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How to make friends on a group tour when you’re shy

I’ve been the “shy girl” for my entire life and some of the hardest things to do when you’re nervous around people (especially new people) are striking up conversations and making new friends. I have to say that after everything I’ve tried to make myself less shy, travelling was what helped me the most. Having been on seven group tours now, I’ve gained confidence and learned a few pointers on how to make friends on a group tour when you’re shy.

Introduce yourself

On a group tour, introducing yourself to your group members is expected by everyone. Group tour travel removes the discomfort of approaching unsuspecting fellow travellers – like you may do in a hostel setting – because, unlike random people you meet on your independent travels, it’s universally known that in group travel you’re going to get to know one another. In fact, meeting new people and sharing travel experiences are common reasons why people might choose to go on a group tour.

Give genuine compliments

Do you like something someone’s wearing? Do you notice a cool travel hack someone has going on? Tell them!

Compliments are a great way to break the ice with people you don’t know well, but also make someone else feel good about something you genuinely admire. This can sometimes lead to conversation. For instance, mayybe you love someone’s beaded bracelet so you let them know and in turn they tell you about the time they bought it while travelling through Tanzania.

Talk about what you have in common – travel!

One of the things I struggle with when meeting new people (and not just while travelling) is knowing what to talk about – as I’m especially bad with small talk. The great thing about talking with fellow travellers is you already know that one of their interests is travel.

Some questions you could ask to break the ice:

  • Where are you from? (Or if you already know which country they’re from, “Whereabouts in *insert home country here* are you from?)
  • What’s it like to live there? 
  • I’d love to go to *insert a place you’d like to visit located where they’re from*, have you been?
  • Were you somewhere before this or is this the start of the trip?
  • How long have you been travelling? (If the group trip isn’t the start of their travels)
  • How was *insert relevant destination here*?  (If they’re been somewhere before the group tour.)
  • Is this your first tour with *insert travel company here*?

Say “yes”

This is something that has stuck with me since I went on exchange in 2012 and definitely something that’d help you make friends on a group tour when you’re shy. Back then, I remember I was awfully homesick and feeling very isolated in a country very far from home, and being shy certainly was not helping me make new friends. What did help me was a little push from the Exchange Coordinator who suggested I challenge myself to saying “yes” to invites and events that came my way.

So when you’re on a group tour, be open to opportunities that help you connect with your group members. Join the group dinners. When a group member asks if anyone wants to join them on an activity or walk during free time, put your hand up! There will probably be many times when one of your group members needs to go to an ATM, supermarket, etc – they might ask if anyone wants to join or you could offer to go with them. Alternatively, you can ask those questions to the group.

Share your snacks

I’m a snacker and on travelling days I’m usually always stocked up. As a byproduct of my snacking, I’ve found offering to share food with fellow tour members is a great way to break the ice and potentially start a conversation.

Offering your snacks also gives you an opportunity to approach people in a way that if the interaction is not fruitful or doesn’t turn into a conversation, you can walk away without it being awkward as you went there initially with the intention of  simply offering a snack.

Sit next to someone (or near people) on the bus

On travelling days, there is usually a lot of time to pass on the drive so this is a great opportunity for conversation and making deeper connections.

Depending on tour group numbers, you may or may not end up sitting next to someone. If the bus allows for it, most people will take a whole seat to themselves. In this case, I would suggest sitting in an empty seat a row behind, in front or across the aisle from people. Being near people will allow for you to opt into conversation and open more opportunities for them to engage in conversation with you.

Additional tip: Take a packet of playing cards – not only does this add a bit of fun to the travelling days but it’s a way to break the ice and takes pressure off of having to hold a conversation.

you’ve got this!

Along with the above tips, as corny as this is to say: just be genuine and the right people will find you. The truth is not every person is going to be your best travel buddy. You may not even have full conversations with a lot of group members and that’s perfectly normal. There have been many people who I didn’t necessarily click with or didn’t get the chance to have a proper conversation with on many tours. On the other side of that, there have also been so many amazing friendships I’ve made and we still keep in touch. So while it may seem nerve-wrecking and daunting wondering how to make friends on group tours when you’re shy – I hope some of these tips will to help you break the ice on your next group tour!

For more helpful solo traveller tips, check out more guides and tips here.

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One Comment

  1. These are wonderful tips. I find myself doing the same things on group tours. Even on day tours, making a connection with a person sitting next to you on the bus makes a big difference to the trip. I think the trick is to realise that the other person may be as shy as you are. And a genuine smile and interest tends to quickly break the ice.

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