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Thom Brown Travel - Thom Brown Travel with a friend in the Rock mountains

Find Friends as a Solo Traveller

Worrying about how you’ll find friends as a solo traveller? Meeting people on the road is one of the best (if not the best) aspects of exploring the world. If you don’t like a person, it’s okay because you or they will be gone soon enough. But sometimes, you make genuine meaningful connections that last years.

Travelling solo leads to better travel because you can move freely and pursue your personal travel goals. However, solo travel can also be lonely. You need to balance your quest for freedom in solitude with your relationship needs.

So if you’re looking for friends abroad, here are my most trusted methods.

Find Friends on Apps

Meeting people online might not be “cool” but it’s definitely one of the most effective methods. In your downtime, browse these apps and start sending messages. Other like-minded travellers and locals will be on there, so you’re bound to find someone decent eventually.

Here are the best apps to find friends while travelling:

  • Couchsurfing: Not only do you get a place to sleep, but it’ll probably be with someone really cool, who knows some people in the area.
  • Travello: Designed specifically for meeting other travellers, Travello advertises itself as full of backpackers, solo travellers and digital nomads, so you can find friends with your interests.
  • Meetup: An app that lets you search by interest and activity. Whatever you’re into, there’s probably a meetup you can join and start mingling with new people.
  • Tinder: If you’re single, then Tinder is the perfect app. It’s just full of people – locals and visitors. Pro tip: pay for premium so you can swipe anywhere in the world. I used to do this and then go to wherever my favourite matches were.

Choose Your Hostel Carefully

The reason I love to travel cheap is because of the people you meet. Most travellers (like most people) don’t have a lot of money. We’re all the same when we’re searching for flights and accommodation: “order by price: cheapest first.”

This means that you can confidently bet that the cheapest hostel will be the most lively. However, this isn’t always the case, so be careful. Check the reviews first; they might reveal that this hostel is actually full of homeless people or long-term less-than-legal immigrants.

But hey, that’s not always a bad thing! My first night out on a trip to Poland came when I stayed in one of the grimiest hostels ever. The place was smelly, cramped, and lacking hot water or any real privacy. But I shared my room with some Indian guys who’d been living there for close to a year, so who was I to complain.

We went on a night out and some of those guys remain in contact. A lot of it comes down to luck and being in the right place at the right time. But, beyond price, check out a hostel’s proximity to bars and tourist attractions. These well-located, budget options tend to be best when looking to find friends.

Find friends in Warsaw
Though not typical backpackers, these guys are genuinely cool and remain my friends years later

Sign Up to Group Tours or Plan Your Own

I have a general dislike of signing up to tours. They’re overpriced and you lose control of your day. I’d much rather explore on my own than have a guide walk me around. I get they might be knowledgable, but it just feels like less of an adventure.

Having said that, sometimes group tours are necessary to help you find friends. One company I would recommend is Peru Hop, which I used when travelling in South America. This was my first proper backpacking trip, in a region where English is hardly spoken and cities can be dangerous. So it was nice to be given an itinerary and kept relatively safe.

Peru Hop gave me access to awesome activities, including:

  • Sandboarding in the desert
  • Dune buggying
  • Cycling Death Road
  • Wine tasting in a vineyard
  • Tours of secret tunnels used to transport slaves

Not only did I do so many great things, but I was able to find friends as I did them. There were many people on this tour and though we all took slightly different routes, there were some that were there for almost the entire journey. I shared rooms with them and we experienced some of my greatest travel moments together.

If, like me, you find group tours too expensive or lacking in adventure, then plan your own. When I was in Denver, I remembered how I’d met a guy from Boulder when I was in Cambodia. I got a bus to his town and tried to meet up. Once there, we ended up planning a camping trip in the rockies.

We met a guy from LA in a Boulder bar and asked him to come along. While out camping, three others turned up. That’s five new friends and it didn’t cost me a penny. Plan your own adventures and ask around. Anyone who is down to drop everything for a fun trip is likely to be a great friend.

Find friends on adventure tours, Death Road, Bolivia
With my new friends, about to conquer Death Road, Bolivia.

Find Friends in Bars

There’s no better way to find friends than in the pub. At least, for me. I’ve happily walked into foreign bars alone and come out with a bunch of new friends. Like hostels, there’s a lot of luck involved; being in the right pub at the right time. But the more you put yourself out there, the more likely you are to find friends.

Sometimes it takes a while. The first two nights I spent in Portugal were uneventful but on the third, I made plenty of buddies in the local bars. Same, too, for the USA. I was hitting dive bars and meeting no one, until my Uber driver recommended Don’s Tavern and dropped me off there.

Suddenly, I’d found a bar that I could walk into at any time and instantly be surrounded by friends. Friends who want to discuss sport, plan hiking trips, and offer general life advice. Find your own Don’s Tavern.

Find friends in a bar like Don's Tavern
Don’s: This unassuming dive bar became my go-to sanctuary whenever I’d had a bad day in Denver. Every single time, I left with new friends.

There are so many ways to find friends abroad. Try all of the above in various combinations, while allowing for some luck. Put yourself out there and you’ll end up meeting amazing people.

Help me promote better travel!

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