– Written by Victoria Philpott
The best thing about staying in hostels – apart from the price, location and ease – is meeting other travellers. If you’ve just arrived in your hostel, talk to people who’ve been there a while and you’ll find out about the hidden gems and cool events in the city.
If you’re a bit scared of how you’re going to make friends in hostels, follow this easy 10-step guide. Come on now, don’t be shy.
1. Choose your hostel wisely
Make sure you read the HostelBookers.com hostel description well. If you’re looking for a party holiday full of wild nights starting in the hostel bar and ending in the hostel swimming pool you’ll need to avoid any hostel that mentions children or couples. Look out for the legendary hostels with communal areas and specified social nights – these are the ones that want their customers to have crazy fun.
2. Always stay in a dorm room
This is where the most friendships are made because you’re living in close quarters and, if you don’t talk, things are going to be awkward. You need to become savvy at judging the situation – some people will love you being full on and being instant best friends. While others will be scared by this approach, especially as you have to sleep in the same room later. Just a friendly hello and quick question (see point 4) should give you all the indicators you need.
3. Sign up to social events
Hostels are a hub of activity – there’s always some event or outing you can sign up to. Check the hostel notice boards and ask at reception. All the big chain hostel will have some sort of bar crawl or free walking tour to get people mixing and socialising.
These events are a great way to meet people and there will be plenty of others there by themselves.
4. Don’t hide away in your bunk
Sitting in bed with a book or with your headphones on is not the way to make friends. You’ll give off the wrong impression and look unapproachable. Get yourself a drink and sit at the bar, even if you feel the need to have your book with you there at least it can be a conversation starter.
5. Talk first!
The good thing about meeting people in hostels is that you already have something in common. You could open the conversation by saying, ‘Cool hostel, hey?’ Or, ‘Done anything fun today?’ Or, ‘Know anywhere cool to go tonight?’ It’s easy. Those three phrases could make you lots of friends.
Look out for signals: if they’ve got a particular football shirt on ask them about that. Or if they’ve got a nice camera, just ask if they’re big on photography. The conversation will quickly move on so it doesn’t matter what you say – just say something.
As other travellers see you chatting to someone it’s obvious you didn’t come with they’ll join in too. Before you know it you’ll have a whole crew to hang out with. Next stop, the bar!
If a person is sat in the common room by themselves they’re just waiting for someone to talk to them. They might be shy too, but I can assure you they wouldn’t sit there if they didn’t want to make friends, they’d sit in bed (see point 2). Travellers, in general, are sociable.
If you’re travelling in a couple, single travellers will probably find you more unapproachable no matter how much you try. If this is the case and you really want to meet people just hang out apart for a bit. If you meet people separately then later on you can bring the group together and everyone will be grateful because you’ve just doubled the group size in one easy move.
6. Be confident: Move things on
If you’ve managed to find someone you’d like to spend the evening with ask them if they fancy going out for a drink, or to check out a monument together, or some other activity. And if someone asks you out, accept! A lot of travelling is about the people you meet and the unpredictable adventures they bring.
7. Don’t be a hanger on
But don’t be upset if someone doesn’t ask you, or doesn’t want to come out. It’s important to know when it’s time to move on. Catch the drift if someone is trying to fob you off! Nothing is worse than being a hanger on in hostels. They might have gone travelling to be along for a while so leave them if you’re not getting positive signals back or seem more interested in their laptop than you. No one likes a desperado.
8. Don’t fear big groups
In hostels where people stay a long time to work, like in London or any of the big Australian cities, the long-timers can become quite cliquey. Don’t let this put you off talking to them. They could be your ticket to a good night out. They know all the best clubs and bars to go to and will hopefully have loads of friends in the city. If you get chatting to these guys you’ll be able to join a whole cool travelling community.
9. Hang out in the communal areas
Cooking meals in the kitchen is a great way to meet other people. You’ll have to work together to both cook separate meals in a relatively small space and you’ll also have something to fill any awkward silences. It’s also a great excuse for some conversation openers, ‘What are you having for dinner?’, ‘Know any good food markets around here?’, ‘Any cheap restaurants? Remember it’s all about breaking the ice. If you really want to draw them in like moths to a flame – crack out a cheap bottle of rum or vodders while you’re cooking and offer it around. Don’t be afraid to share your recipe tips with your new friends, and, if you are a whiz in the kitchen share your hostel recipes with us for a chance to appear in our backpacker recipe guide!
10. Stay safe
Get to know people a bit in the hostel before you plan on spending the evening with them. If at any point you feel unsafe just tell them you’re tired and leave. Make sure you don’t end up somewhere where you don’t have a clue where you are, remember your hostel name and always make sure you have enough money on you to jump in a cab if you need to.
Whether you’re one of those people that walks into a room and within two minutes you’ve made friends, or you’re more shy and need someone to approach you, you’re guaranteed to enrich your travelling experience with some new buds if you follow this guide. Finally, smile, don’t be a travel bore and make sure you listen to others when they talk.
Thanks to the St Christopher’s Inn in Paris, Wake Up Hostel in Sydney, Mama’s Hostel-Main Market Square in Krakow, Deco Walk Hostel I Ocean Drive in Miami and Kitsch Hostel in Lisbon for the excellent images.