I sometimes share e-mails under the tag “ask me anything“. I get a lot of very similar e-mails which means there are a lot of people out there thinking the same questions. Why not address them to everyone? You can search more like these by clicking that link above.
Meeting Journeyers in India
“Did you find it easy to meet other travelers? I’ve heard mixed reviews as one friend told me since it’s mainly hotels and guest houses without common areas, it’s a bit harder to meet people. What’s your experience?”
I get this questions A LOT. I know exactly why too, because the guide books kind of make it sound like you won’t make friends. I was nervous of this myself before going to India the first time.
In India the first thing you need to know about accommodation is you won’t be staying in hostels that often. More and more are popping up in big cities, Mumbai, North Goa, Varanasi, etc but they are often more expensive that a guesthouse. This is new in the last two years.
Before I went on my trip two years ago, my friend Jon was explaining his budget to me, helping me figure out how much I should take. He’d say his guesthouse was 10 USD and I’d go yeah but I will just stay in a hostel. He’s like “Rachel, I keep telling you… there are NO hostels. You won’t find one.” I didn’t really believe him because in my travel experience even in fancy Paris there are hostels so why wouldn’t there be one in India? Why would Lonely Planet send me somewhere with no hostels?
I met Ashley in Pushkar by chatting to her over breakfast from a table away. We ended up meeting up again in Varanasi.
Making Friends in Guesthouses
Inevitably Jon was right and I found myself checked into a guesthouse in Rajasthan trying to make friends. Some are Havali’s meaning there is a house and a common room- maybe someone just down the hall from you. Others look like apartment complexes, and some are separate houses, but the common thing they have is YOUR OWN ROOM and BATHROOM.
Some will offer free breakfast. Make sure to meet people there if possible. Others offer activities. ASK them if someone else has signed up or wants to, so that you can go with another guest.
On your overnight transport (the most common way to travel in India) you absolutely want to make friends with anyone going to the same destination, especially someone solo. You can share a room! I’ve done this. It’s not that weird. Usually guesthouses will only allow 2 people or make you pay extra for a third person to sleep on a cot.
Take a class
India is all about classes. They know us foreigners are here to learn so they offer a class in everything. I learned Thai massage one week, took art classes, and did yoga classes at an ashram. There are so many more than that. Instead of eating out, learn to cook Indian food and instead of getting henna down, learn to do it yourself. Learn Rieki or reflexology. If you don’t feel like learning you can just go get Reiki or all these new things you’re discovering down.
You’ll see in most of my posts an option for short term (daily) volunteer (donation) options. You can visit the Tibetan orphans in McLeod Ganj or help at Mother Teresa’s in Calcutta.
Was so happy to meet Chloe on Couchsurfing.org
Making friends shopping and at dinners
The other great thing about India is since it’s not quite ready for a huge influx of backpackers, the ones who do come kind of have to stay in the same places. While there are LOADS of guesthouse options in any city, there aren’t always that many great places to eat.
I actually agree with Lonely Planet on their food selections a lot, but do some research and go try to make friends. Usually at night, popular restaurants will either play a movie or have some kind of drum circle hippie fest. Join in and find someone cool to meet up with the next day.
One girl I traveled a week with, I met while shopping for jewelry.
You have to strike up conversation
India is not the place to be quiet. It’s loud so you should be loud and outgoing too. To be honest, if you don’t you may not meet many people at all. It’s important to talk to other backpackers.
Most often, they are sick of who they’re traveling with (not in a bad way, but we all get a little annoyed when we travel with someone for a long time) and are happy to have a new friend… unless they are solo; then of course they want a new friend.
Just know there are tons of solo backpackers in India and they are just like you.
then I met this guy… never saw him again. Jk! In case you’re new I met my boyfriend in Goa and now live in India because of it.
Where are the other solo backpackers?
If you’re not staying in a guesthouse, many solo travelers are on couchsurfing.org as a way to meet locals and make friends. Since I’ve lived in India I don’t use it much anymore and I DON’T recommend couchsurfing in India unless it’s with a foreigner or a girl- I hate to generalize but better safe than sorry.
What couchsurfing IS great for in India is checking the forums or message boards to see if other solo travelers are looking for someone to travel with. That’s how I met Chloe, a French girl I traveled with for at least 3 weeks in the mountains. She was a lifesaver.
Enjoy Being Alone
The last bit of advice I have is that there is a chance that you might not make friends in India while backpacking. It’s a slight one, but much more possible here than in Europe. There are no bar crawls and hostel parties to bring you together with other people. If you aren’t that outgoing you might find yourself spending a lot of time alone.
In any case, if you make friends like I luckily did, they most likely won’t be going the same place as you. I try not to plan too much but of course it’s not cool to just follow someone else’s journey. Usually when I did make a friend, I then had to say bye, get on a bus alone, and make a new friend in the next place.
I wouldn’t worry too much because India keeps you VERY busy and activities are cheap, so if you’re bored or lonely you can go do something fun and hope to meet someone in an art class, yoga class, or just shopping.
feature image credit from flickr and edited by me.
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