How to Solo Travel: Everything You Need To Know | Bernardo Bacalhau | Skillshare

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How to Solo Travel: Everything You Need To Know

teacher avatar Bernardo Bacalhau

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (23m)
    • 1. Hello!

    • 2. Choosing Destination & Finding Cheap Flights

    • 3. Before Flying & Arrival

    • 4. Staying Safe

    • 5. The First Day

    • 6. Eating Local Food Safely

    • 7. Transportation

    • 8. Communicating With Locals

    • 9. Budget Management

    • 10. Dealing With Boredom and Loneliness

    • 11. Finding Unique Experiences

    • 12. Good bye!

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About This Class

We know that it can be scary to get out of your comfort zone and go travel the world alone. With this class we want to give you all the basics that you need to know so that you can go on that trip which you always dreamed about and enjoy it fully!

Since a young age, Bernardo started traveling abroad with his family during the summer months and he quickly learned everything one needs to know in order to have a fun, meaningful and safe trip.

He has travelled to several countries alone and among all the adventures, he survived an hepatitis from food poisoning and was let free after being interrogated for 11 hours by the Indian police.

In this class he is going to teach everything you should know in order to avoid such situations. Among all the topics, he covers things like:

  • booking a cheap flight
  • traveling safely
  • communicating with locals
  • manage your budget for the trip
  • and more!

We hope you enjoy this class and hopefully it will be the launch pad for many adventures!

Meet Your Teacher

Hello, I'm Bernardo.


I'm a filmmaker and YouTube creator from Portugal, and I absolutely love adventures!

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1. Hello!: Hello there. My name is Bernardo Bacalhau and I'm a filmmaker who loves traveling and adventure. In this class, I'm going to tell you all I know about solo traveling. Since I can remember during the summer months, I'd go travel somewhere with my parents, with the camper van or backpacking, and those moments were always my favorite of the whole year. At the same time, I start to learn about filmmaking. So it didn't take long till I merged the two of them. Two years ago, I actually decided to drop out of college to pursue this life and work as a full-time creator on YouTube, and I have been uploading travel stories since then. Because I was traveling all these years and seeing my parents doing it as I was growing up, I became pretty confident. Nowadays, I'm comfortable to travel anywhere alone. I'm going to tell you about apps and websites that I use to help me travel more safely and efficiently, ways to create deeper connections with the locals, how to find an explored sites and more. I'm super excited that you decided to join this class. So let's get started. 2. Choosing Destination & Finding Cheap Flights: If you're planning to solo travel, the first thing that comes to your mind is, where should I go? There are lots of options which really depend on where you're from. If you're not comfortable with being alone, especially in a new environment, I would recommend you to start by doing a solo trip in your own country. We usually assume that we already know our own country, but recently I decided to do the same here in Portugal, which is a fairly small country. You would be surprised with the places that I found. To make it even more interesting, you can create small challenges. For example, only using paper maps to navigate or hitchhiking. I don't know, these aren't just the ideas. It really depends on you, but I've done both and I can't really choose which one is more fun. But if you're watching this class, I'm going to assume that you want to go somewhere new. In that case, it's really up to you. But if you ask me, I would say that one of the best places to solo travel is Southeast Asia and there are several reasons why. First of all, it's a fairly safe place to travel, it's affordable, and it's pretty easy to move around because there are lots of people doing the same routes. That's my advice, if you want something exciting. But again, this is totally up to you and don't be afraid to try something outside the box because the world is safer than what it appears on the news. Now talking about flights, I know it can be tricky, but it's fairly simple to find cheap flights. Usually, I use either Skyscanner or Momondo, which are pretty straightforward to use and usually you can find really good deals there. But recently, like just a few weeks ago, I found this website called Google Flights which basically shows you on the map the cheapest flights to every city. If you don't have a specific destination nor dates, this is an amazing tool to find good deals. But if you want to go somewhere more specific and the flights are really expensive, there's a little trick that you can try. Let me give you an example. In 2017, I went to Bali and when I search for flights from Lisbon to Bali, everything was really expensive. Instead, I search for flights to Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur, which are big cities that are not that far from Bali but have way more air traffic. It turns out that the flights to Singapore were way cheaper. So I booked those tickets and then I look for a low cost flight from Singapore to Bali, which was pretty easy to find. By doing this, I not only saved a lot of money, but also I had the chance to explore Singapore and spent a few days there. I'm not saying that this works all the time, of course not, but you can give it a try before booking. 3. Before Flying & Arrival: All right. You chose the country and you're about to fly, there's a few things you should prepare in advance. First of all, make sure you have the necessary visas and paperwork to enter the country, as well as a copy and address of the first place that you're staying in because usually you have to give an address when you arrive to a foreign country. Then, of course, this depends on where you're traveling to, but try to pack as light as possible. I always see people traveling with those massive backpacks and I don't understand why people need so many clothes. For every item that you're putting on your backpack, just ask this question, do I really need this? If the answer is maybe, just leave it. Your back will thank you later. The only reason that I don't travel with just a small backpack is because of my filming gear: that camera, drone, batteries, computer. I really wish I didn't need all this stuff. Something also very important is to download the map of the city that you're landing in on Google Maps because usually you don't have an Internet connection as soon as you land. Sometimes it actually takes a few days until you're able to have a working SIM card. So having that map on your phone allows you to navigate through the city easily. If you take a taxi or a public transport, you can always check if they're taking you on the right direction. Speaking of that, getting out of the airport can be tricky sometimes. So this is my suggestion. If there's any kind of public transportation, bus, metro, train, just take that because you're way less likely to be scammed. If there are no other options, make sure you negotiate the price with the taxi driver before getting in. Because once you're inside, they are the ones who decide. If you don't have many bags, make sure you don't put them in the trunk because in case the taxi driver is trying to scam you or is upsetting you, you can always get your stuff and leave. I'm not saying this to scare you, there's nothing to be afraid of; I'm just warning you and you just have to be careful and play it safe. Just one more thing. This doesn't apply to everyone watching, but in case you have a drone and you're planning to take it with you, make sure you check the rules on that specific country beforehand. Some countries like Morocco, for example, confiscate every single drone at the airport and they won't return it to you once you leave the country. So just read some forums first and make sure you're allowed to take the drone with you. If you don't believe me, this is serious. I was interrogated for 11 hours in India for flying a drone there. So make sure you read the rules first. 4. Staying Safe: All right. Safety. This is probably one of the most important parts of traveling alone because if you're by yourself, you better be safe because there's no one to help you out. So my first advice is always share your location with someone. This is something that I've been doing with my father for years now, and it can be really useful if something goes wrong. Google Maps has a built-in function that allows you to share your location with someone, let it be your parents, your best friend, basically someone that you really trust. This way, there's always someone on the planet that knows where you are. If for some reason you stop texting them in 24 hours, 48 hours go by, they can always send help. Again, really handy. I would recommend it 100 percent, especially if you're traveling alone. Another aspect that we have to talk about is travel insurance. This is something that a lot of people don't like to talk about because it's an extra cost and probably consider it to be a waste of money, but it's not. For years, actually, I had traveled without insurance and I never had problems. But then on the same exact trip that I decided to contract an insurance policy, I got sick with hepatitis E and ended up spending almost three weeks at the hospital and spending over €10,000. Obviously, I didn't pay anything as the insurance covered all the costs. But if I didn't have that insurance, I don't know if I would be here today. So don't give it a second thought when it comes to insurance. It's not that expensive, and the good thing is that most travel insurance companies cover way more than just health problems. They cover things like lost luggage, missing a flight, canceling a trip, etc. One more thing that you should pay attention to is your luggage. You should never lose sight of it. Not just because someone can steal it, but because someone can put things inside. It's pretty common to smuggle drugs and other things using people's luggage because in case it gets caught, they are not the ones carrying it; it's you. The same applies to carrying other people's luggage. You should never accept to carry any luggage from anyone because you never know what's inside. It doesn't matter how kind or sweet they seem to be, don't accept it. Again, I feel like I'm scaring you, but there's nothing to be scared off. This is just a warning so that you know and you don't get in trouble. The last thing that I want to talk about are vaccines. I'm going to be quick here. In Portugal, we have something that we call travelers consultation. This is a medical service by doctors who specialized in travel medicine. Basically, they can give you more advice and information before you travel. I don't know if this is a general practice in other countries, but there's probably some kind of service or organization in your area. So just give it a search. I'm not talking about coronavirus here, it's too early to talk about that, I'm referring to diseases like hepatitis A, typhoid, malaria, yellow fever, or even dengue. In my opinion, it's just better to prevent it because it's not fun to be hospitalized abroad, far from the people that you care about, and I know what I'm talking about. 5. The First Day: All right. The first day, you're finally there and you're just overwhelmed with everything. You don't know anyone, you don't know the city. You have no Internet. You are trying to find a place to buy a SIM card, but at the same time, the taxi driver is just trying to scam you and charge you more and then you don't know the conversion rates. It's difficult. I have been there, it's difficult. My advice here is don't panic and just try to enjoy the fact that you are finally doing that trip. You'll figure things out as the days go by and in a couple of days, you'll be way more comfortable and confident and you'll know how much 1,000 rupees is in your currency. That's why I wanted to make this small chapter just so you know that this is a very common feeling that a lot of people experience and things will just get better. 6. Eating Local Food Safely: Food is by far one of the best ways of traveling, and that's why I love street food. There's always a lot of debate around whether you should try it or not. In my opinion, street food is the best way to experience the local cuisine and at the same time save some money because usually it is the most inexpensive option, and it's also pretty easy to find anywhere. When it comes to eating street food, my rules are pretty simple. First, just eat at crowded places. Just imagine that we are past 2020 and crowds are a thing again. If a place is crowded, it means two things. First, if a bunch of locals are eating there, it means the food is good and therefore you should try it, and because it's pretty crowded, the demand is pretty high, which means the food is fresh. When the food stalls or restaurants are pretty empty, that is never a good sign, especially because of the low demand. They can serve you stuff that is not good to eat anymore. Of course, always clean your hands before eating, especially in countries where it's common to eat with your hands. I feel like past 2020 this is going to be the norm and everyone will carry a small hand sanitizer, but I just wanted to give you a small reminder. I got hepatitis most likely because of street food, and that's because I was not following these rules. 7. Transportation: When it comes to transportation, it really depends on your goals and where you want to go. But if I had to give you an advice, it would be, whenever possible, just get your own, let it be a rental car, a moped, or a bicycle. There's something about being the one in control that makes it way more fun to travel. You can go anywhere you want. You can stop for as long as you want. You can leave whenever you want. It's basically the freedom that it gives you to do whatever you want. But if you're traveling a long distance or if you're not comfortable driving, I would suggest you to take the most affordable option available, which usually is the train or the bus. Trains are usually better. It's more comfortable and it's a good place to meet more people, if you're into that. It's easier to start a conversation either with locals or with other backpackers. But really, if you're looking for adventure, just get your own means of transportation because you won't believe what can happen. 8. Communicating With Locals: Traveling alone doesn't mean that you won't communicate with other people. It pretty much means the opposite. Because you're alone, you're way more vulnerable and it's more likely that a local will approach you. This is one of the main advantages of traveling solo because it's way easier to create this bonds and connections. Especially if you know a few words or sentences in the local language, that's pretty much the beginning of an amazing adventure. Before you realize it, you're being invited to someone's house to have dinner with their family. Sometimes it's that simple. Speaking of starting conversations, I want to show you a little trick to help you better communicate with the locals, especially if you don't know the language. Do you remember that I told you to pre-download the map of the city that you're traveling to? The same applies to the language. Google Translate actually allows you to pre-download the language so you don't need an Internet connection to translate between English and that specific language. Oh, and this is another thing. If you're translating something, always try to do it from English because it's universal language. Google Translate has an easier time and it's more effective translating something from English than from Portuguese, for example, in my case. There's also this feature that some people don't know about, but if you rotate your phone horizontally, it actually makes the sentence way bigger and it's much easier for the locals to read it. I know this can be clunky sometimes, but it actually works. I've had entire conversations just using Google Translate. I'm sure there will be way more effective ways to translate languages and to communicate in the future. But for now, this does the job and it's actually funny sometimes to be creative and use your hands and gestures just to make yourself understood. 9. Budget Management: In this chapter, I'm going to explain to you how I manage my budget for the trip and how I keep track of everything because there's nothing more important than controlling your budget and making sure you don't run out of money before your trip is over. For that purpose, I am using an app called Spendee. It's probably not the most used one, but I'm still using it because it was the only one that was for free back when I started traveling alone. But I know there are other options. I know there's one called Mint and I've heard good things about it. So just give it a look, if you want. Let me give you a quick walkthrough and show you how I use this app. First, you open up the app and the first thing you should do is create a new wallet. Usually, I create a wallet per trip. You can give it any name. For example, we're going to call it India. Then the currency, you should always choose your own currency. In this case, I'm going to leave it as it is and you can create an initial balance. You can say, I only have €500 to spend during this trip, and you create the wallet and you can start inserting transactions. The good thing about this app is that you can, let's say that you're spending some cash on traveling and let's say you spend 200, not euros but rupees, because we are in India. You choose rupees and it's going to use the converting rate to automatically convert it to euros so you can have a better idea of how much you're spending. Then you just add the transaction, and there you go. You spend 200 rupees, which is the same as €2.26. The more transactions you add, it's going to create graphs and basically it's going to help you to better understand how much you're spending. Another thing that you must do before you travel abroad is to create an online bank account, and there are several reasons why you should get one of these, but the main one is to avoid conversion fees when you're paying in the local currency. There are several options here. If you're from Europe, I would recommend N26 and Revolut because these are the two main ones, and I have both because if one doesn't work, I always have an alternative. But I'm not delving into this. If you're really interested, I recommend you to do some research and see what works best for you. But again, this is super handy and it helps to save some money. So you're welcome. 10. Dealing With Boredom and Loneliness: While traveling, I've met people that told me that they were getting bored or didn't know exactly what to do, and I find this just weird and nonsense and I don't really understand it. But to avoid this, I would recommend you to create a goal. This can be anything. It can be visit certain places. It can be photograph people. It can be write a book or write a diary, or make movies, in my case, basically, something that works as a guideline for your trip, and I'm not saying to plan your whole trip. Obviously, you should leave a lot of room for spontaneous detours and encounters, but having that goal to guide your trip is really important. In my case, for example, a lot of the things that you see in my videos just happen because I had the goal of making that video, and I'd start talking with people and interviewing, and before I realize it, I'm staying with a local family in the middle of the desert. About loneliness, I don't have much to say about it. It's really up to you. But if you're afraid of being alone, it's really not a problem because there's always so many people at the hostels that it becomes pretty easy to find someone to travel with for some days, so you'll only be alone if you really want to. 11. Finding Unique Experiences: This is the last subject that I want to talk about and it's basically how I create the conditions to have more unique experiences and discover new places that don't show up in most travel guides. If you're looking to stay with a local family or if you want to be invited to a ceremony, for example, you can't just stay at your hostel and wait for that to happen. You have to start conversations. You have to hitch hike, you have to put yourself out there and look for those adventures. Basically, you have to put yourself in that position that is probably not comfortable and you might feel a little bit too exposed. But it's the one that will lead you to the most unique stories and experiences. Again, if you want to create the necessary conditions to have a more personal and intimate experience, you have to get out of the comfort of your hostel and look for it. Speaking with strangers and hitchhiking are probably the most effective ways to create this conditions. As per finding interesting spots, the best tool that it can use is Google Maps. There's no real trick here. You just go on Google Maps, Satellite mode, and you start scanning the area that you're interested in. This obviously works best for natural places. I use it a lot to discover hidden beaches that no one goes to, or interesting lakes, for example. It also works to find trails because some times they are marked on the map. But again, there's no real science here. You just move around to see if you can spot any interesting places, and it definitely works best for coastal areas because when you're in the mountains or similar places like that, it's more tricky to check if you can get to a certain spot, but you can always check it to make sure that you're not missing anything. But this is pretty much it. There's no hidden secret or anything like that. It's mostly about being vulnerable and letting the unexpected to happen. 12. Good bye!: All right, this is the end. I hope you enjoyed this class and that you at least learned something new. I'm really looking forward to seeing what you come up with and what kind of adventures you'll go on, so make sure you share them with me in the project section of this class. I'll be checking it every now and then and giving you some feedback. Yeah, that's it. Thank you for your time and have fun. Bye bye.