How to meet people when you travel solo? Not always easy. It’s not just a matter of being out-going. Some cultures don’t welcome “friendliness” from strangers. In fact, a woman can put herself at risk by seeming to encourage conversation. And some cultures are suspicious of smiling Americans.
Meeting people makes travel more enjoyable and interesting. Yet you want to be safe. What’s a single tourist to do? Here are four ways to engage with others at your new destination:
- Visit the Tourist Information office. You can pick up a map, for sure. And you can also pick up tips about where to find current happenings. Ask about “under-the-radar” tours, such as those offered by universities, art districts, or distilleries. Many countries participate in the free Global Greeter Network, which pairs travelers with a local guide in one of over 150 cities. The guides show guests the places that are meaningful, or help visitors find areas of special interest.
- Take a walking tour. Become familiar with your destination by joining a group that’s led by a local tour company. Besides learning your way around, your guide can point out good places for you to return, as well as answer questions about other activities or events. Book ahead through sites such as Viator (a TripAdvisor company) or GetYourGuide. I’ve used both of them and have always had positive experiences. They work with local tour companies, so it’s easy to find something that’s interesting or special, wherever you go.
- Find a festival. Who doesn’t love a festival?? All through the year, they draw happy folks. Often local and seasonal food is part of the day, too. Start by checking these sites that list festivals around the world: Everfest, Festivals, or Eventful. You’ll find information about types, admission fees, hours, and venues. Check if the city has a version of “Time Out,” the weekly magazine that tells all the art, entertainment, theatre, and film for places around the globe. It’s free, available online or in print. Often hotels have copies.
- Learn to cook. Travel always involves eating. What better way to understand a place than to take a class that teaches you how to make local foods? Depending on the class, you may wander the market to choose ingredients, partner with another traveler to chop vegetables, or watch a demonstration by a chef. All give you an opportunity to chat, ask questions, and get to know the area and its people better.
These ideas have worked for me, no matter where I’ve traveled. I’ve learned about “secret” restaurants, must-see streets, and tiny museums. People are happy to share their hometown. They want you to love it as much as they do. You’ll have a wonderful and safe experience.
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