kitchen. I can eat for a week on the same amount I’d spend on a single restaurant meal in Europe if I cook, and renting a room in someone’s home is a great way to make friends and is usually much cheaper than a hotel or even a hostel. I’ve been living in mostly AirBnB lodging for over a year now. I average about $750/month, and mostly live in full apartments. In Europe, though, I wind up renting just one bedroom usually, as prices are high here.
Toby – I used couchsurfing once and it was great. No matter your age, hostels are fine, just get ear plugs and an eye mask.
Europe, Food and Fun
Is it fair to say that Europeans love their food?
I’d say yes. In my experience, they love quality food. Simple food using local ingredients. They often use recipes that have been in the family for generations. Europe is a place that can be explored through its food.
But they also love their history, art, architecture, hiking trails and city walks. Many people start with food as their focal point. I start with history. What’s your interest? Find it and center your explorations around it.
- Do a bit of research.
- Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door. It’s a fabulous resource. You can also get his books for specific countries and for some cities.
- I love the Wallpaper Guides. They really reveal the unique culture of a city. I tested it for Toronto and they were spot on.
- Google the local culture magazine that reviews restaurants and promotes upcoming events. Check Time Out which has sites for many cities.
- Go to the local library. Even if the books are not in your language the librarians may speak English and are usually a good resource of local information.
Toby – Eat outside of tourist areas for the best prices or make your own food. Eat the local food. Ask other travelers what they recommend. On my trips, some of the best things I’ve seen and tasted I learned about from fellow travelers – things that books, websites, and information desks may be unaware of.
Solo Travel Europe on a Budget
Europe can be expensive, but with a bit of research and planning you’ll find many ways to cut costs and enjoy.
- Go to Global Greeter Network and arrange for a free greeter to introduce you to their city.
- Going to a museum? Check their websites for the days that they may be free or reduced rates after a certain hour.
- Depending on the focus of your travels, it may be worthwhile to pick up a city pass that gives you discounts on tours, museums, and more. Here are a few for the more popular cities in Europe: London, Paris, Berlin, Dublin, Rome and Barcelona.
- Don’t change money at airport or train exchange kiosks. They tend to have the worst rates. ATMs at banks are your better option.
- Libraries often have computers you can use for free.
- Get free WiFi with your coffee and go online to do research or connect with family and friends at home.
- Walk or take local transit.
- Read Save Money on Travel: 32+ Tips.
Jasmine – Subscribe to a cheap coupon site like Groupon for the cities you’re visiting. You can get cheap tickets to sights, experiences and restaurants that you might not normally be able to afford.
Cristina – Most big cities have a free walking tour. SANDEMANs Europe tours are the best I’ve experienced. They are free but donations are appreciated. Free tours help you save and learn about the city at the same time.
Daavid – I travel for a minimum of 90 days at a time in Germany and sublet a room in a private apartment. I never spend more than 250 Euros for each month which leaves me plenty of money to do everything that I want to do. Get to know people of little means and learn from them how to get by wherever you are. They have no choice but to know how to get by on a small budget and you will learn a lot from them.
Lauren – I use workaway.info to find volunteer opportunities. Mostly I end up using my marketing background to help small tourism businesses with their websites and marketing, in exchange for free room and board, but there are all kinds of opportunities, from organic farming to helping in the kitchen or front desk of a hostel. Helpx.com is supposed to be a good one, too, but I haven’t used it yet.
Karo – Use inexpensive cities as bases, then use the train to visit the expensive cities.
Toby – Get a SIM card in each country for your phone – fantastic!
A Last Piece of Advice on Traveling Solo to Europe
Charles – Spend wisely. Travel lightly. Communicate effectively. Keep cash on you at all times, but don’t be flashy with it. Have a backup plan for emergency funds, but do NOT use it unless it’s an emergency. People are friendly, don’t be afraid to socialize. Take part in the culture, don’t be a normal tourist, snapping photos every second. Immerse yourself in the experience, you’ll forever hold the memories in your head. Far better than a photo. Pre-plan and stay organized.
The Ultimate Guide to Travel Alone and Love It
Learn how to travel alone and you’ll open the door to one of life’s most enriching experiences.
The majority of our readers are either Millennials or 50+. In both cases, they are living through life stages that involve making choices. They tend to be more independent than those in their middle adult years and less central to meeting the needs of others. This puts them in a position to truly explore who they are and make decisions about who they want to be.
One of the best ways to explore all your potential strengths, weaknesses, and options in life is to travel alone.
While this site has over 1,000 articles on the details of how to travel solo, here, in one place is the ultimate guide for those who want to travel alone and love it. You may also be interested in
- Our list of tours for solo travelers: searchable and the complete list
- The Solo Traveler Insiders with free and premium member options.
Table of Contents
Solo Travel Has Many Benefits
When you travel alone, you travel on your terms. You get to do what you want when you want. You can connect with people if you wish or avoid them completely if you want. Those are the obvious benefits for going solo as a traveler.
But there are so many benefits of solo travel that affect your whole life. The experience encourages you to stretch and grow as a person. You gain confidence and get better at problem solving. You understand yourself better, become more independent and become a more interesting person.
For more, read Why Travel Solo? It’s Not Just about the Trip. Now, let’s get on to your solo travel guide.
Resources for Planning Your Solo Trip
There are many things you can do before leaving to travel alone that will make your trip one that you love.
- Save up. Isn’t it great to return from a trip and know that it’s fully paid for rather than having to catch up financially after the fact? Save up for your trip before you go. Enjoy the delayed gratification. Then, you’ll be ready to start saving for the next trip as soon as you return. Read How to Save Money for Travel.
- Know your budget. There are a few steps involved in planning your travel budget. Read: How to Plan Your Solo Travel Budget – on Any Budget.
- Decide on your destination. Maybe you have a dream destination or maybe you just need to get away and the destination doesn’t matter that much. Here are some sources for your destination planning.
- Read Best Budget Destinations for Solo Travelers, updated annually, and Best Solo Travel Destinations: All Solo Traveler-Tested. If travel is the goal and the destination is secondary, check out these options.
- Take a tour. The Solo Travel Deals page has tours specifically for solo travelers. Read How to Choose a Tour. You might be surprised at the wide array of different tour options available today. Here’s a breakdown: A Solo Holiday: When You Just Need a Break.
- Buy travel insurance. Think you don’t need it? Think again. If you don’t buy travel insurance, you’re responsible for anything that goes wrong, and all costs associated with it. If you have insurance, you can claim many expenses back. Read Going Alone? Travel Insurance for Solo Travelers. Here are a few claims I’ve made.
- I’ve had a pair of glasses replaced that were lost in the UK – $300.
- I had a crown fixed that had come off a tooth in Sydney – $272.
- I was refunded for a flight to Peru that I couldn’t take due to my mother’s ill health – $1,100.
- Book solo-friendly accommodation. Book a homestay, hotel, hostel, B&B, or small inn that is particularly good for solo travelers. Here’s an overview of the Best Accommodation for Solo Travelers. For two of the most expensive and popular cities in the world, we have special information. Read Best Places to Stay in London: Accommodation for Solo Travelers or Best Hotels in Paris for Solo Travelers: Reader Recommendations.
- Pack light. This is one of our most popular posts and one I go to when preparing for every trip: Bare Minimum Packing. If you’re going someplace where you’ll want to be a bit more fashionable, read: How to Plan Your Travel Wardrobe for Comfort and Style. Traveling in winter? Read Winter Solo Travel: Destinations, Planning, and Packing.
- If packing light is not an option, plan smart. Read Checked Baggage: Top Planning and Packing Tips.
- Protect your identity on the road. If you’re going to be using public Wi-Fi on your travels or if you expect you’ll need to do some online banking or use your credit card to book accommodation or make a purchase, it’s advisable to use a VPN. Read VPN for Travel: What, Why and an Easy Setup Guide.
- Plan a road trip well. Road trips are amongst my favorite solo trips. The freedom of turning this way or that, stopping at will, listening to local radio to get an understanding of the area, the scenery: the benefits are many and varied. Read A Road Trip Alone: Top 10 Tips to Prepare and How to Plan a Road Trip: Route Planning, Scheduling & Budgeting.
- Plan to protect you and your money. Travel is not quite what it was prior to the pandemic. Read Travel Planning 2021: Essential Information to Protect You & Your Money.
Travel Alone Tips: How to Love the Solo Travel Experience
For some people, enjoying the solo experience comes naturally. Others have to work at how to travel alone so that they fall in love with it.
- Visualize the trip you want. In our first section I wrote about doing what you want when you want. Start thinking about the opportunities that are present when you travel alone long before you leave. Is it down time you really want? Build that into the plan. Are you after a creative travel experience? Research the opportunities before you go and then dream on them until you get there.
- Gather as much first had knowledge you can before you go. Talk to people who have already gone to your destination. The “Let’s Talk Travel” forum for the Solo Traveler Insiders is a great place to share and gather information from other solo travelers.
- Learn to chat with strangers. Starting conversations with strangers can be a challenge, especially when you’re an introvert like I am. However, these conversations can be trip-changing, if not life-changing. There are many skills that can be developed for this and, what I have certainly found, is that you are never to old to learn them.
- Tap the experience of the people you meet. As a solo traveler, you’ll meet more travelers and locals than those who travel with a partner. Ask a traveler about the best thing they’ve done so far or a local for the best hidden gem restaurant in the area. The people you meet and the advice they offer will greatly enrich your trip.
- Don’t over-plan. It is only by having extra time in your itinerary that you can spend a little more of it at the market, linger over a coffee on an outdoor café, or take that trip into the mountains you hadn’t considered.
- Be flexible. When suggestions or opportunities arise from these chance encounters, be flexible enough to act on them. There are times when flexibility must reign and the schedule should be thrown away.
- Be patient. It can be difficult arriving in a new city alone. Take your time. Take a day to relax, watch the city function, and settle in. Read Tips for Solo Travel Confidence.
- Explore the city at different levels. In London, it’s natural to take the Tube. However, riding on the top of a double-decker bus gives you another perspective on the city. But you still wouldn’t want to miss the Tube as it’s an experience unto itself. My point is, explore the city in as many ways as possible: on foot, by bicycle, via public transit. Take a taxi and talk to the driver. Rent a car and learn what it’s like to park or drive on the opposite side of the road. Every mode of movement offers new perspectives.
- Take in local events. Whether it’s a street festival or sporting event, these are opportunities to rub shoulders with locals, offering insight into the culture and, potentially, fun conversations.
- Be proactive if you’re unsure of yourself. Ask for help. Standing around looking dazed will not get you where you want to go and it may get you noticed by the wrong people. Go ahead, smile, and ask for help. It’s one of the fundamentals of staying safe as you travel solo.
- Eat locally! There is nothing like exploring the local cuisine. It gives you a new way into your destination’s culture, history, and geography. There is always a reason for a specific cuisine that can be explored through your taste buds and your mind. Here are Top Tips for Food and Wine Travel Planning.
- Shop where the locals shop. Are you into home renovations? Then a hardware store in another country could be quite interesting. Are you a foodie? Go to the grocery store or the street where all the specialty vendors are located. Are you into fashion or interior decorating? Again, explore (you don’t have to buy) where the locals shop.
- Know which way is up. Study a map of your destination. Get to know it. Get a sense of direction using major landmarks like Central Park in New York City or the CN Tower in Toronto. This will help you explore cities happily, with greater confidence. Read How to Navigate a New City Solo.
- Find people who share your passion. Whether it’s chess or poetry or badminton or books, there will be hubs or groups that share your passion at your destination. Google search or find them on meetup.com. What a great way to combine your love of travel with your love of other things.
- Take day tours and classes. When you punctuate your independent trip with city tours, cooking classes and the like, you build in ways to better experience your destination and spend some social time.
- Plan for great evenings out. Just because you’re traveling solo doesn’t mean you have to stay in at night with a book. There are many options for things to do in the evening. If you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language, music is a good bet. Read Night Safety for Solo Travelers: 17 Tips and What to Do at Night When Traveling Alone.
How to Meet People when You Travel Alone
As you travel solo you can have as much alone time as you want. But what many people don’t realize is that you can have a lot of really social time as well.
The travel stories I tell most often are about the people I meet on my trips. It’s rarely the iconic building I saw or the museum exhibit I took in that lingers strongly in my memories. It’s the people who I met that stay with me the longest. I can go back to the 80s and tell you about people I have met traveling solo.
There was Cathy from Australia who I went to Budapest with while it was still part of the Soviet Union. I met her at a hostel. There is Ron, an incredibly positive person despite many challenges, who I met on an evening stroll of the harbour in Key West. I could go on. And I do, here.
So, how do you connect with people on your trip? Here are a few tips.
- Smile. It means the same things in every language. It means you are happy, friendly, approachable, kind. A smile opens many conversations.
- Learn a few words in the local language. Making an effort to communicate in the local language is always appreciated and often returned with an effort to communicate in your language. Given that English is often the second language that people learn, you will find many locals wanting to chat with you.
- Go to a local, independent coffee shop. Look for coffee shops with large communal tables or coffee bars along the window and sit near someone. I’ve often had great conversations with locals by positioning myself in this way.
- Stay at places that encourage talking. I think that hostels and B&Bs are the ideal accommodation for those who travel alone. With fewer guests and the proprietor often onsite, common rooms and communal dining rooms, they make for more opportunities to connect with others.
- Read a book that makes you laugh out loud. Take a book that makes you laugh out loud and hold it so that people can see that you are reading in English. This often attracts people for a brief chat. In Havana I was reading Happiness by Will Ferguson and it got me into a few conversations.
- Establish a routine. Visit the same café, fruit stall, or restaurant every day. You’ll get to know the people and they’ll start to watching out for you. New friends are made this way.
- Take day tours. In Paris I met a woman on a free walking tour. It started to rain so we cut out and went for lunch together. Yes, meet people on tours and you might end up with a friend to enjoy a meal with or another day of exploring. Check out Global Greeters Network.
- Be curious. Ask questions and conversations begin.
- Go far off the beaten path. Travelers who find each other where there are few tourists are more inclined to talk to each other. Meet someone on a hike or in a specific museum and you already know that you have an interest in common.
Eat Alone and Enjoy It
While many people don’t understand why, the fact remains, dinner can be one of the more difficult times for the solo traveler. Here’s how to enjoy eating alone.
- Become a regular. Dine in the same place regularly and you’ll become friendly with the staff. I’m not suggesting that you only go to one restaurant. After all, experiencing a culture’s food requires variety. But, if you can, take one meal a day in the same spot and you’ll find more than friends, you’ll find a comfort zone.
- Take your restaurant meal at noon. Restaurants run by celebrity chefs are great attractions for some solo travelers. If you want to dine at a fine restaurant, consider doing so at noon. It’s the same chef and quality of food but it’s usually easier to get a reservation, the prices are typically lower, the lights are higher, and the crowd less romantic.
- Eat at the bar or a communal table. Sitting at a table alone leaves no opportunity for a solo traveler to be social. It can also feel like you have a spotlight on you. I ate at one restaurant that had a line of two-person tables down the middle. They were all empty except the one I was seated at. I really felt like I stuck out with all the couples and foursomes at tables around the perimeter. I have learned to speak up in such situations. More importantly, I’ve learned to scout restaurants that have a great bar or communal tables so that I can chat with others.
- Be obvious. Place your camera, travel guide, or map on the table, making it obvious that you’re a tourist. Some people are concerned about looking like a tourist and therefore looking like a mark. In a restaurant there is a certain amount of safety. Yes, you should still be discerning in who you talk with but in most cases the person will be not only safe but also interesting.
- Take a book. This is a classic. A book will not only occupy you but also signal to other solos that you are there alone. You just might get a companion for the meal.
- For many more ideas readEating Alone Is Easy When You Know How.
Getting Around a New City Solo
How you move in a city affects your enjoyment of it. Here are a few ideas for when you travel alone some place new.
- Get oriented. A Hop On, Hop Off tour is great if you’re short on time or want to get an overview of the city before you dig into its specifics.
- Walk! There is no better way to get to know a city and understand its culture than walking. It slows you down so that you can see the nuances of the society and understand how the city is designed.
- Take local transit. If you are going to a non-English-speaking country, research how the system works before you get there or ask at your hotel before you head out. Also, look for passes and special deals for tourists.
- Check for detailed information we have on getting around popular cities. These posts also give great budget information: London, Paris, New York, Chicago, Toronto, Sydney.
- Travel between destinations. Whether you choose the train, bus, or plane, live within the limits of a carry-on bag or backpack. You’ll be happy you did as you manage to move around from destination to destination with greater ease.
- Tips for plane travel. Read How to Get Through an Airport Alone and Make Flying Easy: 32 Tips. Here are a few basics.
- Confirm that your flight is on schedule before leaving for the airport.
- Board as soon as you can so you have no trouble putting your carry-on luggage in an overhead compartment.
- At check-in, ask if the flight is ‘full’ or ‘light.’ If it’s light, you may be able to jockey for a better seat.
- If you have a connecting flight, get all the information you need before boarding your first flight to make the connection easily.
- Bring light snacks with you. If there’s turbulence there won’t be service during the flight. Ginger snaps are a good snack and they settle the stomach. Read: 6 Ways to Save at the Airport.
- Tips for a road trip. Read A Solo Road Trip: You Can Do It and It Will Be Fabulous!
What If You Don’t Love Solo Travel?
Let’s face it, not everyone likes the same thing. Some people will travel alone and, for one reason or another, not enjoy it.
The first thing I suggest is that you be patient. You’re not going to find your solo travel groove on the first day of your first trip. You need to give yourself some time to settle into your destination and apply some of the many travel alone tips above.
If, then, you’re still not loving it, read What If You Travel and You Don’t Love It? and the advice of other solo travelers in When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed: 43 Tips for Traveling Alone.