Meeting locals has been the most rewarding part of traveling for me. When I traveled I wanted to learn what it was like to grow up in that particular culture. This was way more exciting for me than seeing another church, beach, market or mountain.
10) Talk with those that are forced to be friendly back to you.
If you are the type that struggles meeting locals when you travel (or are just a shy person), this is great way to start interacting with them. Don’t just let the hotel staff check you in – instead ask “Are you from here? What do you like to do in this city in your free time?” They are being paid to be nice to you. Also, be friendly with the taxi driver, the waiter, and the clerk at the store. It is the locals who have these jobs. When I was in the Cook Islands, I was invited to a huge local party and only two other two tourists were invited because they had been staying at a hotel and had just been friendly with the staff.
9) Pick up Hitch Hikers
Ok, I know we have all been told to never do this,especially when in a foreign country. I remember renting a car and driving in South Africa and seeing black Africans walking miles upon miles. I texted my girlfriend at the time. She basically told me to not pick up any and that is was so dangerous and she would be scared if I did…. So I listened. Well, she eventually broke up with me and so I now could pick up hitch hikers. I often try to pick up children or elderly, but I’m open to anyone. For those 10-20 minutes that they are in my rental vehicle, I am able to fully interview them about their country and life. Sometimes they invite me over when I’ve dropped them off.
8) Go to an Event Designed for Locals to Meet Foreigners
When I was in Osaka, I was told about an event for Japanese to meet foreigners and practice English. It was a great event because while most Japanese can’t speak English, at this event nearly all the Japanese Could. I had people (especially girls) coming up to me and initiating conversations. I met two girls that took me all around Osaka that evening showing me all the sites and local bars.
7) Go to Foreign Friendly Places
A good example are Irish pubs. Locals often go there to meet foreigners and the foreigners are much more likely to be able to speak English.
6) Look for the Eye Contact and Then Go Make Conversations
Many times I am at a bar or in the street and I’ll see a lady who had looked at me. Right after I do that, I go make a conversation with them. Over 90% of the time they are very happy that I came over to talk.
5) Talk to Easy Targets
Maybe you are in a line at the grocery store or waiting to enter a club – make conversation with the people next to you in line – even if they are of the same gender as you. Look for people that are by themselves, maybe they are waiting for their friends – go make a conversation.
4) Use the easy “pick up” lines and then make a conversation out of it
Ask someone directions (even if you already know), and then continue to ask them where they are from and more questions. You could ask someone to take a photo of you. You can even just ask if they speak English.
3) If you hear English, Make a Conversation
If you are in a country that doesn’t speak English and you hear English – that is a perfect excuse to join in on the conversation.
2) Find the place where you are the only tourist
I was in Patong which is a very touristy area in Phuket, Thailand. The only people that wanted to talk to me were those trying to sell things. I had rented a scooter so I decided to just drive 20 minutes away to a bar/club in Phuket city. When I got to the bar it was packed with locals, and I was the only foreigner. So many locals talked to me. The same thing has happened in so many other places.
1) Use a App
I have met 80% of the locals through either Couchsurfing or Tinder or through someone I met on one of those two apps. These apps make it super easy to meet locals. You don’t have to worry about the awkward initial conversation. To learn more, you can check out my top 30 tinder matches [link] and my top 10 couchsurfing matches [link].
Other helpful tips to increase your chances of interacting with locals:
1) Travel solo.
I was in Vilnius, Lithuania exploring the nightlife. A group of about 8 people walked by past me so I decided to make conversation with them by asking them where a particular bar was. Then one guy in the group asked, “Who you rolling with?” I replied, “I am traveling solo.” Which he replied “Come join us!”’’
2) Be well kept
An attractive person will be more likely to get locals to chat and talk with them than a hippie looking backpacker. So brush your teeth, go to the gym, and style your hair.