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information, Travel

Discover Greece: Ultimate Guide to Visas, Getting Around, Safety and Local laws.


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Notorious for its dated and archaic classical Greek architecture, Greece is also prominent for yielding Olive Oil, Honey and Mastiha Chios- something I didn’t even know and learned as I typed out this very blog post. Like me, there are things people still don’t know about this little European country, and questions don’t come quicker than when you plan to take a little trip there yourself. Below are some useful answers to some much asked questions, which helped me before I headed out to visit the country myself. Feel free to add any other tips from your trip in the comments below!

Sea Routes

The Greek islands are a grouped in clusters, surrounded by both land and sea. To the east of the mainland is the Aegean Sea, to the south is the Mediterranean Sea and to the west is the Ionian Sea. For this reason, plenty of ports are available and a great many shipping companies provide their services to get in and around the country with a modern and luxurious fleet. All the islands are linked to the mainland with regular service, so island-hopping is a definite option during your vacation!

Check out timetable for ferries for Greece or the Greek islands here.

Passports and Visas

Greece is still a very active member-state of the European Union and consented to the Schengen Agreement  back in 1992. The agreement abolishes many of the EU’s internal borders, facilitating passport-free movement throughout the bloc. This means that citizens from EU countries can move around Greece with just their passport, or a police issued I.D card that is easily obtained with the help of respective embassies, consulates or even travel agencies. Visas are not required by citizens of countries within the Schengen Agreement and the following is a list, correct as of January 2015:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France and Monaco, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

Citizens from these EU countries that are not apart of the Schengen agreement may also visit Greece without a visa:

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and United Kingdom.

So if you’re like me and hold a British passport, you do not need a visa to enter Greece. As a British passport holder, you can stay as a visitor for 3 months. For longer stays, you will need to apply for a residence permit.

Getting Around

Getting to/from the Athens International Airport and the city center, located about 20 km (12 miles) east can be achieved via:

  • Metro: 

Metro Line 3 connects the Athens airport with the city centre. Trains run every 30 minutes, 7 days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The trip from/to the Airport to Syntagma station (Athens centre) lasts 40 minutes.

  • 24-hour express buses: 

Express bus routes connect Athens (city centre & greater area) and Piraeus (port) directly with the Athens International Airport. Service is provided on a non-stop basis seven days a week including holidays (24/7 operation). Bus tickets are sold at the info/ticket-kiosk (located outside the Arrivals between Exits 4 and 5), or onboard (ask operator) at no extra cost.

There are four main routes, check them out here.

  • Proastiakos:

The Suburban railway (Proastiakos) connects the Athens airport with the Athens Central Railway Station (Larissis Station) and Acharnai Railway Centre, and through them to the National Railway network. The Suburban railway departs every 15-25 minutes from the Athens Airport railway station to Plakentias station, where you can change trains and continue to the city centre (Metro Line 3 to Egaleo), using the same ticket.

  •  Taxi: 

Taxis are available at the designated Taxi waiting area located at Exit 3 of the Arrivals Level. A taxi from the airport to the city centre (inner ring) costs a flat rate of €35 from 5:00 a.m. to midnight, and €50 from midnight to 5:00 a.m.

Note: The charge is determined by the time of arrival at the destination and includes all applicable surcharges and extras.

Health and Safety

For you to have access to necessary healthcare citizens from member-states of the EU must have the European Health Card (EHIC) or any form of legal community document issued by their competent social security agency. It’s free to acquire one in the UK and isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become urgent during your stay. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Greek nationals. Visit your health care professional at least 3 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need vaccinations or any other preventative measures. In case of any emergencies, have these following numbers close by:

Police: 100

Ambulance Service: 166

Tourist Police: 1571
SOS Doctors: 1016
Duty Hospitals and Clinics: 1434
Pharmacies: 1434
Open Line for alcohol drug Addiction: 210 3617089
Poisoning First Aid: 210 7793777

Local Laws and Customs

Greece has made it illegal to smoke in all indoor places, violating this could mean a penalty fine of up to €500.

Don’t become involved or even try to bring Class C drugs of any kind into the country. Possession of even the smallest amount will lead to arrest and could mean lengthy prison sentences- visitor or not.

Any indecent behaviour is not tolerated by the Greek, including mooning. The courts will most likely impose a heavy fine or prison sentences on people who behave indecently.

Lastly, keep any receipts of purchases you make! Arrests have been known to be made for purchasing/acquiring/handling pirate CDs and DVDs and have led to imprisonment in some cases. Keep any and all receipts! Dont say I didnt warn you.

Climate

Greece has a Mediterranean climate with ample amounts of sunshine, meek temperatures and a limited amount of rainfall. In the summer, the warmer and dryer days and cooled with seasonal winds called the Meltemi, whilst the more rocky regions have commonly lower temperatures. In the winter, mild temperatures in the lowland areas attract low amounts of snow and ice, whilst the more mountainous area is completely covered in snow.

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Experiences, Travel

Tarriance in Athens, Greece: My 6 Hours


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Arriving in Athens this morning, my last flight into Thira wasn’t for another six hours. In my world, instead of booking a hotel, dropping my bags and staying in close vicinity to the airport… I went straight into the city to explore. Time not on my side, this is my 6 hours in the ancient city of Αθήνα (Athens).

It begins…

After arriving at the International Airport at roughly 11:40am, the taxi service from Exit 3 took me directly to the city’s centre for a mere €35. From there, first stop was the famed Ancient Agora. The marble structure still standing provided shade from the punishing sun, and the site was oddly heaving with people for a midday Saturday. Tourists and their children and their grandchildren walked around aimlessly in shades and shorts, in stark contrast to me who lugged a carry-on suitcase and donned a heavy black jacket. The sun wasn’t proving kind to me at all.

A flock of what looked like American tourists, around 18 of them by eye count, were taking a tour around the ruins. I joined them, smiling. The American voice on the microphone told us about how every ancient city has a place called an ‘agora’, the word defined as an assembly of people and by extension, means the ‘gathering place’. She told us that the site had gone through countless deconstruction and rebuilding cycles, and had served as an Iron Age cemetery, library of Pantainos, a Basilica, gymnasium for the Herules and a roman Stoa. Quite the history.

A little history…

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Fisheye view of the Hephaisteion

Today, the pillars of Hephaisteion stand intact without its arched ceiling, and its columns riddled with holes that appear to be from bullets. The round large foundations of Tholos are still visible, and the voice on the microphone tells us it served as the headquarters for the 70 executives of the Boule- “The council of Citizens”. It also served as the dining place for the Prytaneis who were fed here at the public’s expense.

I’m imagining a scene from Game of Thrones of the Bloody Wedding- long tables unnecessarily crammed with food, and live folk bands playing wildly. Women in long woolen peplos adorned in gold jewellery, entertaining drunken men. And a professed king at the high table, looking down at his intoxicated nation. It’s just all crazy.  Tholos must’ve been one heck of a place.

Veiled observations…

I’d grew tired of being in the sun at this point, so 45 minutes into this trek, I left the crowd. Close by was the Acropolis of Athens, my next stop. I could’ve taken the walk in hindsight, but the 18 minute taxi journey was BY FAR the best few minutes I’d had the whole day. It wasn’t until I’d actually sat down in the taxi that I realized just how exhausted I was.

We arrived and I asked Pablos, my aged driver, to stay for another 5 minutes. He kept the meter running and I sat back. I had a habit of going to Trafalgar square in London, and simply sitting back to observe scurrying people hurriedly live their lives. Here, now, I was doing the same. Young, old, busy people in their own heads living their own little lives, so laissez-faire. It was quite refreshing in a way.

I took a deep breath, grabbed my suitcase and made my way out.

An hour and 30 minutes into Athens and I was at the Acropolis. The term Acropolis literally means hilltop, and is the most significant one in all of Greece. It housed many ancient buildings of great architectural significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. I didn’t know any of this stuff myself so I won’t pretend like I’m an expert – the Greeks have kindly placed boards of information all around the entrance from the main road. Saved me quite some time having to go through my little Smiths tour guide book.

“Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes….” ♫

Taking out my trusted camera, I walked to the rocky outcrop and found a perch to view the city. You know the moments that simply take your breath away- no words to illustrate them; no emotion to express… this was one of those. I was quite literally, ontop of the world.

I sat still. In that moment, an absurd feeling washed over me. I’ll never forget it. I almost shivered as goosebumps ran down my spine. Almost whispering, I broke out into a familiar hymn Mr Thompson once taught us in Primary school. Quite fitting really.

The Carpenters- Ontop of the world.

Gratitude

In that moment alone- sitting on the highest point of Athens, looking at the city basked in a gorgeous afternoon glow, I felt grateful. The horizon was so far out, everything between us packed with silhouettes and shapes of buildings, structures and busy roads.  The city was buzzing with life, and the entire thing felt surreal.

In all honestly, I did pick this place for the views. I took a few more pictures and made the long walk down the hill towards the main road again.

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Panoramic from Acropolis Hil

From here, another short taxi ride away was the Monastiraki flea market neighbourhood with traditional souvenir shops, retail boutiques and customary stalls to please any heart’s desire.

I walked around, not really looking to purchase anything and instead, went to check out the Tsisdarakis Masjid. Legend has it, the governor that built this mosque back in 1759, used one of the pillars from the Temple of Zeus to make lime for the building… but I mean, who knows for sure? I couldn’t get inside as it was closed for some reason, or perhaps I didn’t find the right door. The mosque by definition was definitely of Turkish influence with its architectural style and design. I loved it- majestic in its stature yet gentle and welcoming in its presence.

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Tsisdarakis Mosque inside Monastiraki Square

Times up!

I’m hungry at this point, the rumbling in my stomach a constant reminder. Since I haven’t sorted out my mobile data for this country just yet and wifi isn’t an option, I don’t know where to find Halal food. My options are fruit and fries. I don’t mind. I need something hot though, and walking past stalls and stalls of lamb, poultry and pork, I found a ragged, aged greek woman frying fish and potatoes- for tourists less inclined to meat or greek cuisine I guess. I purchased my lunch and two cans of Orange Juice and looked at the time. 4:10pm.

The last leg of my flight was in 1 hour 30 minutes. I stopped a taxi new-york style and proceeded to the airport to catch my flight. It began to rain, I was relieved.

Athens, you were kind to me.

Santorini, here I come.

 

 

Food, Travel

Buen Provecho! : My Top 6 Restaurant picks in Barcelona


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The people of Barcelona take food very seriously. I mean, more than anyone. They have breakfast, and think about where to eat for lunch. Midday shopping trips are not complete without a quick Café au laitat or Tortilla Española to round off the excursion. Food is not a joke in this city, and with the rich succulent variety of Spanish Catalonian cuisine available, this is a look at the city’s top 6 halal joints to indulge in Spanish traditions or to simply eat well for the practicing Muslim.

Tandoori Nights – Indian

This casual Indian restaurant in the heart of Barcelona serves an assortment of Indian food as well as a variety of breakfast and sandwiches throughout the day. Meals range from €9.50 to €12.50 per plate, with intense delectable platters of Chicken Korma, Tikka and Sheesh Kebabs served on a special menu. The restaurant provides a shaded terrace out front for taking in this very diverse city and you can enjoy a quick bite under a canopy, glimpsing at locals and travellers alike. The Indian kitchen according to the website, opens at 12:00 (midday) until 16:00 (4pm) and then from 20:00 (8pm) until 11:00am. Sandwich bars are open all day from 12:00 midday until 1:00am- nonstop.

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If you’re looking to visit- the details for the restaurant are as follows. T +34 676 432 564. E tandoori.nights.bcn@gmail.com or plug the following address into google- Carrer Carretes, 44 Barcelona, España 08001.

Fenicia Restaurant – Lebanese

Rated ‘Best Lebanese Food in Town!’ by one TripAdvisor reviewer, this joint serves an extensive mixture of Mediterranean, Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s in an optimal location- very local to Sants station so if you’re close by, definitely pop in. The quality of the food here is amazing and the rich chicken shawarma’s and appetizing falafel’s are given in extremely generous portions. This restaurant is open most days from 12:30 midday till around 00:30 every night.

fenicia-restaurant

The address for your peruse is Psg Antoni, 9, 08014 Barcelona, Spain and the T +34 933 30 01 46

Rincón Persa Restaurant – Persian

In true ancient Persian cultural entertainment, this restaurant offers the services of professional belly dancers to go with your meal every Friday and Saturday at 22:30hr. Influenced by their vast ancestral culinary tradition stretching from China to the East and all the Mediterranean villages in the west, Persian food is bathed with delicate fragrances and exquisite flavours that you simply must try at this property.  With platters of Mast-Û-khiar (cucumber and mint, mixed with yoghurt), Kufteh (Meatballs with chickpeas, barberries and aromic herbs) and Mirza GhasemÍ (char-grilled eggplant, tomatoes and garlic blended with egg) starters to kick-start the flavour fest, you’re bound to keep asking for more. Meals cost around €12.50 and vegetarians are also well catered for. Desserts are also an option, strating at €3.90 with Persian, fresh mint and lime ice cream,  traditional Persian baglava delights, lemon and basil mousse and the standard tiramisu dessert.

rincon-persa

Close by to the Sant Antoni metro station, the address for this property is Carrer de Floridablanca, 85, 08015 and the T is +34 934 255 996. You can also email them at rinconpersa85@gmail.com

The restaurant tends to get full pretty quick, make sure you call ahead and grab a reservation before you head in to avoid disappointment! They open from Tuesday to Sunday at 12:30 until 23.30 and do not close at midday. Not open Mondays! Reservation required!

Restaurant Bali – Malaysian

This Indonesian and Malay cuisine establishment, located in Laforja street, will uncover typical Indonesian specialties elaborated with traditional recipes and made with the best raw ingredients on the market. Extensive and exotic meals include Pedegil (Fried potato empanada, chopped cilandro, onions and fried shallots), Sate Ayam (grilled chicken skewers mariandos with peanut sauce) or Assam Pedas Udang (Spicy and sour prawns cooked in coconut milk and tamarind), amoungst a variety of other traditional dishes. The Rijstafel, the Crispy Duck and Honey Chicken are rounded off with homemade deserts that will invite you to stay and then leave with the desire to return. This restaurant presents private rooms and long round tables that facilitate good talks among large families or friend groups. Average spend here is from €20 to €30 and wi-fi is also available.

bali

The Bali lunches are presented from 13:00 till 16:00 every day and then dinner is served when doors reopen from 20:00 till 23:30. Doors to this restaurant open from 8am, so feel free to drop in from then! The hotel address is Laforja, 8 Sarriá – Sant Gervasi 08006 Barcelona and T +34 934 61 40 52. Reservation required!

Wild Beef – American

An extension of the ever popular Original PFC in the heart of London, Wild Beef Gourmet Burgers thrives on creating “fast food masterpieces” with their dedication, highly skilled chefs and combined experience. Gaining much popularity over in Britain, the brand moved out to Barcelona and brought along with them their halal-certified, mouth-watering beef burgers, made from the freshest beef to secret recipes with their delectable veggie, manchego and gourmet burgers, poultry, barbacoa, XXL burgers and a “crazy” assortment of delectable chicken Empanada with crispy fries.

burger

If you craving for some 50s-inspired American/British style ambiance in this Spanish municipality, look no further. Rated 5* for their food hygiene, you’re bound to have an unforgettable, unbeatable and mind-blowing experience at this establishment. Average spend here is around €10 per person, with opening hours Monday-Sunday 12:00 midday till 01:00am. The address to get here is Carrer de la Diputació, 214, 08011, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain and to book via T +34 932 69 42 02

Ouzoud Cous Cous Restaurante – Moroccan

With the upbeat vibes and traditional Moroccan interior, you are no longer in Barcelona and are transported into the buzzing cultural setting of Morocco the minute you walk in. True to its roots, colourful textiles, from upholstery to wall hangings, adorn every inch of this property and offers typical Moroccan cuisine from tender chicken chops, minced meat, couscous- a national delicacy- and the Harira. Ofcourse do not miss out on their magnificent Briwat or the Masman served in delicate tagines and there is no lack of rich succulent homemade desserts or tea service. If you’re in the mood, grab some shisha here too and enjoy the ambient mood and good company.

Average spend here is around €20 based on a two-course meal excluding drinks. Food is served from 13:00 till 15:30 every day and dinner is served 21:00 until 23:00 every day. The address to get here is Carrer de Salvà, 5, 08004 Barcelona, Espanja and T +34 931 64 59 37

Helpful? Check out my previous post of my experiences in Barcelona or perhaps you’ve got your own experiences? I want to know! Drop me a comment below.

Dont forget to subscribe via email to be the first to get any new posts published and so you dont miss out!

Have anyone tried any other restaurants in Barcelona?

Experiences, Travel

Barcelona, Spain: Through my Specs


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If the title Sun City wasn’t taken by its friendly neighbour across the pond, Barcelona would definitely have that title. Instead, dubbed ‘The City of Counts’ owing to its history as the seat of the Count of Barcelona between 9th and 15th century Catalan, it is now a hotbed for tourists, trade fair, fashion and avid socialites. Located on the northeast coast of the mountainous Iberian Peninsula region, facing the Mediterranean Sea, the 101.4km² city inhibits around 1.6million people and is the 2nd most populous municipality of the Kingdom that is Spain.

Attracting trekkers from all walks of life all times of the year, it was a refreshing site to see empty beaches and less crowded markets during my stay there earlier in the year. I wanted to live like a local for a week, experience the Catalonian lifestyle as well as be surrounded by the native people and the best place to stay I determined, was near the beach. Set a block from the Nova Icaria seafront, SB Icaria Hotel encapsulated the entire definition of the perfect Barcelonan stay with a 12 minute walk to the Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica metro station and a 25 minute stroll to the architecturally imposing grand Sagrada Família church.

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I stayed with 2 girl friends, bubbly and a bag of laughter throughout the trip. We stayed in a 3-bedroom suite on the 3rd floor of the building which was just as well since I actually couldn’t get a room in the hotel a week before. I’d been so sold out on the idea of staying at the beachfront luxury W Hotel that by the time I’d saved up enough the hotel had booked out everywhere. Infact, Id left it so late that no hotels in the entire Ciutat Vella District had vacancies. Flights booked, bags packed and nowhere to stay was quite the conundrum to face. Safe to say I’ve never made the mistake of saving up for a hotel ever again.  The girls flew out a day before me, so arriving and checking in wasn’t much of a problem. My Ryanair (Yeah, we cheap like that) flight FR9044 from LDN STN arrived at BCN El-Prat on Thurs 03 March at exactly 16:00. A quick taxi ride had me so lost staring at the beautiful city; I’d arrived at my destination long before my mind had. I paid and exited, still lost in the towering buildings and the soaring sun rays that pierced through them.

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A shower was first call. We all had our Aluminé skin care range decked out like a showroom floor in the bathroom. My go-to is the Soy & Baobab Shampoo and Conditioner- everywhere I go, it’s a must. Ofcourse anything over 100ml doesn’t get through security so in the spirit of making things happen, I got 4 x 25ml bottles straight from Amazon and took my trusted toiletries on their first little adventure. Unpacked, passport silently sealed away, clothes neatly on pegs in the walk-in wardrobe and heels attentively stood in a line, Barcelona was about to get a taste of an excited british Somalian.

The hotel offered breakfast buffet every morning which was delishhhhh, a quaint outdoor swimming pool with an enticing hot tub – the ultimate instagram backdrop we later learned– and a gym and sauna that in hindsight, I wish I used more of. Whilst we spent our morning nonchalantly by the pool every day, our evenings were a cultural excavation of restaurants and diners and beaches. Close by, we had our midnight €1 fries spot at Parc de Mar’s very own McDonalds.  Walk down the beach from there towards the wharf with luxe-grade yachts and fleets of Bugatti’s and Bentleys of very wealthy high rollers, you’ll see a two-storey food and dining destination below ground level. A lively area with a great buzzing atmosphere, we had tons of food concepts and seating options available. Most nights we found ourselves in Jerusalem, a Mediterranean Restaurant and bar with added Shisha/Hookah lounge. They stayed open until about 3am every night, and we’d just eat and enjoy each other’s company with locals all around us, and fellow foreigners making conversation. Felt surreal to be honest, to be in such a calm state in a completely unknown environment with strangers and unfamiliar territory. Yet so tranquil, and so peaceful.

The sounds of the ocean and waves lapping at the beach will forever remain in my conscious mind. Looking out, you could see nothing. The moon played hide and seek during my whole stay, and so not much natural light was available to illuminate the sea. You’d look out, and it would be pitch black. And yet, so thunderously loud, as if it was right beside your ear, the rhythmic pulse of the sea and its steady, throbbing heartbeat ruptured your thoughts and demanded your attention. It was unmatched by anything else in nature. I don’t even think I can put in a nutshell how my skin would erupt in goosebumps at every wave or how humbled it made me to hear it. Amazing, and quite simply hypnotic. An empty beach at 4am, with nothing but pitch black in front of you. I sat down on the sand once or twice, the waves could’ve towered over me and I wouldn’t have known. The experience was surreal.

I made some lifelong friends during that stay- people from other cities in the UK that to this day, still hit me up on social media to ask about the next rendezvous. I appreciate them all.

The girls had rented out the room for 4 nights. I was staying for 5. They checked out and I was left in another predicament. Never will I forget this leg of the trip. On my journey, I’d seen only one other Somali pair on my flight into BCN. I’d smiled, we had shared conversation and by the end of the flight… we were in my head, friends. They were staying in the same hotel so naturally, I’d see them more and more during my stay. For the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t go downstairs that night and just book the room we had to check out, for myself. Instead, I went to the first floor and knocked on their door and left my things in there. I don’t know whose handbook I got this from, or what the plan was… just acted. To this day, I could never forget that I knocked on someone’s door who I’d met on a flight and just stayed in their room for the night.

2 things to be thankful for. 1 is that they were a mother and daughter pair; otherwise it would’ve been totally awks. Not that it would’ve mattered. I mean… would it have? Hmm. 2nd is that their flight was at 3am and the room would be unoccupied for the remainder of the night. The room was still checked in, I mean… could God be looking out for me any further?! Lovely pair, great and truly self-effacing people. The mother took a nap at around 11pm and like the crazy insane person I am, I lead my new friend away at 11:30pm and we took a stroll to the beach.

Listen, the ocean at night is hypnotic. You’ll crave for more. I’m a “reflector”, I like sitting back and just meditating and reflecting on what I have and finding inner peace. Quiet places appeal to me. It was perfect. We strolled around, made some Jamaican friends who we probably – by their drunken state- should not have spoken to. We grabbed food, took some pictures and leisurely laughed way into the night. 1am came. They left. I had the room to myself.

I remember just as I shut the room door, my Whatsapp dinging. I’d reconnected with someone I’d met years before, and they happened to be in Barcelona same time as me. My flight out of Barcelona El-Prat was at 18:05 so I’d have a few more hours to indulge in some sunshine before heading to London. He came to my hotel that morning, and after some breakfast and checking-out, we left. The sun was beautiful. The air felt cleaner for some reason. It was such a beautiful day. In those last few hours, in that last stroll out of the hotel, I realised just how beautiful and peaceful the morning was. I missed every sunrise because I’d been out so late and needed to sleep. This was the first time I was out this early, and boy was it just gorgeous. A street peddler I’d grown familiar with near the restaurants approached us. He was selling fresh roses. He signalled to me and said to my new friend “Why not a rose for the lady?” My friend smiled. I got red and white roses to call mine that day, and still have them somewhere in my trip treasures, stored in a box deep in my room. My first ever set of roses. Sometimes, I find them and sometimes I smile- recalling memories long gone of laughter and sunshine.

If ever any of my readers find themselves in Barcelona, make sure you take a bus from Plaça d’Espanya towards Palau Saint Jordi. From the PSJ website, the buses you want are 55, 13 and 150. The winding hills give you the most breathtaking panoramic views of Barcelona city, the ports with boats and yachts, and glistening crystal clear water as far as the eye can see. Cross the road and you get a ‘Great Wall of China’ vibe with a huge wall and a city of chimneys and fresh clothes hanging out to dry beneath you. Take the bus back down to Plaça d’Espanya and explore the square, Valetian Towers, the shopping mall of Arenas de Barcelona and a whole host of cultural entertainment it offers. Make sure you take the first Montjuïc Cable Car station taking you 750m above ground and connecting you to the Montjuïc mountain and castle, if you’re a stickler for a good view.

I absolutely loved Barcelona. Next time, I’m vlogging it.

Do you have stories from your time in Barcelona? Perhaps a tale from another city? I want to hear about it. Drop a comment below… I love hearing back from my readers!

 

Reviews, Uncategorized

Bilderberg Parkhotel, Rotterdam Netherlands


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Probably one of the most fun-filled adventures I embarked on in 2015, the City of Rotterdam didn’t fail to make an impression during the few days I was a guest in the city.
Albeit short, it was my mission to explore with a group of friends and though we didn’t do much, my stay at the Bilderberg was one of contentment, relaxation and elevated comfort. Booked by a friend who’d previously busted a few jokes and made friends with the floor manager on a previous stay, we got a generously large discount on our stay, saving us perhaps what turned into countless feasts and unnecessary taxi fare expenses. Bonus! 🙂

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In total, not counting the lifelong friends I made during the stay and came back to London with, I travelled with a total of 5 friends- none of which I regrettably am still in contact with. I stayed in a small single room on the ground floor of the hotel, with a blooming garden at my disposal. This hotel was a great stay, and in this post, I help anyone who is looking to stay or wants a heads up about what to expect at The Bilderberg Parkhotel in Rotterdam.

Free tip at the very bottom for anyone who enjoys incredible views and looking to make the most of their stay @ The Bilderberg. Keep reading! Camera With Flash on Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (revised)

Environment

This modern 4*, classic grandeur and contemporary hotspot in the centre of lively Rotterdam, gives you just the right level of access into the city centre and still the secluded sentiment of peace and quiet; a perfect mix of a trendy metropolitan hotel in the heart of a lively city. It offers exceptional personal service levels which you expect to find at a luxury hotel. The Bilderberg is near a river and walking distance of art museums including Boijmans van Beuningen (great work here), Witte de Withstraat and the Museumpark, as well as the World Trade Centre and the infamous Erasmus Bridge. (Must see all of these!!)

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Erasmus Bridge

The hotel is located on the Westersingel main road, with local food, shopping and leisure stores a stone’s throw away in every single direction. It is situated within a 5-minute walk from the Centraal Underground station and just 700 meters away from the great colossal structure that is the Rotterdam Centraal railway station. Basically, everything is close by. Your underground station is next door, your food is across the street, city centre is aross the road, and tram transport is at your doorstep. Quite a convenient spot if you ask me.

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Railway Centraal Railway Station

It takes around 10 minutes to get to Rotterdam The Hague Zestienhoven airport by car- so now you know which airport to land at and will save you some extra £££ on journey time.

All in all, the lively buzz adds a pleasurable milieu to the hotel.

The hotel itself is of moderate size with 189 guestrooms across garden rooms, a villa wing and the grand Hoboken Tower donning 14 extravagant floors.

The Room

If I’m not mistaken I stayed in room 217, the last room at the end of a long and gloomy corridor. I booked a single room, with hopes I’d be in the regal Hoboken Tower witnessing breathtaking skyline views of the city. Don’t make the mistake I did in empty assumption. Singe rooms are located in the garden or villa wing of the hotel. I stayed in the garden rooms, and in my conceded opinion, the room to me felt like the leftover space of multiple spaced-out rooms on the same floor.  Albeit small, it  felt cosy and snug and reminded me a little of home. The view wasn’t much, I stared into other people’s windows directly opposite me and sometimes… sometimes they even stared back.

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My room was similar to this one, less spacious. Picture derived from Hotel website.

The room was polished to perfection though, no traces of dust anywhere at all. There was free wifi in my room, a flat-screen TV and tea and coffee makers at my disposal. I also had an Iron complete with board, hairdryer and a large desk to work on, which was convenient and very useful. The room has a minibar, soundproofed walls and a down comforter to aid sleep.

From asking questions I learned the following. The hotel has 4 room types-

  • Executive rooms with 1 double bed, located in the tower
  • Twin rooms with 2 single beds, located in the garden area
  • Single rooms, located in the garden area
  • Deluxe rooms with 1 queen bed, located solely in the tower

Next time, I’ll probably pick the deluxe rooms. I think it’s more fitting for me, but the single room was still a great room if you don’t plan to stay in the hotel much of your time. 24 hour room service is available with a wake-up service that I probably abused and luggage storage service at reception if you need to check out but do not need to leave until later.

Payment

This establishment accepts American Express, Visa, MasterCard, UCB card, Diners Club International and ATM cards.  A down payment is required and this may be frozen on your card before arriving at the hotel. If not, a deposit is required for checkin by credit card or cash with the addition of a Government-issued photo ID for any incidental charges. I assume this is also to avoid giving your room to someone who isn’t you, and in most cases your Passport should do just fine.

You’ll also be asked for 4.5% city/local tax charge as well as a tourism fee of EUR 1.90 per person, per night on check-in or check-out, a deposit of EUR 50 a night and a resort fee of EUR 2.20 per night, per person. Don’t be scared off! Every travel agent or online booking platform such as Booking.com, Expedia and even uk.hotels.com all add this in the sum total. It’s just good to know a breakdown of what you’re paying for.

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Optional extras include early check-in for a charge of 35 EUR, late check-out for a charge of 25 EUR, self parking onsite costs 19.50 EUR, rollaway beds charged at 35 EUR per night BUFFET BREAKFAST (YES!!!!) charged at roughly 24.50 EUR per person and pets are allowed for an extra charge of 25 EUR per night, per pet.

Halal?

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Pistachio Cake at The Park

Food at this hotel is not specifically halal. I found out from the Reservations department that breakfast is buffet setup, with no specific halal food. It cannot be requested at this hotel, nor can they order it if booked in advance. There are however the standard options of toast, fruit and coffee. Lunch and Dinner include Fish and cheese and other items which are permissible to eat but unfortunately, this hotel does not cater for the halal person’s requirement.

Restaurants and local fast food joints are close by. During my stay at the Bilderberg, I regularly ate at a small but extremely delicious Turkish restaurant just a short walk from the hotel. Eethuis Center do Grill, Shawarma and Pizza all halal certified (Psst… Thank me later).
Turkish owners arlogoe multilingual, accommodating and helped us immensely with our stay and the food here is nothing short of exemplary cuisine. Google Map from the hotel or ask the receptionist to point you.

Hotel Policy

Hotel cancellations are not ideal in any case, but if the need arises, prepayment policies vary greatly according to your room type. I purchased a non-refundable room and so even if I cancelled, I would not get refunded. Please ensure your booking a non-refundable room that you are 100% available for, otherwise for a steeper price you can book a refundable one. Always check conditions of required room!

Check in time starts at 14:00/2:00pm in the afternoon and ends at Midnight. Check out time is at noon/midday/12pm. These can also be extended for an additional fee; checking into the hotel earlier will set you back EUR 35 and perhaps after a long night you’d like to comfortably sleep in, checking out later than noon will cost you EUR 25.

Only registered guests are allowed in rooms, or charges are incurred on your deposit. Pets are also allowed in the hotel, with hotel policy stating only 2 at a time. Charges incurred, see Payment section above.

Getting Around

If you travel by public transport in Rotterdam, you have to purchase a travelcard, OV chipkaart in Dutch. It’s a smartcard on which various types of tickets can be preloaded. The chipcard is valid for metrotramsbuseslightrail and also on the train and waterbus. Tourists can buy disposable travelcards but you might be better off with the Rotterdam Welcome Card, which includes public transport as well as discounts for attractions and museums in Rotterdam.

Travel Chipcard €7,50
RET one hour €3,00
RET two hours €3,50
RET 2 x one hour €6,00
RET 1 day €7,50
RET 2 days €12,50
RET 3 days €16,50

 1) RET 1 hour
The RET 1 hour travel chipcard allows you to use tram, metro, bus and lightrail in Rotterdam during 60 minutes. The clock starts after your first ‘touch-in’. You are allowed to change lines but your last ‘touch-in’ has to be done 60 minutes after your first ‘touch-in’. Your card will automatically expire after 75 minutes after your first ‘touch-in’.

2) RET 2 hours
The RET 2 hour travel chipcard allows you to use tram, metro, bus and lightrail in Rotterdam during 120 minutes. The clock starts after your first ‘touch-in’. You are allowed to change lines but your last ‘touch-in’ has to be done 120 minutes after your first ‘touch-in’. Your card will automatically expire after 135 minutes after your first ‘touch-in’.

3) 2 x RET 1 hour
This card works the same like the RET 1 hour chipcard, but it allows you to use it twice. This card is like a return ticket when you’re not able to return within one or two hours. Your chipcard will automatically expire after 75 minutes after your second ‘touch-in’.

4) Day cards
The full day travel cards allow you to use tram, metro, bus and lightrail within Rotterdam during one, two or three days. It cannot be used on board the night buses.

Information above CityGuideRotterdam, click link for more information.

Besides being yards away from many local tourist attractions and muses, the best mode of

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Card Reader

transport in Rotterdam in my opinion, is taking a tram. The Rotterdam tramway network is a key element in the overall public transportation arrangements in Rotterdam. These are simple, hassle free and easy to use once you understand them. A 2 minute walk away is the Rotterdam, Eendrachtsplein Light Rail Station, connecting you to the city centre all the way up to The Hague.

Taxi services are available just outside the hotel, and reception is more than happy to call the service for you at a scheduled time.

Further Details

You can easily contact the hotel on T 010-4363611  and F 010-4364212. The email address for any bookings, queries and questions is Parkhotel.Reservation@bilderberg.nl. If your lucky, I had quick, prompt responses from Emilie Van Koppenhagen at the hotels Reservations department so email in for your answers.

Additionally, the hotel website is always at your disposal:  | www.bilderberg.nl

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For photo enthusiasts, adventurers or if your just like me and like to randomly explore, take the lift directly adjacent to the hotel. This will take you exclusively if I remember correctly to the 8th floor and above. Besides any famous or professional executives you could bump into on these elite floors, the top floor has direct access to the roof with authorised admission. I assume this is a smoking zone for anyone staying in the Tower; nonetheless the breathtaking and remarkable views of the entire Skyline around Rotterdam will forever be etched in your head.

Found this useful? Let me know in the comments section below!

Check out my previous hotel review of Azimut Hotel in Munich, Germany!

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Halal Holidays: 7 Picture-perfect idyllic Resorts for the Muslim female solo traveller


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Over the years, with the addition of exclusive specialist holidays such as Kosher and Vegetarian, there has been a huge demand in the tourism and travel industry for attending to the Muslim sectors needs. The birth of Halalbooking, Halalholidaypackages, Muslimbreak, Serendipity and Luxuryhalaltravel, has presented Muslims with a convenient tailor-made itinerary that is much more fitting for our needs. It ensures a seamless and idyllic experience; catering to dietary requirements, easy access to prayer facilities and of course, privacy for both genders. In this blog post, I’ve picked out 7 places around Asia that is the epitome of any travellers dream beach holiday, plenty of sand and sea, but with that modern halal twist.

These are all on my bucket list for the next 5 years! Let me know what’s on your bucket list in the comments section below, I’d love to hear what other resorts I could check out.

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This officially rated 5* grand luxury resort and spa hotel, set in a stunning seafront peninsula in the province of Muğla, Turkey, offers many facilities for the Muslim woman. Booking a half-board inclusive package gets you an open buffet or set menu breakfast & dinner, with no alcohol served on the property’s premises.  All food at this resort is halal, and with an entire private beach- “Hidden Sea”, 100% exclusively for women, you won’t get tired of the breathtaking panoramic views of the crystal clear Aegean Sea. The resort has a Hisar outdoor and indoor swimming pool with designated hours for women, a spa centre with 100% privacy for ladies, and a female’s only sunbathing station for unprecedented hours of bliss.

Ofcourse, the resort boasts water sports, yacht landing wharfs, health clubs, Spa & fitness areas, Aromatherapy, Hamam, Saunas, Amphitheatre shows, Angel’s party for the ladies, live music and an orchestra and live band every night. I mean, I feel like this resort is just what the doctor ordered for us ladies, after what feels like months of hard work. Much needed indeed.

The resort opens from 1st April until the 31st October, so get booking if you’re looking to kick-start your dream vacation break with a good one this year!


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Can we take a moment to appreciate Indonesia in general?! I mean… Indonesia’s cluster of tropical islands, snow-capped mountain tops, stunning landscapes and white sandy beaches with water clearer than a crystal, make it a geographical masterwork of nature. Predominantly a Muslim country, there is no scarcity of halal food and activities, with Indonesia’s own Bali, Lombok, Java and Jakarta giving you breathtaking views of nature.

One of the resorts in Senggigi, Lombok, is Katamaran Resort, a 4* rated hotel that is 20 minutes from the boat pier to the Gilis and the famed Bali. The resort features 52 private retreats with 32 units of Ocean View Suites (Hell Yeah!) and 20 units of Tropical Pool Villas. The menu options vary, with only some options being halal, but halal food is available in restaurant and cafes only a short 500m walk away. No alcohol is served in your rooms, ensured by halalbooking.com if booked through them. Beaches are mixed and so are most of the facilities, but to avoid this- booking a Villa comes with secluded private pools, secluded outdoor area with gazebos and an open-air shower, furnished with outdoor furniture.

With the addition of Burkini, a female Muslim can enjoy the two-level infinity pools, spa and wellness centre with private rooms and beachfront cafe & bistro for those unfiltered holiday breakfast snaps!


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This 5* rated hotel is located on Al Marjan Island in Rad Al Khaimah, the first manmade island of its kind, offering the most remarkable views of clear waters around the Arabian Gulf. Dubai is 45 minutes and the popular Ice land Water Park is only 10 minutes away. Their definitely isn’t a shortage of entertainment at this property, with a private beach for families, an indoor pool for women only and a spa centre with 100% privacy for ladies during certain hours of the day.

All food at this property is Halal! As well as restaurants with cuisine ranging from Lebanese, international, Italian, Moroccan, Japanese and Arabian, the property also boasts a no-alcohol zone and does not serve or allow alcohol on hotel premises.

The hotel features 299 guest rooms ranging from Superior double rooms to 3-bedroom suites with bathroom speakers, rain showers, plasma TV and a pillow menu. I don’t think you’ll find a more relaxing spot for a lazy trip that will embrace your Islamic vacation needs.


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This lavish, alcohol-free resort is located on its own extensive 13-hectare island overlooking Hamad International Airport, next to Doha. It boasts its own marina, reefs, private beach, 9 dining options and a vast lagoon pool. All food at this property is halal, catering to international and Qatari cuisine, Italian, Arabian and Mediterranean, American cuisine, a beach grill and also in-room dining experiences. Banana Island Resort has a spa centre with 100% privacy for ladies at certain hours,  including Jacuzzi’s, steam rooms, saunas, ice well, social Moroccan and Turkish baths and spa boutique with a ladies hydropool.

To say this resort is the ultimate comfort goals would be an understatement. Every room is decked out with free wifi, Plasma TVs, iPod docks and tea and coffee makers.

The resorts Villa type rooms (apart from over water villas) have 100% privacy from outside eyes in the swimming pools. The Over Water Villas at this resort give those Fiji and Maldives picturesque huts a definite run for their money, proving to be just as indulgent and luxurious. The resort boasts a complementary private marina for to 30 boats, a wellness centre and a stunning indoor botanical garden, entertainment centres including 8 lane bowling allies, VIP Cinema, billiards and extensive motorised and non-motorised water sport activities.

The ferry transfer service operates 24 hours (every hour) and is complimentary but allows a maximum of one piece of luggage with one hand carry on per person.


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This 5* alcohol-free property overlooks the exquisite Persian gulf, a coastal resort with broad leisure activities- located close enough to the city centre of Salmiya and yet still secluded and extremely tranquil. The majority of the official population of Kuwait’s citizens are Muslim, making it very easy to access halal food and gender-specific activities.

All food at this resort is halal, and the property dons an impressive spa centre, sunbathing area and indoor swimming pools that guarantee 100% privacy for ladies. High tea is served in an ornate marble lobby with glass atrium and the opulent rooms with gulf/garden views have marble bathrooms with rainfall showers.

This resort definitely doesn’t fall short of the customary requisites that come with 5* resorts and rooms come with fat-screen TVs and free wifi. Suites have added lounges, Jacuzzis and pantries. 2 storey apartments are available which include a kitchen and even a butler service, available 24 hours. Fitness centre for women is available, and a secluded beach surrounded by portable fences for women.


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 Although this resort doesn’t scream the conventional ‘luxury’ interior structure quite like the other properties, the panoramic crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea around Turunç Village make up vastly for that omitted touch. Wedged between the enormous tree covered Taurus mountains from both sides, this alcohol-free resort swanks a private female outdoor swimming pool, spa centre and relaxation clinic, with amenities including Turkish baths, sauna, steam rooms and massages to pleasantly indulge in for us ladies! All food is halal, with an all inclusive meal board for breakfast, lunch and dinner and even snacks between meals, pools, spa and beach! To say you’re looked after would be a total understatement here.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the view from your furnished and simple decor room or head down to revel in the 120 square metres of the women’s-only secluded swimming pool with a waterslide, and masjid and pool bar (mocktails and juice ofcourse!) available extremely close by.

Every room gets a balcony, but make sure you book yourself one of the Sea View rooms. Thank me later. The last thing I want is for your view every morning to be of boisterous tourists clambering into the hotel to check in, when you could be waking up to serene and peaceful bliss and quiet of the sea. If your here for the breathtaking views and not necessarily to be bowled over by the accommodation, this resort is just the thing. The hotel is only open from May 1st until 30th October, so get booking!


 

The old English proverb “Saving the best till last” might prove true in this illustration. Let me know in the comments what you think but this one is by farrrrr my absolute number one!

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Set on over 5000 square meters of landscaped grounds, this stylish beachfront resort has polished, upscale and sophisticated rooms the each feature balconies and floor-to-ceilings- which in my opinion is the paramount part of this entire property. I love the idea of a full and undisturbed view from my hotel room. This resort is a spanking new halal and alcohol-free property in a small peninsula, offering an enticing blend of exotic design with lavishly decorated interiors, perfect for stylish relaxation.

For those coming to unwind and experience the fusion of sea and sun, this resort offers nothing short of superlative levels in standard and excellent hospitality. For us ladies, we have 5 secluded swimming pool areas with Jacuzzi’s, a private beach area with special Egyptian sand and 100% private and secluded sunbathing areas to achieve our tan goals, a women’s spa centre donning; a sauna, steam bath, authentic Turkish bath and steam rooms and even a dedicated women’s fitness room. The masjid (mosque) is close by and every room comes with a Koran (Quran), prayer rug and Qibla directions, making life easier for the practicing Muslim.

Dining options include a restaurant, 3 cafes and a hookah bar. The food served ranges from International to Turkish cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, provided as an open buffet in the resorts main restaurant.

Personally, I’d recommend staying in the Select Room, a luxury designed room with a perfect full sea view and balcony Jacuzzi overlooking the sea, complete with foam. What better way to experience the true definition and sense of alternative tourism merged with its own Turkish magnificence, than at this glorious paradise resort.

Open all year long, but summer season is from April 10th until October 31st. Summer daytime activities and evening entertainment include games, sports, competitions, live folk music, poetry, comedy plays, parachutes, surfing the sea and Jet skis.

 

I reckon I definitely saved the best till last!

Am I right?

Have I missed out any that you think are worthy to go on this list?

You! Reading this right now, leave a comment. Let me know your thoughts.

Travelling soon? For help with what to take with you, click here for my Ultimate Packing Checklist and dont forget my 5 Must-Haves for any Muslim traveler!

First time travelling? Read about mine and know what you need to prepare for! I’m saving you from making the same mistakes I made!

Travel, Uncategorized

5 MUST-haves for any Muslim Traveler


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A Muslim and non-Muslim persons packing list doesn’t vary much. Besides the fact that we only add a few more items to our list, there really isn’t much difference at all. After all, we are all great travelers and adventurers, we worry about the exact same things and we share the exact same excitement that travel ignites in all of us.

In any case, since Islam is a lifestyle covering each part of our day-to-day norms, even during travel, it makes travelling a little more extraordinary and a special experience and with religious observance in mind, here are some tips for the travelling Muslim and packing equipment you’ll need, in addition to my Packing 101 checklist:

Compartments, compartments, compartments!

Finding your prayer mat during an airborne flight? The last thing you need to have to do is open up your luggage and fish out items you need from the bottom of your bag. You need to be able to have things close by, easy access, no fuss and the best way to do that is by having compartmentalized bags! The more sections and pockets in the bag, the better! Below are some examples of what I use and recommend:

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28.99 now £13.89, Iata Cabin Hand Luggage Trolley Backpack

Travel Prayer Mat

Prayer mats are the most basic and essential travel item for any Muslim. Nowadays, the silk/sateen material prayer mats especially made for travelling are readily available and do not soil easily. Most come with their own travel pouch to store them in, making having a travel mat a lightweight and compact task.

 

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£3.23 + Free UK Delivery, Pocket Size Portable Prayer Mat

 

 Compass

To help with the direction of the Qibla, travelers should have an accurate compass needle that will point them in the right direction during the five daily prayers. Best way to do this in my opinion, is to have a physical compass, and many prayer mats today have these pre-ingrained into the mat available at most Islamic stores. Alternatively, download the HalalTrip app onto your phone and use this, although I highly recommend getting an actual compass- apps are totally overrated!

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£5.90, Silver Carabiner 9 Compass

Prayer Dress

Many people overlook this one simply because they think the clothes they are packing can substitute as a prayer dress as well. Your regular clothes could work, but when Fajr is just before sunrise and after making wudhu, you’re getting entirely changed into your going-out clothes just to pray and then fall asleep again, it becomes inconvenient. Many Muslims own at least one abaya, the long black dress or equally simple to wear. Don’t forget to pack one! This has happened to me so many times, don’t make the same mistake.

 

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£19.99, Black Classic Jersey Abaya

Flat Water Bottle

Last but certainly not least, a flat water bottle! You didn’t think of this one did you?! I’d say carry a water bottle with you at all times, but airport security is bound to take that from you so to avoid this, flat water bottles are a life saving alternative. Besides being compact, durable and foldable, these little goodies can easily be filled up and used for ablution. Sometimes when travelling, find a clean or even modest bathroom might prove difficult- the stares can even be daunting! Grab yourself one of these bottles, fill it up and find somewhere quiet to perform your ablution. If filling up for drinking purposes, take care of impurities in tap water. Ask for tap water from hostesses or airport staff who can easily access clean water. A must-have for every Muslim traveller!

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£2.65 + Free UK Delivery, Summit Eco Foldable 480ml Water Bottle

Click on the pictures to take you directly to the seller pages! This post is not sponsored by any of the sellers included in this post, but I’ve highlighted their products as something I use and make my life a hell of alot easier when travelling as a Muslim female.

Anything else you think is essential for a muslim traveller or agree with my post? Let me know below! Leave me a comment with your thoughts, I’d love to hear what you think!

 

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Packing 101: Ultimate Packing Checklist for any Beginner or Pro


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With all your hotels and flights all done and ready, your luggage is the last thing stopping you from that amazing holiday. Below are my must-haves for any trip, anywhere in the world, for any length of time.  Not every single of one of them is necessary; nevertheless the majority would normally go into my own cabin luggage or handbag.

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Essentials & Admin items – Try and have as much of the below in extra prints/photocopies close by and a copy in your emails as well.

  • Valid Passport
  • Visa for the relevant country
  • Tickets/Travel documents (flights, accommodation, transport, pre-booked tourist attractions)
  • Travel Insurance
  • Local currency cash + some GBP in cash for backup
  • Credit & Debit cards, prepaid travellers cheque will come in handy
  • Guidebooks, Journals, diary, notepad and pens

Electrical Items – all valuables go into hand luggage!

  • Camera with charger, pack extra charger, extra batteries
  • Mobile phone, charger
  • Electrical plug adapter
  • Laptop/tablet
  • eReader/Kindle

Security

  • Multiple Padlocks – go for a combination lock or a TSA approved lock

Personal Health & Hygiene

  • Mini First Aid kit
  • Filter bottle
  • Personal medication including paracetamol, travel meds and anti-malarial tablets
  • Personal toiletry bag (toothbrush, toothpaste, sanitary items, hand sanitizer etc)
  • Small deodorant (spray, powder or roll on)
  • Make up if necessary
  • Skin moisturisers with SPF, skin cleanser, make-up removers, hand cream

Clothing

  • 7 x Underwear pieces – small so no need to cut back on these!
  • 5 x basic day t-shirts/tops with at least 2 long sleeved tops
  • Jumper/cardigan/light jacket for cooler evenings (can be worn to travel in)
  • 2 x Bottoms/Trouser/Skirt (1 can be worn to travel in)
  • 4 x Lightweight evening outfits (Abaya, dress, shirts)
  • 1 x Pyjamas
  • 6 x skirts and headscarves ([Black, Grey, Blue, White- basic colours]1 of each can be worn to travel)
  • Closed toe shoes, 1 x heels, 1 x sandals/flip flops (
  • 3 socks (ankle, full length)

Hand/laptop bags needs to be 30cm x 15cm x 40cm

Cabin bags need to be 56cm x 25cm x 45cm

A checked bag can be up to 90 x 75 x 43cm, including any bits that stick out, like the handle, pockets and wheels.

 

Did you find this useful or do you have a checklist that slightly varies? I want to know! Leave me a comment below.

Travel, Uncategorized

AZIMUT Hotel – München, Germany


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During my trip to Germany late 2014, I stayed in a fairly pleasant and modern hotel. Being my first ever experience alone, I can’t say I was disappointed with the service and what I got. A whole host of fuss went down before I arrived, check it out in my last blog post, but when I finally arrived at the hotel, I was ready to get things underway. I booked my flight and accommodation combined with Booking.com which was probably the simplest and easiest process I have ever used.

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During vacations and holiday or quick city breaks, hotels have slowly become a mere roof over ones head. Maybe that’s because you just want to be out there, exploring and discovering new treasures in a new city. Nobody wants to be indoors during a getaway. Either way, where you stay plays a big role in your city experience- from the views you wake up to, the way house-keeping treats your belongings to how safe the room really is. The blogpost reviews Azimut for the Hijabi Muslim like myself or for anyone who decides to stay.

Environment

AZIMUT Hotel Munich City East is predominantly, a contemporary business hotel in the heart of the city’s commercial sector. It’s located next door to the esteem Messe Riem exhibition centre, a stone’s throw away from the German HQ of the Walt Disney Company  and round the corner from local shops and supermarkets.  Rated a strong 4-star hotel, it ensures the hotel offers everything just shy of what a luxury accommodation would have, including Soundproof walls, umlimited internet, 24 hour reception desk and underground private parking for any of those that choose to grab a rental. Basically, it’s a quiet and ideal area for any professional persons or anybody looking for somewhere quiet to stay.  It’s not the busiest area in the world, with local shops just a 15 minute walk away.

The hotel itself is huge. Depending on what you need, there is a whole host of hotel services available for residents from free wifi throughout the hotel, 5 modern conference halls with daylight, left luggage facilities, round the clock check-ins and breakfast restaurant, bar and Grab&Go services.

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The Room

I requested for a room with a good view, higher up and was emailed back within 24 hours from the Front Office worker changing my room to the top floor. There are only 4 floors to this colossal structure, and I got a modestly spacious room with a view of meadows and industrial warehouses far in the distance.

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The windows in the room are absolutely huge, measuring perhaps what is my entire bedroom wall at home. The room was a superior twin room with separated single comfortable memory-foam mattress beds. On booking, they were no deluxe rooms available with double beds so I decided two singles pushed together would make up for that. It worked. The price was around 335.61 Euros, with the hotels standard added VAT (7%)- another 23.49 Euros, the total stay at for this room was 359.10 Euros or in GBP, £288.10. The room included a wide flat screen TV, an armchair and desk, a fridge with minibar, kettle with coffee & tea satchets and additional cutlery.

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Payment

The property takes payment directly at the hotel, and only after your entire stay is complete. Obviously, the total will then include any additional amenities used during your stay including breakfasts and minibar consumptions. Payment is taken both by cash or card in the Euro form and how much exactly is taken out of your card in your respective currency will have to be calculated and converted from EUR first. AZIMUT hotel accepts payment from American Express, Visa/Euro, Mastercard and Bankcard payments.

Underground Private Parking for rentals costs 13 EUR per day, speak to Reception on arrival for your ticket and they will talk you through the process.

Breakfast costs about 16 EUR, it comes in a Buffet standard.

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Halal?!

Meat at this property is NOT HALAL. The hotel provides bacon, sausages and beef for breakfast and these are not halal at this particular property, assured to me by the chef onsite and the receptionist. However, Breakfast at this hotel also provides fresh fruit, toast, coffee and other morning delights and delectable’s to kick start the day.

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Breakfast starts at 6:30am until 10am and on holidays, goes from 7am until 11am.

A short walking distance away is the Simplemento HG Supermarket. A friendly Jörg will meet you and assist you with what you need. His English is pretty good, has worked there for over 5 years and the supermarket is a family-run business. Here you’ll find bread, butter, beans, fresh fruit (mangos, grapes, apples) and a whole array of German nourishments including Pretzels, to indulge in. We bought 50 EUR worth of snacks each and took it back to our hotel room to serve as breakfast and midday snacks throughout the trip.

Hotel Policy

Cancellations are not ideal. If they happen, AZIMUT depending on the package selected can either refund you, or deny. If your stay is cancelled or modified up until 18:00 on the date of arrival, no fee will be charged. This means, you can go to the hotel at 3pm and change your itinerary as long as it’s before 18:00 on the date of arrival. Keep ‘em in the loop is all. If cancelled or modified late or in case of a no show, the hotel will charge you for 100% of the reservation.

Check- In starts at 15:00/3pm, and Check-Out is by 12:00 midday. Additional charges may incur if this is violated.

 Getting Around

Once you’re ready to leave for the day, the receptionist will happily contact a taxi company for you to take you to your destination. Taxi’s roughly cost from around 15 to 35 EUR, respective of journey distance. Having it in cash is most ideal as taxis don’t take card payments. Rentals are also a good idea, but the road laws are always different in European countries to that of the UK, so unless your familiar with European road laws, I personally don’t and didn’t and never will recommend it. Another option is by train, by far the easiest and simplest mode of transport for me.

The nearest station is München-Berg Laim on the S-Bahn suburban line and is only a 1.5km walking distance from the hotel. This line runs through the city centre and connects tourists with all the popular attractions like Marienplatz and Karlsplatz.

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The same ticket is valid for all forms of transport. You do not need different tickets if you travel between the tram, bus and train. Before embarking on a journey, tickets need to be “validated” which is basically slotting it into the machine at the U- and S- line tracks or on trams & buses. A single day ticket costs 6.60 EUR and a 3-day single (1 person) ticket costs 16.50 EUR. Travelling in a group gets you little discount, but if 5 adults travel together and purchase a group day ticket, it will cost 12.60 EUR and a 3-day group ticket will cost 29.10 EUR.

Additionally, a single trip in one direction, valid for 3 hours, gets you a single ticket (Einzelfahrkarte) costing 2.80 EUR.

The City Tour Card costs abit more than the day tickets. It serves the same purpose, but offers additional discounts on many museums and tourist attractions.

Local buses are also nearby and will get you to city centre in 25 minutes. This mode of transport is better for the avid photographer or keen explorer, who gets to see more of the city above ground and finds new spots to explore. I recommend this route as a means of exploring, and the train as a means of getting to a particular and predecided destination.

All in all, Munich is a beautiful city. I definitely enjoyed what the city had to offer, went with people who were absolute comedians throughout the journey, and my stay at AZIMUT was a pleasure. I spend 4 nights in this hotel, from Thurs 9th October to Monday 13th 2014. Although wifi is available in all public places of this hotel, the internet connection was absolutely rubbish at 512kbps and capping at 600Mb. Streaming movies or simply watching Youtube was nearly impossible, so we went and stole the wifi access from a nearby hotels lobby. I don’t recommend it, but it had to be done. If you need to upload content online, or heavily require internet connection, the one downfall of this hotel will not be in your favour.

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Further Details

For any questions related to the property, you can contact AZIMUT Hotel Munich City East directly at:

+49899438440 or info.muenchen@azimuthotels.com

Travel, Uncategorized

My First Ever Flight Experience


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On the October of 2014, I embarked on my

first.

ever.

flight.

alone.

to the city of München- the World City with Heart or as it is formally known, Millionendorf. Being the A-type calculating and meticulous person that I am, I needed everything to go smoothly. I’d heard countless ill-fated tales of flights missed, gates shut, delayed check-ins and miserable security staff that I’d ensured every possible precaution was taken. I was alone, nobody was coming to save me if I got a step wrong so to say my antenna’s were on high alert, was a total understatement.

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My flight was taking off from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) at exactly 09:05 from Terminal 2. I’m 20 years old, armed with a boarding pass I’d printed the night before, 250 euros and a carry-on suitcase stuffed to the brim. The smart move would’ve been to fly on the same day as my friends, but I couldn’t get the Wednesday off work so I was left trudging the airport alone. Another smart move would’ve been to perhaps get a taxi to Heathrow, perhaps at 5am or 6am. Something somewhere on this planet had convinced me to be at the airport 3 hours early for check-in and all the security measures. So that’s a 9am flight, and arriving at LHR 6am sharp. Means I leave my house for 4am for the 1 hour and 45 minute journey door to door, leaving 15 minutes leeway for traffic or unexpected delays. Made sense. I was ready but see that’s the thing. During the October of 2015, the first train on the Transport for London (TFL) Underground Jubilee line operates from 5:23am. Couldn’t risk it. Couldn’t stand at the back of 200 people at check-in and wait patiently when I could’ve been at the front. Couldn’t miss my flight. Just couldn’t risk it.

Guess what I did.. Caught the last train from North Greenwich station the night before, at exactly 00:19 and made the tedious and lengthy journey to the airport. I got there around 02:25 and got to the airport waiting lounge in under 30 minutes. Easy breezy. Now came the most agonizing and mentally torturing few hours of my entire life.

The wait.

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In packing like some sort of professional, I was entirely ready for the glow of 21 degree weather in Munich. I entirely neglected to pack for the -1 degree weather in London that night, sitting entirely diminutive in stature compared to the colossal glass ceilings of the airport. The wind howled so loud, I couldn’t hear myself think. I noticed my feet wouldn’t stay still, jumping frantically up and down in a continuous and uncontrollable synchronization. For the first time on this journey, I noticed I wasn’t even wearing socks. My skin had turned white. It is -1 degrees in an entirely empty airport, with glass walls and ceilings, uncomfortably ice-cold rigid seats and I am not even wearing socks. Boy, I would’ve killed for some socks.  7 hours of waiting in absolute agony, with nothing to read, not dressed for this weather, every hair follicle standing on end and my skin doing dances of its own, the airport started buzzing with life again.

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Well-rested faces nonchalantly walked in, full of life, sporting layers of coats and jackets and faux fur clasped around their necks. My jaws had frozen; I couldn’t get myself to move. I remember leaving my debit card at home to avoid incurring bank charges and transactions fees abroad. Everything I had was in Euros.

 I strolled into a shoddy little Starbucks and asked for searing hot coffee. Once he handed it to me, I pulled out a crisp 5 euro note and handed it to him without batting an eyelid and promptly walked away. I don’t remember ever scurrying so fast. I remember expecting the dark haired barista to return with some sort of request for “real” money, so I changed seats, pulled up my hood and moved so far from gate A12 even I forgot where I was sitting. The sun majestically began its rise and basked the airport with gilded glow. I sat, ready to start my holiday and thanking God he got me through the night. I felt the ends of my hair on my skin just relax, I was warm, basking in warm sunlight and wanting to be in the sky. What a beautiful morning.

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My gate was called. Lufthansa flight LH2471 to Munich – Franz Josef Strauss (MUC) was boarding at A20. It was time.

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Donning a pair of earphones, I walked on and took my window seat. The whole experience felt surreal. The plane started circulating the airport runway, warming up, accelerating and finally became airborne. That feeling of being carried into the sky, away from the safe ground, carried by a gigantic steel machine… that feeling will forever be embedded into my conscious mind- I’ll never forget it!