Like with most things in life, there are pros and cons to travelling alone. While the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want is pretty incredible, it can become a little bit lonely on the road. Constantly having to be sociable with people you don’t know can be a drain, and it’s not always easy to approach groups of travellers who are already friends.
To help all you budding solo adventurers out, we’ve collected a few handy little tips, tricks and travel hacks that can help you make friends quickly and a little more easily on the road. While some are tried, tested and old-school, we’ve also managed to find a whole bunch of travel apps that can make your social life on the road a whole lot easier too. Don’t you just love technology?
1. Download Party with a Local
If there’s one problem with partying while you travel it’s that you usually end up in those soulless tourist bars. Luckily, Party with a Local can help you avoid all that. This is the perfect app to help you get an authentic feel for life in the city you’re staying in – well, the nightlife at least – by helping you find and contact locals who are looking for a party.
Download Party with a Local for iOS and Android (Free)
They can show you all the best bars and clubs in town, unsullied by the hordes of other tourists and backpackers. Then, when you’re home, you can return the favour and show other backpackers around your own domain and gain yourself a little good karma.
2. Try Travel Buddies
Whether you’re looking for someone from home to start your trip with or just want to meet other backpackers on the road, this is a great and simple app for meeting other travellers. Member profiles and itineraries make it easier to find people with similar interests and travel plans as you, while listing by people proximity makes it easy to find people close by, wherever you rock up to, so you can find a new friend in every city.
Download Travel Buddies for iOS ($0.99/£0.69)
3. Get Backpackr
If you’d rather meet up with fellow backpackers on the road then this is the app for you. Whether you’re up for drinking, partying, sight-seeing, shopping, eating or whatever else, you’ll find like-minded travellers no problem. You can even change the settings to filter who contacts you by gender or limit it to just people you already know to stop unwanted attention. The functionality also lets you check out other backpackers’ travel plans and itineraries to see if they match up with yours.
Download Backpackr for iOS – coming soon for Android (Free)
4. Stay in hostel dorms
You may be tired, dirty and uncomfortable from that long journey and a little privacy seem mighty tempting, but remember, it’s much easier to make new friends in a dorm than in a private room or hotel. It’ll be pretty easy to strike up a conversation with your fellow travellers, seeing as they’re in such close proximity in the beds around you. And don’t worry, there’s little you can’t block out with a good pair of ear plugs and an eye mask…
Download Hostelworld for iOS and Android (Free)
You can find the best hostels anywhere using our new Hostelworld app. It’s full of user reviews and customer reviews to help you pick the most sociable hostels.
5. Be flexible with your plans
Being flexible is the best way to ensure you keep your new travel buddies. Sure, you might feel more comfortable keeping to schedule, but if you find a group you like it might be fun to accompany them on their route for a while or come up with one that might suit you all. Remember, no one likes a bossy boots, so if you start demanding your new friends accompany you to this city or that, you’ll notice you soon lose them.
The key is simply to be democratic. While it’s quite likely they’ll be interested in seeing the same places you are, you should also be open to their ideas – but I guess that’s just common sense.
One of the coolest memories I have of my round-the-world trip is my stay in Nimbin, Australia. It was done on a whim. I’d made a new friend in Byron Bay just a couple of days before and she told me about a mystical hippie village a few miles in-land. Putting back my plans to continue up the East Coast, I decided to go along.
It cost me a Cairns boat trip, which was admittedly a bit of a bummer. Still, it lead to one of my favourite memories of the entire trip; an ill-advised bush-walk and a face-to-face encounter with a kangaroo in the wild – who in slightly our slightly intoxicated state we first thought was a man in a kangaroo suit… good times.
6. Hit the hostel bar or join a pub crawl
Ah yes, good old Dutch courage. If there was ever a fool-proof plan for helping you talk to your fellow travellers, it’s to sink a couple of beers first.
If you want to guarantee meeting your fellow travellers, then simply head toward the hostel bar (or if you’re not staying in a hostel, simply find the nearest one). They’ll no doubt be plenty of other solo travellers milling around in exactly the same boat as you.
An even better opportunity to meet your fellow hostel guests is to join the hostel’s pub crawl (if they run one). No matter how shy you start off, by bar number three you’ll no doubt be talking someone’s ear off.
Download Hostelworld for iOS and Android (Free)
You can always use the Hostelworld app to do a little research before you arrive. Check out the hostel information, comments and reviews to get a better feel for the atmosphere, and look out for any that are shouting about their legendary pub crawls.
7. Sign up for activities
Organised activities are a great way to meet other travellers. You’ll undoubtedly have at least one thing in common with most of your group, which will either be you love what you’re doing or you’re a beginner who has no clue what you’re doing – cue hilarity and laughs all round. You’ll spend a few hours in close proximity with the others in the group, giving you plenty of time to strike up conversation.
There’s plenty of popular sports and activities to get stuck into out there in the world, like surf lessons, rock climbing or kitesurfing to name just a tiny few. And if you all did well, then surely you could all do with a hard-earned beer to celebrate. If you all spent most of it falling on your faces, then you’ll definitely be needing a little anaesthetic – a.k.a, beer.
8. Check out Meetup
Meetup is a great little website you can use to find local events set up by folks with similar interests as you. Whether it’s heavy metal, theme parks or dancing the Time Warp, you’re sure to find a group that’ll suit, and the Meetup app for iOs and Android makes it even easier.
Can also use Meetup to find other travellers. The travel groups frequently set up Meetup trips abroad, so if you’re going to be in the area, join up and join in.
9. Join a group tour
Remember, you don’t have to do it all solo. If you’ve been travelling alone for a while, joining an organised tour like the kind they offer at STA or Intrepid Travel can be a welcome break, not just from travelling alone but also from having to make all those constant plans.
There’re plenty of types on offer, from simple tours of countries to the more specific, like beach tours of even iconic treks like the Inca Trail. Sure, it doesn’t give you as much freedom as travelling on your own, but you can get short tours that last just a few days or weeks, so you can go back to your solo ways after. Who know, you might meet your perfect travelling partner on the tour and find yourselves jetting off for the rest of the journey together.
10. Don’t worry so much!
Finally, and this is by far the most important one, stop worrying. This isn’t an interview at a big evil bank with a sweaty man in an ugly suit, it’s travel. You’re simply interacting with another human. Besides, most people who are travelling want to meet new people, so will surely be happy to talk to you, especially if they are travelling alone too. So be confident! You’re no doubt pretty cool if you have the guts to circumnavigate to globe on your own, so don’t ever forget that!