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How to Meet New People While Traveling


A savvy traveler's guide to meeting new people. By VERONICA INVEEN. Illustrated by AUTCHARA PANPHAI.

Published on Aug 2, 2017

 

CONVIVIAL COUNTRIES
WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING PALS, NOT ALL DESTINATIONS ARE EQUAL. HERE ARE A FEW COUNTRIES THAT ARE PARTICULARLY WELL LEANT TO FORGING FRIENDSHIPS.

Convivial Countries
Source Illustration: courtesy of Pinterest.com/elgiminiman.

SRI LANKA
In a compact country known for its sincerely hospitable locals, it's no surprise that friendly holidaymakers abound in Sri Lanka as well. You can meet both riding aboard the old train lines, hiking the central highlands, strolling Galle Fort or just chilling on the beach (don't be surprised if someone offers you their rental surfboard to catch the last waves of the day). Aside from being safe, this country full of richly layered culture is also easy to navigate. Join a wildlife tour or a yoga retreat or just set up camp at a beach bar, and you'll be surrounded by new friends in no time. The Barberyn Reef Ayurveda Resort (barberynresorts.com; standard single room for nine days from €1,400). in Beruwala on the island's south coast offers retreats that specialize in Ayurveda, one of the world's oldest holistic healing systems. Enjoy nine days of wholesome activity while attending lectures, cooking classes and cultural events with other guests.

BHUTAN
Since entry into the country is only possible on a pre-booked tour, meeting new people in Bhutan is inevitable. Perhaps it's your guide you click with, a shop owner or a fellow tourist. This happy country makes finding intimate connection seem simple. And with the option to join tours focusing on everything from trekking and wildlife to spirituality and wellness, you are bound to cross paths with like-minded travelers. Visit the Tourism Council of Bhutan's website (tourism.gov.bt) to scroll through official tour operators like Bhutan 4 Friends (bhutan4friends.com; from US$200 per night all inclusive), whose offerings include homestays with Bhutanese families in traditional farmhouses.

NEW ZEALAND
The country's vast landscapes may make it an ideal destination for solo travelers to do a little self-discovery but Kiwis have been lauded as the world's friendliest population (see HSBC's Expat Explorer Survey), meaning you may want to welcome a little socializing to your meditative retreat. Bond with another trekker over the lush forest surrounding the Milford Track, swap stories with your barista in Auckland, or chat up the oenophiles sharing your picnic table at that cellar door in Hawke's Bay. Who knows? A question about directions could have you raising a glass with a group of new friends by the end of the day. Take the country by bus with Kiwi Experience (kiwiexperience.com; passes from NZ$365), and meet travelers from around the world, hopping off and on as you make your way around the two islands. Their bus passes are valid for 12 months so you can take your time. You're all but guaranteed to connect with some adventure-hungry nomads along the way.

THE PHILIPPINES
If there is one place an English-speaker can confidently strike up a conversation with a stranger it's the Philippines. The language is widely spoken here and many locals are eager to practice with foreigners. Combine a warm and approachable population with a destination brimming with karaoke bars, beaches and must-try street food, and you'll be bellowing Hotel California arm-in-arm with new pals in no time. If you want to get personal with the lush nature of the archipelago, try "wwoofing"—World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (wwoof.ph). Help out at a vegetable garden in the mountainous province of Ifugao or a fruit farm in coastal Batangas. Not only will you make local connections by staying with farmers, but you also will meet other volunteers. T+L Tip: To avoid dangerous areas, read up on travel warnings issued by your government, like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singapore (mfa.gov.sg) or the U.S. Department of State (travel.state.gov), before venturing out in the country.

 

HOTEL HANGOUTS
WHILE THE HOSTEL FAMOUSLY CONNECTS TRAVELERS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD, WE WON'T HOLD IT AGAINST YOU IF SHARED BATHROOMS AND BUNK BEDS AREN'T YOUR STYLE. LUCKILY, THERE ARE ACCOMMODATIONS THAT HELP YOU CONNECT WITH OTHER GLOBETROTTERS WITHOUT SACRIFICING YOUR PERSONAL SPACE OR HIGH-THREAD-COUNT SHEETS. THESE HOTELS ENCOURAGE GUESTS TO GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER AMID MORE LUXURIOUS SURROUNDS.

M SOCIAL SINGAPORE
The biggest room at this 293-room hotel is 22 square meters, meaning that although its sleek-yet-quirky design is attractive, you likely won't want to stay cooped up for long. And that's okay because the hotel also boasts a spacious rooftop pool, and a funky restaurant with communal seating where other guests will be relaxing and waiting for cheers. msocial.com.sg; doubles from S$225.

M Social Singapore
Courtesy of M Social Singapore.

W HONG KONG
Aside from housing two of the city's coolest bars—the 76th-floor pool bar, Wet Deck, and WooBar, a chic watering-hole with a mean happy hour—the hotel also hosts various events each month where guests can mingle and join in group activities like fitness-motivated dance parties and mixology classes. w-hongkong.com; doubles from HK$2,470.

W Hong Kong
Courtesy of W Hong Kong.

THE BOATSHED WAIHEKE, NEW ZEALAND
Situated on the shores of the dreamy island Waiheke off the east coast of Auckland, this hotel has a particularly communal vibe with a book-lined living room, open kitchen, shared tables and staff that is as chatty—or quiet—as you want them to be. boatshed.co.nz; doubles from NZ$685.

The Boatshed Waiheke
Courtesy of The Boatshed Waiheke.

LUB D PATONG, THAILAND
Okay, we admit it, this one considers itself a hostel, but its stylish private rooms equipped with hotel standards like a mini fridge and toiletries plus the international breakfast say otherwise. Lub D's über successful Bangkok locations have led to the opening of their first southern venture in bustling Patong on Phuket in 2016. Here, potential buds are aplenty. With a co-working space, a muay Thai gym and a fun poolside bar that hosts happy-hour deals and themed parties, it'll be tough not to mingle with other island-goers. If all else fails, cop a jug of mojitos, concocted with local rum—as they say, sharing is caring. lubd.com; private rooms from Bt1,000.

Lub D Patong
Courtesy of Lub D Patong.

 

ONLINE AMIGOS
OFTEN, THE EASIEST WAY TO AVOID THE ANXIETY-PROVOKING ACT OF INTRODUCING YOURSELF TO A STRANGER IN PUBLIC IS BY CORRESPONDING ONLINE BEFOREHAND. GO ON—CHECK OUT THERE SITES AND APPS TO GIVE YOURSELF A FRIENDLY HEAD START.

PARTY WITH A LOCAL
You'll never have to hit the town on your own with this aptly named app that unites partiers in more than 150 countries. Whether it's to grab a drink, meet festivalgoers or find parties and events in town, you'll be able to connect with both locals and foreigners looking to have a good time. Hit a speakeasy with a fellow gin dilettante or scroll through nearby events ranging from concerts to pool parties to underground dance blowouts. partywithalocal.com; iOS and Android.

MEETUP
Attend a happy hour at a new bar in Hong Kong, join a photography workshop in Bangkok, learn about natural health in Bali or even attend a club meeting for a political movement while in Singapore. Meetup is your all-access pass to hundreds of free group activities organized by locals. Whatever your niche is, there is probably an event that will strike your fancy. (Yes, there's someone out there who loves ultimate frisbee just as much as you do). meetup.com.

VAYABLE
Artists, foodies, teachers, filmmakers, chefs and all the other hosts on Vayable are creating bespoke tours for travelers looking to experience local culture through trips created by passionate resident insiders. Discover the backstreets of Shanghai and share some dumplings with long-time residents as they tell stories of the neighborhoods, or fish for lobster at one of Taiwan's popular restaurants that lets you catch and cook your own meal. Meanwhile, get chummy with your guide and enjoy having a resident connection in a new city. vayable.com.

TRIPR
You have three days in Hanoi and don't know a soul in Vietnam. By registering on Tripr you'll be able to swipe through other travelers who will be in the city during the same dates so you won't have to slurp your bowl of bun thang solo. Additionally, the app lets you know which of your Facebook friends have been to the city before, and which of them live there, if any. This platform is made specifically for those looking for travel buddies, to help ensure you dodge any romantic hopefuls from the get-go. triprapp.com; available on iOS and Android.

EATWITH
Think AirBnb but for dining. Chefs and food entrepreneurs in more than 200 cities around the globe are hosting dinner parties for strangers, giving you instant local cred. For example, visit an American professor in Hong Kong for a pan-Asian feast: homemade pho, Cantonese home-cooking, fried chicken. Taste traditional Venetian cuisine in the garden of your chef, a food-loving seaman born and raised in the city of canals. Or spend the day in Tokyo with Shino, a Japanese culture lecturer who will take you to Tsukiji fish market to choose the freshest tuna for your subsequent sushi feast. eatwith.com.

 

 

DATING APPS
Here's a tip for utilizing dating apps like Tinder (gotinder.com) and OkCupid (okcupid.com): You can forgo any romantic expectation by writing a profile explaining you just want to explore the area or meet up as friends. Try out Happn (happn.com), which presents you with users who you've physically crossed paths with throughout your day, or Bumble (bumble.com)—women are in charge of making the first contact and there is a "BFF" feature that allows you to browse for pals.

  SAFETY FIRST
Meeting new people can be exciting and fulfilling, but your enthusiasm for such overtures should be matched with equal amounts of safety precautions. Stay in the know about your destination's cultural norms, do a little digging on the person you're linking up with beforehand, and always stick to meeting in public places. It also could be useful to learn words like "help" and "police" in the local language, just in case.

 

FRIENDLY FORAYS
GET INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY YOU ARE VISITING WITH THESE ACTIVITIES, WHICH COULD HAVE YOU SHAKING YOUR HIPS IN HONG KONG, SPEAKING TAGALOG IN MANILA OR CLEANING BEACHES IN LANGKAWI.

PARTNER DANCING
If being swung around by a stranger won't break the ice, we're not sure what will. Perhaps the easiest way to get next-level comfortable with someone new is by joining a dance class. You'll be forced to let loose and get to know your partner in a short period of time. A quick search for classes and events online is the best way to reveal what a city has to offer. In Bangkok, for instance, try Bangkok Swing (bangkokswing.com), a twice-a-week social dance that brings together swing dancers of all levels, including free beginner classes. Or loosen your hips in Hong Kong at salsa fusion nights at Rula Bula (rulabula.com.hk), which take place every Sunday and include Brazilian zouk dance lessons.

LANGUAGE EXCHANGE
Take a group language class and expand your ability to communicate with the local population, or meet other folks who speak your native tongue or favorite foreign language. In most big cities, you can find language exchange meet-ups for free via Facebook groups, Meetup or Craigslist.

VOLUNTEERING
Lend a helping hand and you may be rewarded with a new community. There are typically countless chances to get involved as a volunteer no matter where you are in the world. Find a local or international organization that tugs at your heartstrings and see what opportunities they have open. Not only will you get to experience the place you're visiting in a more personal way, but contribute to it too. Check out LinkedIn for Good (linkedinforgood.linkedin.com) and browse through opportunities on their Volunteer Marketplace, or peruse VolunteerAlliance (volunteeralliance.org) for projects looking for worker-bees even in the more remote corners of the world.

 

     PERSONALITY GOES A LONG WAY
         

BE APPROACHABLE
Take off the headphones and ease up on the angry eyes. Think about the people you'd be willing to approach: their faces probably aren't glued to their phones, and their expressions are likely at ease. Present yourself as open to conversation and others will sense it as well.

 

 


STAND OUT
A surefire way to garner a little attention: flaunt something outlandish that will get people talking. Whether a flashy pair of shoes, a flower crown or a top hat, don something out of the ordinary and you'll undoubtedly have admirers, skeptics and the curious approaching you to learn more.

 


BE INQUISITIVE
We can all agree that people love talking about themselves.to brag about their hometown or to reminisce about a meal they had last week. Asking a few questions of someone you've just met will get the ball rolling. Even offering to take a picture for a stranger might lead to an interesting conversation.

 

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Source Illustration: courtesy of Playbuzz.com.
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