All travels are made that much better by having a friend who lives locally! When it comes to how to meet locals while traveling, a few tips abound.
When I studied abroad in Europe, befriending locals was definitely the reason why it became the unforgettable experience that it was. Because of the friends I met abroad, I had a last minute place to stay when every hostel/hotel was booked, I learned about local food and culture, and got to hang out at places only the locals knew.
There’s definitely a traveler’s grapevine that happens when you start exploring the world, and it’s really easy to make friends with other travelers.
But how do you immerse more fully into the destination you’re traveling in? One great way to see a side of a place you wouldn’t otherwise see: make friends with the locals who live there.
Here are several fun ways to make friends locally in any town you visit around the world!
1. Locals Hang out in Local Bars or Pubs
If you are spending the day around town, ask a friendly local for some advice on their favorite bars or pubs. Usually the best bars are dive bars — the places that are by and large for locals. Sit at the bar and strike up a conversation with the person next to you! A surefire way of making friends is to pay for a round of drinks. It’s tried and true!
2. Take a Fitness Class
Surprisingly, I met a lot of people through a kickboxing class in England. I am not at all athletic, so don’t discard this option if you can’t walk to the mailbox without breaking a sweat.
At beginner’s fitness classes the instructor usually starts off with an icebreaker and the rest of the class is full of partner activities and team-building exercises. If you are athletic this will be fun and easy; if you are not (like me) it is easy to make friends when you are laughing at your awkward poses and lack of coordination!
3. Join Local Clubs
In England I joined a local tea society. Not only can you meet locals in the small group setting, but you can also learn about local traditions or customs. Fun ideas include a book club or cooking class!
There are also a ton of Facebook groups these days, for everything from small business owners to people who love gardening. Check out Facebook groups for the area you’re in, or look at sites like Meetup.com, which post local offerings and meetups.
4. Go to Local Sporting Events
Whether you go to play in a club setting or go to watch a professional game, nothing attracts locals more than their favorite local sports. Choose one that is specific to the country or culture — like Rugby in New Zealand, or soccer in Argentina.
That way you will learn about the place you are visiting and you will have the opportunity to ask a local to explain the rules of the game. Nothing is easier to talk about than sports with a loyal fan.
5. Smile and Say Hello!
If you already were brave enough to travel to a place you’ve never been before, you can muster up the courage to smile and say hello to someone. It could be in a local cafe, bookstore, music shop, restaurant, a little kindness goes a long way.
This shouldn’t be news if you are already a traveler, but the best way to make the most of your experience is to be friendly, outgoing, and open-minded. Then, who wouldn’t want to be friends with you?
6. Learn the language
Sign up for a course where you get to learn the local language. Your teacher and fellow students will all be understanding of the fact that you’re not from here, and might just take you under their wings! Plus, to immerse in a place you really need to have at least a basic understanding of the local language.
7. Invest some significant time in the destination
The best way to make friends with locals? Become a local. If you really want to get past the surface level of a destination, you’ll need to stay longer than a week or two. Get your working holiday visa and get a job locally, rent an apartment for longer than a month, and start setting up your life like you would elsewhere. I have found that people are much more open to friendship when they realize I have some skin in the game: I’m staying for longer than two weeks and am not going anywhere soon.