Six solo travellers doing a jump with sunset as the backdrop

How to make friends and lasting connections while travelling solo

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Half the trips I did in my early twenties were on my own. There’s something liberating about solo travelling and once you get into it, you may get addicted to it. Travelling solo doesn’t equate to being lonely all the time. I’ve made so many friends while travelling on my own.

I wouldn’t say that I am a natural extrovert; it does take me a while to warm up to new situations. However, I am not exactly a social butterfly either- most times after a big party, I am holed up in my cave for the rest of the week. Here are some ways I found friends while travelling solo.

Stay in Social Hostels

When I was in my early 20s and backpacking in Thailand, hostels were my accommodation of choice. Primarily because it’s cheap, but I don’t choose just about any random hostel to make my base for the number of days I’ll spend there. First impressions, services and amenities, location and accessibility are factors that help me make that decision. Then comes the types of rooms you want to stay in:

Interior of Dorm room
Shared Dormitory

It is the most economical option where you get a bed in a room you share with 2-8 other people. If you’re travelling with friends, you might get to share a single dorm with them subject to availability. If you’re travelling solo, you’re looking at sharing your space with other strangers. Audrey from Flyush has awesome tips for beginner travellers, do check it out!

There are usually 2 options to choose from – Mixed or Single-Gender (Male-only or Female-only) dormitories. If you don’t mind sharing the space with other men and women, mixed dormitories would suit you. However, if you are a solo woman traveller and are comfortable only with other women around you sharing the space you’re sleeping in, the Female-only dormitories. Most of the shared dorms also share a communal bathroom, separated into Ladies and Gents, of course.

Individual Rooms

Some hostels may cater to budget-conscious travellers who don’t want to share a room with others. They offer double and triple rooms or some even single rooms. You just have to pay a little extra, plus there’s usually an ensuite bathroom.

Social Activities in the Hostels

Most social hostels I’ve been to offers a common area for guests to hang out. Some organise different activities every night, e.g. movie nights, networking nights, cultural appreciation nights and so much more. This is where you can hang out with fellow travellers and chat with them over ice-cold beverages and snacks. Want to go on a day trip? Approach the friendly staff; they can help you plan and make bookings for you. Maybe your new friends want to do the same activities too.

When I was in Tenerife, I stayed in Los Amigos Hostel. They offer an airport shuttle, and the La Mareta beach was just a 5-minutes walk away! I was put up in a 10 person mixed-room dorm for the first night before moving to a double room where I slept alone for the next 3 nights I was there. The dorms were clean, and the communal bathroom was one of the best I’ve been in. The hostel boasts a decent pool, and on some nights there would be BBQ. When I was there, someone decided to cook dinner for those who were hanging around the lounge, and oh my, it was delicious!

The people I met there were terrific! We took a walk to the natural pools and swam in the middle of November, went on a little road trip to the main town to explore and have an incredible lunch. Nights were spent on the beach, huddle around a campfire with someone strumming the guitar for entertainment. Plus, it was cheap too. At €36 a night, it was a steal! I was sad to leave my newfound friends to make my way up North. I truly wanted to go back down South where there was always something happening around the hostel

Exterior of Los Amigos Tenerife Hostel
12 bowls of assorted Spanish tapas

Look out for social events happening in the area

If you’re living in a hostel, there’ll always be something for you to do. Signing up for an excursion, cooking class or even a party can be done through the front desk. However, if you’re staying in a hotel, it might be harder to know what’s happening around the city catering to your age group. That’s when Facebook events, Reddit, and even Google can tell you all the events that are happening in the area. Keep a lookout for scheduled events like pub crawls, trivia nights or themed nights. Even if you don’t drink, it’s alright! People always tend to be chatty in fun, social settings.

Go for excursions and day trips

Excursions and day trips are excellent opportunities to make friends. If you’re travelling alone and afraid that everyone else has company, no worries. Just smile, say hi and see where that takes you!

Once, I was in a mini-van on the way to Laos from Chiangmai. It was a 17-hour journey and I was travelling solo. In the van were 3 German guys and 3 Swedish girls. I was the only Asian girl, and maaaan did it feel awkward. But during the 5-hour van ride, we said hi and exchanged travel stories. We took an overnight bus to Luang Prabang, and I paired up with one of the Swedish girls. The ride was nasty, with the bus going at breakneck speeds, twisting and turning around mountainside roads. Someone was retching the entire way. But at least we had each other.

During my few days in Luang Prabang, despite having separate living arrangements, we made a point to meet up for activities. Drinks, dinner, and even bike rides around town. It was truly a lovely experience. When you’re out there travelling and discovering the world, the colour of your skin and the language you speak doesn’t matter. You share the same thing: the love of travel. That’s enough to connect you with the other person.

The 7 “Wolf Pack” from Chiangmai having our first breakfast in Luang Prabang
Enjoying the fruits of our labour after our cooking class in Luang Prabang

Check out Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing isn’t only good for looking for a free place to crash for the night. In fact, I have never used Couchsurfing for that; I’d rather pay to sleep in my own room or.. stay with a friend that I met through Couchsurfing.

Some of my best friends were from Couchsurfing. Back home in Singapore, we met through weekly meetups, events and parties. Then we started making plans to travel together because essentially all of us who are in the Couchsurfing community are connected by our love for travel.

The Couchsurfing community in Singapore however is a very transient one. People come and go. I’ve been to so many farewells and even hosted one myself. But look at all the friends you’ve made, scattered across the globe! I have good friends in the US, Indonesia, Luxembourg, UK, Brazil, Malta and all the other wonderful places. I could always drop them a message at any time, and we’ll always get to catch up. Now that I’m in Germany, my friends too will have a bed to crash in whenever they’re in town.

I’ve also experienced the Couchsurfing community in Brussels, Italy, UK, Bangkok. I went to their weekly meetups or organised a plan with a local who offered to show me around, and suddenly have 5 other like-minded individuals showing up.

Keep an open mind; opportunities are endless

However, as a woman travelling solo, you keep an open mind, but at the same time, you have to remain cautious. Some people have malicious intentions, and things can go badly if you’re not careful. Always be wary of your surroundings, keep an eye on your drinks and make sure you know your limit when partying with a bunch of people you don’t know. You don’t want to be found passed out drunk on the sidewalk covered in your own puke – that’s just not classy. Finally, if your gut feeling tells you something’s not right, you should probably listen to it.

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How do you make friends when you’re on the road? Share with me in the comments down below! If you like this post and would like to save it for later, do follow Syfnz Says on Pinterest for more Travel Tips!

10 thoughts on “How to make friends and lasting connections while travelling solo”

  1. Great post, I agree, staying in hostels is a great way to meet new and like-minded people. I remember we stayed in hostels a lot when we wanted to save money and it was so much fun interacting with others and getting to know them.

    1. Yes absolutely! While I haven’t stayed in hostels for a while now… I think I’ll choose to stay in a social hostel when I am travelling alone.

    1. Thank you! And that’s awesome. It’s okay if you’re the shy one, cos I discovered that my husband who’s quite articulate and confident in a professional setting can be rather reserved when he’s not at work! Creates a great balance. 🙂

  2. I have friends all over the world from Couchsurfing! I also still stay in hostels when I’m not Couchsurfing and I’m way past my 20s.

    1. High five! As much as I enjoyed living in social hostels, I haven’t stayed in a hostel much since my late 20s. I love the comforts of a cloud-like hotel bed. Eeep, I sound old.

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