How to Meet People While Travelling

how to make friends while travelling

On my first Europe trip, I met up with a friend living in Ireland to do a bus trip around the country.  Our first stop was Cork, and we had arrived a bit late in the evening.  As we went to the local corner store to grab some beer for the evening, we mused how it might be difficult to meet people to go out with this late in the evening.

And then…I saw it.


How to meet people while travelling

The chosen one!

It was glorious.  The (at the time) new Heineken mini keg, slightly sweaty and looking refreshing as heck nestled between cans of beer in the cold drink section.

“We…we have to get this,” I said, awed.  My friend was not convinced, citing how it was more beer than we needed, more expensive, and that I didn’t even like Heineken.

“It’s not about any of that!  With this thing, tonite, instead of trying to meet people, people will try to meet US!”

He was still skeptical, but we bought the keg and my plan came to fruition.  It was more beer than we needed, but we ended up sharing with a ton of people in the hostel we were staying, hosting a bit of a party in the common area and then hitting up the bars with our new friends.

Beer Not Required

Meeting people comes naturally to me, but it’s a source of extreme anxiety for others.  In fact, talking to a lot of travellers and wannabe-travellers, it might be the number one concern that prevents people from heading off on their own.

The above was my first foray into meeting people, so you’ll have to excuse me for using beer as a crutch.  In the years that followed I realized that there are a ton of ways to meet people while travelling, whether or not you’re providing beer or staying in a hostel.

The only rule you need to follow: be open-minded!

One of the biggest benefits of travelling is experiencing new things.  Don’t automatically say no to invitations because they are uncomfortable or unfamiliar.  Instead, try automatically saying yes to things to see where they take you.

Meeting People: A Tactical List

Here’s a list of my tried-and-true methods to meeting people on the road.  Try a few and see which work for you!

“The Boasting Host”

One thing I notice is that a lot of people on Airbnb who offer shared rooms are very interested in meeting travellers and showing them around the city.  To increase your chances of finding a great host:

  • look for people who offer “private rooms” with shared kitchen/living room
  • on the profile of the host, look for any clue that they have travelled in the past or that they are willing to show you around
  • stay for a longer period of time (weekly and monthly rates are much cheaper than nightly rates, anyway)
  • ask your host for recommendations when you arrive

Through my hosts, I have found the most satisfying local spots (cheapest and most delicious food), been introduced to local culture in a way I never would have if I hung out with other travellers (backstage at local shows), and met other locals who showed me around.

This method has been easily the most beneficial for me, so I highly recommend it!

“The Couch-Surfer Surfer”

Couch-surfing is a huge resource for travellers, and not just for accommodation.  There are regular couch-surfing meetups in every major city in the world.  There are many travellers, but there are just as many ex-pats (aka new locals) and locals who want to meet new and interesting people.

A tip: try going to a language exchange meetup.  Often you can get away with speaking just English, as it’s the language that most people seem to want to practice.

“The Tour-ist”

Most major cities have a vibrant and varied tour scene.  Your best bet as a traveller wanting to meet others is to try a cheaper walking or cycling tour, as these tours tend to have a younger demographic.

One of the best places to find these tours is  I personally look for groups that promote local culture when I find myself in a new city.  These groups attract locals as well as travellers, and locals are my favourite people to meet (for the same reasons I mentioned in “The Boasting Host”).

“The Bartender”

This one works best in a hostel or any place with a large common area.  The trick is – get some sort of remarkable alcohol (for instance, in my example above I used a Heineken mini keg), set up shop in the common area and start drinking.  People will look at you.  When they do, say something like, “Want to try some?” with a smile.  You can also just wave them over if you’re shy.

Most people in hostels will never turn down a free drink.  Ask them where they are from while you pour and BOOM, instant friend!

Mini-kegs aren’t the only game in town, I’ve also had this trick work with Goldschlagger, Blowjobs, and plain old tequila with salt and lemon (you could also try golden tequila with orange and cinnamon).  The important thing here is that the alcohol looks interesting and it’s free.

Meeting People is Easier Than You Think

At the end of the day, people want to hang out with other people who are having fun and have common interests, so try to loosen up and be yourself!

The people you meet travelling can be some of the best friends you make, and can also help you learn things about yourself that you never knew.

Meeting people is a lot easier than you think – most people have a fascination with people from other countries, just think about all the times you’ve been curious about someone just because you hear they have an accent.

If you’ve been avoiding travelling because you’re afraid you won’t meet people, stop worrying and get out there!