UPDATED NOVEMBER 2019
I wrote this guide after being asked quite a few times how to find local events when you’re on a trip abroad.
Finding local events when you travel is easier than ever.
Even if you’ve just arrived at a new place, you don’t know anyone and don’t speak the local language, you can join local meetups and find events that match your interests.
Obviously, you can also use this guide to find local events near you wherever you live, not just when you travel.
Why I love local events
Travelling for me is a lot about engaging with local life.
I love to meet locals, hang out with them and let them take me to the bars, clubs, cafes or sites that I wouldn’t discover as a tourist.
It transforms travel into a more meaningful experience.
I also love meeting other visitors from different countries, it opens up all sorts of opportunities for long-term friendships and connections.
One of the best ways to meet locals and other visitors at the same time is by going to events.
These may be social meetups at bars, film nights, concerts, workshops, sports activities and all sorts of other gatherings.
Joining local events has the double benefit of doing something that interests you and meeting people who share your interests.
In some countries of regions, the event might also be something unique to that area, which is an added advantage.
There are some sites and apps I use regularly to find events that interest me when I travel.
It’s easier than ever to find events in any field, so no need to compromise on that. You can look at it as a way of curating your own trip so it matches your interests.
You can try your luck and attend some general meetups, there’s always a chance to meet cool people there too.
In some big cities you may be overwhelmed by the number of events available.
In those places you want to filter search results to narrow down the options till you find the local events that are best for you. I’ll explain how to do that later on.
In this post I’m sharing the best apps for local events and explain how to use them. These are the essential tools that you want to add to your trip planning toolbox.
The best apps & sites for local events
Meetup – Find and join events and groups
This massive database is one of the best places to look for events when you travel.
You can search for tours, workshops, social meetups, lectures, parties and so on, run by local groups and clubs.
Want to meet people in your profession? There’s likely to be a meetup group for that.
Looking for people to join you for a concert tomorrow night? You can find groups that go out together. Looking for a language exchange meeting? You’ll probably find more than one. Looking for hiking partners?
You get the idea 😉
Whenever I arrive in a new city, I use meetup to find local events in my area.
I also like to use meetup.com as a way to discover events that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought of.
That’s how I found myself at a laughter yoga class in London last year, or at an organic food workshop in Barcelona on my last visit there…
After you login, use the search box to find either groups or events.
Once you find a group that appeals to you, have a look at its calendar to see if it runs any events on the dates of your visit.
To join an event, first join the group and then RSVP the event. Some events are paid, which will be mentioned in the description, but most meetups are free.
Eventbrite – The user-friendly way to find events near you
Another site I use on a regular basis to find events near me is Eventbrite.
Unlike Meetup, this one isn’t about groups or clubs, but just about events.
It would normally detect your location automatically and then you can search by category, event type, date and price.
To narrow down the search results, start with the date and enter the relevant times of your visit under “Custom Date”.
You can also use the Browse Events button instead of searching.
It’s a nice way to find inspiration and some surprising activities. Click Browse and you’ll get a list of events near you.
What I love about Eventbrite is that it’s so user friendly.
The design is clean and simple, and even if you get tons of results sometimes, it’s still very easy to browse through them and find what you want.
Once you find a local event that interests you, click on the title and you’ll be taken to a page with more details where you can register and buy tickets (even free events require registrations sometimes).
You can view a map of the location, add the event to your calendar and see more events run by the same organiser.
Couchsurfing Events – A warm community for social meetups
While it’s normally associated with finding a free place to sleep, CouchSurfing is also one of the best apps for local events and one of the most useful tools to find people to meet with. I use it whenever I travel.
There are different ways to meet people and find events through CouchSurfing:
Use CouchSurfing Hangouts to find other people nearby. These may be locals or other travellers.
Some locals cannot host guests, but they are available to meet for coffee or drinks and will indicate that on their profile.
You can ask them what they’re up to and join them for whatever events they’re attending, or ask them to show you around.
It’s a great way to see the place through the eyes of a local.
Some CouchSurfing groups run events around a specific area of interest, like biking tours, photography workshops and lots more.
Anyone can join a group and post in it, so you can also organise a meetup yourself, or find partners for going out to parties, movies and so on.
One important tip: check the date of the last post to see if the group is actually active, as there are many dormant groups.
The third and best place to look for events is in the Events section on CoushSurfing .
You’re likely to find language exchange meetings, guided tours, pub crawls, sports events and all sorts of other hangouts.
In many places around the world there’s a weekly CoushSurfing meeting, where you can meet both locals and visitors, typically in a nice cafe or bar.
You’ll find them listed in the Events section. I’ve been to many of these and it’s always good fun.
These meetings are very informal and you can get to know people from all over the world over a drink.
When you go to the Events section on CoushSurfing, first use the date filter on the right, so you only see events relevant to the dates of your trip.
When you find an event that appeals to you, click the title and you’ll see more details and a list of other people who joined, and then you can click the Join button and add it to your calendar.
Facebook – Find events near you and great local groups
Facebook keeps developing its internal search engine, so finding events is becoming easier and easier.
You can either browse events near you or find events run by Facebook groups.
Go to your personal Facebook events page and you’ll see some upcoming events near you, as Facebook detects your location.
This list may be very long, so instead of just scrolling down, it’s best to narrow down the results.
Start with the dates of your visit.
Then you can filter results by category, like Music, Crafts, Sports, Comedy etc – you’ll see a list of categories on the right. Click the “more” link for a longer list of categories.
You can find events today, tomorrow, next week etc. and explore by category.
Another way to find events through Facebook is by joining local Facebook groups.
I usually search for an expat group or a digital nomad group with the name of the city I’m visiting. Searching for a language exchange group is also a good idea. These groups are likely to be in English.
I also search for groups based on my interests, such as Tokyo Photographers or Lisbon Vegans etc. If I’m lucky, there’ll be a local group in a language I know.
Once you join a group, click on Events on the left (or add the word events at the end of the group URL) to see if this group is running any events. You can also view them on a calendar.
More ways to find local events when you travel
This post features the best apps I use to find local events. Feel free to share yours in the comments below.