Tips for How To Meet Locals While Traveling
Meeting other people while moving from place to place by yourself can be a pretty challenging feat. Meeting locals while traveling is even tougher. They’re the gatekeepers to the hole-in-the-wall restaurants, bars, and entertainment that you won’t find in a guidebook.
Here’s a quick list of what I recommend:
- Couchsurfing Hosts
- AirBnB Hosts
- Hostel Staff
- Pick a random bar/restaurant & talk to people
- Free walking tour guides
- Check out Nomad List
- Eat with a Local
- Uber or Lyft around town
- Meetup For Events
- Facebook Groups
- Pickup sports in parks
- Coworking Spaces
Scroll down for more information on each of the above possibilities.
One great way that I’ve used to meet other people in the past has been Couchsurfing. I know that the community reacted harshly when they changed their Terms of Service and became a for-profit company in 2013 (shortly before my trip). By joining the Düsseldorf community, I was able to chat with other Couchsurfers and try to find a place to crash for my first few nights abroad.
If you cannot happen to find a host on Couchsurfing, I have found that AirBnB ($20 free with that link!) is a great experience if you are in a private room of someone’s house. When I stayed in Egypt, Kenya, and other places abroad, all of my hosts were amazing with providing me places to see, to eat at, and to drink. Not only would they recommend their favorite places, but they also seemed to be places that weren’t on Yelp, TripAdvisor, or whatever travel blogs you consult prior to a trip.
So, if AirBnB and Couchsurfing aren’t your things and you’re still young (at heart), you’re probably in a hostel of sorts. Hostels are an amazing place. I sit back in my chair while writing this post wondering if there have ever been any sociological or psychological studies done on people that stay at hostels. I would be willing to be that most people are extroverted and enjoy making friends with people, no matter the situation (except for taking care of someone puking in a toilet at a hostel).
Yes, this might be the most out there suggestion that I have for you. But, trust me, my one friend has used it before to meet up with people in parts of the city that he would’ve never ventured to. Not only did he have a great time, but he also left the date with a massive list of suggestions for what to do the next few days while in that city.
Chatting with the hostel cleaners, front desk, or anyone else that works at the hostel is another good bet. They’re usually from a different country than the one that you’re in. But have been living there long enough to know where to go and don’t mind hanging out.
Just pick out a bar off the main streets. My friend Chris and I did this once in Tokyo and we were invited over to sit with a party of four that live in the city. From here, we ended up having a couple rounds and chatting – eventually leading to a cab ride across the city to go out to a dance club for one of the most memorable nights of our trip with people we just met.
If you’re not invited to join another table, just talk to the people behind the bar if their not busy. Or chat with the other patrons at the bar and see if they mind you joining their party. Nine times out of ten, they’ll be OK with it and let you join in.
Free walking tours of cities are also fantastic to meet locals. Usually, the guides speak great English and can offer some of the best knowledge of where to go in a city. Usually after a free tour, I’ll invite the guide out for a bite to eat and chat more. This will then lead to asking what is going on later in the night and possibly being invited to hang out with them. Just google ‘Free Walking Tour City Your In‘ and there will more than likely be a result. However, there is also Tours By Locals that can guide you as well.
Nomad List launched in the past year or so. But, it is a great way to learn more about a city and connect with nomads that are currently there or have been there in the past. If you’re into remote working, like me, you’ll be able to meet up with other like-minded individuals rather easily. I believe a membership will set you back ~$60.00 USD.
I was just introduced to another way to potentially meet locals while traveling abroad through a handful of cooking events. These could be similar to the Tokyo Sushi Making Tour I did or by using a service like EatWith or Feastly.
This next suggestion is something I have experience with. Having used BlaBlaCar to get from Croatia to Greece, I met another 4 travelers my age from Milan & Portugal. When I headed back to Milan nearly two years later, I contacted Francesco and we proceeded to meet up and go out to a couple of bars with all my friends. Using a car sharing service like BlaBlaCar, Uber, or Lyft while abroad can help you meet some locals and receive their suggestions.
This next suggestion is another great option to meet people, Meetup.com. Being a software developer, I know that there are probably thousands of developer meetup groups across the world if I had to guess. I’ve even gone to a Hack Night before in New Orleans. You could do Yoga in Barcelona, Hike the Inca Trail in Peru, or 101 other experiences.
In the same vein as Meetup.com, you could also look into Facebook Events happening in the city. The Croatia Full of Life Facebook Page appears to have a ton of past events posted. A simple google search for ‘Facebook events in City Your In‘ should suffice.
Did you happen to pack your soccer cleats and aren’t afraid of some friendly competition, you could venture to a nearby park and see if there are any pickup games being played. There are even specific groups for pickup Ultimate Frisbee across the globe.
If you’re a digital nomad, you’ve probably already met your fair share of people in coworking spaces around the world. Most places have a daily entrance fee ($5-$10 USD), but you get a chance to talk to people that have possibly been in the city for a far longer time than you.
In closing, there are a ton of ways to meet locals while traveling. Hopefully, you can use one of the suggestions above to explore new parts of cities with new friends.