From Minsk to Moscow, the cities and towns of Eastern Europe are likely to be an exciting experience for anyone interested in great food, fascinating culture, and centuries of history. Travelling solo can be a liberating experience – you can do exactly what you want, when you want.
However, taking the road by yourself can sometimes be lonely, and unless you’re a seasoned traveller with friends in every corner of the world, meeting people may feel difficult. If you’re travelling solo in Eastern Europe, try the following tips to make new friends:
Stay in hostels
By far the easiest way to meet people wherever you’re going, staying in hostels allows you to connect with like-minded adventurers and find travel buddies to continue your journey with. Many hostels also organise walking tours and other social activities, making it incredibly easy to get to know others, even if you’re on the shy side. If you’re more interested in meeting the locals, however, you might like to try…
…Joining a volunteer program!
Getting involved in the local community is a great way to meet locals anywhere in the world. In exchange for your generosity and time working on a good cause, you’ll gain lifelong friendships, immersion in authentic cultural events, the opportunity to master a new language(s!), and a whole new appreciation for the beautiful country you are staying in! Before embarking on your volunteer program, make sure you have practical knowledge of the local language, as well as enough money to cover your visa papers, flights, and insurance. Food, amazing memories, and the chance to give back are included!
Be open to meeting people that aren’t like you
At home, your friend group is likely composed of others who are of similar age and background as you. When you travel, try to remain open to the idea of striking up friendships with others who may be very different from you. Perhaps that old man at the bus stop could give you some advice on what to do in his city, or maybe the cashier at the coffee shop would love to take you to her friend’s party tonight.
Growth comes from new experiences. You will gain rich interpersonal insights and great memories through hearing the stories of people whose lives are entirely different from your friends back home.
Take a tour
If you’re planning on travelling solo, you’ve likely already vetoed the idea of an organised tour, but why not make a compromise? Spending a few guided days between your solo journeys will help you to meet others, some of whom may end up being valuable contacts or travel buddies a few more trips down the track.
Learn a bit of the language
It’s a universal truth: the best way to connect with others is to speak to them in their own language. Plenty of Eastern Europeans speak English, but you’ll find it much easier to get a smile or an invitation from one if you approach them in the local language rather than your own. Even just knowing a few phrases will give others a much better impression of you than if you were to speak only English.
Learning the local language is also a great way to meet other travellers or expats; many cities host ‘language exchanges’, where you can practise your new language while helping locals with yours. Once you’re a little more comfortable, you’ll start feeling confident enough to seek out new friends who speak only the local language, and you’ll find that your pronunciation and vocabulary will quickly improve!
Take a cooking class
Cooking classes are one of the simplest ways to meet other travellers, and it’s easy to bond over food and drink. Plus, you’ll be able to sample the incredible foods that Eastern Europe’s known for, from borscht in Ukraine to pierogi in Poland!
My name is Harper, and I’m an aspiring writer from Auckland, New Zealand. My guilty pleasures include halloumi cheese, salmon and avocado sushi rolls, and bingeing on Star Trek! I spend most weekdays producing content for various blogs and sites such as Hercules Gazebo. You can connect with me on my personal blog, Harper Reid.