From temporary travel companions to lifelong friends, backpacking is all about community.
By Leah Dobihal
Whether you’re backpacking solo along Australia’s coast or exploring exciting cities with friends, it’s always inspiring to meet like-minded travellers. Plus, it doesn’t take much to find friends on the road. After all, you have at least one thing in common: a love of adventure.
Here are some of the best ways to make friends during your backpacking holiday in Australia.
Take a tour
Tours aren’t just a great way to experience something new; they’re also ideal for making friends.
Depending on the tour you choose, you could find yourself among dozens of friendly faces or exploring with a more intimate group. Either way, you’ll not only have company for the day, but you can also get first-hand travel tips. It’s likely you’ll be touring with well-travelled backpackers, so take the chance to ask about your bucket list destinations.
At the end of your tour, ask your new acquaintances about their plans for the night. Often, you’ll find yourself with dinner plans as well as a few new friends.
Chill out in communal hostel spaces
Staying in a hostel dorm is one of the best ways to make friends on holiday. Not only are the rooms usually shared, but there are also plenty of communal spaces for striking up a conversation. Some hostels have rooftops, bars, lounge rooms or games rooms, all of which are perfect for meeting fellow travellers.
Be sure to also check your hostel’s calendar, or ask the front desk about activities. Many venues organise fun events like pub crawls, guided walks or games tournaments. Hostel events are a hotspot for making friends because everyone who joins is ready to socialise.
Be flexible with your itinerary
Taking off on a backpacking holiday can be nerve-wracking, and you might be tempted to organise a thorough itinerary.
While it’s a good idea to book some tours and transportation in advance, especially during busier seasons, it’s also great to stay flexible. You might find out your hostel roommates are travelling somewhere you’re eager to visit, or that they’re taking an epic road trip and have a spare seat.
Not only will flexibility give you the freedom to change plans as you hear about lesser-known locations, but it also offers the opportunity to travel with new friends.
Take a class
If you’re ready to learn something new and make a friend along the way, sign up for a class. In Australia’s cities, like Sydney and Melbourne, you’ll find everything from cooking and photography classes to surfing and scuba diving lessons.
Taking a class allows you to connect with people who share your interests. More leisurely classes, like cooking courses, give you plenty of time to chat with those around you.
If you’d rather not sign up solo, check to see if any other hostel guests are up for the challenge. Not only will you learn a new skill, but you’ll also leave with new acquaintances.
Go to events
Attending an event is another excellent way to meet new people. Australia has a jam-packed event calendar all year round, giving you ample opportunity to meet backpackers and locals alike.
No matter your interest, there’s an Australian event to suit. Head to Adelaide Fringe for experimental art, light displays and Aboriginal ceremonies. Music-lovers are spoilt for choice - visit Surfers Paradise Live, an energetic (and free) festival of live music in sunny Queensland. Just over an hour south you’ll find Byron Bay’s Splendour in the Grass, where you can camp under the stars as you listen to an eclectic mix of music. If you’re keen to ring in the new year with incredible scenery and sensational music, grab your tickets to Falls Festival, which is held in four stunning locations across Australia each year.
These events draw a crowd, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to connect with other travellers. If you’re backpacking solo, ask around your hostel to see if anyone else is attending the same event. You may find a group with similar interests - and schedules.
Ask to join
Perhaps the best tip for making friends as a backpacker is to simply ask. The backpacking community tends to be friendly, inclusive and welcoming, so simply asking to join in on plans can be very rewarding.
Chat with your hostel roommates or attend a hostel event to see what people are planning. You might find yourself sharing a cocktail on a rooftop, riding a camel train across a beach at sunset or even continuing on your holiday with newly-made friends.