Would you ever travel with a stranger? Or with someone you just met online? Travel can open your eyes and your mind to an abundance of experiences, environments, languages and cultures, but what about the people we meet along the way?
Whether it’s someone we meet in a Facebook group, on a tour or in a hostel, the truth is we are rarely alone, and even solo travellers find themselves sharing rides, rooms and experiences with someone they just met. The amazing thing about travel is it can bring you closer to people you might never come across and let you make lifelong memories and even lasting friendships. So why not take a chance, be open minded and hit the road with someone you never imagined?
How to find strangers to travel with
There are so many ways to meet new travel buddies. I’ve included a list of resources at the end of this article, such as specific Facebook groups, websites and apps. But sometimes, amazing travel companions can be found when you’re already out there. One of my favourite memories is playing cards with three Dutch girls I met in my hostel in the Chilean desert. We shared a fireside Easter feast of chicken, chips, red wine and chocolate under the starry skies with two adopted puppies – so random, but so much fun! There are also tonnes of group travel tours available, where you’re guaranteed to make mates from the moment you get there. Roamies combines all the fun of hostels with amazing adventure travel itineraries. You’ll travel with a fun-loving group of perfect strangers, and become the best of friends by the time you leave.
The pros and cons of travelling with strangers
Travelling with a stranger is always a bit of a gamble. Sometimes you can make lifelong friends, and sometimes they may just get on your nerves. But the beauty of travel lies in the unpredictable, and if your new roommate does your head in, it will at least make for a good story in the long run.
Pros of travelling with a stranger
- You meet someone who you would never otherwise meet, and they can introduce you to their culture and travel experiences.
- You may change your plans in order to carry on travelling together, and we all know that sometimes the best experiences are the unplanned ones.
- You learn from each other and may make a friend for life.
- You can still go off and do your own thing when you need some space.
- Someone to watch your rucksack when you need to pee – finally!
Cons of travelling with a stranger
- They may not be a perfect travel buddy match for you.
- You may have different preferences or even body clocks.
- This may not work if your budgets are at opposite ends of the scale.
- You won’t get quite as much alone time.
So, what about people who have done it before? How did it go?
“In December of last year I couldn’t find someone to travel with me to Colombia, so I uploaded my trip details. The app asks you questions to match you with another traveller, such as: What age group do you want to travel with? Are you more of an outdoors person? Do you require time alone?
It turned out that both of us loved hiking and getting up early in the mornings, so we got to do just that.”
Cindy’s pros and cons of travelling with a stranger
- You both get to “set the tone” of what you would like the trip to be.
- You both get to share ideas on different experiences.
- You may meet someone with a skill set you don’t have, for example they may know how to speak the local language.
- You are taking a gamble that things will play out smoothly. In my case it did, but we did have one or two intense moments.
I would strongly advise people to connect with the person you will be travelling with. For me, we had video calls, chatted on Whatsapp and we added each other on social media. This helped us get to know each other a lot more.
Tom Bourlet from Spaghetti Traveller travelled with strangers he met in Peru.
“We met in our hostel in Lima and had a few drinks, which led to many more drinks! The next morning over breakfast, I asked them what they were up to that day and they mentioned they were going to Huacachina, an oasis in the middle of the desert. We had gotten on so well the night before, so I asked if I could join them and 2 months later I was still with them, eating steak in Argentina!”
Tom’s pros and cons of travelling with a stranger
- If you want to go off and do your own thing or see something different, that’s absolutely fine.
- It gives you such a sense of adventure.
- You both have the freedom to split paths along the way and meet other strangers to travel with, or even meet up later on.
- Sometimes people who seem great fun when you met them, become frustrating travel companions.
- Your new travel buddy can’t be someone that annoys you in the slightest, as it will only get more intense.
Make sure your travelling relationship is mutually beneficial. You don’t want someone constantly using your items, relying on your phone for Uber or expecting you to take on most of the work when it comes to tasks. You should both be slightly reliant on yourselves and slightly reliant on each other – both parties have to give equally.
Alex met someone while looking for specific visa information on The Thorn Tree, Lonely Planet’s much loved travel forum.
“I was travelling to Iraqi Kurdistan, and it was quite difficult to find the right visa information online, so when I read a message from a Swedish guy on the forum asking the same questions, we started messaging each other and decided to travel together.
We took an amazing road trip, stumbling upon festivals, great day hikes and monuments along the way. One day we even ended up at the Iraq/Iran border, where we had tea and sang with a local shepherd high up in the mountains. It’s been one of my favourite trips so far.”
Alex’s pros and cons of travelling with a stranger
- You can play to each other’s strengths. I’m not very assertive but he was, so whenever we wanted to get a taxi or buy food he made sure we got a good deal.
- He suggested places I had never considered before which I found fascinating.
- You learn not to rely on assumptions or first impressions too much, and instead get to know the person. If you keep doing that, both during your travels and at home, you’ll break down lots of walls.
- If you’re not a good match travel wise, then the trip can be frustrating.
- You have to work to get to know each other.
Be open to learning from them and prepare to be pushed out of your comfort zone, especially if you’re a solo traveller.
Samantha decided to travel with a whole bunch of strangers and joined a group tour in Japan.
“I have to say I absolutely loved my experience in Japan. It was something I will never ever forget and I wasn’t nervous one bit – the adrenaline took over. It’s a great way of becoming more independent and understanding the surrounding culture.
The people on my tour were from all around the world (America, Ireland, Australia, Canada, South Africa, UK) and some of us instantly clicked, so we were constantly together. We spent time in karaoke bars, on walking tours and even climbed a mountain!”
Samantha’s pros and cons of travelling with strangers
- You learn about each other’s countries and culture.
- You have the potential to make new life-long friends.
- You’re not guaranteed to get on with everyone on the tour. There was one particular person who was in my face all of the time.
Allow yourself some breathing space from time to time.
“It’s a great place to get travel inspiration and knowledge from women from different parts of the world. I finally decided to take the plunge last year when I was in Bali and meet with someone from the group who was also travelling.”
Effy’s pros and cons of travelling with strangers
- You never know how someone you might meet may impact your life no matter how brief the meeting.
- Beautiful things can come from putting yourself out there.
- You don’t know each other’s travel styles and if you’re not careful, you may end up clashing with each other.
Just stay open to meeting new people. Despite none of us having met before it felt like we’d known each other for a lifetime. That was six months ago and I still talk to the girls now!
“I met my soon-to-be best friend, Bryana, while we were on a plane to Thailand. We both had plans to travel solo to the same countries, so when Bryana asked if I wanted to travel with her, I jumped at the chance!
We took a 4-hour bus to Chiang Mai and then a 2-3 hour bus through the mountains to Pai, and we just clicked. We talked about our families, our hometowns (we lived in the same state, only one hour from each other), our love of travel, our list of conquered countries, and our dreams and plans for the future.”
Katy’s pros and cons of travelling with strangers
- My new travel buddy turned out to be one of the best influences I’ve ever had in my life.
- You have the potential to make some incredible memories together.
- You may need to adjust to each other’s travelling styles.
Don’t expect everything to magically work together. Get comfortable with hearing “no” and don’t take things personally.
Hiking Diva’s story
Diva met a fellow kayaker on Instagram.
“We had been Insta friends for a few years, and at the time I was a Judge’s assistant at the World Freestyle Kayaking Championships, so I got behind the scenes access. I knew he was coming to Asheville, so I offered him a lift from Atlanta. We ended up taking a road trip to the Rocky Mountains National Park and did a spot of rafting at Tallulah Gorge.”
Diva’s pros and cons of travelling with strangers
- It’s fun to introduce someone to your own country and share your culture.
- Sometimes, a change in plan can make you more of an adaptive person.
- Try to pick the right partner, because it can make or break a trip.
It’s important to have open communication, and then you don’t have to compromise so much.
Carmen used the find a travel buddy tool from Thelma & Louise.
“I’m 73, single, love to travel, and hate to pay a single supplement. I booked a couple of trips to Morocco and Belize and met my travel partner on the first night. I was paired up with people who were much younger than me, and I learned as much from these two women as I did from being on the trip. They were both interesting, kind and inquisitive – just a joy to be with.”
Carmen’s pros and cons of travelling with strangers
- You make a new friend from a different part of the world. And if they were ever in my country, I’d welcome them into my home with open arms.
- You can save money by sharing accommodation or travel costs.
- You could get stuck with someone who is high-maintenance.
As you’ll see from all of these stories, travelling with strangers can create completely different experiences. If you’re planning to travel with a stranger, it’s best to get to know them on social media first, be open minded and anticipate that it might not always be smooth sailing. While it might seem like hard work, putting yourself out there can create some unforgettable moments that will make you stronger in the end!
Apps and websites to help you travel with strangers
Here are a few great resources to find your new travel buddy.
- Hostelworld! Not only can you find the loveliest places to stay, you may even find a roommate who could end up being your travel BFF. Our new social features allow you to chat and connect with fellow travellers heading to the same spots as you. Just download the app and book your next trip to get chatting!
- Roamies adventure travel tours match you up with a group of adventure travel junkies. You’ll explore the worlds best spots as a team, and come out the other end closer than you’ve ever been!
- Travello is a social network for travellers. Share your content and meet a travel pal!
- Meetup has groups for just about anything from solo travel to hiking buddies
- Tourlina – specifically for solo female travellers. They match you up with someone who shares your travel style.
- Facebook groups such as Travel Community and Girls LOVE Travel.
- Thelma & Louise match up travelling women with similar interests
Are you thinking about travelling with a stranger? Have you done it before and have some extra tips? Get chatting in the comments below.
Download the Hostelworld app now to connect with fellow travellers!
About the author:
Gemma Thompson is a writer and broadcaster and specialises in solo female travel. You can find planning tips, city guides and inspiration at girlsthattravel.com.