How To Make Friends When Traveling Solo

bar Having nobody to travel with shouldn’t stop you from visiting the destinations you dream of going to. In fact, meeting others on the road is a lot easier than people think. To help you make friends while traveling solo, use the tips below.

Eat Alone At The Bar

It may sound strange, but eating alone at a bar is actually a great way to meet others. While eating alone at a table may not help you make connections, eating by yourself at the bar makes you approachable. Additionally, you’re more likely to encounter other solo travelers doing the same. And if all else fails, you’ll still have the bartender to talk to.Make Use Of CouchSurfing And Meetup

When I travel solo, CouchSurfing is my bible. I don’t use it to stay on people’s couches, but instead to connect with locals and other travelers. There are forums where you can tell people when you’re arriving in a city, see what other people have planned and browse events in the area. Likewise, Meetup allows you to find like-minded people and attend activities that match your interests, like hiking, meditation, philosophy or spicy food.

hostel Stay In Hostels

While obvious to some, there are still many who are apprehensive about staying in hostels. They picture the movie “Hostel,” with dirty, dingy rooms and creepy guests and murderers lurking the halls. In reality, hostels are usually clean, with friendly staff and myriad activities to help you get to know the city. Look for properties with common areas like kitchens, TV rooms, bars and BBQ areas.

Take Walking Tours

Many cities offer free or affordable walking tours. When going on one, it’s almost impossible not to strike up conversations with other travelers. You can discuss how interesting the sites are, and then segue into what other tours they plan on taking. From there, making conjoined travel plans is simple.
train
Strike Up Conversations On Transportation

Taking public transportation is a great way to meet other travelers and locals. You can ask the person next to you about where they’re going, and about where they came from. For example, on a train journey through Germany, I met a young artist from Holland who was traveling the world indefinitely. Not only did he tell entertaining stories about being arrested for doing graffiti in New York, but we also ended up exploring Munich together.

Use The Currency Exchange

All travelers need money, so what better place to meet people than a currency exchange? This is where I met one of my closest friends from traveling. The line was long, and when he saw I was wearing a backpack like he was, he struck up a conversation. We ended up traveling together for two weeks, and still visit each other in our home cities.

volunteerVolunteer

Volunteering is a worthwhile way to spend your time in any city. Not only will you be helping a community in need, you’ll also be immersing yourself in a culture and getting to know locals and volunteers. A good idea is to do a homestay, as this helps you get an authentic experience of a place while becoming close with the people you’re living with.

Book Organized Trips

While doing excursions on your own will save you money, booking an organized tour will help you meet others. You’ll not only be interacting with the travelers on the tour, but also the local guide. Many times I’ll ask the guide about interesting places to see and fun places to go out, which leads to groups of people making plans to explore together. questions

Ask Questions

When traveling, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask other travelers about their trips, a local baker about how they bake fresh bread, a cab driver about the types of people they encounter or a hotel owner about what inspired them to begin a business. Every person you encounter is an opportunity to learn something new, and make a new connection.

Be Open To New Experiences

If a stranger invites you to go dancing, if a local wants to bring you as a guest to a wedding or if you get invited to dinner at someone’s home, take the opportunity. Again, it’s a great way to have an authentic experience while getting to know locals. That being said, always trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling about someone, get away immediately.

Use Social Media

Social media isn’t just for sharing funny pictures and telling the world how you’re feeling; it can also be used to meet other people when traveling. A lot of times when I’m going on a trip, I’ll put a tweet or Facebook status out telling others my plans. Even if nobody else will be in the city I’m traveling to, they may have a friend or family member who will be. party

Host A Party Or Get Together

You don’t need to wait to hear about an event from someone else. Instead, plan one yourself. It doesn’t need to be anything lavish. Even having people get together at a karaoke bar or advertising a language exchange can get people excited. When in Mendoza, I was traveling solo and didn’t know anyone in the city. My birthday was coming up, so I decided to plan an event that included going to an asado restaurant and then out dancing. I posted a message on CouchSurfing, as well as put a note up in my hostel, and ended up having a group of about 12 people come along.

Picnic

This is especially effective in Europe, where picnicking is popular. Go to the market and pickup some cheese, bread, fruit, cold meat, wine and a blanket, and head to the nearest park or square. You can offer to share food with other people, or find other picnickers to share with. central park

Hangout In Parks

Not only are parks great for picnicking, they’re also the place where people go to do all kinds of activities. Hangout with people playing live music, get in on a game of frisbee or play some chess with a stranger. When I was at a park in China, a group of girls saw me watching them do traditional dance, and they asked me if I wanted to learn. I had a great time trying something new, and got to meet some really nice locals.

Pub Crawls

It’s almost impossible not to make friends on a pub crawl, especially since the alcohol will make you less nervous about going up to strangers. Moreover, the extremely social setting and outgoing guides help to get people mingling.

[images via ms.margie, Jessie on a Journey, Michael de’Oz, Jessie on a Journey, Jessie on a Journey, Jessie on a Journey, aherrero]

New York City Hotel Sells ‘Slumber Parties’ In New Multi-Person Rooms

sleep share the out nycIt’s not what it sounds like – or is it? NYC’s The Out Hotel, the city’s first hotel targeted specifically at the gay audience (they call themselves “straight friendly”), is attempting to sell a hostel-style living situation where guests pay $99 per night to score a bed and an overnight reservation. These full-bedded bunk-bed style rooms will hold up to four guests and are charged per bed, and come with personal TVs, a bathroom, shower, full-length cubbies and privacy curtains.

While the concept is nothing new – hostels have been doing this for years – putting this type of accommodation just steps from Times Square and Broadway could do one of two things. The concept could be wildly successful, the perfect respite for budget-savvy solo travelers looking just to catch a few winks and maybe make a few friends in the process, or…. it could turn into a bit wilder. And don’t think about cuddling close to save money – the rate is for one person per bed only.

Either way, it’s a decent deal for a solo traveler with more liberal privacy issues. Rates with two doubles are going from around $309 a night for a weekend stay.

12 Tips For Saving Money On Food While Traveling

melocha When traveling, one of the biggest strains on your wallet is the cost of food. The problem isn’t that there aren’t affordable food options, but more that many people are unsure of how to navigate the dining scene in foreign locations. Instead of asking your hotel for recommendations or going to restaurants that “look nice,” use this guide to find budget-friendly meal options when traveling.

Stop Thinking “Everything Is So Cheap”

This is a dilemma many travelers face when in low-cost countries, or simply when they find a snack they enjoy that is less than $3. Instead of thinking you don’t have to worry about purchasing something because “it’s only $1,” think about how all those “it’s only $1” times add up. Moreover, if you’re the type of person who needs to eat something in between lunch and dinner, opt for a big lunch on a set menu. In most countries, you can find filling and cheap lunch specials and combos during this time, which can also help you eat a smaller dinner.Picnic

Not only does picnicking save you money, it’s also fun to put together. Instead of having one big meal, you’ll be able to taste a lot of different foods. For me, a good picnic includes bread, cheese, fruit, cold meat, dip and a dried vegetable. Along with saving money, having a picnic is also a great way to meet other travelers. You can either ask someone from your accommodation to go in on the food with you, or offer someone something where you’re eating. For example, when picnicking in the parks of Europe I would often offer someone some of my fruit in exchange for some bread, and I’d end up with a lunch partner.

food Dine Locally

Eating at local restaurants can save you an exorbitant amount of money. Not only that, but the food is usually better. Don’t go to places with an English menu, and peek in to see if there are mostly locals inside. When traveling through Peru, a girl I met – who had eaten at the touristy restaurant the hostel had recommended – was ecstatic at how cheap food in the country was. “I paid $8 for a big antipasto plate,” she gushed. As I’d been eating at local restaurants and paying less than $2 for a huge soup, entree, desert and juice, I found this pretty expensive.

Don’t Eat At The First Place You See

When traveling, many people will see a place that looks good, or just go to the place recommended by their hotel. By doing this, you may be missing out on a great deal. When in Banos, Ecuador, with a friend, we decided we were getting a little tired of local food and wanted Mexican. We saw a place that looked good near our guesthouse, but decided to walk down the street a little bit more. About three blocks farther, we found a place that allowed us to have wine, beer, two appetizers and a huge entree for what one appetizer and one small entree would have cost at the first restaurant.

foodEat Street Food

Street food is my favorite thing in the world. I’m always amazed at the unique entrees, and how inexpensive they are. While many people associate street food with Asia, there are many countries around the world with delicious offerings. I love chocla con queso in Peru, plantains with cheese and mayonnaise in Ecuador, choripan in Argentina, fried chicken and yams in Ghana and a giant salted pretzel in New York.

Buy Large Waters

If you’re in a city where the tap water is undrinkable, purchase a gallon bottle of water and use it to refill your smaller one. While it may not sound like much, a huge water is usually less than a dollar more than a small one, and lasts for days. And of course, if the tap water is drinkable, drink it.

breakfastBook Accommodations That Serve Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and one you shouldn’t skip to save money. Before booking your accommodation, make sure they include breakfast in the rate. That way, you can fill up on free food and eat lighter later in the day.

Do Some Research

While you could spend hours scouring the streets for a good place to eat, doing a simple Google search could save you a lot of time. I like to skip the tourism board and business sites and check travel forums and blogs to see what other people found on their travels.

drinks Skip The Cocktails

While it can be nice to have a cocktail with dinner, it will usually tack on quite a bit of money. Think about it. Say you have one $5 drink with dinner each night. At the time, this will seem like no big deal. However, after a week you’ll have spent $35 extra dollars, and after a month $150 or more. Along with saying no to alcohol with dinner, I also bring my own water bottle so I won’t have to buy a beverage at all.

Check For Extra Fees

Certain things that may be free in your home country when eating out may not be complimentary in the place you’re visiting. For example, in certain countries it’s common to charge for condiments and the use of the table. Likewise, the breads and small appetizers the server automatically brings over may have a charge associated with them. Make sure to ask and, if they’re not free and you don’t want them, have the server take them back, as you’ll get charged for having them on the table.

kitchen Stay At Accommodations With Kitchens

Grocery shopping and cooking your own meals is not only healthy, but also budget-friendly. It’s also fun to discover new grocery items you don’t have in your home country. In Argentina, I traveled with a girl who dined out for every meal while I cooked for myself. After doing the math, I realized she spent in two meals what I paid for four entire days of food. Even if you don’t want to cook every meal, incorporating it into your eating itinerary will save you a lot of money.

Pack Your Own Lunch For The Airport And Excursions

It’s nice when tours include a lunch in the price, but if they don’t it’s best to pack your own. Tourist sites and airports usually charge a crazy amount of money, and usually don’t have the best food, anyway.

When Hostels Are Terrible

kissing Don’t get me wrong. I love hostels. Even if someone offered me the choice between a free luxurious hotel room or a basic hostel dorm, I would choose the hostel simply based on the social factor. That being said, it’s not always easy sharing a room with 10 other people. Here are some of the most annoying experiences I’ve encountered in hostels.

Sex in the Dorms

Now, I completely understand that months on the road with no action can be difficult, but really, you can be more creative than that. First of all, the shower is a perfectly acceptable place to have sex – and your hostel roommates will thank you for it. Or, why not add a little romance to the special night and splurge on a budget motel room? You could also take this opportunity to cross some things off your bucket list: having sex under the Eiffel Tower, having sex on the London Bridge, or having sex on the Italian Riviera. Basically, you could be having sex anywhere but in the hostel dorm. While I’ve had a few encounters with these offenders, the worst was in Interlaken, when the girl on the top bunk came home inebriated with a random guy from the bar. Not only did she wake me up with all the shaking and moaning, but also her bra somehow got tossed onto my head during the exchange. Let’s just say it was very awkward the next morning.Snoring

I know people who snore can’t help it but if you know you snore loud enough to wake up the whole building, please splurge on a private room. Many hostels offer them, so you’ll still be able to interact with other travelers and still have the whole social experience of backpacking. Once in a 10-person hostel room in Buenos Aires, the guy next to me was snoring so loud the rest of us stayed up all night. Since I was the closest to him, I was given the task of waking him up every five minutes to tell him to roll over. His response? “Stop waking me up. I’m sleeping.” Must be nice. fan

Dealing with Different Body Temperatures

Everyone runs on a different temperature. While some people deem 70 degrees to be tank top weather, others will have long sleeves and jeans on. When you’re in a hostel, however, you need to judge how the group feels. If everyone else is sweating and for some odd reason you have a chill, ask reception for an extra blanket. Don’t make everyone suffer. During a trip to São Paulo, I was in an all-girl’s six-person dorm. The room always seemed to be on the humid side and we were all constantly opening the windows and turning on the fan. That is until one girl who “had a cold” decided that since having air blowing on her would make her sicker, we should turn off the fan, seal all the windows and breath in her germs. Unfortunately, she had the bed near the window and total control of whether it was open or not – not cool.

People Who Smell

Backpackers get a bad rap for not making enough use of the showers provided at the hostels. And even when laundry hasn’t been done in weeks, it can seem like an unnecessary waste of time and money. Please trust me, it’s not. Take a shower and do your laundry. I don’t care if you need to skip a meal in order to pay for the laundry, do your fellow travelers a favor and do it. When I was in Rio de Janeiro, I actually had a guy who smelled so much like sweaty gym socks, the rest of us in the dorm would go to bed late and wake up early just to stay out of the room. Not to mention, we all now had to take extra showers and do extra laundry to get the smell off us. fridge

Food Being Stolen

I understand that times are tough, especially when you’re a jobless backpacker on the road. However, stealing other peoples’ food to save money or because you’re too tired after sightseeing all day to go get your own food is unacceptable. If it’s not in the “community cabinet,” don’t touch it. On a trip to Rome, I went to the grocery store and purchased ingredients to make a killer omelet for dinner. I made sure to get enough stuff for two nights, as the next day was a holiday and the shops would be closed. After a day of sightseeing, I came back to find everything gone aside for one egg and a can of beans. So while someone enjoyed my delicious meat and cheese omelet, I got to live on crackers.

Ill-equipped kitchens

This is usually the fault of the hostel more so than the backpackers, but regardless, it’s annoying. Why are there 100 forks and knives, but no spoons? How am I supposed to eat my cereal without a bowl? From a plate? Out of a saucepan? There are certain staples a kitchen should have – spoons, forks, knives, bowls, plates, cups, a frying pan, a pot and a can opener. I think a wine opener is also pretty important, but that’s just me. megaphone

Excess Noise

Obviously, everyone has different lifestyles and travel schedules. While one backpacker may love exploring a city’s nightlife and staying out until sunrise, another may be the type who enjoys waking up at 7:00 a.m., sightseeing for the day and calling it a night. Sometimes people have to catch early flights, while others may not need to wake up until noon. Because of this, you need to expect a bit of shuffling and rustling at inconvenient times. That being said, you can make everyone’s life easier by doing some pre-preparation. If you know you’re going to be stumbling back to the hostel drunk at an ungodly hour, lay out your pajamas and a bottle of water before you leave for the night. Have a train to catch at 5:00 a.m.? Pack the night before so you only have a few odds and ends to take care of in the morning. Not only is it courteous to other travelers, but it saves you time and allows for some extra sleep.

No Shower Time

Usually when staying in a hostel, you do not have a private bathroom. Keep this in mind when getting ready. Other people are waiting to use the bathroom and shower, and it’s annoying when people use up all the hot water. Of course, we’re all thankful you’re taking a shower – remember, people who smell are annoying – but also keep in mind you’re backpacking. Nobody is expecting you to look like a supermodel on the road.

Have you ever had an annoying hostel experience?

[flickr photos via sidewalk flying, nist6ss, LizaWasHere, kimba]

10 historical hostels with unique pasts

hostel celica Former prisons, renovated brothels, converted convents; sometimes, you get more than just a cheap bed when choosing a hostel. In fact, with a little research you can find yourself relaxing in the same room a king once did, or dining in a kitchen where soldiers from WWII slept during the war. To help make your next trip a bit more historical, here are ten hostels from around the world with unique pasts.

Hostel Celica
Ljubljana, Slovenia

While Hostel Celica is currently a cultural and creative hostel that features an art gallery, debate forum, inspirational workshops, concerts, and special events, the accommodation is actually a former military prison. Its use dates back to 1882, when the jail was within the military barracks of Metelkova Street. It wasn’t until Solvenia gained independence and the barracks were no longer necessary that the space was converted into what it is today. While there are no longer prisoners of war here, guests can still spend the night in a jail cell. Moreover, symbols of peace, like prayer rooms with alters for the world’s five major religions and a “Point of Peace” meditation space, celebrate the positive transition of the building.Bluehostel Rome
Rome, Italy

The Bluehostel Rome is not only well-situated near historical sites like the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, it’s also a historical site in itself. Once a 17th century convent, the basement of the hostel has been renovated from a 1st century Roman dwelling. Today, guests can still enjoy this unique past through old-world decor and the 150-year-old traditional wooden ceilings, which were recently discovered during a renovation in May of 2010.

london hostels Clink 78
London, United Kingdom

Located in central London is a trendy backpacker hostel that is actually a renovated 200-year-old courthouse. There are also seven original prison cells which guests can sleep in. Some fun facts about the hostel: The Clash once stood trial in what is now the TV lounge, and the current internet space, which was also once a courtroom, gave Charles Dickens his inspiration for “Oliver Twist.” With all of this history, it’s not surprising that Clink 78 is on the official National Heritage List for England.

Ethic étapes Cannes Jeunesse
Cannes, France

Located on a protected and nearly deserted island in the Mediterranean, this hostel is a historic fort from the 17th century. Built by architect Marquis de Vauban, well-known for advising Louis XIV on how to condense France’s borders, it was later made famous by the movie “The Man in the Iron Mask” as the place where the prisoner was held captive.

belford hostel Belford Hostel
Edinburgh, Scotland

When visiting a Gothic city like Edinburgh, it would only be right to stay in an accommodation that reflects its rich history. Belford Hostel is actually a historic church building from the 19th century that has retained its features over the decades. High ceilings, stained glass windows, details and decor from the original building help take travelers back in time and to feel as if they are living in old-world Scotland.

Historical Ryokan Hostel K’s House Ito Onsen Accommodation
Higashimatsubara-cho, Japan

This historical building is over 100 years old and is the only hostel registered as a cultural property in Japan. Because of this, guests are metaphorically taken into the past as the property has changed very little in terms of structure and decor. What guests of this property enjoy more than anything is the 100% natural age-old hot springs with relaxation and healing properties, making it one of the most historical as well as luxurious hostels in the world.

back of chapel backpacker Back of Chapel Backpacker
Melbourne, Australia

While the name of the hostel sounds happy and light, this newly renovated hostel has a bit of a seedy past. Over 100 years ago, the building was actually a brothel used by politicians and ministers, and a stay here will allow you to see firsthand the hidden escape door these men would sneak out through during police raids. You can actually read about the old brothel in the novel “My Brother Jack.” Today, this social hostel takes on a more moral air and features modern amenities to help backpackers feel comfortable and safe.

Jailhouse Accommodation

Christchurch, New Zealand

Jailhouse Accommodation has everything a backpacker could want: comfortable beds, TV lounges, a communal kitchen, a fun game room, and prison-style accommodation. The thick concrete walls of the building held not only a jail, but also a military camp and women’s prison. Although the prison was shut down in 1999, it wasn’t until 2006 that a couple transformed the building from a gloomy jailhouse to a friendly backpacker destination. Today, you can still experience the Gothic architecture from 1874 as well as sleep in a prison cell for yourself (they even have prisoner outfits that you can wear for photos). Jailhouse Accommodation is also listed as a New Zealand Historic Places Trust Heritage Building.

old fire station backpackers Old Firestation Backpackers
Fremantle, Australia

This fun and social destination is well-known for offering an array of free amenities, such as WiFi, video games, linens, lockers, an outdoor cinema, and a game lounge. According to the Australian Heritage Database, Old Firestation Backpackers is a restored heritage building from 1908 and was originally planned to house four horse-drawn carriages including an ambulance. Another interesting tidbit is that during WWII, the firemen were evacuated so the U.S. Marines could move in. Today, guests can still experience the history of the building, as little has been changed inside, from high ceilings to a fireman’s pole.

Hostelling International- Ottawa Jail Hostel
Ottawa, Canada

Located in downtown Ottawa, this hostel was once the Carleton County Gaol (Jail), and a stay here will allow you to sleep in a prison hospital room or a renovated jail cell with barred doors and arched ceilings. You can also take a Haunted Walking Tour of the jail, which will give you a spooky look into the history of the building. If your appetite for history still isn’t satiated, you can head over to nearby sites like Parliament Hill, the Museum of Civilization, the Canadian War Museum, or the National Gallery of Canada.