5 Tips to Make Friends with Locals While You Travel

Categories:Travel, Travel Tips
Jessica Peterson

Balinese kids

Traveling abroad involves talking to the locals. But how do you just talk to random strangers? Don’t worry you don’t have to just walk up to people, there are many ways you can mix with and meet people all around the world. Here are some tips to totally immerse yourself into your destination and the people who live there.

Learn the language and start conversations

Old woman smiling in Zhangjiajie, China

The best way to talk to locals is in their own language. Having language skills and learning about the local culture is essential to immersing yourself in a new place. People are more likely to talk to you if you are making an effort to converse in the local tongue. Learning a new language will broaden your horizons and make you want to practice your skills. You can find language tutors online from sites like Preply. For example, these private Spanish tutors who will guide you through the language you need to learn, even if you are a complete beginner.

Eat in local restaurants or try Eat With

Leave the popular tourist spots behind and try some real authentic food. Rub shoulders with the locals and remember to ask for the best local dishes and ask why they are so great. Get recommendations from local people, but also read reviews too as they are usually very honest. You can also try the Eat With app where you can meet hosts and fellow travelers in a home environment and share a meal together. Costs vary but it is an excellent way to meet and talk with local people in the comfort of their homes.

Try couch surfing – stay with a local

Jessica Peterson at No. 5 Valley B&B, Zhangjiajie, China

Couch surfing is an easy and budget-friendly way to stay in your destination and to get to know your host too. Couchsurfing.com is one of the most popular sites to connect travelers and willing people who open up their homes for you. You can connect with people in more than 150 countries all over the world. Choose your location, find a suitable host and meet up and stay. Many hosts will show you around the local area, give you great insider tips, and introduce you to their friends too. The best thing about couch surfing is that it is free!

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Put your phone down

Women texting at The Bund, Shanghai, China

Nothing kills conversation faster than a person face-deep in their phone. Make eye contact with locals you want to speak to — from your waiter to a shop owner to your cleaning lady. You may even find that locals approach you if your demeanor and body language reads friendly.

Go off the beaten path – but stay safe

It’s great to explore and discover new places, and you’ll find people who are willing to show you around as a tourist. Getting to know the real destination, away from the tourist attractions will help you to mingle with local people. Be careful though and think about your safety. When meeting up with people, do your research and make sure others know where you are. Also, trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. Avoid being too intoxicated and keep your bearings. You don’t want to end up lost and alone. Read my 5 ways to stay safe when you travel.

Enjoy yourself, be friendly, and you will be just fine

Woman cooking street food in Zhangjiajie, China

By knowing some of the language, being open to new experiences, and with a little help from your phone you are well on your way to getting friendly with the locals.  You’ll find that traveling is a lot more exciting when you get off the beaten path and leave time between those planned experiences for something spontaneous and fun.

How do you connect with locals when you travel?

Jessica Peterson
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Jessica Peterson

Jessica Peterson is a travel filmmaker, photographer, and journalist. She released her first documentary film about indigenous culture on Guam in 2016, after having lived nearly 7 years on the Pacific island. Jessica is currently on the Great American Roadtrip in her Airstream trailer.
Jessica Peterson
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