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  • Instant Noodle Trippin’ and Halal Travel [Opinion]

    Instant noodle trips – or spontaneous, short, cheap trips packed with a punch I never knew my type of travel had a name until I read the recent Mastercard-CrescentRating Halal Travel Frontier 2019 (HTF2019) Report outlining trends that will shape the US$220-billion global halal travel industry. The full report can be downloaded Halal Travel Frontier 2019.   Of the 17 trends identified, three hit home personally: the urge for “instant noodle trips”, stronger female influence in planning trips, and travel to non-traditional “Muslim” destinations such as Japan and Africa.   I have always encouraged friends to travel beyond their comfort zones and experience local cultures, beliefs and people. In fact, I truly believe that putting oneself in so-called uneasy situations is the perfect test of one’s faith. The keyword here is uneasy, not dangerous. Doing the latter is just being foolish.   The reward after each “uneasy” situation is a deeper understanding and appreciation of others. You then realise the biases you have are your own. You make those walls so, there’s nobody but only you who can break them.   Me spending the night in this monastery in MyanmarWhat do Muslim travellers need when they travel? Two biggest needs are halal food and prayer spaces.   Since we are on the topic of instant noodles, I realise my trips are literally about instant noodles. You see, many of my travel mates are non-Muslims and I refuse to inconvenience them or limit their culinary enjoyment so Maggi and Indomie have become a staple in my backpack. Proof I have been instant noodling for years…Vegetarian meals may be an alternative for many Muslims, but they are not for me. And that’s because I hate vegetables and will not touch them with a 10-foot pole.   I remember telling the travel guide on a trip to southern Africa that I was a vegetarian. After many days of not touching her food and cooking instant noodles instead, she confronted me. She was amused when she found out the truth. “There ARE halal food here!” she roared. She called me a “fake vegetarian” and then whipped out a halal chicken to cook the next day.   (Below) An old video of some stuff I carry with me on trips. This was filmed a decade ago so, apologies for the poor quality. Sad? Not really. The search for halal food sometimes takes me to the homes and dining tables of Muslim strangers.   (Below) A curious tuk-tuk man in Cambodia spotted me eating at the same halal Indian restaurant for three consecutive meals before offering to take me to a Kompong Cham enclave, where I was treated to a sumptuous halal beef meal by the village chief and Muslim elders. (Below) I also had a free chapatti dinner at the home of this generous Muslim family in Myanmar. They were poor in money but not in spirit and felt compelled to share what little they had with a fellow Muslim. No electricity means it’s candlelight dinner. How fancy!   Now, back to the rising trend of “instant noodle trips”. I am glad that this is trending (and trendy) among millennials and Gen Z travellers. Compared to years ago, travel has now become more affordable with lower airfares offered by budget airlines. Social media and mobile applications have also made it easier to research on-the-go about new places, discover travel promotions and discounts, and minimise risks and dangers with real-time warnings about natural disasters and terror attacks for instance. It is easy to DIY. Personally I use Expedia to compare flight prices, and then book tickets directly from the airlines. I book accommodation on Booking.com an hour or two before arriving at my destination. The good thing about using the same app consistently is that eventually one becomes a “frequent traveller” and gets offered more discounts and deals. One memorable instant noodle trip was a 2015 solo travel to Sri Lanka. I flew budget from Jakarta to Colombo on AirAsia, and then took either public buses or trains to Kandy, Dambulla and Jaffna. Within each city or town, I hitched tuk-tuks or simply explored on foot. I befriended locals and other tourists and they were ever willing to impart local wisdom and lend some company. I had no itinerary, no goals and no fixed plans. When I found bugs in bed, I covered the pillow with a shirt and slipped into my cheap travel sheet. No fuss. Bed bugs are part and parcel of “instant noodle trips”And when hungry? Search the walls for “halal” clues and tuck in. Bismillah. Article credit: The Flying Sarong...

  • Need A Halal-Friendly Island Getaway? Here Are 5 Islands Ideal For A Halal Food Experience

    One of the biggest concerns when travelling is being able to find food that you know, without a doubt, is Halal. Of course, one can adapt to either being a vegetarian or on a seafood diet for a few days, but there is nothing more relaxing during a holiday than the assurance that when you get hungry, you don’t have to think twice about what you put in your mouth. While travelling in a Muslim country undoubtedly has that satisfaction, the idea of an island holiday conjures up images of cocktails and bars on the beach, plenty of tourists in their swimwear, and thus, a questionably sourced meat dish. What if it didn’t have to be like that though? What if you could have the comfort of knowing that while you are enjoying an incredible island vacation, you didn’t have to worry about your meals because they are all Halal? This is not just a myth or a fantasy, but a reality. Here are 5 islands around the world with plenty of Halal food: Credit - giphy.com   1) Zanzibar, Tanzania  In this island with a Muslim majority, finding nearby Halal food is not a problem. The cuisine of Zanzibar reflects its history as the countries that colonised it played a major role in influencing the food present on the island today. Imprints of the Portuguese can be seen with their use of maize and pineapple in their cuisine; Indian influences are greatly visible in biryani, samosas, pakoras, chutneys and so on; and Oman brought in the spices and nuts. Zanzibar is the perfect spot for a Muslim-friendly honeymoon, with beautiful private villas and beaches, and quaint traditional places to dine in. The House of Spices started as exactly that – a distinguished house in Zanzibar Stone Town, where spices were collected and exported – and is a charming rooftop restaurant today where you can enjoy their delicious Mediterranean cuisine. Tea and coffee are served on the ground floor, along with spices and a gift shop. The House of Spices is not to be confused with Spice Town in Meliá Zanzibar, an hour’s drive from Stone Town, which serves a mix of international cuisine with palatable Arab and African influences. If you are looking for a more adventurous lunch experience, look no further than The Rock, aptly named as it is located on a rock in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Originally a fisherman’s post, it can be found on Michanvi Pingwe beach on the southeast coast of the island. Your journey to savouring their seafood specials begins with a short boat ride to your destination.   2) Maldives  While Maldives is definitely an island for an unforgettable Muslim Honeymoon, who says it can’t also be one of the best beach vacations for Muslims? Move over honeymooners, we all want a piece of those incredible azure waters! Maldives are a group of Muslim-friendly islands since the majority of the population is Muslim, and while that can work in your favour, it is also important to realise that as a major tourist destination, they might serve pork and alcohol in some resorts and hotels. So it’s worth checking beforehand or simply informing the hotel of your preferences. Here are some resorts that do have halal meals available though, and either no alcohol on the premises or will remove the minibar on your request: Conrad Rangali, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Six Senses Laamu, Jumeirah Vittaveli, Shangri La Villingili, Cheval Blanc Randheli, The Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, The Residence Maldives, Soneva Fushi Maldives, Ayada Maldives, Zitahli Kuda-Funafaru Resorts & Spa, Amilla Fushi, Viceroy Maldives, The Naladhu Anantara Resorts, and Cocoa Island by COMO Of course with over 60 islands to its name, it’s possible that we may have missed a few! The best part about these resorts is not just freedom with food and drink, but also complete privacy at the villa and pool – which of course makes it the perfect Halal honeymoon packages or as one of the best holiday destinations for Muslims. If it is regular restaurants that you seek, try Bombay Darbaar or Tandoori Flames in Hulhumale for Indian or Pakistani cuisine; The Sea House – Maldives or Lemongrass Fifth in Male for delicious seafood or local cuisine, Family Room Café in Hulhumale for a great coffee shop; or Pizza Mia in Male for some scrumptious pizza for some of the Halal food in Maldives.   3) Langkawi, Malaysia  Langkawi itself is an archipelago of around 99 islands off the west coast of Malaysia. With stunning scenic beauty, powder-fine sandy beaches, and some of the most flavoursome food in the world, here is a beautiful island for an unforgettable Muslim holiday! Imagine your delight when you can stuff your face with absolutely anything and not have to worry about it being Halal. You can find great hummus, kebab, grilled meat and more at Yasmin Restaurant, where they serve authentic Arab cuisine. Since good Arabic food is hard to come by outside Arab countries, make the most of this! Hit up Nasi Dagang Pak Malau for credible Malaysian cuisine – food you can enjoy with a view of the paddy fields even if it is pouring with rain (which it would since it rains for about 9 months of the year here).  Nasi Kandar Tomato has some of the best food at the cheapest prices and can be dined at 3 times a day if necessary! MY French Factory is the place to seek for something different – delicious fluffy crepes and waffles – and is a must-try before you leave. Don’t forget that you can also locate Halal food by using your mobile, and be sure to leave a Halal food review so that others can enjoy too.   4) Lombok, Indonesia  Lombok is one of the most Muslim-oriented islands for tourism, unlike its counterpart Bali, not too far away. With the call to prayer that can be heard all around the island due to the number of mosques (Lombok is called the island of a 1000 mosques for this purpose), Qur’ans available in every hotel room, and MTV removed from the list of channels, you can’t get it better than this. Lombok also has some of the best coral reefs, being untouched by man, which makes it one of the islands for an unforgettable Muslim honeymoon – if you’re looking for a little adventure. Whether you are on a Halal honeymoon package or not, Muslim couples, families and vacationers can enjoy one of their best beach holidays, sipping mocktails – the non-alcoholic version of a cocktail – and savouring delectable delights. Since Indonesian cuisine must not be missed out on, try Taliwang Alam Nyaman, Roemah Langko, and Taliwang Irama for incredible food and service. El Bazar Café and Restaurant is great if you’re looking to change things up a bit with Mediterranean food. You can find more Halal food online, and don’t forget to use the HalalTrip app to share your finds.   5) Sri Lanka  Even though Sri Lanka’s population is primarily Buddhist, many of the areas along the island that are Muslim-majorities have Halal food freely available, and the capital city of Colombo are hosts to a great number of Halal-certified restaurants. The Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka – namely Batticaloa and Trincomalee – are predominantly Muslim areas, and thus have a plenty of Halal food. The seafood found here is also excellent, and incomparable to what you would find otherwise on the island. Many of the cities on the west coast – like Colombo, Kalutara, Beruwala, Puttalam, Jaffna and Mannar – also have large populations of Muslims, and so eating out is a fairly easy task. Look for Halal-certified restaurants, or the next best thing – women in headcover (Hijab) dining at a restaurant. If you on the food scene in Colombo, you will notice that Muslims swarm eateries in hoards, so take that as your certification of what’s Halal! Almost all the beef in Sri Lanka are only undertaken by Muslims so you know it comes from the right source, and most fast food joints especially in Colombo are Halal. Hotels, too, serve pork separately out of respect to the requests of their Muslim guests. Join the crowd at the newly opened Taco Bell in Colombo 7, dive into delectable seafood cuisine at Lagoon Restaurant at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, satisfy your local food cravings at 12am at the most popular joint in Colombo – Pilawoos, or settle for Indo-Chinese food from Elite. The world is your oyster. Island vacations are prefect for honeymooners but are not limited to them. So take this guide into consideration before you plan your next Halal travel or book your Halal tour with Halal Trip. There is nothing better than the beach, sun, and Halal food on holiday!  ...

  • 10 Cheap Vacation Ideas for Backpackers

    Backpacking vacations are becoming more and more popular as it is an ideal way to holiday abroad - specially for students and families looking for budget or cheap vacations ideas. It can be a lot of fun and will give you a very realistic view of the holiday destination, but do be willing to give up some luxuries! Source: Reddit With the increase in tourism in most countries, there are plenty of last minute vacation deals and all-inclusive family holiday travel packages to choose from; even for the budget traveler.   The list below includes some of the cheapest destinations for a backpacking vacation. So, enjoy these fun places for an all-inclusive backpacking vacation. 1) Vietnam Vietnam has been become a popular choice as a vacation destination over the last few years. Today, many people travel to Vietnam on backpacking vacations. While you need to be a bit careful not to get hoaxed into any tourist scams, this country has loads to see and do; from war museums to traditional village life...resulting in a fun vacation spot at cheap prices!  Things to do and places to visit: The most popular cities and towns to visit are Hanoi – the 11th century French influenced capital of the country, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – for a look at the war museums, NhaTrang – for the beaches, Da Lat – for fabulous lakes and waterfalls and the colonial landmarks, Ha Long Bay – for the famous junk boats and caves, Mui Neb – for a view of a traditional fishing village and a river canyon walk nearby, and Sa Pa – for a trekking adventure close to hill tribes and a look at the rice terraces. Accommodation: There are many hostels and hotels in Vietnam available at cheap prices as well as being Muslim-friendly...a search on the internet will get backpackers on the right path. If you are taking a family trip, then do search out hotels that have bigger rooms that can accommodate everyone.  If you are traveling with family and kids on this vacation, then checkout some of these family-friendly hotels in Ho Chi Minh City that offer children-friendly facilities - Tan Sot Nhat Saigon Hotel, Eden Saigon, Metropole Hotel, The Imperial and Golden Central.  There are also some hotels that are Muslim-friendly in Hanoi, including Vietview Hotel, Atrium Hotel, HanoiTirant Hotel among others, but they may come at a higher price. Transportation: Traveling around Vietnam can be done by bus – buy the tickets in advance or as you feel like it. For longer journeys, the country has a good train service. If you just want to have some fun, you can easily rent a motorcycle and travel off the beaten track at your leisure! However, be careful when you drive and cross streets, as motorcyclists will be zig-zagging to avoid you but may not want to stop.  Muslim-Friendly Facilities: There are quite a few hotels and restaurants that cater to Muslim travelers in the towns of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, while the smaller cities and towns in Vietnam may offer fewer Muslim-friendly facilities and Halal food. In this case, try the seafood dishes and the vegetarian street food as an option. In Ho Chi Minh City check out the street next to Ben Thanh Market for such hotels/hostels and also many restaurants that serve Halal food. NhaTrang has only one Halal restaurant that serves Indian food - Omar's Indian Restaurant. There are quite a few mosques in Vietnam’s districts and provinces, but the most are found in Ho Chi Minh City and there is also one in Hanoi.   2) India India is a hotspot for backpackers, with its widely varying landscapes, lifestyles and cultures. The Indian subcontinent is so vast that you may actually have to plan several trips in order to take in the essence of the country from its deserts to mountains to beaches, and the diversity in cultures and people that is only found in India. India is actually a good country to travel on family vacations and even travel with kids. There is usually plenty to do and see. Children will be accommodated and welcome almost everywhere you go. What to do and see: Just go about India, visit the different States and cities, and take in the different cultures and lifestyles. Visit the Himalayan Mountains which spans 10 States of India, go to Goa and live by the beach, visit some of Indian heritage cities and sights. Take a tour of the Golden Triangle of Dehli, Agra and Jaipur or the state of Jammu and Kashmir, visit South Indian cities like Bangalore, Mysore, Pondicherry, Ooty, Kodaikanal, and Kanyakumari, or venture into the famous Bollywood town of Mumbai…there is plenty to do and see…thus, giving you one of the best vacation spotsto visit. Accommodation: There are many hotels and hostels in most major cities of the country, choose one that fits your budget and requirements. But as you’re planning a cheap vacation, please do be ready to give up luxuries, although some Indian cities will surprise you with great value for money hotels. Transportation: The Indian public transport is quite extensive and cheap. There are also plenty of taxis or tuk-tuks depending on the city you are in. The Indian Railway system is quite fantastic and can be used for getting from one place to another in the city, between cities and even States. In some cities such as Mumbai, the train actually gets you to your destination faster because of traffic congestion on the roads...it’s also cheaper than being stuck in a taxi in traffic! Muslim-Friendly Facilities: Food in India is generally quite affordable and there are plenty of Halal food options in India. There are also ample vegetarian restaurants, which actually serve some fabulous Indian veg food… do try out the Gujarati vegetarian thaali, it’s truly a delicious meal, and you will not miss the meat! Indian street food is also delicious, cheap and a must try… just make sure you ensure the place is clean.  There are mosques in most major cities of the country, and generally, Muslim travelers should not find it difficult to find Muslim-friendly facilities in India.   3) Thailand  Everyone travels to; or wants to travel to Thailand… and why not? It is one of the cheapest travel spots of the world, known as a shopping heaven for shopaholics, and is has natural beauty together with a traditional cultural heritage. Thailand is renowned for its celebrated beaches and star-class resorts. However, it is also a go-to destination for backpackers worldwide. Sightseeing: Enjoy the lush jungles, hot springs, waterfalls and beaches of Thailand. Take the time to indulge in some world-class diving, snorkeling, kayaking and rafting. Enjoy hiking and cycling adventures through jungles and national parks. Visit museums, temples and ruins; and enjoy the floating markets, and take a boat ride or an elephant ride as you please. Some of the places to visit include Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. There are tour operators who will be able to arrange special day tours at reasonable prices, and if you are really into diving, register for the popular PADI dive certification course in this tropical paradise. An interesting beach holiday for family travel for Muslims visitors to Thailand would be the Krabi Province, which has a large Muslim populations and thus provides facilities for Muslims.  Accommodation: There is no dearth of hotels, motels, guesthouses, hostels and even dorm rooms in Thailand. As a popular tourist destination, the country has enough rooms to cater to tourists with wide-ranging budgets. With the increase in awareness on Muslim-friendly facilities, you can also find hotels and guesthouses that will cater to such clientele.  Transportation: Transport is also cheap in Thailand as is most everything else in the country. Options available are the local buses, the Metro, Skytrain and metered taxis in Bangkok. There are tuk-tuks as well, but these are not metered and usually more expensive. Motorbike taxis (in orange vests) are available all over the country for short trips – no meters but negotiate the price before you get in. Trains are another cheap option for longer distances and night travel. For going between islands, there are boats available. There are packages available for travel combining different transport modes – most commonly bus and boat, a cost effective option to use. Muslim-Friendly Facilities: Most of the major cities have Halal food and Halal restaurants. In some of the smaller towns, you may need check with the restaurants on the Halal options available. However, there is no shortage of seafood available in the country.  If you want to try out the street food, then Bangkok is your safest bet, as Pratunam Market has a few stalls that serve Halal food and drinks.  In the Krabi Province, you can be sure to get lots of Muslim-friendly facilities and enough Halal food.  As for mosques; Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Pattani do have mosques. For other places, I suggest taking your Qibla compass and prayer mat along on your travels.   4) Sri Lanka While Sri Lanka is a small island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the country is versatile in providing all types of holiday fun from luxurious upmarket holidays to cheap vacations for the entire family. Today, the country is becoming an ever popular holiday destination with its all-inclusive landscape, and the availability of all-inclusive vacation packages by many travel companies. Sightseeing: Sri Lanka also offers travelers options from beaches and jungles, to wildlife sanctuaries and rolling hills. Some popular sightseeing destinations have different rates for locals and foreigners – including museums, the Botanical Gardens in Kandy, national parks, cultural centers and archaeological sites. But a walk on the beach is quite free, unless you get haggled by the local vendors. Also take the time to wonder around the cities of Colombo, Galle, Kandy and Jaffna, to gain a view of the eclectic culture of the country. This country does also make a very good case for trying out a beach vacation – as it offers surfing, swimming, snorkeling, diving, water sports, as well as whale and dolphin watching! Accommodation: There are many hostels, rental rooms, small hotels/motels, and seaside cabanas available for use by backpackers.There are also some resorts and hotels that offer special off-season rates and this is truly a bargain with all inclusive deals for family vacations. Transportation: Public transport is cheap - use the bus or the train… they may not be high luxury but it will get you from one town to another. Another option is tuk-tuks for shorter journeys, and this is ideal if there are three people to share the fare… also make sure to ask them to use their meters, or foreigners can be charged extra! If you are willing to walk, that is also something that can be considered as things and places are close enough within some towns and city centers! For longer journeys there are rental cars and also long distance luxury buses. Muslim-Friendly Facilities: Having a large Muslim population, Sri Lanka can has enough Halal food and Halal restaurants, while many other restaurants are willing to accommodate your special requests to avoid certain ingredients in your meals. However, do try the more low key restaurants and food outlets if you are looking for cheaper prices. Some places may serve alcohol and non-Halal meats, but check if the chicken is Halal (which in most cases it is) and ask them if they can prepare it without mixing any non-Halal ingredients. You also need not worry about the availability of mosques, which are found in the majority of the towns and cities.   5) Cambodia Cambodia’s is another Asian country that is made for a backpacking holiday. Its landscape spans low-lying plains and mountains; and also includes the Mekong Delta and the Gulf of Thailand coastline. It is a country that is still coming to grips with development and its increasing attraction as a tourist destination, hence, the low cost hotels and tourist attractions! Sightseeing: Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, is a must visit with its central market, Royal Palace and the National Museum's historical and archaeological exhibits. Then visit Angkor Wat, considered one of the famous sites in Cambodia’s northwest region. In fact, arrange a day trip there as it is quite close to Phnom Penh. Visit Sihanoukville for its selection of beaches from Serendipity Beach - a happening and partying stop for backpackers, to the Otres Beach – a place to relax and take in the sun. Try to include a day trip to Bokor National Park while in Sihanoukville. Also go to Battambang to get a feel of the colonial architecture and visit the surrounding hilltop temples and rustic villages. You can also take a scenic river trip here.  Accommodation: There are many hostels and low budget hotels available in Cambodia. Then, there are some better hotels that are also quite reasonably priced. There are also many Muslim-friendly hotels in Phnom Penh, but these are more expensive. In the beach towns, there are guesthouses and cabanas that can be rented.  Transport: Public transport is cheap but unreliable and cramped. However, there are metered taxis (a bit expensive) and the REUMORK (Tri-cycle motor) or Cyclo (Tri-cycle) which are the preferred method of in-city travel by tourists. The country does have private bus companies that operate semi-luxury and luxury buses from Phnom Penh to other provinces. The other way to travel is by Boat, but this is limited due to low demand and limited destinations, and tickets have to be bought a day in advance. There is only one train from Phnom Penh to Battambang Province which takes the full-day to reach your destination.  Muslim-Friendly Facilities: As Cambodia does have a small Muslim population, there are quite a few Halal restaurants in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. Halal food is also available in other cities which are most visited by Muslim travelers. There are also mosques in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom.   6) Morocco Morocco’s mix influences make an in interesting and cheap vacation spot for backpacking enthusiasts! A North African country that borders the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, it has an eclectic atmosphere which is a mix of its Berber, Arabian and European influences. The country features on many travelers’ radar as a short stay travel destination, but has a lot on offer as a cheap and reasonable backpack travel destination. There are even travel companies that will pre-book and organize special travel packages custom-made to your needs and requirements.Morocco also has lots of family-friendly attractions and can be ideal a family vacation. Things to do and places to see: While in Morocco do not forego a trip into the Sahara Desert…wake up to a sunrise over the sand dunes, take a camel ride at sunset and drive through the Atlas Mountains. Visit a UNESCO world heritage site that has been used in famous films like the ‘Gladiator, Indiana Jones and Lawrence of Arabia’, take in the Moroccan architecture; its famous walled cities and the Kasbahs, and visit the monuments and famed-sites in the cities of Marrakesh, Casablanca, Tangier and Fez. You can also enjoy the beaches and water sports in many of the coastal cities of the country.  Accommodation: You can easily find cheap hotels and hostels in Morocco, and if you are trekking through the mountains then take the opportunity to sleep in a Berber tent. Also try the traditional houses known as ‘Riads’ – this will not only give you a truly authentic Moroccan experience, but will provide some privacy if travelling with family and children. Some larger hotels may have a liquor license, so if you want to avoid this, check when you make your reservation. Transportation: Public transport can be used and is cheap, but not very clean. Use sharing cabs or tour buses to take you to and from cities. The most popular tour bus companies are Supratours and CTM, these are cheaper than cabs but charge you for luggage. Buy the bus tickets a day in advance. There is also one train line to a few of the cities and can be used to travel on longer journeys in more comfort.  Muslim-Friendly Facilities: As nearly all Moroccans are Muslims, there are absolutely no shortage of mosques and halal food. All meat is halal, but there are some restaurants that serve pork and alcohol, as a means of catering to the growing non-Muslim tourist population. However, the restaurants in smaller cities and towns are still true to Islamic traditions. The cheapest way to experience the food of Morocco is to buy your meals from market stalls and street vendors.   7) New Zealand New Zealand is a very low-key country and should feature more often as one of the best vacation spots ideal for the backpacker! Synonymous with the filming location of the movie – ‘The Lord of the Rings’, the country has such a diverse landscape that you will wonder if you are being transported to different Lands throughout your journey. I would advise you to not forget to take your camera if you plan to make this country the next stop for a fun family holiday. Things to do and See: When backpacking through New Zealand’s two islands you will come across volcanic lakes, beautiful forests, mountains dotted with waterfalls, miles of beaches. But, while enjoying the breath-taking views of this ideal vacation spot, also take time-off to surf in Raglan, hike through the mountains, experience white water rafting down the world's highest commercially rafted waterfall, try out a few adventure sports such as bungy jumping, skydiving, hang-gliding and zip lining; and last but not least check out the famous Hobbiton Movie Set. Another exceptional activity that New Zealand offers is stargazing, possible because of its vast and natural landscapes, clear of man-made buildings!   Accommodation: As New Zealand caters to backpackers, there are plenty of accommodation options for backpackers from hostels to small rental rooms. These are generally clean and have sharing bathroom and kitchen facilities. There are also plenty of bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation on offer. And if you are travelling with family or a large group of friends, then try renting out holiday homes – ideal for  Muslim travelers, as it will give you the required privacy and you can cook your own meals! Transportation: New Zealand is made for backpackers… the country offers fabulous cycling and walking trails from the North to the South. There are also special backpacker buses where you can meet like-minded travelers! The best option may be to drive around the country using a rental car, or try something different if you are travelling with kids, and rent a campervan, also known by some as a motorhome – this will give you great flexibility, and allow you to travel at your pace. Don’t worry, the country has many camp grounds and holiday parks where you can park and take a break for the night. Muslim-Friendly Facilities: Due to the growing Muslim population in New Zealand, getting Halal food in the big towns of the country is quite easy. Also as backpackers, if you are willing to cook your own food, getting Halal meat is also possible. Read the article on New Zealand at this blog for more details   8) Portugal A country not always on the top of one’s ‘to visit list’, Portugal should be considered for a not so crowded backpacking vacation. Although more expensive than some of the Asian destinations listed in this article, it is still considered a cheap vacation spot especially being situated in Europe! With its unique allure of sandy beaches, rugged coastline, fabulous architecture, World Heritage Sites and vineyards, Portugal is worth a visit. For those Muslim travelers living in Europe and the West, I am sure that you can get hold of fabulous last minute vacation dealsto enjoy this summer vacation in Portugal.  Things to do and see: Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a cosmopolitan city with an old world charm and the architecture to blend. Visit the cities of Sinatra, Porto and Braga, and go to Cape Sagres to stand at the edge of Europe. For the beaches, visit the Azores Islands and Faro. Visit the region of Alentejo to find the vineyards, olive groves, and even Roman ruins. In all of Portugal there are 15 listed World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, and visiting these alone would make an interesting and educational family holiday. Accommodation: There are lots of hotels from two-star onwards in Portugal and you can make a choice from these to suit your budget. There are also many hostels and lower star-class hotels that are very affordable. As for Muslim-friendly facilities at the hotels, it will be best to check when making your reservation. Transportation: Taxis are an expensive form of transport in Portugal. It would be best to use the public transport system such as the Metro and buses in the cities or walk wherever possible. For longer distances use long distance buses and the Eurail network. Muslim-Friendly Facilities: Lisbon has ample Halal food and restaurants for Muslim travelers. Other restaurants may serve Halal food together with alcohol and non-Halal meats, so, check before you order anything. Other big cities like Faro also have a choice of Halal restaurants, and there are plenty of places that serve seafood. As for mosques, Lisbon has the most number, while some of the other cities may have one mosque. Best to be prepared to say your prayers in your hotel/hostel room.   9) Fiji  A Pacific island destination that offers travelers the beauty of a rugged landscape filled with lagoons and palm-lined beaches, and activities ranging from mountain climbing, zip-lining to surfing and soft coral diving. While Fiji has its share of luxury holiday venues, it is popular for mid-range vacation deals. However, today, the Fiji Islands are also emerging as another cheap vacation spot for a backpacking holiday, especially the Yasawa Island chain. However, the Muslim traveler will have to do some pre-holiday preparations before embarking on this particular vacation. Vacation Activities: There is lots to do from island hoping, dolphin watching to swimming with Mantra Rays, snorkeling (some islands offer this free of charge, so make the most of it!) and hiking in the Wasali Nature Reserve. Also visit the famous Blue lagoon on the North of the Yasawa Islands and try to spend a few days on the mainland of VitiLevu (in Suva and Nadi) doing the usual touristy things. You can also plan a day trip to the South Sea Island which is close to the mainland and is quite popular with travelers with kids. Accommodation:There are a variety of budget resorts to choose from in the Mamanuca and Yasawa Island chains. These resorts offer basic accommodation which includes meals (check if they offer Halal food on reservation). Accommodation on the mainland of Viti Levu should not be a problem, although a bit more expensive. For the budget Muslim traveler, in Suva try the Roseland Inn which is run by a Fijian family and has a kitchen where you can cook your own meal. In Vanua Levu too you will find lodges and small hotels catering to the backpacker. Transportation: The bright yellow ferry (a trademark) will take you to the islands, as well as take you off the islands. The Ferry visits the islands daily so that travelers can be taken to the next island in the chain. It would be best to buy the ‘Bula Combo Pass’ that ranges from 5 to 21 days if you are planning to Island hop. There are also individual tickets available. However, be prepared to wait when catching the ferry, as it sometimes is quite flexible when it comes to timings. Muslim-Friendly Facilities: There are several Halal restaurants in Suva, the capital city, located on the main island of Viti Levu and all the McDonalds here are Halal certified. Also the island of Vanua Levu has a few Halal restaurants, but do check before you go. As for the popular backpackers destination of Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands, availability of Halal food maybe a problem. But Fiji is quite famous for its seafood and that is an option to consider. Just check that they do not use any alcohol or any other non-Halal items in their food preparations. An alternate is to stock up on snacks and take some easy to prepare meals to these islands. A tip – buy bottled water from the mainland as it will be cheaper than buying it from the other Islands.   10) Croatia Croatia is an Eastern European country, encompassing more than a thousand islands, with a stunning coastline of the Adriatic Sea. The country is dotted with castles as well as medieval and Gothic architecture and buildings.The Dinaric Alpsalso crosses through the country. It is also a popular destination where backpackers can tour through the country onvacation packages… so, what more can you ask for on a backpacking holiday? Things to do and see: With over 1,000 islands, island hopping via the sea is the best way to see the Croatian coast with its unspoiled beaches, oceans and fishing villages. While on this tour, take some time to enjoy the many water sporting activities and also visit the ‘Blue Cave’ on the BiševoIsland and the famous Dubrovnik Old Town. To travel through time, go in-land to see the medieval castles, museums housing fabulous ancient art and objects, and the many other monuments spread across the country. Visit Split, the capital city of Zagreb, Rovinj, Motovun, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Šibenik,Korcula and Hvar. Accommodation: There are enough hostels in Croatia, similar to other European countries. There is also the option of renting rooms and apartments by using sites such as Airbnb. Croatia also has many hotels which offer good value for money. A popular option for the coastal region is small inns and guesthouses to get a real Croatian experience. For Muslim travelers, there are a few hotels that are Halal certified in Zagrib, SlavonskiBrod and Baska. Transportation: The most popular way to travel through Croatia is by Eurail. However, take note that the train only runs as far south as Split, and then you have to use buses. Using the bus network is another popular option and both local buses and regional buses for longer journeys are easily available. An interesting way to travel in Zagreb is to use the tram system. For island hopping there is the boat and ferry services. Muslim Friendly Facilities:The cities of Zagreb, Dubrovnik, and Split have Halal food and Halal-certified restaurants, as well as mosques. In other cities and towns getting Halal food can be a bit difficult, but they always will have a seafood option…just ensure it isn’t an exotic sea creature being served!     Click here for more trip ideas on your next Muslim-friendly vacation!   ...

  • 5 Beautiful Islands for an Unforgettable Muslim Holiday

    There are many choices for a Muslim holiday, and many links on the web for countries considered as ‘World’s Top Muslim-Flavored Summer Vacation Spots’, ‘World's Top Halal-Friendly Holiday Spots’, ‘Muslim-Friendly Countries You Must Visit’ and so on and so forth. However, there is a lack of information for island destinations that can be considered for Muslim-friendly family holidays.    As Islands are an integral part of the landscape of our world, and found in all shapes and sizes, all Muslim travelers should consider visiting these 5 beautiful islands for an unforgettable Muslim holiday   Maldives A tropical destination and an island country made up of 26 atolls, the Maldives is indeed filled with many resorts and Muslim friendly hotels. Being an Islamic country, the availability of mosques and halal food is not a concern for the Muslim traveler and for those who love the ocean and all types of water related activities, this Island will provide you loads of entertainment for the entire Muslim family. The Maldives being in the tropics, can be considered as an island destination for a Muslim-friendly summer vacation spot! Water Sports and Activities: There are ample water related activities in whichever atoll that you may be staying at. Choose your preference in water sports from diving and snorkeling, jet skiing and paragliding, fishing and sailing to dolphin and whale watching and everything in between. For those who simply want to laze around, the Maldives is surrounded by beautiful beaches and standing in the Indian Ocean while being surrounded by shoals of fish and coral life is an experience in itself. For the very conservative Muslim families, there are many premium hotels that are designed with private rooms and water villas from which one can simply step into the sea. Visiting Malé: A visit to the Maldives would not be complete without a day spent in Male - the capital city. Some of the attractions include visiting the famous ‘Male Fish Market’, the ‘National Museum’ which is located in the former ‘Sultan's Palace’, the ‘Tsunami Monument’, and the ‘Male Local Market’while of course indulging in some shopping. For the Muslim traveler a visit to the ‘Hukuru Miskiiy or Old Friday Mosque’ would be of interest, you can also participate in the religious services conducted on Fridays and Saturdays. Diving enthusiasts would find the dive to see the ‘Maldives Victory’ which rests below the Hulhule House Reef very interesting. Tours and Private Trips: There are also many day tours and private trips on offer to enjoy the culture, atmosphere, and the coral and sea life that surrounds this island nation. Therefore try out any one; or a combination of the boat tours, walking tours, submarine tours, cultural tours, sightseeing tours, and also the fishing charters and tours. Atoll Hopping:  An interesting activity to undertake in the Maldives is ‘Island/Atoll Hopping’, and many of these islands/atolls offer its own unique culture, sites and activities. So make inquiries at your hotel for more details. Sri Lanka Sri Lanka is a tropical island nation which has a topography of sandy beaches, highlands, waterfalls, rainforests and arid plains. The country with it dominant Buddhist population, has many ancient Buddhist ruins and a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site – Sigiriya, is known as the ‘pearl of the Indian ocean’ and has so much to do and see that you can visit it during the different seasons to get a taste of the different cultures that reside here.  As Sri Lanka has quite a large Muslim population, catering to Muslim travelers is not a problem, thus making itone of the top holiday destination for Muslim families. You will find mosques, halal food and restaurants and also realize that major hotels cater to the needs of Muslim travelers in all parts of the country. Also, as there are some Muslim-owned hotels in the country, halal beach holidays is something that can be easily considered. As an island, seafood is easily available in the country. Something of note is that Sri Lanka is ranked as number 35 in the Halal/Muslim Travel & Tourism Rankings and Indexes by CresentRatings.  Sightseeing and Exploring: Sri Lanka offers you picturesque tea plantations and luscious greenery that surrounds gushing waterfalls in the hill country, wildlife sanctuaries such as Yala and Wilpattu,the Sinharaja rainforest, beautiful stretches of sandy beaches all around the island; specifically Tricomalee and Unawatune,whale and dolphin watchingin Kalpitiya, Mirissa and Galle, and the Buddhist cultural heritage sites such as Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the dry zone. To travel back to the era when this island was inhabited by the Dutch and Portuguese, visit the town of Galle in the South and the City of Jaffna, all the way at the tip of the island. The buildings and the layout of these places will give you a nostalgic feeling as well as a different flavor of the country. For the surfers there is Arugam Bay and for water sports enthusiasts Bentota, as well as the Bolgoda Lake which is only a 45 minute drive from the city of Colombo. Try ‘The Marina’ at Bolgoda which gives day passes for visitors and also has halal food. For the adventurers, there is whitewater rafting in Kitulgala and outdoor camping in Ella. Adams Peak is a must visit for the Muslim traveler, as it is believed that Adam’s footprint is on the summit of this mountain.  Travelling around the Country: The best way to plan your travel would be to pre-book a private vehicle with a tour operator. You can drive as well, but with some of the narrow roads and sometimes eccentric road rules out of the city, it is better to get a local to drive you around. You can take the train to Jaffna, but don’t expect luxury. A must try is the special Expo Train to Kandy, which is perhaps one of the best ways to get a view of the changing landscape of the island. There is also air travel using seaplanes and small Cessna’s, but this is expensive. Touring Colombo: A cosmopolitan city and the commercial capital of the country, Colombo should be visited for at least a day. Take a look at the Museum, Independence Square, Galle Face Green, and the Dutch Hospital shopping area. There is also shopping that can be done and don’t forget to check out some jewelry made from beautiful Ceylon Semi-precious Stones! If you have only a few hours to spend in the city, just take a drive around using the famous ‘tuktuk’ – an interesting experience if you’ve never been in one! Hawaiian Islands The 50th state of the Unites States of America, the Hawaiian Islands is an archipelago of islands in Oceania which sits very much in the midst of a volcanic zone. It is made up of hundreds of small islands, but the main islands are Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lānai, Kahoolawe, Maui and the Island of Hawaii (also known as the ‘Big Island’ as it is the largest island of the archipelago). With the availability of a mosque and halal food, the Hawaiian Isles can be considered an ideal holiday destination for Muslim families. Things to Do and See:  There is plenty to do in Hawaii… The Big Island’s main attraction is the Volcano National Park, where you can explore volcanoes, climb lava tubes and also watch while the active Kilauea volcano erupts into the ocean. This island also boasts black-sand beaches and rainforest for the trekking and hiking enthusiasts.  Then there is Maui, where you can swim under waterfalls, watch the sunrise from atop a volcano, indulge in water sports such as surfing and windsurfing, and scuba dive and snorkel to check out the undersea universe of marine life. There are also museums and a golf course, and of course the beautiful beaches to take a leisurely stroll in the evenings. A visit to Honululu; Hawaii’s capital on the island of Oahu should also be planned. Here you will find the Iolani Palace, the Bishop Museum and some sites from the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor which includes the USS Arizona Memorial. Visiting the Aloha Tower will give you an opportunity to get some shopping done!For more information visit this website. Halal Resort, Hotels & Restaurants, and Halal Food: With the growing Muslim population, there are quite a few halal restaurants on the islands. A quick internet search for ‘Halal food in Hawaii’ will give you many results. Also check out this guide for reference. Alternately, you can also shop for your meats from a select few halal outlets and cook them yourself if staying in a private bungalow. Also being an island, you know that you will have your choice of mouthwatering seafood dishes to choose from. As for the resorts and hotels, I am not sure if they offer halal food, it is best to check when making your reservations. Mosques in Hawaii: There is only one mosque in Hawaii, the Manoa Mosquewhere Friday prayers are conducted. As an option, I suggest you take a Qibla compass with you, so that you can pray in your hotel room. Also check out the website of the Muslim Association of Hawaii (MAH) & Islamic Center of Honolulu for any particular details.   The Greek Islands The Greek Islands which consist of 6,000 islands and islets in the Aegean and Ionian Seasoffer a unique European Muslim family holiday with its abundance of rich Greek heritage, amazing beaches, olive trees, and archeological sites and wonders. Some of the most popular islands are Santorini, Crete, Rodes, Corfu and Mykanos. The Greeks have over the centuries developed their own unique customs and culture. As the Greek Islands are not known for its Muslim population, the very small Muslim population of Greece being based mainly in Athens, facilities for Muslims such as mosques are not available and halal food will not be easy to come by. Still with its beauty and ancient history, the Greek Islands should be visited by Muslim travelers.  Sightseeing, Exploring and Outdoor Activities: Most of these popular Greek Islands have extensively diverse geographywhich range from mountains to beautiful beaches, palm forests to Olive groves, to cities which showcase centuries’ old Greek culture and architecture. There are all types of activities to keep the entire Muslim family entertained during their vacation from nature reserves and parks, zoos and aquariums, water and amusement parks, museums, to boat tours, water sports and cultural tours, to some of the wonders of the world. However, there are a few must do activities while visiting the Greek Isles: • taking a tour of the Balos Beach and Lagoon where you can nearly walk on the entire lagoon in Crete • taking a walk in the Samaria Gorge National Park, the longest and gorge in Europe in Crete • Hiking Trail Fira-Oia and in Santorini • Visiting the Santorini Volcano and swimming in the hot springs • Taking a walk around the Corfu Old Town • Visiting the any of the Archaeological Museums and Natural History Museums as well as the archeological sites that are in abundance in all these Islands • Simply lounging around or taking a walk on the beaches that the Greek Isles have on offer The different Islands have their different specialties, and depending on where you plan to visit, a bit more targeted research will yield more in-depth information. Hotels and Private Villas:  There are ample hotels to be found in the Greek Isles, however, the issue would be its non-existent facilities for Muslims. However, an alternate that Muslim travelers can consider is renting out private villas that are found aplenty… it may be a bit on the expensive side, but still worth it to visit this beautiful Greek Island. Halal Food: Unfortunately Halal food choices will be very limited.Muslim travelers will have to become pescatarians and vegetarians during their holiday. However, as the Greek Isles are known for their fresh fish, and Greek vegetarian cuisine, this would be an interesting experience. Just check to ensure they do not mix any alcohol/wine in their food. For those who are quite insistent on getting some halal meat, some places may be able to arrange for Halal food on special request, while the ‘To Stachi’ restaurant in Chania Town in the Island of Crete has some fabulous vegetarian food.  The Greek Islands should be a sure vacation spot for a Muslim holiday not with standing the shortage of halal food. Mosques and Prayers:. Most of the popular Greek Islands do not have a mosque, thus it would be best to take your own Qibla compass and pray in your hotel rooms. There are several old mosques in Crete but these are archeological sites. However, there is a small mosque in Heraklio in Crete.  Zanzibar Zanzibar is an island off the coast of Tanzania. Known locally as the Unguja Island, the Zanzibar Island which is part of the Zanzibar archipelago, has a thriving Muslim population and no shortage of halal food. Being an island, there is also no shortage of beautiful seashores and beaches to simply enjoy. While visiting Zanzibar you will notice that there are many Islamic influences and a news article even calls Zanzibar – a haven for halal tourism! This makes Zanzibar Island an ideal spot for a halal holiday for the Muslim family. Things to Do and See: Stone Town, the capital city, is a must visit with its historical significance and its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can stay in this thriving and unique town while visiting the market places, mosques, and other attractions located within.Some of the main attraction - the Sultan’s Palace, the House of Wonders, and the Old Arab Fort, can be seen on a walking tour. As Zanzibar is also known as the ‘Spice Island’, don’t miss out on a trip to a ‘Spice Farm’, which will be a memorable experience. There is also the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre and snorkel excursions in the Menai Bay Conservation Area in the village of Paje that should be explored. Also let’s not forget the water-based activities that can be enjoyed such as kitesurfing, surfing, fishing and swimming.  Mosques and Halal Hotels &Restaurants: There are plenty of mosques in Zanzibar and you will hear the call of the Azaan in Stone Town quite distinctly. While is Zanzibar, do visit the Kizimkazi Mosque located in Dimbani, which is one of the oldest Islamic buildings on the East African coast.  There are also plenty of halal restaurants on the Island, and a quick Google search will give you ample choices. The Dhow Palace Hotel in Zanzibar City with its halal-friendly and Muslim-friendly facilities should be considered for your stay. ...



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