When I stumbled into the hostel lobby I was covered in snowflakes and wearing all of the layers that I had with me. The airline had lost my checked bag, and although I had a handful of clothes in my carry-on, I wasn’t prepared for the snowstorm that ensued. After warming up and checking in, I went down to the lobby to check my email and let my mom know I arrived.
It was one of my earliest solo trips and I remember feeling self-conscious about making friends. When I sat down, I noticed a young man sitting nearby, also alone. He approached me with a warm smile and said, “Mind if I sit here?” Little did I know that this very early exchange would lead to us spending the next 2 days touring Prague together (platonically), and eventually met for a coffee again 3 years later in Dallas, Texas. Since this trip, I’ve met dozens of people on my solo adventures, many with whom I still keep in touch.
Much like when you meet a good-looking person at a party (or on Tinder), there are certain pickup lines that work well for making friends in the solo travel world. Next time you’re traveling solo and are worried about meeting people, try using one of these catchy phrases to start up a conversation.
1. The Direct Introduction
“Hi there! I’m Kay.”
This is the one I use most often when I’m in a hostel or guesthouse where there are a lot of young people. No one has ever ignored me or failed to introduce themselves afterward.
2. The Sly Eavesdropper
“I overheard that you are going to X tomorrow. I just went there today and am happy to give you some tips.”
You don’t want to come off as rude or nosy, but if you feel like you can offer some value based on their conversation, feel free to chime in. People usually respond to these with gratitude if your tips are *actually* helpful.
3. The Innocent and Curious
“Where are you from?”
If you’re struggling with starting a conversation with someone but are worried about being too direct, this is a simple and innocent one to use. But please, for goodness sake, when they tell you where they’re from, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by questioning their response.
4. The Sideswiper
“Do you mind if I sit here?”
If you see someone sitting alone in a hostel lobby, this is a great one to use. Simply walk up to that person, ask them if you can sit down, and then proceed with one of the other pickup lines.
“I noticed you’re wearing a shirt from X. I used to live there!”
Finding a shared heritage or hometown is a really low risk pickup line, because you already have something in common with that person. Bonus points if it’s the same college. Bonus bonus points if you have mutual friends.
6. The Icebreaker
The best way to disarm someone is with a smile. Use this as a precursor to any conversation you attempt to start with someone. If they noticed you smiling at them briefly earlier, they’ll warm up to you more quickly. They may even approach you first. Smiling does the work for you a lot of the time.
7. The Cool Kids Club
“A few of us are thinking of walking to grab dinner/drinks. Would you like to join?”
Everyone wants to feel like they belong to something, and if you extend a warm invitation to join a small group of people (even if it’s just two of you) to someone sitting alone, chances are they’ll take you up on that offer.
8. The Giver
“Did you need a pen? You can borrow mine.”
There’s one instance where this works particularly well: on international flights right before landing, when you have to fill out customs forms. If the person beside you looks friendly and doesn’t have a pen, offer them yours. If you don’t have a pen, ask them to borrow theirs. It’s an easy and natural icebreaker.
9. The Common Ground
“Are you traveling alone too?”
It’s pretty easy after a while to tell if someone is traveling solo. Perhaps they’re eating a meal alone in a touristy restaurant, or sitting on a bench looking at a guidebook. If you can guess with reasonable certainty that this person is traveling alone, then this pickup line works like a charm.
10. The Third Wheel
“Mind if I tag along? I’m traveling solo and would love to have some company.”
There have been a few instances where I’ve met people traveling in twos or threes and struck up a conversation with one of them. However, this pickup line works really well if you want to meet the others in the group. If they mention doing something casual like taking a walk or grabbing food, use this to try joining that group.
11. The Cut and Dry
“What’s your name?”
People love to talk about themselves, and by aiming the question directly at someone, you show that you’re interested in meeting them. Make eye contact, take a deep breath, and approach them directly. After all, they may end up being a new friend for life.