For those who wish to embark on a Halal-friendly Europe tour, HalalTrip has listed a number of European tour tips for Muslim travelers. Read on for more information.
Muslim travelers who are considering European tours in 2017, will wonder if it’s a safe destination; especially with recent upheavals and tragedies seen in a few European countries and cities. With the current state in Europe, many governments have posted “Europe Travel Alerts and Warnings” for their citizens, so take a look at these prior to planning your European tour trip, especially if you are travelling for any particular major event being held. Also, a must, undertake your own research on the dos and don’ts, European tour news as well as the current situation of the country/countries that you plan to visit and the views of its people.
However, despite all this, if you still have your heart set on visiting Europe, here are a few European tour tips that will make you feel better and safer, as well as save some money. Also, as all Muslims know, Allah will keep us safe, so say your travel prayers before you leave home and all will be well.
1. Ensure you get all the requisite visas, paper work as well as any vaccine shots required well in advance of your departure. Also make sure your passport is valid and you have your latest photograph on it.
2. Ensure that you check what items and/or products you are not allowed to carry on your flights or other forms of transport to the countries you are visiting. You want to make sure that baggage checks and other official inquiries are hassle-free.
3. Try to get a complete tour arranged before your departure. This will ensure that you have a planned itinerary that you can share with family.
4. If you are travelling alone then try to join a tour that is being organized by a reputed travel agent in your country. This is an option even if you are a couple or a small Muslim family unit. A search on the internet will give you options of several Halal tours that you can be a part of.
5. Get yourself updated on the latest news of the European countries you are travelling to. Even while on your European tour, spend a few minutes each morning listening to the news.
6. While planning your European tour, ensure to search for Muslim-friendly and Halal-friendly hotels. This will make your trip easier as you will not need to worry about availability of Halal food or appropriate facilities.
7. If you are staying at a hotel/villa/lodge that doesn’t offer Halal food, do research on Halal restaurants and availability of Halal food in that country; and especially the area in which you will be staying.
8. Carry your travel prayer mat and Qibla direction compass from home, this will ensure you are ready to pray anytime, anywhere. Also an internet search will easily give you the prayer times of the countries you are visiting. Alternately, and I really recommend this, download an app on your smartphone that will give you both prayer times as well as the Qibla direction.
9. If you are going to be in any country on a Friday and are keen to attend the Friday prayers in a mosque, then find out in advance where the mosque is located, whether they hold a special service, and how you can get there from your hotel or whichever place you plan to visit prior to going to mosque.
10. Women could avoid wearing flashy jewelry. Also as you are on holiday, consider if you really need to wear and/or carry any jewelry with you.
11. Ensure you can be contacted by your family at home; as well as family or friends you are traveling with while on your European holiday. To give family at home some peace of mind, drop them a message everyday… this way they will also be sure that you are fine and enjoying yourself.
12. As a Muslim traveler, do your best to be patient and polite to all officials at airports, stations, museums and other public places as well as others who serve you. Also try your best to accommodate their requests as long as they are not unreasonable. Remember, sometimes they are more scared of the unknown than you realize, and unfortunately, they don’t realize that not every Muslim person is a danger to them.
13. If you are questioned by officials at the airport, don’t panic and get upset, because then people think that you are trying to hide something. Be calm and try to answer their questions as accurately as possible. Trying to be overly smart will not help at all!
14. Register yourselves at your country’s Embassy/Consulate in the country you visit. Most offer this service, check before you leave home. This may be time consuming but will make you feel safer and officials will also know to contact you in case of any emergencies in that country.
15. If available, visit the Tourist Information Desk, where you can get hold of a map, leaflets of events taking place in the country and any other relevant information.
16. Quite a few European countries do not have water in their washrooms. Hence, always carry a bottle of water in case of an emergency washroom visit!
17. Collect all your receipts and bills. These may come in handy in the case of an emergency if you ever need to prove where you were at a particular date and time.
1. Booking your flights and hotels well in advance may enable you to make some savings.
2. Use road and rail transport for travel within the European continent. This may prove cheaper than airfare. But again, check out all prices and do a comparison before your visit. Also account for availability and cost of transport from your arrival point in the country to your hotel and hotel to departure point.
3. Try to book into a hotel that will offer free pick up and drop off to airports, bus stops or train stations.
4. For travel within a European country consider driving yourself (make sure you are aware of the road rules and have a valid driver’s license), but only if you have free parking at your hotel. Else your parking will cost more than your rental. For city travel it is best to use public transport – some European countries offer very good rail, underground trains and bus facilities. Note – try to avoid the rush hour.
5. For longer journeys, try to use night trains as these are generally cheaper priced. Although as Muslim travelers, it might be best to check if this is safe first. Alternately you can use luxury buses, check out this website: http://www.eurolines.com/en/.
6. A nice way to save money in some European countries is to make the most of special day/week passes they have for different activities bundled together – example, city tours with a combination of museum visits and amusements parks or water parks.
7. With technology and Wi-Fi, there is no need to worry about large mobile phone bills, use apps such as Whatsapp, Viber, Skype and FaceTime, to keep in touch with your family at home as well as the family and friends that you are travelling with.
8. Avoid changing money at hotels and at the airport. Use exchange bureaus, but avoid exchange bureaus that don't show both the buying and selling rate. You can use credit cards but some of the best deals are cash only!
9. Avoid ATM withdrawals when travelling away from your home country, as banks charge high transaction fees for this service. If you must get cash this way, then make larger and fewer withdrawals.
10. If travelling with a family, try renting-out furnished apartments, this will surely be cheaper than the hotels in Europe during the summer season.
11. If you are a frequent traveler, then register with the ‘Loyalty/Rewards’ programs of the hotels you plan to stay at and use their brand throughout your travel. This will also enable you to benefit from their special membership offers. (You will need to check with regards the Muslim-friendly facilities offered by big-chain hotels.)
12. No travel is complete without a shopping list. So, do your shopping in the cheaper countries of your European tour. If there is a specific product that you want to purchase, find out the details beforehand. In Europe, department stores will likely give you the best price.
For some best places to visit during your European tour, search this blog for more in-depth information on some of the more popular countries. Alternately, the internet is full of many types of ‘Europe Travel Guides’, ‘Tips for Visiting Europe’, ‘Tips for the Budget Traveler in Europe’, etc. Take the time before your trip to do some quick and random searches for more insights and to make the most of your holiday. Most importantly, enjoy and have fun. Bon Voyage.
Sakina has over 10 years of experience in the field of corporate communications; having worked for a leading Annual Report Production House dealing with top corporates of Sri Lanka and overseas, and later as the Group Communications Specialist for a Sri Lankan conglomerate for their overseas plantations business. She is well-versed in the production process of annual reports, sustainability reports, corporate videos and other corporate communication media. She also has experience in Social Media Marketing and works to increase and improve social media presence of corporates and small niche market businesses. Today, she works as a freelance writer and undertakes consultations on corporate communications and social media related projects. She enjoys writing for blogs on topics of interest.