Travelling beyond my motherland is a privilege that I have been blessed with lately, with the catch that I do it solo. I have gone around Europe a bit (not a lot, because work is still work) and learnt a thing or two about travel planning as a solo female Muslim traveler. With this article, I will try my best to share with you the tricks I’ve gathered from my experience in travel planning.
1. Research, research, and researchCredit: Giphy
A normal traveler would research the basics: where to eat, where to go, what’s the weather like, but as Muslims, the research topics expand further to where are the halal
places to eat, where are the praying areas nearby the attractions.
Us solo travelers, though, we require a lot more information than most, especially on the following subject matters:
Keeping up to date with a country’s political situation is important as it can determine various outcome with regards to your travels.
Also bear in mind, in some European countries, transport strikes happen all too often but the funny thing about these strikes is that they are planned ahead. Respective transport companies would provide the information on their websites in advance or you can have a general overlook at possible strikes here
Your safety is always the ultimate priority, and you need to consider that in all aspects of your travels, for example taking the public transportation.
Another point to research on is the common cons and scams carried out within the city. Increase your awareness of various types of cons by referring to this chart
In circumstances where your flight is due for a layover, or you have to stay overnight at the airport for an early morning plane, check out your sleeping options at The Guide to Sleeping in Airports
It is impossible to travel to other countries and not taste the colourful cuisine they have to offer. As Muslims, it is harder to find halal food specifically but you can widen your search terms by using keywords such as vegetarian, vegan
, and alcohol-free
. That’s how I managed to find a place that sells non-alcoholic tiramisu in Rome!
If you have a particular restaurant you have hankering to eat at but are not sure of it’s halal/Muslim-friendly status, contact them first be it by e-mail or through their social network pages.
Mosque & local Muslim community
Some people make it a point to visit mosques in other countries, especially those in a Muslim-minority country. Finding a mosque is not a chore; all it takes is a phone call or email to the local Islamic centre or the mosque itself.
Other than the local mosques, utilize your Embassies or National Halls e.g. Malaysian Hall as a Resource Centre.
Remind yourself to check the visa requirements for your destination country. The worst thing that could happen to you is to find out that you cannot enter the country after all the completed planning and payments.
Other than visa requirements, do check on the passport validity requirements for your destination country. For instance, Malaysia and the UK require their visitors’ passports to be valid for at least six months, and most European countries require only 90 days. Check your destination’s visa and passport validity requirements at the World Travel Guide website
Until recently I never thought of buying travel insurance prior to any of my travels. I’ve always thought it’s a waste of money, until my brother-in-law got his head knocked by a golf ball during our family vacation in Perth (don’t worry, he got to claim the bill from the insurance company). Check out the variety of insurance plans relevant to travelling such as travel insurance, flight insurance, and car rental insurance.
3. Drafting your itinerary
Now comes the best part of travel planning. At this stage, tingles of excitement erupt at the tips of your fingers as you endlessly google the plethora of attractions, museums, and markets.
My main advice on drafting your itinerary is to not overestimate your stamina. Yes, it sounds fun to visit 20 attractions in less than 12 hours but by the end of the day, you’ll end up tired with no actual knowledge of the places you visited. What I’d suggest you to do is list the places you want to go (use travel guides such as the ever-helpful HHWT app, TripAdvisor and Pinterest) and list them in order of importance.
As you draft your itinerary, it’s better to do it with a budget frame in mind, so that you could approximate your expenditure for the entire journey. Write and break down your budget for accommodation, transportation, and entrance fees for attractions. Decide how much you would like to spend for each category.
Bear in mind that sometimes you can’t be too strict in controlling your financial flow. Give extra allowances for the sake of comfort or a lifetime memory.
Reduce your financial burden by getting sponsorship for your travels! Certain companies such as AirAsia offer free flight tickets in return for a write-up on your holiday promoting the services of the carrier. Be smart in looking for sponsorships!
For this stage, you need a clear head and sharp focus. You do not
want to make the wrong booking and end up paying a €40 penalty for a change in booking. Trust me, I’ve been there.
I have no hard and fast rule on where to start your booking process, but it’s a habit of mine to start booking the flights because ticket prices are volatile. For this, I use the Skyscanner app to keep track of prices with their alert notifications. Note that the prices of low cost airlines exclude other charges such as check-in luggage allowances, in-flight meals and more.
Also, be aware that low flight prices can mean early morning or late night flights, which can be an issue if you’re planning to use public transport to travel to and from airports.
For beginners in crossing countries on trains, The Man in Seat Sixty-One
has one of the best resources for your references.
The best option to obtain inexpensive lodging is to utilize your network and stay over at an acquaintance’s house. With luck, you might be able to sleep over at a friend of a friend’s student house in the city.
Otherwise, there are plenty of options to book your accommodations abroad and I personally prefer Airbnb
, as it can be more economical and comfortable. For budget accommodations, you can search for cheap hostels using Hostelworld
When booking for attractions or activities, survey ahead for any discounts or free entrances on specific days. In Rome and Florence, most of the museums offer free entrance on the first Sunday of the month, including the Colosseum and the Vatican Museum! Travelers under the age of 30 are usually even more lucky as some places offer student or youth discounts. Be sure to carry a valid student ID during your travels.
Are you bringing a sturdy hard case or a light soft case? Is one carry-on luggage enough or do you need another check-in luggage for all the souvenirs? Do you prefer traveling light or being prepared by bringing everything for the possibility of a random emergency? Whatever it is, always take the weight and size of your luggage into consideration, as it will be the companion you drag around cities.
What are the five must-have items in my luggage as a solo, female traveller?
A foldable water bottle, travel adaptor, a light prayer mat & telekung set, a power bank, and a jacket with hoodie.
7. Plans ✅, Clothes ✅ Money ✅…what’s next?
You’ve got your itineraries and tickets, and your clothes are all packed and ready to go. What now?
Last minute checklist:
- Set up a cloud storage account such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Upload your important documents, and back up your gallery to the accounts.
- For offline references, print your itineraries, booking receipts, and tickets.
- Distribute your cash in different places so that you will not lose it all at once.
- For Android users, download Android Device Manager and set it up for your phone in case you lose it while travelling.
Another form of preparedness is to pray to Allah SWT to bless and protect your journey. Keep these prayers in your phone and read them prior to your journeys:
Credit: @yuliandrianii on Instagram
You can plan your adventure to the smallest details but unpredictability is what turns your run-of-the-mill holiday into an adventure. Don’t be taken aback if parts of your plans fall through. That is the beauty of travelling: overcoming adversity with limited resources at hand. Besides, they’d make a good blogging material.