Travelling as a couple can be one of the most memorable and rewarding times in a couples life, but it can also pose unique challenges which solo travellers don’t need to worry about.
While travelling as a couple means you always have a travel companion, it can actually make it more difficult to meet new people and make friends on the road. It’s easy to fall into a groove and not make the effort to meet new people, and other travellers may be hesitant to approach an established couple or group of people. Making new friends is one of the best parts of travel, and those adventuring together shouldn’t miss out!
In this guide we share 10 tips for how to meet people when travelling as a couple.
1. Stay in Communal Accommodation
Hostels are still the number one place for fellow travellers to meet (which is the main reason Ash and I love them), however many couples may not want to spend their trip in bunk beds in a dorm-room with eight other people (though for those that do, be sure to check out our 7 tips for staying in Hostel Dorms!)
Traditional hotels have never been a great place to meet other guests, but fortunately today there are countless communal accommodation options which offer both privacy and a chance to make new friends!
Firstly many hostels offer private double-rooms, allowing guests to have access to the bar/common-area of a hostel while still having a private room to sleep in.
For those who aren’t keen on the hostel experience, we recommend renting an individual room in a home through AirBnB, or looking at smaller, more intimate boutique guest houses. For the more adventurous, try CouchSurfing or visiting a camp-site.
All of these options have a far more social atmosphere that’s conducive to meeting people than the often sterile chain hotels.
2. Don’t be Joined at the Hip
This is good advice for both meeting people and for just generally surviving your trip. Travelling with someone is intense. If it’s a romantic partner then that means you’re often together for up to 23+ hours a day. Ash and I are travelling for over a year, and without giving each other space we’d probably go crazy.
Occasionally going your own way is important for couples to meet people too! Firstly, you’re more likely to be approached by a new person if you’re alone, as it’s much less intimidating for another solo traveller to strike up a conversation with an individual rather than a couple.
Secondly, it allows you to embrace your own interests and hopefully find like-minded people. As an example I met some fellow history nerds on a particularly early sunrise expedition to an ancient Egyptian temple (while Ash preferred sleep- it was 5am!).
Similarly, Ash made some great mates on a wine tour in Italy when I was feeling sick and opted to stay back at the hostel. Doing your own thing is healthy for a relationship when travelling, and can help you make some good friends!
3. Join Tours/Activities
Some of the best friends we have made on this trip we met on tours or activities. Just like making friends back home, there’s nothing like a shared experience to bring people together. You’re all seeing/feeling/tasting the same kinds of things, so you’ve got an automatic ice-breaker.
Whether it’s relaxing in a sauna after diving into the freezing baltic sea, visiting an occupied Palestinian city or just a good old fashion pub crawl, joining a group activity is a great way to meet people.
4. Appear Approachable
This is important when travelling solo, but when travelling as a couple there a new considerations which should be kept in mind. Be aware of how your interactions can come across to others.
For example let’s say the two of you are sitting at a backpackers bar or in a hostel common room. If you’re having a vocal argument or there’s some visible tension, chances are people won’t be inclined to approach you. In the other extreme, if you’ve got a lot of visible PDA going on, people aren’t going to want to interrupt. You also don’t want to develop a reputation as “that couple” that may follow you for your entire stay.
5. Talk to People
This one’s pretty simple – but it’s hard to meet new people if you aren’t willing to talk to anyone. This is particularly important for couples, as people may be less willing to approach you, so be prepared to make the first move. Fortunately travel provides countless opportunities for conversation starters
Although it’s a bit of a backpacker cliche, a simple “Hi, where are you from?” is enough of a icebreaker. If the conversation flows from there, awesome! You may have met new people to explore your destination with. If it doesn’t, at least you’ve made an introduction.
6. Mention Your Partner in Conversation
Particularly a good tip for guys, but if by yourself and approach another lone traveller (especially in a situation like a bar or pub crawl), it can sometimes be interpreted as a come-on. If it comes up in conversation organically, be sure to mention your partner (I.e. “Yeah I’m travelling with my partner, we’ve been in Egypt for a week so far.”)
At best it can help put the other person at ease, and at worst it doesn’t lead anybody on unnecessarily. It can also help provide a heads-up in case your partner later joins you, so the other person isn’t taken completely by surprise.
7. Say Yes to Things
Travel is about new experiences, and you don’t gain new experiences by turning down opportunities. If you get invited to go out for drinks, check out a band playing down the road, or visit a local sight, your default response should generally be yes. Obviously there will be exceptions, but it’s a good mindset to get into while travelling and a great way to meet people.
8. Other Couples Make for Perfect Mates
Other couples are in the exact same boat as you, and may also be finding it difficult to meet people, so we’ve found that couples usually appreciate the chance to speak to someone that isn’t their partner. Also having a group of four (or more) can make for a better social dynamic.
We’ve made some great single mates, but also found that the conversation can easily slide into just us (Ash and I) telling stories and asking questions to our new friend, and them doing the same to us, in a bit of a loop.
In my experience, when it comes to group numbers 1-1 or 2-2 (or more) is the better for natural flowing conversation than 2-1. This allows individuals within the group to break into side-conversations without anybody feeling like a third wheel.
9. Offer to Help
When we were in a hostel in Petra, we overheard two Dutch backpackers trying to figure out transport to Wadi Rum for the following day. Ash and I were also heading there and had already booked a taxi for the following morning, so I told them I couldn’t help overhear and asked if they would be interested in sharing a ride and splitting the cost. They were.
The next day, about half an hour before we were scheduled to leave, our accommodation was suddenly canceled and we were heading into the desert with nowhere to stay. Jeanine and Susan (the same awesome Dutch backpackers) offered to take us to their accommodation, and the four of us had an incredible two days of jeeps, camels, campfires and bedouin hospitality.
An offer to help can be simple – a good tip is to offer to take a photo of a couple you see doing the classic “couple-selfie”, and then ask if they’ll return the favour.
10. Treat Workers/Staff As People
Ok, this one should be obvious; they ARE people. But this tip goes beyond saying “please” and “thank you” and generally treating service staff with respect. While travelling, the vast majority of your interactions with locals will probably be with those working in the service/tourism/hospitality sectors. They have a huge wealth of knowledge about the area, and by treating them like people you’re likely to stand out amongst the hundreds of faceless customers they interact with everyday.
Last time I was in Czechia, I met a girl working at a local bookstore in a small town. We started talking and she told me about a nearby hill with beautiful sunset views. We met back up after the store closed and she took hiking up a narrow goat-track known only to locals.
When Ash and I were on a Nile Cruise we met Mahmoud, a waiter who also turned out to be a fairly accomplished magician. He has four children and was incredibly excited about seeing them once his three week-on/one week-off rotation was complete. He showed us photos of his kids, and some bloody impressive magic tricks.
While overseas I’ve met local storespeople, waiters, tour guides, bakers and bartenders who I’ve befriended on Facebook and still keep in touch with. You’re already talking to these people, so go a step above the usual “what’s the special” and “where are the bathrooms?” and get to know the person behind the product.
Ask them how long they’ve been working there for, ask about their families or recommendations for the area. Everybody has a story, and all too often we dismiss people simply because there’s a financial transaction involved. It may very well be your best chance to meet a local, so don’t let it go to waste.
If you’re travelling as a couple, you have a chance to share some absolutely amazing times together. Seeing new places, enjoying new experiences, and making new friends! It’s very easy to forget about this last aspect of travel when you have a constant companion, but it’s an equally important part of any journey. Hopefully these tips can help the travelling couple meet new people and make new friends!
Have you met new people and made new friends when travelling as a couple? If you have any tips that we’ve missed, or want to share your experience please let us know in the comments!