Confession: I love hostels. It’s far from every traveler’s favourite type of accommodation, but it works like a charm for me. What’s not to love? They’re super cheap, generally well-situated and very easy to adapt to. But above all else, I love hostels because of how many friends I make when I stay in them. There’s nothing like sharing a small room with a few snoring roommates to form the foundation of a lifelong friendship! I joke! I joke! Bring earbuds for that. There are tons of would be travelers out there that don’t travel for a billion and one reasons, but I don’t want the threat of loneliness to be one of them.
Here’s How To Make Friends At Any Hostel In The Universe.
There once was a boy who did zero research before booking a hostel. He showed up, and checked into his 8 bunk room at Hong Kong Tai Wan “Hotel” within the Chungking Mansion complex . It was cheap ($7 CAD/night) and well-located. Alas, the young boy quickly realized he was not only sharing his dorm with 7 other voyagers, but with a legion of evil cockroaches as well! There was a foul smell everywhere he went, not a single roll of toilet paper was to be found across the land, and the ghoulish “cleaners” seldom changed the sheets between guests. The end.
… That boy was me.
Set yourself up to make new friends and enjoy a sweet hostel experience by doing your homework. You may not have done it in school, but it’s a MUST when you travel. DO NOT overlook the importance of this. If you’re wondering why I’m still an advocate for hostels after my nightmarish experience, it’s because that has only ever happened once. In my defence, I booked the room while suffering from food poisoning and was convinced I was on the brink of death. At least that’s what I thought as I wrapped myself around the toilet bowl in fetal position.
Hint: Avoid hostels that are not centrally located or that cater specifically to families and kids. Look for hostels that openly say they are party hostels. Read the reviews, go forth and party so hard (or take it easy) that you’ll make the Hangover movies look tame. But above all, be safe.
2. Three’s A Crowd
In this case it’s more like 4, 6, 8 and more is a crowd, but you get the picture. You can’t make friends if you’re not around people, obviously. And that’s not to say that all of the wonderful personalities running around in your head aren’t great. They are, seriously, good for you. But if you want to make non-imaginary friends, you have to put yourself in a position to do so. That means stay in dorm rooms instead of private rooms. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to have a little privacy when you travel, for several reasons. But it’s much easier to make friends while you’re sharing a temporary living space. The same goes for big groups of people staying at your hostel. If you see a crew of people, don’t be intimidated by their numbers. Chances are you’ll hit it off with a few of the people in the group. Don’t be shy.
A friendly “Hey I’m … what’s your name?” or “What’s up, where you from?” can go a long way. Like-minded travelers will gravitate towards you. But be warned, there are usually 1 or 2 oddballs that are socially awkward. If you find yourself left out of the conversation more often than not, that oddball is you. Have a drink, get some liquid courage in you, and channel your inner cool.
3. Be Eventful
Hostels that want their guests to have a good time go above and beyond their means to make it happen. They’ll organize beer pong tournaments, pub crawls, board game nights, parties and more. If you’re not sure what’s happening around the hostel, ask the staff, check the activity calendar or ask other hostellers. These events are your best chances at making new friends. Buy someone a drink, ask someone to be your teammate, show off your dance moves (if you have any … or even if you don’t) and you’ll be the life of the event in no time.
4. Take Initiative
Some of us have a natural allure or magnetism that draws people towards us. Maybe you’re incredibly good looking, funny or just give off an easy going vibe. Many of us however (I’m in this category), have what is commonly referred to as Resting B*tch Face or Resting D*ck Face (me). Now this doesn’t make us ugly (unless well … never mind). But the point is, be proactive, people are much friendlier than we usually think. Make an observation and start a conversation about it. If you see someone sitting around the bar or another social area solo, they may not be the outgoing type, but you can be! Go chat them up. One does not simply hang out in social settings alone if one does not want to make friends.
How long have you been traveling?
Where to next?
Where are you from?
Any parties or events around the hostel tonight?
Hey, I’m going to ___, want to join?
What book are you reading?
So you’re a [insert team name here] fan huh?
What kind of camera is that?
What are you listening to?
Pretty cool hostel, huh?
Anyone want to go for drinks?
Who’s down for a team selfie? (People love selfies)
5. Proactive And Reactive
Just say yes. Travel is as much about the places you’ll see as it is about the people you’ll meet and the experiences you’ll share TOGETHER. You have two options: proactive and reactive. Some people are cool with making the first move, making plans and asking others to join, these are the proactive types, bless their/our souls. Some people feel more comfortable being asked to join in on plans. It alleviates the stress of making plans, and if they’re socially awkward it makes them more comfortable, these are the reactive types.
If you’re the reactive type, it’s VERY important that you make a habit of saying YES to as many activities as possible. Don’t do it if you feel overly uncomfortable, but if you’re on the fence or know you’re just being shy, get over yourself and say yes. You’ll be a cooler, more confident and more well-traveled person for it.
Note: Learn to read people and situations. Don’t be clingy, and don’t be a third or fifth wheel either. Some people meet romantic partners at hostels (even if it’s just for one night). Don’t be a blocker. Move on or go get your own partner. On a similar note, make sure you know a bit about a person before you hang out with them. If you get weird or bad vibes from them, find someone else to hang out with.
6. Common Ground
Most hostels have a good amount of place allocated to their common areas. Kitchens, lounges, bars, and pools are all fair game. Compliment someone on their gaming/guitar/cooking skills, how good their meal smells, challenge them to a game of something and any awkward vibes go right out the window. It’s just the way people work.
Want to learn more about making friends while you travel? Check out the following posts!
- Adventurous Kate – How To Make Friends While Traveling Solo
- Hostelworld – Quick & Easy Ways To Find The Coolest Friends When Travelling Alone
- The Savvy Backpacker – How To Make Friends And Not be An Ass
Have you met any lifelong friends while staying at hostels? Have an interesting hostel experience to share? Leave an intelligent or hilarious response in the comment section. Let’s share our experiences!
Until next time,