The biggest question I get asked when talking about living abroad is “How on Earth do you make friends??”
I’ve been a solo traveler for over 10 years and I’m here to share my top 5 favorite ways to make friends while traveling! Although I usually travel to a country alone, I always manage to find really cool and incredible people to explore with. I won’t lie to you, I was TERRIFIED when I first started to try and make friends. But I am so glad I took the plunge and have made some lifelong friendships with people from all over the globe!
BUT FIRST a few safety tips for meeting with strangers:
– ALWAYS let someone know (even if it’s someone back home) where you are going, with who and at what time you are leaving.
– ALWAYS meet in a well-lit and well-populated area. Busy restaurants, galleries or other public spaces where there are lots of people around if you need help.
– TRUST YOUR GUT! If something does not feel right then leave. No friend is worth ending up in an unsafe situation.
– Watch how much you drink with new friends, they might seem like the nicest person in the world but you should always stay aware.
Now on to the tips!
1. Stay in a hostel
My number 1 tip is to stay in a hostel. This is where I’ve met the most people while traveling. Especially if you are doing short-term travelling (only staying in a city for a few days to a few weeks) this is where most travelers end up. There are different types of hostels so make sure to research if it’s a party hostel or a more quiet one. Many hostels offer guided tours, pub crawls and other fun activities you can join in on!
Once you are at a hostel, BE BRAVE! I always introduce myself to everyone in my room and ask them where they are travelling from. Then I head to the bar/common area and just start chatting with people. If anyone is hanging out in the common areas they are usually there to socialize so it’s an easy way to make friends. Just say ‘Hi!’ and be brave!
2. Join activities you enjoy
If hostels aren’t your thing (although I encourage you to try them even if you get a private room!) then I’d suggest finding activities you enjoy in the area. Airbnb has a great “experience” section now and many community centers, art galleries, museums and outdoor activity centers have workshops and outings you can participate in. If you LOVE rock climbing, find a gym in that city you are visiting and go chat with people. If you want to learn more about art, take a guided tour of a gallery and say hello to your fellow art enthusiasts. I know it sounds scary but you would be surprised by how friendly people really are if you make the first move.
3. Websites and Apps (meetup, FB, bumble, MEEF)
So if walking up to strangers and talking to them sounds too scary, then I highly suggest using meet-up apps! That way you 100% know that the people there are looking for friends just like you. The apps and websites I’ve found the most success with are:
This is my favourite website because there are so many different activities to choose from. It’s free to make a profile and then you just search your city for activities to join! From picnics to running clubs, art classes or pub crawls there is always fun (and usually free!) to do.
**Hot Tip: My favourite meetups to join are the language exchanges, I’ve found these are usually the friendliest groups and they usually meet in cool restaurants and cafes**
Most people know Bumble as a dating app but it also has a great “BFF” version! This is great to make friends before you even arrive in a city as you can set your location to anywhere in the world. Plus you can make friends to meet up with as soon as you arrive!
MEEF is another great app especially if you are looking to make friends in South Korea (although you can meet people from all over the world). It is a half dating app, half language exchange app so just make sure to clearly say what you are looking for on your profile. Hundreds of thousands of users use this app every day, so it can be a lot to sort through all the profiles (I had 600 connections my first day using it!). But it can be super worthwhile and I’ve met some truly amazing people through it!
I’m not a big Facebook user but I do use groups when I go to different cities (especially when long-term travelling). Currently, I’m a part of a beauty group in South Korea, and it’s really fun to chat with others that have similar interests to me! You can search for almost anything you are interested in with the name of the city at the end and groups will pop up! I always introduce myself first thing and let people know I’m open to messaging and meeting up once I arrive!
Premier TEFL has its’ own Facebook group just for TEFL alumni, where you can message and become friends with people just like you! Join HERE.
4. Join pub crawls/city tours
Joining a pub crawl is one of the fastest ways to make friends in any city. If drinking is not your thing though, city and walking tours can also help you meet people. I personally love doing underground or haunted tours! Not only do you get to learn a lot about a city’s spooky history, but I’ve also met some really cool people to drink with after the tour!
5. Chat with your coworkers/find a coworking space
For long-term travelers (a few months to years) my best tip is to chat with your co-workers or find a coworking space. If you’re at a job it’s very likely they are also interested in making friends. If you are a freelancer (or maybe your coworkers are not people you are interested in hanging out with) I highly recommend joining a coworking space. That way you get to see people pretty regularly and strike up friendships with fellow travelers.
I hope these tips help! I know how scary it can be to try and make friends abroad. But trust me, as long as you have a little bravery I am sure you can meet truly amazing people where ever you go!