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I tried searching on here, but didn't find any questions on this. How does one meet people while traveling alone? I would understand meeting people in a hostel (assuming they spoke the same language) and grabbing food with them, but if I'm traveling in the off-season, this may not always be possible.

This is sort of silly, but to be honest, I find eating by oneself terribly awkward. Sure, in a nice quiet cafe, while I'm reading a book, it's fine. But if I'm getting food at a German beer garden, eating alone would be quite odd. Youtube videos and guidebooks seem to always advise to meet locals or other travelers, but even if I did speak the local language, isn't it strange to ask to just join a random group of friends? It's reminiscent those tv shows where the quiet kid asks around the cafeteria if he/she can sit with a group of friends.

This is just one particular example, but my intention is to have the question about more broad or general situations.

(Note that this question is about people visiting somewhere as a traveller, there's a related question on the Expatriates SE site about meeting people when you're a new expat/resident in a city)

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Biergarten or cafeteria is the place you go to drink, and not when you're thirsty. To reastaurants you don't go because you are hungry but because you want to socialize or show yourself. In kebabs single people are quite common, for example. –  Donaudampfschifffreizeitfahrt Sep 2 '13 at 7:39
    
Your age can also be a factor as well as your current location and what kinds of tourists go there. Normally in hostels I meet lots of people. I did in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Here in Bangkok though the 20-year-old kids are the majority and they avoid old guys like me (45). Out in the streets of Khao San some tourists and expats are really rude and others can make a bad impression. But it's also a major funnel through which world travellers pass so there's a good chance you'll bump into somebody you know. I met a guy I previously knew in Romania in the middle of Khao San Road! –  hippietrail Sep 2 '13 at 7:52
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This question is way to broad. It depends on both your cultural backgound as it is to country you are visiting –  andra Sep 2 '13 at 7:59
    
I agree. MarkE if you ask a question about a location where you are currently wanting to meet people / make friends then we may well be able to suggest an answer. –  hippietrail Sep 2 '13 at 8:02

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Unfortunately, this is not easy to answer, and highly dependent on the country. As discussed here for example in the context of young people for Japan. You will have to specify what type of people you want to meet and in which country you are to get a good answer with concrete points to follow on this.

Some general pointers that will drastically improve your success to improve this:

  • meet people with similar interests, so you have something to talk about.
  • be prepared to invite people for a drink at least.
  • plan ahead. Get in contact as much as possible before your trip.

More concretely:

  • Social Venues: Bars, concerts, festivals. This of course depends on your ability to socialize. If you are not good at chatting up people in your own country in such locations, you might have the same issues abroad.
  • Interest groups: If you have special interests such as photography, comics, specific sports and a reasonable experience with such topics, you can try to find clubs, associations beforehand online and ask if you can meet some likeminded people at your destination and invite them for a beer. The further away you come from, the more likely it is they will invite you with open arms.
  • Social networks, industry associations etc: There are places like meetup and interest groups that are more formalized that allow you to meet people. Again, you would have to plan ahead, but a high chance that you meet people. Other organizations such as Rotary clubs are also always a good thing to join if you travel a lot and want to meet people.

If you are only out to meet someone for a single ad-hoc lunch or dinner, you are in a completely different field of course. My strategy is to go to a restaurant where you can sit at a counter, so you can at least talk with the chef behind it, and better even to the people sitting next to you. Also restaurants that have a large community-table are good for this. Last but not least, checking if there is a soccer/whatever-match and going to a sports-bar with big screens is a good way to meet other people and eat in a more social environment helps a lot.

If you travel often for business to the same town, it helps a lot to always go to the same places. It might be more boring food-wise, but you will realize that the guests also come back to the same place and get to be known and know people. That also would require that you avoid hotel bars at all cost since there you will only meet other random people that are unlikely to be back there when you return.

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Be careful when you buy somebody a drink. I bought a round for me and a German guy who was a friend of a friend once and apparently in his culture only gays do that! He had to ask his friend if it meant the same when an Australian buys you a drink. Since then I hesitate before being the first one to buy a round among foreigners (-: –  hippietrail Sep 2 '13 at 7:55
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@hippietrail I meant that more such as "I am happy to pay a round if someone has time to meet" in a email to raise interest and show that you are not expecting others to pay for you. –  uncovery Sep 2 '13 at 7:58
    
@hippietrail What about women? Is that mean the same (lesbian) if you invite a female friend to a drink? It doesn't mean anything in Iran and is very popular but for different sexes it may mean more than only an invitation and if you are not interested to have more relationship than only a simple friendship you should refuse it. (It is complicated!) –  Persian Cat Sep 2 '13 at 15:11
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I just mean that it's one of the things that varies from culture to culture so don't expect one way to be universal (-: –  hippietrail Sep 2 '13 at 15:29

It's always easier to meet other travellers whilst travelling. Locals going out in their home environment usually go with their friends and aren't really interested or 'open' to be joined by a stranger since it requires extra effort. That said the best places are pubs or bars with share tables.

I am German and don't think it's too hard to meet Germans in a Beer Garden. They are friendly especially after a couple of beers. Try and approach some ppl that look approachable and friendly and ask some basic questions.. like what's the best beer here! I know it sounds silly but since Germany has literally thousands of breweries you are very likely to start a lively debate at the table..LOL.

Whilst travelling I usually sit close to others on adjoining tables and I keep alert. For example, yesterday in Thamel the guy next to me had problems with his internet connection the restaurant provided him. The waiter gave me a different connection which worked so I shared this info with him.. 20 minutes conversation later he invited me to join them for dinner.

Be alert, and make yourself available by sitting close to people you think approachable and don't be afraid to ask for help or information..even if you don't need it, it's a sure way to get going.

Hope that helps :)

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If you have the right mindset and are up for it, nothing beats hitchhiking for meeting the locals when in a foreign country.

It's definitely not for everybody and it's not without potential risks, probably moreso for females and younger people.

But it's hard to beat for meeting people you would never meet otherwise, from all backgrounds. You never know when you'll get invited for dinner, invited to stay over, or become lifetime friends.

But you'll certainly get a unique view of the culture from the inside.

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As long term low budget traveller Anton Krotov remarked in one of his books, interactions with people are simply different if you don't pay them for the interaction (as you would do when going to a hotel or taking a taxi). If you mainly use hitchhiking for transport and hospitality exchange for lodging you're almost constantly meeting new people.

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protected by Mark Mayo Jan 6 at 3:59

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