How to make friends anywhere you travel

Nomadic Matt recently posted an informative video about the same subject, and i thought it would be great to delve into it further. His points are spot on and very actionable, it’s just that what he mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s my humble contribution towards adding to them and helping you make friends anywhere in the world, as you travel.

1. CouchSurfing and CS Meets
CouchSurfing is definitely the crown jewel of the independent travel world. It’s one of the most authentic, selfless, fulfilling communities ever. For those who came in late, CS is a global network of hosts, travelers and travel enthusiasts who love meeting over a cuppa, organizing events and offering courtesy accommodation anywhere in the world (yes, including exotic islands and Antarctica). Even if you’re not comfortable living with a stranger, i would highly recommend joining a local group on the CS website and attending their meets. You’re sure to make friends instantly. AirBNB is another great, paid option.

2. InterNations and InterNations Meets
InterNations (ping me if you need an invite) is another global network, focused more on events, expat living and hosted parties for both members and non-members. Keep an eye on the monthly meetups which are usually a lot of fun, and held at some of the coolest hangouts in cities. These parties encourage everyone to network with a “leave nobody alone in a corner” credo. So go, even if you’re shy.

3. Offline Social Networking: Facebook Groups, Tweetups & foursquare Meets
How can we forget social networks?! I usually scour local groups in a new city to meet like minded people. So let’s say you’re visiting London and you love watching world movies. Just do a simple ‘London film club’ search on Facebook Groups. Biking? try ‘London biking group’ … you get the message.

Similarly, people on Twitter love meeting up too. So switch your local Trends on Twitter to reflect the pulse of the city you’re in, participate in the conversation, make friends and go attend a Tweetup (or create one, if there isn’t one happening!)

If you have a smartphone and don’t use foursquare when traveling, it’s like having an umbrella and not using it when it’s raining. Seriously, foursquare is a great tool to not only let your loved ones know where you are, but also to discover awesome places… and people. Most big cities have a local foursquare group that is hyper-active and loves meeting up! Every year, 16th of April is celebrated as 4SqDay where the whole gang meets up to ‘unlock badges’ and just have a fun time. Look up these meets on Meetup.com (another resource, by the way) and 4SqDay.com

4. Hostels
I’m tempted to use my umbrella example again. If you’re traveling and NOT staying in hostels instead of hotels, you must really love being a loner or want your space. Why are you still on this page in that case? Check out HostelWorld.com, HostelBookers.comHIHostels.com and MiniHostels.com to discover some of the best places you’ll meet the most interesting people in the world. Thank me later.

5. Travel Partners
So you’re all set for your next travel but your friends cannot join you, and you despise the thought of traveling solo. The horror! Or is it? Enter TravBuddy – a community of travelers who are seeking buddies to travel with. Whether you’re already on the road or planning your next trip, giving TravBuddy a dekko would definitely help a lot.

6. Expat Groups
Sure you may not be an expat, you’re just traveling. But why should that stop you from attending Expat parties in the city you’re visiting? This is another common event across the globe. People love meeting people. Locals love meeting travelers as much as travelers love meeting locals. Find one on InterNations or Expatica.com – alternatively, search for expat groups on Google (eg: New York expats)

7. Cultural Societies
If you’re British, chances are that you don’t want to meet other British people when traveling (replace British with your nationality, i’m not pinpointing here). But i’m sure there are people out there who don’t mind meeting fellow countrymen and women. So when i’m in Bogota, i’d look up something like a ‘Alianza Cultura de la India’ to meet my desi brethren and reminisce over a samosa and chai. You with me here? Fantastic!

8. Co-Working Spaces
In recent years, co-working spaces have sprung up around the world to help digital nomads and local entrepreneurs who prefer a shared desk to working solo in a confined space. These not only have all the amenities for catching up on your emails and updating your timesheets and projects, but more often than not, have a great friendly vibe and a shared camaraderie. Think of these as ‘day hostels with WiFi’. You do the math.

Resources: Jelly, CoWorking Wiki, DeskMag

9. Group Classes, Activity Partners & Group Tours
We all have a wish list if not a bucket list. Learn to salsa. Learn to surf. Cook. Yoga. Learn a new language – whatever. Learning is good – and it’s great when you do it as a group activity. So look up classes for whatever you want to learn and go make some new friends as a bonus. If you combine this with #4 you’ll find such classes much easily, since hostels keep a lot of fliers and ads for group activities in the vicinity. Likewise for walking / biking tours. You should be able to find these very easily in most cities (sometimes free, even!)

Resources: TimeOut, Groupon, Trabblr, Tushky, Zerve

10. Cafe Loyalty
This one would require a big time investment, but if you’re a caffeine freak like me it’ll happen naturally. Cherry pick a nice local cafe (ideally not one of the chains but a local business) and just hang out there with a book or your connected device. While you sip your coffee and catch up on worlds, your host would appreciate your loyalty and be more of a friend than a vendor. And if you’re cool, they should be able to introduce you to other people as well!

11. Terminals, Stations & Airports
Waiting at terminals, stations and airports is mundane and boring. I’ve personally found most people very friendly since a conversation with a stranger is always more interesting than yawning away and counting flies or rating attractive people in your head. Try it. It could be as simple as “where are you from?” or “where are you headed?” or “so why are you traveling to X today?”.

12. Welcome Clubs
Like i said earlier, people love meeting people around the world. There is an interesting subset of mad people in every city (me included), who love welcoming travelers and showing them around their city. Yes, we exist. Meet such people, and maybe even be inspired to become like them.

13. Toastmasters Club Meets
Toastmasters International is a really interesting, global club for leadership building through better oratory. They meet regularly every week and guests are welcome to attend for a nominal charge. I strongly encourage you to attend these – not only will you meet new, interesting people but you’ll also benefit by learning to be a better public speaker – and who doesn’t want to get better at that?!

14. Foodies United
Any wise person would tell you that you should never eat a meal alone. With communities like CoLunching and EatWith, it becomes so much more easier to find people to eat with, together – any where you go. Substitute meals with alcohol and you get another option… Bar Crawls and parties!

15. Language Exchange Groups
When you’re traveling to a place which speaks a different native language than yours, you could actually use it to your advantage! I repeat… people love meeting new people + learning new stuff. So if you can teach a language and want to learn a new one, look up Language Exchange Groups in the new city. Use Facebook, CouchSurfing Groups here, or check out sites like VoxSwap.

16. Volunteering
What if you could travel + do some good for local societies + meet new, interesting people? Volunteering when traveling can be that utopia if you’re sincere enough to do it with all your heart. Remember to stay true to your cause and see it through. Volunteering is a responsibility that’s guaranteed to leave you fulfilled and filled with delight, for giving back.

I’ll try to keep this an ongoing post as i discover more ways to connect with people anywhere.

If you have more ideas, please feel free to share them in Comments below, and do spread the word!

Exotic Gringo (Kaushal Karkhanis)

Leading an experimental life as a digital nomad, Kaushal started traveling in 2007 while choosing to shuttle between Goa and Mumbai as 'home'.