Last Updated on August 26, 2023 by Christine Kaaloa
“Is Solo Travel Lonely? ” is a question I get a lot. But as I remind folks, solo travel is not lonely nor doesn’t have to be. I’m going to share ways to make friends when you travel alone.
16 Exciting Ways to make friends when you travel alone
There are times when loneliness on the road feels unavoidable. Loneliness can occur from feeling unfamiliar with a culture, isolated from social activity, or maybe, you’re dipping into self-pity or you’re too shy to meet people.
1. Small group tour
Small Group tours are fantastic places to make friends and meet other travelers. If you have a great English – speaking guide will enhance your awareness of the culture, giving you more insight about locals. While taking tours won’t always guarantee you’ll meet companions to do things with, it is a place where you can converse with others and share a bonding experience. I’m running my GRRRLTRAVELER small group adventures for travelers, check it out!
Hostels are social hubs, attracting budget travelers of all ages, including families. Don’t be surprised to find women in their 50s like me, in hostels. Unlike hotels or guesthouses, where facilities might remain a mystery until arrival, sharing a room with fellow travelers creates a sense of collective security.
While hotels offer luxury and comfort, they can feel isolating. Their clientele often includes businesspeople, couples, and families, whose goals are not seeking for extracurricular support or being social.
Hostel guests, on the other hand, seek to connect with fellow travelers. These open-minded, flexible individuals are keen on making friends and collaborating on day trips. Sharing activities and transport costs is common. The social atmosphere is casual, understanding if you decline participation in activities or meals. Everyone prioritizes their daily adventures and experiences.
I experience a range of settings from wonderful and clean to harried and disorganized. As a female traveler, I always opt for a female only dorm room or a single room. Yes, some hostels have single rooms, so you can still experience the social setting while having your own space. Although you’ll have more opportunities to meet potential travel buddies in a dorm room.
Also, remember that hostels often organize extracurricular activities and have friendly front desk staff, adding to the experience for independent travelers. This is one of the reasons that I have not moved away from hostel environments. Due to the independent and budget nature of hostel clients, front desk staff tend to have better DIY recommendations because often they are young and have to get around on a budget. In a hotel, you’ll get groomed responses that steer you towards more touristy experiences and hotel client budgets. I’m not saying hotel concierges are not helpful, but I usually have to dig deeper with my questions to get their real local insight.
Homestays aid with sustainable tourism, allowing locals to make an income over hotels. But they are a fabulous way for cultural exchange and connecting with locals and local hospitality. I did a Nepali homestay in the countryside of Panauti with Community Homestay Nepal and I cooked with my homestay family, got a tour of the town through Anee-ta, the elder daughter of the house and understand how the local farming community lived. It a wonderful stay and the connection with Anee-ta and her mom made it more meaningful. Best of all, the program helped empower Anee-ta’s family and the women of the community, allowing them to be breadwinners.
Easily, one of the best experiences of my solo travels in Nepal.
4. House or Pet sitting
Want a local’s home as a home base for your activities, have neighbors and learn about the community? Although I have not done this yet, there are house and pet sitting sites where you can sign up for a housesitting assignment or to pet sit. It’s a great way to blend into the culture and while you won’t make friends directly, you are in a nurturing environment to blossom.
TrustedHousesitters.com (fees from $149USD; worldwide ) is a popular and trusted site which matches you with housesitting opportunities for a low annual fee. If you are doing an around the world trip and can afford to stay in a place for days to weeks, then this would be worthwhile. Keep in mind, this comes with the responsibility of looking after the home owners’ house and pets and should be taken seriously.
Alternate house sitting sites: TrustedHousesittersAmerica ($49 USD fee; US Only) , Mind My House ($20 USD fee, Worldwide), Pawshake (paid pet sitting app; worldwide – download an instructional template from this site which does a lot of travel housesitting)
Want to make friends while traveling alone and make a positive impact with your travels? By volunteering, you will meet like-minded travelers who share your heart for helping your passion.
There are various types of volunteer programs to enjoy without giving into expensive and unethical voluntourism programs. WWOOF is a work-stay program on local and rural farms.
Don’t know where to start? Start with your passions — there may be wildlife rescue organizations who need help with their social media accounts or help with their intakes. You might have a valuable skill to offer. My favorite dog rescue non-profits such as Dharamsala Animal Care , Sneha’s Care, Tales of Compassion Trust, Soi Dog Foundation take volunteers.
Growing grassroots volunteer programs are often in need of help, due to limited resources and funds. They can easily found when you’re already in the country. The locals of the community and often times, your hotel/hostel workers know as well as volunteers tend to book the same accommodations. When I was in McLeodganj for my yoga teacher’s program, I found a community board with various ads for volunteers, such as an a Clean up program to pick up trash on the side of the roads. There was an ad for English speaking volunteers to help monks practice their conversation skills for one hour a day. I went and found it was a room full of monks and travelers, who were interested in the exchange. It was a great way to make friends and enjoy the community of McLeodganj.
AirBnB allows you to book a stay at a local home or apartment. Sometimes the local is living in the home and can help with recommendations for your itinerary. Other times, they have bought and rented out several units to host travelers. There have been surprising variations to AirBnB accommodations.
I stayed in a dorm room with four beds an apartment in Florence, where the owner had several rooms, from a dorm-style room to a couples’ unit. We all shared bathrooms and a kitchen so there was much time for me to get to know travelers, share recommendations and stories.
Couchsurfing is something I’ve not personally tried, but many budget travelers swear by. Locals open their homes, extra rooms and literal couches to travelers who need a place to crash. Although these days, it seems many couchsurfers do not just want their home to be a crashpad but a place to make travel connections and friendships. Hosts can be selective in who they choose and if you’re the right fit or come bearing gifts.
One should always practice safety in choosing accommodations and know there are occasional stories of an unsavory host or an irresponsible one who left a traveler hanging when they arrived. Trust your intuition when selecting a crashpad. I’m sure the stories of bad couchsurfers are there too, so always be respectful of the home you enter as it is being offered to you and a person’s goodwill should never be taken advantage of.
8. Day tours
Day tours are a way to meet fellow travelers via a local guide who is knowledgeable about the neighborhood you are traversing. Day tours last around three hours and come in many forms: walking tours, city tours, volunteer tours, government, activities and workshop classes. I use GetYourGuide and Klook for creative day tour activities.
9. Workshops & Retreats
Participating in a retreat or workshop allows you to stay in a like-minded community for a length of time where you will make colleagues and learn to collaborate and live together. Popular types of retreats are business, meditation, health and yoga/meditation. For years I belonged to Brahma Kummaris World Meditation for meditation and conscious living. They’d have weekend retreats in New York which allowed for the perfect getaway.
10. Specialty Tours
Specialty tours are focused on specialized activities or interests and can last a few days to three hours. This is a great way to meet and collaborate with travelers who have similar specialty goals as you and a chance to hone your skills in photography, yoga, cooking, scuba diving, etc..
There are various types of outdoor and adventure experiences from scuba diving, yoga, trekking, biking, etc… There are wildlife safari tours and bird watching
For tourists who want to learn about a city’s culture through its cuisine, there are cooking classes and culture tours available. Take a cooking class that includes a trip to the neighborhood market, or go on a food tour that combines city sightseeing with a culinary adventure.
Staying at ashrams is like living with a spiritual lifestyle community. If you’ve ever read the book, Eat Pray Love, you’ll have an idea of what an ashram is like but there’s no preparing you for how cool it can be to experience. It has its own dorm facilities and campus to keep the environment from daily pollutants and the people you’ll meet there are your family during your stay.
India houses a colorful array of ashrams that travelers can participate in (read my tips for studying at an ashram). I mention a list of popular Indian ashrams in this article here. I also used to belong to the Brahma Kumaris meditation organization and they have retreats in upstate New York (and India), that I used to attend for weekends. I loved my experiences, but they’re not for everyone. Ashrams always have a bit of a cultish feeling as you’re following a program, sometimes you’re dressing in white, chanting mantras (depending); they’re usually to prepare your mind for spiritual awakening.
12. AirBnB Experiences
Want to see a new city and learn about it through a local, then AirBnB Experiences offers locally-led tours, by locals who want to show travelers their city and culture. Take a cooking class with an Italian Nonna (remember my pasta-making experience in Rome?) or take a walking tour with a local comedian who will share humor along the way.
13. Meetup App
Meetup App is a social media platform for people and communities with similar hobbies and professions to host and organize in-person and online activities events and gatherings. You can attend any event from hiking, yoga and meditation, and more! This is a great way for solo travelers to meet locals according to special interests.
14. Connect with other solo travelers on Facebook
Facebook Groups are a fabulous resource for connecting with travelers before you leave or for researching your trip. Anytime I plan to travel to a destination for a decent length of time, I’ll check out expat communities in the area. But there are also groups to get your GRRRL power on when you need motivation and inspiration:
Conscious Travel Community– This group is for self-aware, positive travellers to come together to connect, discuss, ask for advice and inspire each other around all things travel-related!
Women Travel Creators– This group is for women and gender-diverse creators shaping the future of the travel industry. This includes, but is not limited to, influencers, journalists, freelance writers, podcasters, entrepreneurs, bloggers, content producers, vloggers, photographers, videographers, & all creators. By the WITS (Women in Travel Summit)
Digital Nomads Around the World – This is a private space for global digital nomads to share advice and tips related to living the digital nomad lifestyle. Sharing our experiences and knowledge can only be a good thing!
Over 60 Solo Women Travelers –The Over 60 Solo Women Traveler Facebook group is a great place to share travel tips and connect with like-minded women of “a certain age” who love to travel solo. Whether you are a road warrior or a novice, we are here for you. To join the group, please answer the questions and agree to the rules. By Judith Woodruff, founder of One Woman Traveler.
Girls Love Travel – Girls LOVE Travel is a global community of over 1 million active and aspiring womxn travelers providing resources and empowerment to one another to explore the world fearlessly through safety, socializing and support. By Haley Woods
Black Women Who Love To Travel– I enjoy seeing women of color celebrating life to the fullest and seeing their travels. This can also give others a chance to get ideas and share their traveling memories in a group.
15. Dating Apps
These days, travelers are getting creative in ways to find fast friendships or meet locals and dating apps have been a vehicle. Tinder gets a bad rap as a booty call app for travelers, but if you put your boundaries out in advance, you might be able to have a fun friendly dinner date when in a new city.
16. Travel Conferences
Travel Conferences are mostly for industry networking for content creators and the travel industry, but they are a great way to meet travel content creators in your niche. From travelers over 60s, LGBT, solo travel, female travel, couples travel, Black travel community, and travel vloggers, it is a wonderful way to meet your content creator community and learn the Ins and Outs of the travel influencing business. Popular travel conferences: Travel Con, Women In Travel Summit (WITS), Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX) are great conferences for beginners in the industry to start. Tips for beginning content creators here.
One should always be safe and cautious about who they make friends or trust. Read or watch my solo travel safety tips. While I use most of these tips I’m sharing, I never divulge important information or let my guard down completely. I also use my independence to detach from people or situations, when they don’t feel right.
What ways to make friends when you travel alone would you recommend?