• meeting travelers in india

Ask Me Anything: Meeting Journeyers in India

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?

meeting travelers in IndiaI 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

meeting travelers in india

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.

meeting travelers in indiaWas 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.

meeting travelers in indiathen 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.

If you know you won’t enjoy alone time and the risk of it stresses you out, or you’re scared to travel alone, then join a tour, like the one I took with goMowgli.

meeting travelers in india

feature image credit from  and edited by me.

 

 

2017-07-06T16:32:22+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.

19 Comments

  1. Ryan Biddulph February 24, 2015 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel,

    Fab tips!

    We never made it up to Goa but have to visit one day. We did Kovalam Beach then back to the USA for a few months before traveling to SE Asia.

    Amen on speaking up. India is loud, raucous and hey, speak up if you want to be heard. Other than the southern tip, where I spent some time, much of the country is super intense. Fun, but intense. So to stand out, speak up, be social, and you’ll meet plenty of kind locals and travelers to connect with.

    Thanks Rachel!

    Ryan

    • Rachel Jones February 25, 2015 at 12:39 pm - Reply

      Kovalam is nice, my boyfriend lived there for a year before moving to Goa.. even in monsoon!

      • Jen March 9, 2015 at 11:51 pm - Reply

        Hello Rachel!!
        Me and my boyfriend have booked flights for a 2wk Christmas holiday – 22nd Dec – Jan 5th – we’re staying at Marari Dreamz for Christmas and then are not sure where to go for Dec 27th – Jan 2nd?! We ideally want a beach hut on a quiet, pretty beach for around 20-3000 pn. We’re not into partying anymore but like a bit of ambience for NYE? Was thinking of Kovalam or somewhere near Varkala?
        Any ideas??
        Thanks
        Jen xx

        • Rachel Jones March 10, 2015 at 2:06 pm - Reply

          kovalam isnt really a place to find a nice ambience.. it’s a small beach lots of people and shops, super tourist filled. i haven’t been to varkala but hear its really nice! It sounds like you’d like south Goa though and would easy to get to

  2. Rachel Jones February 25, 2015 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Iv’e heard great things about zostel !

  3. Michelle | Lights Camera Journey February 25, 2015 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    These are all great tips – especially since I hadn’t given much thought to this before. What about on transport? Local trains, planes, buses?

    Is India more about taking classes rather than tours?

    • Rachel Jones February 25, 2015 at 12:58 pm - Reply

      When I was backpacking, I didn’t make any friends on trains and buses! I was most oftentimes the only foreigner and just got stared at ! and yes, I think it’s more about classes. You don’t see a lot of tours to for example try different restaurants or a bar crawl, but you will see signs for cooking class! There are some tours though and you can check tripadvisor for them.

  4. De'Jav February 25, 2015 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    Great tips and setting expectations for those of use who are solo travelers. Think I’m going to try and make it to India sometime this year.

  5. Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster February 26, 2015 at 7:00 am - Reply

    Great post! I’ve met a lot people through hostels and recently started using Couchsurfing. It’s awesome to know that people traveling in India have used it to connect with one another to find travel buddies.

  6. Rebekah February 26, 2015 at 7:55 am - Reply

    this sounds sort of similar to travel in China. I’m so introverted and its crazy how much travel has made me become very intentional about making friends- although I do enjoy a day or two by myself at times as well.

    • Rachel Jones February 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm - Reply

      Yeah I like a balance as well, the grass is always greener though it seems! When I have a travel buddy sometimes I want to be alone and vice versa lol

  7. Such great positive tips Rachel! I made freinds with other backpackers on the train, and just around and about in general. In the end, I met a Swiss girl and we bonded because I spoke German (Yay) so we travelled together for a little while and then we made our own independent way later. It was so much fun though and we got a huge amount of stares not only because of the way we looked, but because we were walking.
    A lot LOL!

  8. Tim | UrbanDuniya March 1, 2015 at 6:45 am - Reply

    So true about the hostels!! The guesthouses are great value, but you might find the odd hostel in the larger cities like Delhi…

  9. JD Manas July 15, 2016 at 6:20 am - Reply

    With all due respect please go and be a ‘Werkenntwen’ somewhere else – You people are nothing other than covert white colonialists. The way you infiltrate areas such as Goa, Gokarna and even pockets of Himachal Pradesh and to add further insult ape our culture and write blog guides on basically how to live in India enjoy it’s cultural customs, history and landscapes and yet disassociate with Indians as much as possible and seek out either White or at the very least other None-Indians to me as an Indian is infuriating.

    • Rachel Jones July 15, 2016 at 6:54 am - Reply

      Nothing respectful about that comment. Most of my best friends in India are Indian so maybe know a thing or two about me before you type nonsense … I feel bad for you JD for all the hate you have.

      • JD Manas July 17, 2016 at 9:16 am - Reply

        I am sorry but that is a complete and utter lie – Unless these ‘Indian friends’ are waiters and rickshaw pullers you engage in small talk with in broken Hindi, or perhaps the poverty stricken children you take snaps with and then use it as a cover photo on Facebook to show your other White associates what a good human being you are.

        I am hateful but it is with good reason, all I see is swarms of predominantly European (Or of White European descent) expatriates infiltrating areas like Goa and Kasol all whilst practising their own self imposed apartheid where they attempt to create a complete social segregation between Indians and themselves despite appropriating Indian cultural identity by wearing Bindi’s and hanging statues of Hindu gods in their rented apartments etc.

        I don’t see why you can’t go to Thailand or Vietnam instead of living in our land and quite blatantly disrespecting us, to me personally it is highly indicative of the predisposition that White Caucasians have towards colonialism.

        • Rachel Jones July 17, 2016 at 9:01 pm - Reply

          & I don’t see why you can’t go to another website… get a life. I’m not a liar but you’ve clearly got problems you need to deal with – and they’re your problems not mine… suggest you to seek help with your anger :D

  10. sammy October 10, 2017 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    Hey Rachel and JD Manas……this is actually quite confusing for me…..i agree with JD but only a bit…… but My man JD!……homeboy!!….. we are not fanatic muslims hommie!…we are tolerant, and accepting people…….practice that!

    JD > Do you know how many Indians are living in Europe and North America ? so its not about white people coming here and living here in seclusion, you should see how secluded Indians are in Canada or US or Europe!!!…… and i am sure the locals there think….HEY YOU, FUCKERS!….WHEN THE HELL ARE YOU GONNA START INVITING ME FOR YOUR DEEE WAAAAA LEEEE , HAAN? , bastards!

    I think the problem is that foreigners never touch the points where they meet well educated, sophisticated, well-dressed,high-level-professionals that will arise a primitive instinct in white people to initiate first , you dont see Doctors, Engineers, Corporate Executives because those Indians usually pick Europe or US for travelling – switzerland, portugal, greece, moscow, monte-carlo, monte-negro, or other Western Countries( i know..i know..moscow is not a country!, but i am not going back and correcting it, i havent even had my morning indian coffee, chai, yet) , hell!! , those Indians are not even rarely found on their own streets, because they lead very secluded lifestyle even in there own country! because…..you know…….universal rules about other countries dont apply in India! there is no uniform upbringing in India unlike US or Europe, high society people( RACHEL!!, that does include Medical professionals because you have to work your ass off for that kind of journeyman ticket, and shifts are not 4 hours!, so its respectable, quite some…!) are in their own cocoon and in reality THOSE INDIANS ARE THE MOST FUKIN KICK ASS INDIANS in all terms….. …..so the problem is that foreigners in general go through the touch points such as railway stations, airports, bus stops, cheap restaurants, and their initial and perhaps the only is with Indian Trash!! , and really thats wht they are!, un-educated, ill-mannered, low grade Indians with no-travelling, no outside-exposure(outside even their own district, let alone outside country) so foreigners form a general notion about Indians from dealing with low-class service providers because those Indians are not fukin Indian Brad Pitts wearing sexy pants with 200 dollars Ralph Lauren shirt hanging down their well-toned shoulders and speaking english like they gave grades to Shakespeare……jooo waaaant to baaaaeeee paaan for joooorrr maaameeee!!! ?(would you like to buy a pen as gift for your mommy?)……and as they say…..first impression is last impression, white folks form a notion that all indians are like that!, that their homes are same as shitty hotels that they are living in, and that no Indians use tissues in their toilets, or own a decent Yves Saint Laurent cologne or even a basic one…..

    i am not saying that low-class indians are bad people, but they are not the sexiest, or most knowledgable to strike a good conversation with….. they are not the ones who are gonna discuss where this world is heading , or when will jihad stop in west, or gun-control in US, or how can we work together in bringing peace to the world or there experience when thy rented a Volvo XC60 and went down the pacific highway from US to Canada, and how awfully lot Canadians use eh!……nice day…eh……fukin politicians…eh…maybe thts why they have so many Ehs in CANADA , C-eh-N-eh-D-eh , hell!, they dont even know their own country well……they dont know history, they dont know Kamasutra( its not about sex people!!!) , they dont know anything about Indian Anthropology or society……..or who were the first people to spin cotton( before that world wore leaves!), by the way, you guessed the answer, Indians, not that i am super-proud because i didnt contribute anything in spinning cotton first time , besides wearing leaves is far sexier….;), damn you…Indians! . lolz…..moving on…… or where did world’s first surgery took place, you guessed it again , or world’s first clock is in India…..whtever…..moving on….again…..not that the rest of the world did fuck all…….RACHEL> Americans gave us internet, muah!, love you Americans for that……and for giving us Alicia Silverstone(my childhood crush!) , “Oh…Alicia…you are one good specimen of pretty American teens”….ok, now i am starting to sound creepy, because i am not a teen no more…….lol……MOVING ON, AGAIN…..!!!, ONE MORE TIME….!

    so in summation…..i am gonna put an end to this………..i am gonna make a website where foreigners can connect with other Indians( and girls!, i promise!, only good boys, who will be respectful, highly educated, well-travelled, smell good, wear clean polished shoes, clip their nails (those are the only kind of Indian boys you wanna meet!, trust me on that one!), and they allow the gravity to do the work…..maybe they can be H2 and you can be their O , and together you put H2O in your drink(you prefer still or sprakling?, your choice….;) , but girls! , bring a dress and heels when you pack because they might wanna take you out to some nice place and not just grab an Indian beer which tastes like murky water after Czech Republic!) , sorry? , what? have i been to Czech Republic?, well….no…but i was 5 hours off from it, in Krakow, Poland…..and you can sense that the whole region is radioactive…!!

    on a serious note, We belong to a mature world and kindergarten days are far gone! , ofcourse there are differences but lets eliminate them, not make them even bigger. try to understand each other, neutralise! , lets party together! , and take pride that we are achieving which could be a bit difficult to achieve, picking up verbal ammunition is easy and gay!!!

    JD > get a haircut bro, shave that cactus on your cheeks, hit the gym……pass on your email or , i will let you know when my white- meets-brown-become-beige website is ready to kick like a wild Montana Stallion!!

    Introducitons please? well, i am an indian, first off! , but am i ?! lol…..lived in West Coast, Canada most of my 20s now im 32 but still kicking bronco bro, so chill!, lived in Poland, travelled to Russia, thailand, dated Canadians(they cant live without their pleases and thank yous and smiles), Europeans( they will die without meat!), Mexicans( they are wild creatures in a good way), one indian(they are….aaaa….they r….well….adventurous in their own ways, lets say tht…..), involved in family business, not involved in drugs, getting ultra-drunk, taking my shirt off in a party, live in Chandigarh, for folks who dont know, i mean all folks, no one knows where chandigarh is, its your entry into himalayas….5 hours north from delhi, designed by Le Corbusier , the french architect, no its not champs elysees! , let me re-phrase designed by french architect made by indian politicians, so its quite simple, but better than the rest of indian city in terms of traffic , pollution, horns, ok….whtever…i gotta go now, gotta do something that most men really love……folding laundry!!

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