Personally I hate traveling not just because I hate going to a new city but because of seeing strangers who are watching and trying to start conversation with me. Well talking with someone is not a bad thing as it's a good habit but personally I hate talking to them because I am attached to those persons only to whom I know. But still how can I avoid someone talking to me ?

Well at first they say hey 'hello' and as being a nice human I also say 'Hi' and then just little bit formal chats. But then when it comes to talking like more than 5 minutes it's really hard for me to take that thing. Well I can't simply tell them to leave me alone as it would be quite bad for me and they are also good people so what to do ?

How can I avoid these things ?

  • 41
    The people you know well now, weren't they also strangers at one point ? :)
    – blackbird
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 14:09
  • 15
    Travel to England. No one here will start a conversation with a stranger in a public place.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 16:11
  • 2
    @MikeScott you must work for the English tourism board.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 17:33
  • 1
    @MikeScott Unless you're in Yorkshire; no such thing as a stranger, only friends you're yet to meet Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 21:15

7 Answers 7


There's nothing wrong with wanting some peace and quiet while traveling, to many people travel is more of a hassle than an enjoyment so I'd say it's quite common for travellers to expect non-social time. Not everyone is trying to chat all the time.

Social cues and customs differ between countries, but I'd say in the West at least, if someone strikes up a conversation with a stranger it's probably because that person looks "available" for a chat.

Some things I do when I don't feel like having a chat is to busy myself with something, like reading/writing, smartphones are a blessing and a curse in that regard. Simply having earphones on (music optional) or closing your eyes for a light sleep also sends the message that you're not up for conversation.

That said, I've learned to enjoy the occasional small talk with travellers. I'm a bit of a private person as well but sometimes it can't be avoided, so might as well relax and make the best of it, it's a part of travel as a whole

  • 6
    +1 for earbuds. Large, over-the-ear headphones are probably even better. If you turn up the music loud enough, you might not hear the person even if they do still try to make conversation. :)
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 14:29
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    At least in the west, sometimes people can be persistent about conversation despite cues - some people use it to distract themselves from flying anxiety, and some people are just clueless chatterboxes. In those situations, I find people generally react well to a simple, polite, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude, but I've had a long day and I'd really like to sleep / focus on my book." If they get offended or keep prodding you after that, then the power is in your hands to inform an attendant that you're being harassed.
    – CodeMoose
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 14:36
  • @CodeMoose true, but it's not your problem if other people can't read cues. The polite request you mentioned is a good way to go
    – blackbird
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 15:00
  • @Blackbird57 totally agreed - just wanted to make the point that sometimes people try to make it your problem regardless, and there are easy ways to shut down the situation instead of prolonging it =)
    – CodeMoose
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 15:10
  • Don't know about the earphones! On a flight from Brazil to Portugal, a Brazilian lady insisted on speaking to me even though I was listening to music. I don't speak Portuguese and she didn't speak English...
    – Richard
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 21:20

Avoiding conversation is easy: you can get all worked-up in advance, put on a mean face, and look like you're not willing to talk to anybody. However that's a lot of effort and might not be something that everyone can or wants to pull off. Hence I'd rather be relaxed whilst aiming to mind my own business. All in all I assume that some small talk might happen and that there's nothing wrong with that. Also random small talk helps you kill time whilst travelling, and might allow you to meet your soulmate/best friend so don't close that window too quickly.

When it comes to getting out of a conversation, I find that a simple yet polite sentence in the form:

Do you mind if I (get back to my) sleep/read/work since I am tired/want to finish/have deadlines/[add random sensible explanation here] ?

works like a charm. It gives the other person the impression that you are asking their permission to disengage, when in reality you are telling them that you'd wish to stop taking and concentrate on something else. No need to give large amount of details on what you want to do and why. Keep it simple to avoid any counter proposal. Do this whilst keeping a smile on your face, and then get back to minding your own business. Most importantly: do not re-engage after disengaging or else you'll give the impression that taking to the stranger is more important than your other task at hand. This is especially true if that stranger is pushy/bored/chatty etc.

  • Sometimes I also feel like traveling is like a mission :P Keeping everything in mind and execute according to plan but well said :)
    – Shashank
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 17:30
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    Good morning! We don't want any adventures here, thank you. You might try over the hill or across the water. Good morning!
    – Damon
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 13:47

Simple, do not make eye contact. And when you feel their stare on the side of your face do not move your face even an inch towards them.

  • I would add to this: If you do accidentally make eye contact and they speak to you, answer with short, non-descriptive responses and don't offer more information than they ask for. Also, don't ask questions in return. You will kill the conversation after "Hello" and, at most, two questions. Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 17:10

I suffer a bit from a social anxiety disorder, and as a result, I absolutely despise "making small talk" with anyone because it makes me very self conscious and uncomfortable, so I know how you feel.

When traveling alone, I try to make sure I "look busy" to avoid the uncomfortable conversations. Being busy on your phone/tablet/laptop, especially when it looks work-related, is a good dodge.

However, the most effective deterrent that I found is to seem complete disinterested in what the conversation starter has to say. A few barely interested grunts will deter most people. Only the really determined will try to keep going, and they will usually give up pretty quickly.

I know it seems like you are being a complete jackass, but 99.999999999% of the time, you will never see that person again, so why do you care what they think?

  • 3
    I'd make that 99% of the time.
    – ahorn
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 23:29
  • Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times - its probably me :-) Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 2:54
  • 2
    Whatever your problems may be, there is no need to be downright rude, which makes people feel bad. In some places it will get you more unwelcome attention than you expected. Just wear headphones.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 8:36
  • @easymoden00b The spotlight effect! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotlight_effect Though I guess it's also a function of how nervous you are in general and how unforgiving you tend to feel that other people are. Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 19:11

Electronic noise-cancelling headphones will both keep you from interacting with people and will kill some of the noise (especially aircraft noise). You can just turn them on without music, use a tablet, an iPod or a smartphone, or plug into an aircraft entertainment system.

A book or notebook computer also works. Edit: The following is intended as a joke not as travel, legal or engineering advice. (Or you could wear a T-shirt that say "Ask me about XXX" where XXX is life insurance, Jesus, etc.).

In a very few cases you may have to be very direct about it, but I've not run into it so far with legitimate fellow travelers. If you travel outside the developed countries you're going have to get used to telling touts, scam artists etc. to 'get lost' anyway.

  • 12
    I guess it's a half-joke but "Ask me about Jesus" isn't a great plan. In countries where there's a reasonably large Christian population, it's reasonably likely that somebody will want to ask you about Jesus; in countries where there isn't, it may cause offence or worse. In many countries, it could be seen as proselytism, which may be restricted or outright illegal. Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 18:28
  • You sell insurance ...? Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 2:57
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    @RussellMcMahon No, it was a joke as David surmised, and usually a skilled sales person would have higher emotional intelligence than to be overbearing. I have had the odd conversation when I didn't really want to- like when I ended up beside a person who was traveling alone to a funeral of a family member in another country. Sometimes it's more important to listen to a stranger than to do an hour or two's worth of work. Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 10:28
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    @DavidRicherby this. in ever expanding (sadly) parts of the world beheading is the result of such a shirrt. Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 14:04
  • @SpehroPefhany. Yes. That query needed to be asked in Jewish mother* std joke voice with a sort of shoulder shrug. A sort of incredulous tone with pitch dropping in middle and rising at end. (* not my stereotype and I have no idea if Jewish mothers really ever sound like that.) I can't think of an example - Robin Williams did them well. Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 14:06

If you're attractive it's kind of hard to avoid the opposite sex trying to talk to you, which can get kind of wearying. Try wearing some very dark sunglasses, a hoodie and some massive cans. If they can't see your eyes, see you have on headphones and your head is totally covered they will generally not bother. If they're still persistent, whisper to them in a demonic voice that you want to eat their beating heart before you get beamed back up to the Mother Ship. If they laugh, they're probably worth having a conversation with. If they're freaked and move seats, you win.

  • 3
    Massive cans might attract more attention...
    – Jamie Bull
    Commented Jun 15, 2015 at 13:37

I usually just reply to every conversational attempt with "Hello how are you yes yes fine thank you", accompanied by a sincere but very sappy smile. This demonstrates that I do not speak English while giving no clue about what language I do speak. It also gives the strong impression that if you could understand me, you wouldn't want to.

The downside risk is that if I get lost or otherwise need assistance, I have to find a whole new set of strangers to speak to.

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