How to Make Friends While Backpacking

Fun at the beach in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

My favorite part of being on the road (and especially while traveling solo), is meeting new people. I love how traveling solo can bring you together with people from all over the world, people who you might normally have a chance to interact with. That’s not to say I wasn’t extremely intimidated on my first solo trip. I had no idea if I was going to make friends or if I would be traveling for 4 months not interacting with anyone, feeling like a lonely, antisocial weirdo. One of the biggest questions I get from people who are interested in traveling alone for the first time is “How do you make friends with people on the road?” 

The first thing to remember is that most travelers on the road for the same reasons- to see something different, to explore the world, and to meet new people. There are so many people who are in the exact same situation as you and are looking for people to hang out with as well.

When it comes to meeting locals, most are incredibly happy to see a foreigner that is exploring their country, and will go out of their way to make you feel at home. The world really is a welcoming and incredible place if you let it be!

Crazy midnight tuk-tuk ride in Cambodia

Stay At Hostels Or Locally Owned Guesthouses

Staying at a nice hotel is great for a night or two to recharge your batteries. Even if you have the money to stay at these places but are traveling solo, I would recommend ditching the nice hotels. Hotels are impersonal. At many guesthouses, the owner will go out of their way to make you feel at home. I’ve had owners care for me when I was sick, introduce me to their families, and cook me delicious local food.

If you are trying to meet other backpackers, staying in hostels with dorms is this best way to do this. Hands down, staying at dorms is the easiest way to meet people. The second you enter the room I guarantee you will be sucked into the normal travel repertoire of “Where are you from?” “How long have you been traveling?”

Make Friends With The Kids 

Does this sound creepy? I don’t mean it to. I have been in many situations where I did not speak the local language and have been surrounded by people who are not sure how to interact with me. Kids never fail to be curious and open-minded, so I interact with them first. A great way to do this is to bring a small gift when you are invited into someone’s home- like stickers or pencils. The adults usually appreciate the gesture as well. You can also try to join in on a local game of football (soccer!)

Passing out stickers at a village in Myanmar

Be Open and Smile!

I know that it can be intimidating to enter a roomful of people who you don’t know. I’m not naturally the most sociable person, but I try to seem as approachable and friendly as possible. Travel teaches us to make friends with people we normally wouldn’t. This can be such a blessing, and can really allow you to be more open-minded. If you are feeling overwhelmed, just try to relax and start up a conversation with the person next you.

Khao San Road, Bangkok

Talk To People On Buses

If I am traveling alone, I try to sit next to someone who is also traveling solo. This usually leads to conversation, and sometimes a new friend. Sometimes if you start talking to other people on the bus, it starts a chain reaction, and everyone on the bus becomes travel buddies. Local buses are also a great way to meet local people. Sometimes I will offer to share my food with the person sitting next to me. I’ve been on buses where no one else spoke English, but we were all just passing around each others food, smiling happily.

Hostel in Koh Samui, Thailand

Don’t Worry…It Will Come Naturally!

My number one tip is to just not stress about meeting people beforehand. If you are a first time traveler, making friends alone can seem like a daunting task..but it’s really not. When you actually get on the road, you may actually find yourself craving alone time (I certainly do!). Solo travel just lends itself to making friends. It is one of the great and mysterious things about backpacking. I so wish real life could be like that. Solo travel is really anything but solo, and you certainly won’t be alone for longer then you want to be. Have fun!

Temples in Bali, Indonesia

16 thoughts

  1. Great write up on this subject! I’ve been traveling for a month now and am at the craving alone time stage (currently sitting a terminal away from my friends in the Singapore airport cause I need to get away) but yeah I am usually a very outgoing person and I found it a little difficult and was worried about it the first week but like you said and I realized it comes so naturally!


      1. Amazing! So excited to travel again this summer!! Will hopefully be moving out to Thailand in a few years once I’m qualified and hoping I can get back into the traveller spirit!! 🙂


  2. Making friends is a great way to travel, but it’s not something I find too easy tbh. I’m ok in hostels, but I would never go to a bar and speak to others, or speak to others on a bus. Don’t know why, maybe I am just preferring the locals to the other tourists. Not consciously, but you know what I mean? Or maybe it’s because I’m just boring 😉


    1. It’s very weird actually, because speaking to others randomly on a bus is something I would never do at home. Maybe I’m the weird one in this situation. 😉
      I do know what you mean though, sometimes I prefer interacting with locals as opposed to other foreigners.


  3. Backpacking is very funny and beautiful experience. go out in beautiful places and enjoy the beauty of nature. Backpacking has its own experience and its value increases with family and children.


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