A Muslim Traveler's Guide to Birmingham City, UK

By Lili Lengkana | 17, Nov, 2017
A Muslim Traveler's Guide to Birmingham City, UK
As the second biggest city in the UK, Birmingham has been attracting many tourists to visit every year. In 2016, 39 million tourists visited Birmingham, which is the highest number of visitors to date - an increase of 2.5% from that in 2015 (Birmingham Mail). With its many attractions, which many can be classed as hidden gems, and a host of many international sports events such as All England badminton tournament and International cricket tournament, Birmingham can expect the number of its visitor to continue rising year on year.
As one of the most culturally-diverse cities in the UK, many visitors, domestic and international, came to visit their families who live here permanently or study in many internationally-recognized universities in and around Birmingham, such as University of Birmingham, Aston University, University of Warwick, etc. Apart from these, the number of visitors that come purely for Birmingham and West Midlands tourist attractions have also increased. Especially for Muslim visitors, as Birmingham provides many excellent facilities and conveniences catered to Muslim visitors. Indeed, Birmingham is actively inviting tourists from Muslim countries to visit, too.
So what do you need to prepare before you visit Birmingham to ensure you have a Muslim-friendly travel experience?
Credit - Giphy.com

1. Your Travel Documentation

Picture Credit - http://visitbirmingham.com
Besides passport with at least six-month validity, you may check with the UK embassy in your country whether you may require a visa to visit the UK. UK tourist visas are required for passport holders of some countries. In this regard, some Commonwealth countries like Singapore or Malaysia have the convenience of being able to visit the UK without requiring a tourist visa, while other Commonwealth countries may need a visa, as well as other southeast Asian countries apart from the two abovementioned countries. Should you need one, the UK tourist visa will need to be applied at a local office of the international agency appointed by the UK government, VFS Global, which handles all visa application to the UK. Check their website for all the documents required for application; you may need to book your return flight to the UK and show proof of funds as part of the document required. Make sure you apply for the UK tourist visa well ahead of your planned visit, to allow for the visa processing time, which can take about 10-15 working days.


2. Itinerary

You can opt to arrange your tour itineraries yourself or you can save time by arranging your itineraries via a travel agency near you that provide halal tour packages. Halal Trip Tour Travel is the best choice in this case as they arrange your trip to make it a satisfying halal trip experience, i.e. in preparing which place/attraction to visit, mosques along the way and recommended halal food establishments.
In this regard, it will be beneficial for you to plan your trip 3-5 months ahead as this will help you get the best deal on airfare and accommodation rate. Many airlines offer cheap airfare packages for a trip well ahead in the future so this will help you with getting the most out of your budget. Similarly, you can make substantial savings in accommodation costs if you book well ahead. You could choose to stay at a hotel, apartment, B&B from trusted websites, where many of them offer no cancellation fee until one day before check-in date. This is also an important part to get your UK visa as you will have to provide accommodation evidence.

3. Tips for choosing your accommodation:

Choose a place to stay that is located near to the train station or in the city centre to ensure easy access to all parts of the city. The city centre area also provides an easy access to halal food restaurants, supermarkets and place to pray.
Search for the reputable 3 or 4-star hotel chains that provide you with vegetarian breakfast. It will help you to start your day in the morning since most halal food stalls or restaurants are only open after 10 am in the morning. Most of the B&Bs here do not provide vegetarian breakfast, so it's better for you to stay in the hotel that provides one. Or if you stay in one of the B&B or rent an apartment to stay in buying your halal supplies from a big chain supermarket. Find World Food alley and you'll find lots of Halal brands there.
Check whether they provide wi-fi access in the hotel; specifically, whether they provide-room wi-fi access or just in common area (as some UK B&Bs are only provide one in the common area) and whether it is paid or free (many UK hotels charge about £3 per day). This is very important during your travel here to make your communication easier.
Again, Halal Trip can assist you in this essential preparation so you'll have less to worry about.

4. Local Currency

Buy and bring necessary Poundsterling before you go. Always check for the best rate prior to travel. If you have better conversion rate in your country then it is more beneficial to buy more Poundsterling prior to travelling rather than exchange your money it in the UK. However, you have to be extra careful if you bring more cash. Alternatively, you can buy Poundsterling traveller's cheque in your country instead.
Additionally, bring your credit card with you. If you shop at most big stores in the UK, you can claim Value Added Tax (VAT) refund at the airport or at several tax refund counters. They will ask you to fill the tax refund form with your credit card details. Some large department stores and shopping centres have their own dedicated tax refund counters to process this form and refund the money to you instantly provided that you return the form duly stamped in the airport tax refund counters later on, whilst some will only prepare the form. In the latter, you have to return the form in tax refund counters in the airport and they will credit the tax refund to your credit card later in a week or more. Therefore, it is important to check with the stores' customer service which tax refund process that they do. The latter process takes more time though so make sure to arrive early before your departure time to process this.


5. Tourist Attraction Guides in Birmingham

Picture Credit - dayoutwiththekids.co.uk
From museums, shopping places, castles, theme parks, British botanical gardens, science centre to football stadiums, Birmingham and its suburbs have all these attractive places for you to visit. Therefore, plan your holiday wisely so you can visit all that interest you. Information about these places is provided in this link.
However, as a local, I recommend you to also visit a beautiful English little town named Stratford-upon-Avon. It is the birthplace of the famous writers, Shakespeare, and it is only 30 minutes drive or by train from Birmingham. Another place that will amaze you is Warwick Castle in Warwick. This is also 30 minutes drive or by train from Birmingham. 

6. Halal Restaurants or Foodstalls around Birmingham

You can explore many websites which provide you with information about this. For example Halal Food In Birmingham UK or here. Print all the information or save them on your mobile or laptop/tablet.

7. Check the Salath Timetable for Birmingham during Your Stay

Picture Credit- Birminghammail.co.uk
You can get this from Birmingham Local Masjid website which provides this info on their website. Check this link for the Masjid info and Salath timetable.


8. Transportation In Birmingham.

a. Birmingham Airport - City Centre and return by bus, taxi and train

- Taxi. Outside the arrival gate, you will find a taxi stand. Just pushed your luggage trolley there and ask the taxi driver to take you to your hotel. The taxis that queue there are a London taxi type (classic taxi type) so it is big enough to bring you and your luggage to your hotel or whatever the place that you're planning to stay in. The fare from/to Birmingham Airport - City Centre is around £25-30 (one way)
- Bus. You can catch bus no X1 at bus shelter J directly outside Terminal 1. T his Bus will take you to the Birmingham City Centre in about 30 minutes and the fare is £2.40 per person or £8 for a group of five. Then you can take a taxi to your hotel, or walk if your hotel is close enough to the city centre.
- Train. You can take a train from Birmingham International train station which is connected to the airport, The train takes about 15 minutes to Birmingham New Street station at the city centre for about £6 per person. Then you can get a taxi to your hotel or walk if your hotel is within walking distance from the station.

b. Transportation in and around Birmingham.

Picture Credit - birminghammail.co.uk
- Rent a car. If you have a credit card and driver license you can rent a car while here. In the UK, you can use your valid driver license from any country for one year. It's easy to rent a car here, just browse one of the rental car websites and follow the instruction therein. You can pick up and later drop the car back at the airport. You'll need your credit card for the deposit (which is usually £300). Do not forget to ask for a GPS for your car, which you can get for an additional fee. You'll need it most of the time during your drive here.
- Public Transport
Bus & Train: This link provides you with all the information you need about using Public Bus and Train during your stay in Birmingham / around the UK.
If you want to avoid a headache going through all the troubles in preparing the itinerary, you can arrange your trip via Halal Trip Website. They will help you to arrange everything mentioned above so you'll only have to prepare your passport, baggage and fund for this trip. You'll be sure to have a memorable trip, in shaa Allaah.

A mother of two, travel aficionado and a bookworm