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  • Let's Take a Look Back: 2019 Travel Trends

    The world in 2019 is not what it used to be and, this year has changed how travel is looked at, as well as how people travel. Travel is almost a must now, and young people are flocking to amazing destinations all over the globe every day! via GIPHY 2019 has made a definite impact on travel, what with many things influencing trends and shifting the industry into places it has not been before. People are more enthusiastic about travel and their views on it are more open. Let’s check out some of the impactful travel trends for the year 2019. 1. ‘Instant Noodle’ trips Image Credit: Francesca Tirico on Unsplash It’s not about the weeklong trips or even month-long Europe tours anymore, the smaller the holiday the better! Mini holidays are trending now, and it is fun, practical, and inexpensive! These weekend trips are going to help local economies and boost the local travel scene. Many young people are opting for this kind of travel - spontaneous weekend gateways with friends to seaside towns or lake districts. 2019 is the best year to get your travel plans in full swing, with better-organized transport options and what with everyone owning a smartphone all you need is a bunch of friends, some cash, luggage and, Google maps! 2. Halal assurance with AR Image Capture: Halal Travel Frontier 2019 Report The world is getting more tech-based by the day, so why not rely on AR (Augmented Reality) to support you in finding Halal certified restaurants and eateries in the area? Due to a lack of Halal certification in Muslim majority and minority countries, travellers may find it difficult to verify if a restaurant is Halal or not. However, AR and AI (Artificial Intelligence) can help integrate information on restaurants in real-time making it easy for the user to easily spot Halal restaurants, food, or even ingredients without much hassle. This will also help vendors and restaurant owners to better communicate the availability of Halal food without the need to display the Halal certificate. Bonus tip: Using social media to ask for recommendations from your social circle is a trend as well, even referring to the CrescentRating rating system which indicates the level of Muslim friendliness of restaurants. 3. An Education Image Credit: Pang Yuhao on Unsplash More and more young people are opting for travelling abroad for higher studies instead of continuing in their homeland. This is because it can teach a person valuable lessons and independence. Some people are even saying that they’ll opt for travelling overspending on an expensive university as they can learn many things hands-on, like dealing with people and managing finances in a real-world setting. Some people may even opt for volunteer work abroad or even international work placements that will take them to different parts of the world. Working or studying abroad doesn’t always have to be all work and no play, you will get to experience different cultures, different cuisine, as well as mingle with the locals. Tip: Foreign exposure looks good on a CV! 4. Sustainable travel Photo Credit: Hamza Javaid on Unsplash Eco-friendly travel is a major trend right now! A lot of travellers are actively making it a point to reduce their carbon footprint and respect the destinations they travel to. It is important to dispose of trash responsibly or even reduce the number of plastics and other non-biodegradable packaging while travelling. A large percentage of people choose destinations which host environmentally focused events, as well as has hotels and resorts which are more eco-friendly.   5. Experience-based travel Photo Credit: Rana Sawalha on Unsplash Travellers are now looking for more curated travel experiences than the same old destination based holidays. People who are looking into comfort and nostalgia rank high on the list, as many travellers love experiences that make them feel like a child again. May it be an adventure, music festivals or even wildlife excursions – experience-oriented travel is a fast-growing trend. 6. Co-living Image Credit: Helena Lopes on Unsplash If you like to travel solo but want a safe living space where you can meet new people, co-living could be the best option for you. Airbnb may be a great option but it can be isolating at times, whereas co-living spaces allow you to rent a room with common social areas where you get live amongst likeminded people. This is a trend amongst young professionals and is a great way to start travelling solo if you are a beginner. Lyf by Ascott, a millennial centred project, will soon open three properties at Cebu City and Shenzen – most probably by the year 2021. Roam has co-living spaces in Bali, Miami, Tokyo, and San Francisco – they will be opening in New York and London soon. 7. Tech-savvy travel Image Credit: Christiann Koepke on Unsplash With everyone going digital, travel is also moving into digital territory. With AR and AI apps specifically designed to help travellers find good places to eat as well as where to stay at payment methods as well as checking in to airports are going to be more AI-based. BitPay is allowing businesses to accept bitcoins as payment instead of traditional money; this will revolutionize travel as we know it. Airports are trying to introduce more versatile, computerised immigration and customs facilities as it will cut down travel time within an airport in half. VR is being used to train Muslims in Umrah and Hajj rituals before leaving for the pilgrimage. VR will allow people to have more thorough training experience as a certain step and rites that are to be observed will be taught as an immersive experience. This will ensure that they will have a fulfilling experience on the trip. 8. A rise in female Muslim travellers Image Capture: Muslim Women in Travel 2019 Report There is a growing trend in female Muslim travellers, women want to go out there and explore and learn about the world around them. Many are highly educated and financially independent, with families that support their decision to travel. The travel market is starting to be more women-centric and therefore things like safety and activities specific to women are beginning to grow. There aren’t as many risks with security and family disapproval for women travellers as there used to be. So venture out and have fun! 9. Dark tourism Image Credit: Yves Alarie on Unsplash A burgeoning market for ‘dark’ tourism is gaining fame, what with Netflix’s series “Dark Tourist” focusing on this aspect of travel. Dark tourism focuses on historically significant places like the Holocaust Museum and Chernobyl (nuclear disaster). People are flocking to these sites to learn about the history and how these errors have affected the world at large. 10. Solo travel Image Credit: Andrew Ly on Unsplash A new trend amongst Millenials and Gen-Z folks, solo travel is starting to be popular, as well as important. Trips aren’t all about fun anymore, it’s about the experience as a whole and what a person can learn and bring back with them. It’s not just memories to last a lifetime it’s also experience!   Travel trends are shifting fast and soon we will even be able to travel to space! The trends are catering to younger generations and now, and everything is not about business trips anymore. Travel is more focused on experience and fun – now that you know the travel trends for 2019 plan your next trip and begin your adventure! via GIPHY...

  • Stay With The Mandela Rhodes Place Suite & Hotel When You're In Cape Town (& It's Muslim-Friendly!)

    If you have made plans to visit South Africa why not book a stay at the unique Mandela Rhodes Place Hotel. via GIPHY Located in the bustling capital of Cape Town, you are sure to enjoy a fun, relaxing, Muslim-friendly stay at the 4-star hotel. A mix of old and the new, incorporating modernity with historic buildings, its charm will make you want to extend your vacation. Keep reading to find out what they have to offer. About the Hotel Image Credit: Mandela Rhodes Place The Mandela Rhodes Place Hotel features contemporary design with elegant interiors and friendly staff. If you are a fan of architecture, you will find certain design elements fascinating, such as the Nelson Mandela statue that greets you in the lobby. Image Credit: Mandela Rhodes Place The hotel is located within the heart of Cape Town’s cultural hub, allowing you to explore the city’s cultural heritage whilst living in luxury. The hotel offers apartments and suites instead of usual hotel rooms, ensuring your stay is personal and luxurious. The hotel is great for family trips; it is also the perfect honeymoon hotel destination in Cape Town. Image Credit: Mandela Rhodes Place Due to the hotel’s location, you will find many places to meet, eat out, shop and relax close to the hotel, you will also be able to visit cultural landmarks quite easily. Since Mandela Rhodes Place is a 5-star hotel, they provide free wireless WiFi, and undercover parking (charges apply). You will find the Hotel’s swimming pool on their rooftop terrace offering an almost classic rooftop view of the street and surrounding city-scape. The Suites Made up of 4 historic buildings that have been fully restored and integrated with one modern highrise, The Suites provide guests with elegant, contemporary one and two-bedroom apartments and suites. The hotel has a total of 40 rooms (suites and apartments). Image Credit: Mandela Rhodes Place Each apartment offers spacious rooms with minimalist but classic interior décor and furnishings, all apartments come with an open-plan lounge and equipped with a fully functional kitchen allowing guests to entertain, eat or simply relax whilst enjoying the urban landscape. The Studio Apartment Image Credit: Mandela Rhodes Place The apartment is the smallest from the range, it measures up to 52m2 and comes with one large double bed. The room is priced at R1550 per night. The Superior Apartments feature a separate lounge and bedroom area, it is 67m2 in size and costs R1750 per night. The Deluxe Apartments are spacious and includes an open-plan kitchen and dining area, it is 78m2 and costs R2050 a night. The Platinum and Superior Apartments Platinum Apartment Image Credit: Mandela Rhodes Place If you are traveling with a large family or group of friends, opt for the two-bedroom Platinum and Superior Apartments. The platinum apartment features an entrance hall, separate lounging and dining areas, 2 bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as a private balcony with amazing views of Cape Town. One bedroom includes 2 single beds and a queen-sized bed, whilst the other has two queen-sized beds. The apartment is 140m2 and costs R3050 a night. Superior Apartment Image Credit: Mandela Rhodes Place The two-bedroom Superior Apartment is similar to the Platinum one but does not feature a hall and balcony. It has the same bedroom setup as the Platinum Apartment. The Superior Apartment is 110m2 and costs R2350 a night. All apartments feature the following amenities: Air conditioning Heating Flat-screen TV Satellite Channels DVD Player Telephone Wake Up Service / Alarm Clock Safety Deposit Box Desk Sofa Seating Area Dining Area Kitchen Refrigerator Microwave Oven Electric Kettle Toast Kitchenware Tea/Coffee Maker Washing Machine Ironing Facilities Hairdryer Linen & Towels Provided Complimentary Amenities (Soap, Body Wash, Conditioning Shampoo) Daily Housekeeping Service Laundry Facilities Room Service Cots Available on Request Also, note that the bathrooms are fitted with a bidet. Halal Services Image Credit: Mandela Rhodes Place The best part about the hotel is that it is Muslim-friendly, and the staff has been trained on Muslim requirements. The Hotel also offers the following prayer facilities: prayer mats can be provided list of nearby mosques can be provided on request male and female prayer rooms can be made available on request prayer timetable available at front desk or room Mosques Cape Town is a multicultural city and you can easily find Mosques close to the hotel. Here’s a list of Mosques you can visit whilst in Cape Town: Noor El Hamdedia Mosque (1 min drive / 3 min walk) Palm Tree Mosque (2 min drive / 4 min walk) Auwal Masjid (3 min drive / 7 min walk) Nurul Islam Mosque (3 min drive / 6 min walk) Masjid Boorhaanol Mosque (4 min drive / 8 min walk) Halal Food Also Read: GOLD Restaurant | Seriously The Ultimate Halal Restaurant In Cape Town Food being an important part of any trip, you must be worried about being able to find Halal food. Cape Town has a variety of Halal restaurants and eateries which you can easily find through a quick Google search or on the Halal Trip app! There are Halal restaurants within walking distance from the hotel, and you will find more scattered around the city. You can even get a list of Halal restaurants from the front desk on request. Some of the restaurants closest to the Hotel are listed below: Mariam's Kitchen (2 min) Saray Restaurant (4 min) Bo-Kaap Kombuis (5 min) Gold Restaurant (6 min) Mesopotamia (5 min) Non-Halal Activities Hotel does not have a discotheque Hotel does not have a bar No adult TV channels in the room Hotel is not part of a gambling resort However, the hotel does serve alcohol. Tips & Bonus! via GIPHY Children under the age of 11 stay for free – check the website for more details. You can get 20% off if you are booking on the same day as your arrival, it excludes breakfast, is non-refundable and full payment is required. Contact the hotel for more details. Hotel rating: 4-Star Address: Cnr Wale & Burg Street, Cape Town, 8001Contact No.: +27 (0) 21 481 4000 (Tel) | +27 (0) 21 481 4001 (Fax) Website | Facebook | Instagram | Email  ...

  • Muslim-Friendly Ryokans You Have to Visit For The Authentic Japanese Experience

    Ryokans and Onsens are a vital part of Japanese culture. It is a tradition of communal bathing that dates back to many years. In the Japanese culture, this is a very rejuvenating experience, and you can find many ryokans around Japan which offer a private experience – and is Muslim friendly! via GIPHY Ryokans are Japanese inns which provides more than just a place to sleep in. It offers the full traditional Japanese experience of relaxation. You will find rooms with tatami floors, futon beds and hot spring baths. Hot springs have a lot of health benefits – from healing skin problems, boosting blood circulation, to relieving pain – there are many! Guests are also required to change into the traditional yukata and enjoy Japanese cuisine. With much of Japan tourism taking an initiative to be more Muslim friendly, you will find that there are some ryokans which offer Halal services. Keep reading to find out which Muslim-friendly ryokan you will want to book a stay in.Also Read: Japan's Most Aesthetic Hostels You Need To Check Out 1. Risshisha Machiya Hotels Image Credit: 立志社 Risshisa Ryokan on Facebook Easily one of the best ryokan chains in Kyoto, the Risshisha Machiya emphasizes on traditional comfort and innovation. The best part is that it has been Crescent rated! Image Credit: 立志社 Risshisa Ryokan on Facebook Their ryokans have elegant wooden furnishings and are designed in the traditional minimalistic Japanese way but with modern sensitivities, which makes these ryokans stand out from the rest. All you have to do is sit back and relax in your yukata, while enjoying some much needed “me time”. Image Credit: 立志社 Risshisa Ryokan on Facebook The hotel chain has introduced Halal friendly services into their list of facilities; every room in the ryokans are equipped with prayer mats, the Qibla mark, Qibla compass, prayer clothes, as well as a special tableware for Muslim guests. They have also introduced a Halal menu that has been approved by the Japan Islamic Trust. They offer Gyudon Rice – which is a rice bowl with seasoned beef. Also up on their menu is the Butter Chicken Curry with Rice, Vegetable Penne, as well as Japanese Mochi stuffed with assorted flavours like matcha, mango and brown sugar. You will find that Risshisha ryokans are situated conveniently close to Kyoto attractions, so that you can easily access the hotel after a day of exploring. The ryokans are also close to the Kyoto train station; if you are travelling by train you will be able to reach the hotel within 5 – 10 minutes. Address: Kyoto Headquarters, 279, Shimochofukuji-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8375, Japan Website | Facebook  | Instagram 2. Sato-Yu Mukashibanashi Yuzanso Image Credit: Yuzanso Yuzanso offers a more traditional ryokan experience. Located near Japan’s largest lake, Lake Biwa, surrounded by nature all around; you will be able to witness stunning vistas. The Shiga prefecture hot spring has a history dating back 1200 years! It doesn’t get more authentic than this. Image Credit: Yuzanso The hotel has 109 rooms with 53 rooms coming with your very own private open-air hot spring bath – privacy and luxury! Yuzanso has an indoor public hot spring bath as well as an open-air public hot spring bath for all guests, with separate bath areas for men and women. The open-air baths are made with Cedarwood and both the men and women’s bath areas are equipped with a jet bath and sauna. Image Credit: Yuzanso Yuzanso is part of the Muslim-friendly travel movement happening in Japan and they have added Halal services to their facilities to accommodate Muslim guests. They have included a Halal menu, and ensured that their food has been prepared without any non-Halal ingredients. They have a big breakfast spread with a wide variety of food, as well as a Japanese style crab cuisine during winter. The hotel is located in the Shiga Prefecture which is 20 minutes away from the Kyoto Prefecture; you can get to the hotel by taking a train to Ogoto-Onsen station. The hotel offers free transport from the Ogoto-Onsen station; you can inform them first before reaching the station, and they will send a shuttle bus to pick you up. There are quite a few sights to see in Shiga – you can head to the Biwako Terrace a resort which offers stunning views of Lake Biwa and its surrounding areas, a great place for a photo op. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Mangetsuji Temple which is home to the Ukimido or “Floating Temple” on Lake Biwa. Once you are done at Shiga head over to Kyoto for more sightseeing as that is where most of the attractions are. Address: Ogoto 1-9-28, Otsu-shi, Shiga 520-0101, Japan Website | Facebook | Instagram 3. Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo Image Credit: Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo on Facebook Image Credit: Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo on FacebookSituated in Nanzen-ji area of Kyoto, home to stately villas from the Meiji period of Japan, the Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo will not disappoint. Image Credit: Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo on FacebookThey have a total of 18 rooms, with 6 of them being private suites equipped with their own hot spring water bath. The rooms located at their main building, Honkan, overlook the beautiful garden with its intricate landscaping in the traditional Japanese way. This hotel does not offer any Halal facilities; however, you can opt for their Washouku Vegetarian course. Just because it's a vegetarian course doesn't mean you can't enjoy the taste of Japanese cuisine as it is delicately prepared in the traditional Japanese style of cooking by balancing both the Ying and Yang, so that guests can enjoy the authentic Japanese taste. Other than chilling in your suite all day, you can pay a visit to some of the attractions in the area which is just a 5-minute walk to Nanzenji Temple, Eikando Temple and, the Heian Jingu Shrine. Address: Kyoto Garden ryokan Yachiyo, 34, Nanzenji Fukuji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 606-8435, Japan Website | Facebook | InstagramAlso Read: Forest Bathing: Relax, Rejuvenate & Recharge With Nature When You're In Japan 4. Sumiya Kiho-an Image Credit: Sumiya Kiho-an on FacebookThis ryokan emphasizes stylish and elegant luxury. Nestled within the suburbs of Kyoto away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Sumiya Kiho-an is the perfect place to relax and release all of that stress.Image Credit: Sumiya Kiho-an on FacebookMuch like other ryokans, they are equipped with tatami mats and futons. However, they have included the added luxury of kotatsu – tables with heaters. Their suites come with private onsens, directly sourced from the Yunohana Hot Springs. Image Credit: Sumiya Kiho-anThey also offer a half-day or one-day onsen experience, so if you just want to get a brief glimpse into relaxing the Japanese way, you can go for these packages especially if you aren’t staying in Kyoto for long. You can even opt for a spa day to get rid of weariness from travelling as this Sumiya Kiho-an offers 30-minute packages. Since the ryokan is located in the suburbs of Kyoto, you will not be too far from the main attractions in Kyoto. Address: 25 Miyanooku Hiedanocho Kakihana, Kameoka 621-0036, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan Website | Facebook | Instagram 5. Otaru-Kourakuen Image Credit: Otaru-KourakuenOtaru-Kourakuen is surrounded by a beautiful garden boasting of 100-year-old trees and 200 cherry blossom trees! Definitely a sight not to be missed. Image Credit: Otaru-KourakuenThe hotel consists of 35 rooms, of which only 28 have a private open-air hot-spring bath. However, if you have booked a room without one, you can always opt for the private onsen on the second floor via a reservation from the front desk. Image Credit: Otaru-KourakuenOtaru-Kourakuen offers Muslim-Friendy service – they offer a prayer rug, Kiblah direction, as well as a map of all prayer spaces and Halal shops within Otaru for the ease of their Muslim guests. They also offer Halal breakfast and dinner! You can choose between a Halal Shabu Shabu Hot Pot and 2 Halal course meals of varying prices. Otaru is full of things to see and do – activities vary from season to season. There is a happening arts and crafts scene – especially glassware – as well as activities like skiing, for all the adrenaline junkies. Note that they need at least 3 days advanced booking for Muslim guests to ensure they are provided with the best Halal-friendly service. Address: 18-2, Shinko 5, Otaru, 047-0152, Hokkaido, Japan Website | Facebook | Instagram 6. Kansuiro Ryokan and Onsen Image Credit: Selected Onsen RyokanLocated in the famed resort town of Hakone, Kansuiro Ryokan is only 2 hours away from the bustling city of Tokyo and is a safe haven for those wanting to escape the city.Image Credit: Selected Onsen RyokanThe hotel is a beautiful Taisho era architectural masterpiece – step into the charming resort and get transported back in time! Their baths are in the Kakenagashi style – which means that the water is not recycled, but is fresh and comes straight from the source. They have also taken extra care in giving you an exclusive experience by regulating the quality and temperature of the water. The hotel provides a wide variety of rooms to choose from; each designed to make you feel at home and as relaxed as possible in the traditional Japanese way. They do not offer any specific Muslim friendly services, but you can always opt for their vegetarian meal course. Be sure to inform them when making your reservation. While there you can check out the Hakone Open-air Museum, Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, and Owakudani Geothermal Valley. Address: 88, Tonosawa, Hakone-machi, Ashigara-Shimogun, Kanagawa, 250-0315, Japan Website 7. Kashiwaya Ryokan Image Credit: Kashiwaya RyokanYou will find this ryokan nestled in the mountain valley of Shima – a picturesque hot spring town just 3 hours outside of Tokyo. A Hot Spring hotspot amongst the locals, but not so much with the tourists – it will offer you the authentic countryside onsen experience you have been looking for. Image Credit: Kashiwaya RyokanThis ryokan has a more casual setting but has all the authentic ryokan elements such as tatami floors and paper screens. They have 15 guestrooms, and you can opt to have a dip in either your own hot spring bath or go for any of their 3 private outdoor onsens. They do not offer any Halal facilities however, but you can choose their vegetarian menu when ordering food. Address: Kashiwaya ryokan, 3829 Shima, Nakanojo Agatuma-gun Gunma 377-0601, Japan Website | Facebook | InstagramAlso Read: Tokyo Olympics 2020 | 9 Out-Of-This-World Things You Need To Know If you are looking for an authentic Japanese experience – then booking a stay at any of the above ryokans will fulfil that for you. So start planning your Japanese ryokan vacation now! ...

  • Travel Back In Time To A Macabre Past: A Chernobyl Guide

    Are you someone looking for adventure and rare experiences – a travel experience that will leave you thinking for days or maybe even months? Then Chernobyl is a destination not to be missed. It is a must-visit for any adventure junkie and should be on anyone’s list of places to see before they die. With dark tourism being a new trend in the world of travel, Chernobyl has started garnering much attention – especially with the HBO TV show about the nuclear disaster. So what is Chernobyl and why should you visit it today? Keep reading to find out! A Macabre Past Image Credit: Nikola Markelov on Unsplash Chernobyl was an active Nuclear Power Plant located near the city of Pripyat, USSR – now modern-day Ukraine. The nuclear disaster occurred on the 26th of April 1986 when the No. 4 reactor exploded during a failed safety test. The accident occurred due to a large amount of energy being released which resulted in a steam explosion that caused the reactor core to rupture. This lead to an open-air reactor core fire which released nuclear contaminants into the air, this lasted for 9 days till it was finally contained on the 4th of May 1986. The radiation spread into the 500,000 populous towns of Pripyat, leading to the ultimate evacuation of its residents – they never returned. To limit the radiation from contaminating the air and surroundings further, the site of the explosion was covered with a temporary sarcophagus, which was made permanent in 2017, built to prevent further radiation contamination for the next 100 years. The now-abandoned city of Pripyat and the nuclear power plant look like the setting for a post-apocalyptic movie or book. The revival of its dark past in the famed HBO TV series ‘Chernobyl’ has once again caught the attention of people worldwide, garnering many tourists to the destination –,, especially influencers. However, this led to controversy as influencers posed inappropriately in front of different locations in and around Pripyat just so they can get more engagement on their accounts. This goes to show that as travelers it is extremely important to respect the destination you have traveled to, especially if it has a sad and horrifying past. How To Get To Chernobyl Image Credit: Valik Chernetskyi on Unsplash The main city closest to Chernobyl is Kyiv, it is 100km away – it is a 2 hour journey to Chernobyl if you go by car. The closest airport to Kyiv is the Boryspil International Airport which has direct flights from all over Europe – London, Zurich, Paris, and Vienna to name a few. It is advisable to plan a trip to Chernobyl as a part of a Europe tour as this will help you save up on cash. In case you are already in Ukraine, you can opt for a train ride; the best route is the intercity train from Lviv to Kyiv. Also, keep in mind that there are many budget airlines available in Eastern Europe, you can check websites like Skyscanner for info on cheap flights. Also Read: 8 Tips for Booking the Cheapest Flights for Your Next Trip Chernobyl and The Exclusion Zone Image Credit: G Meyer on Unsplash Visiting Chernobyl doesn’t just mean going to the nuclear reactor itself but the surrounding exclusion zone. It is a vast area that covers a few towns and a forested area along with the Chernobyl reactor. The exclusion zone is an area of 2,600 Km2 (1000 sqm) that goes around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The area is off bounds to the general public as it is extremely hazardous. It is required to go through many checkpoints within the exclusion zone; the checkpoint closest to the reactor has the highest levels of radiation. So, is it safe to visit Chernobyl? Yes, to a certain degree. Radiation is known to remain for a very long period, however, in small doses, it cannot harm i.e. x-rays and, long-haul flights. We are exposed to radiation daily however; its effects are almost non-existent. The day tours at Chernobyl are planned in a way that you are exposed to low levels of radiation as you will only be in the area for a few hours and will only be taken to safe spots. People still live within the exclusion zone and a few thousand people work at the power plant decommissioning the old reactors and building the sarcophagus. Everyone who visits the exclusion zone is required to go through an old soviet radiation checkpoint on the way out – this is to make sure that you are not carrying any radioactive contaminants. Important point! Get travel insurance – it is always better to be on the safe side. The Tour Image Credit: Silver Ringvee on Unsplash There are 3 tour options on offer, if you want a quick but informative trip to Chernobyl the one day tour would be a good choice, but if you want to take things slow and, take pictures of the place you can opt for the more longer tours such as the 2-3 days tours or even go for a private tour which will allow you to observe the place at your own pace. The one day tour would be your best bet as it is more convenient and packed with activities. You can get your money’s worth within a span of 10 -12 hours. It is priced between 100USD to 115USD. Also, do some thorough research into the tour companies available; choose a tour that fits you the best. Small groups are always better and, be sure to check if Geiger counter (an instrument that measures radiation levels – mandatory for all tours) are inclusive with the tour package. Are tour guides a must? Yes, definitely. It is better to join a guided tour as you will be safe and the guides will also help make the experience more immersive as they will show and tell you everything you need to know about the place. Other than the famed Nuclear Reactor No. 4, you will be able to see the abandoned city of Pripyat where the staff that used to work at the power plant used to live, abandoned schools, as well as the Pripyat amusement park that was to be opened on the 1st of May 1986 for the May Day celebrations however, it was never to be due to the Nuclear accident that occurred in late April of the same year. You will also be able to witness unique soviet architecture and interior. However, the main showstopper is how nuclear disasters affect humanity and other life, a great example of how important it is to practice ethical science and how the hunger for power can destroy instead of build. Be Prepared Image Credit: Yves Alarie on Unsplash Be prepared for your Chernobyl tour and, remember that weather will play a big role as well – winters can be especially cold but add to the dystopian surroundings of Chernobyl, whilst fall/ Autumn is known to be beautiful. Wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking most of the time and, carry raincoats or umbrellas as it could rain. If visiting during the winter season wear a warm jacket and keep your head covered – especially ears and, wear a scarf – well covered waterproof shoes are also important. Remember that you should always have a Geiger counter with you if the tour doesn’t include free Geiger counters rent them before leaving on the tour. Where To Stay In Kyiv Image Credit: Kyrylo Kholopkin on Unsplash Kyiv is a beautiful city and a tourist destination in its own right, therefore finding accommodation here will not be a problem. There are many hostels and hotels in the area, as well as AirBnBs which are quite affordable. Opt to find lodging close to the tour meeting point; most tours will depart from the Kyiv Central Station so opt for accommodation close by. If you have chosen a private tour, you will be picked from the hotel. Halal food in Kyiv? Image Credit: S'well on Unsplash Finding Halal food will not be difficult as many restaurants serve Halal food. If you want to cook your food, you can easily find Halal groceries and butchers who supply Halal meats. A Google search can quickly direct you to these places without much hassle. A monument of healing and rebuilding for the modern world, Chernobyl is an intriguing travel destination that must be witnessed by all. Hopefully, this guide helps you to plan out a trip to Chernobyl. Always seek adventure fellow travelers!...

  • Looking For Accommodation? Bunk in These 7 Muslim-Friendly Ryokans in Japan!

    Ryokans and Onsens are a vital part of Japanese culture. It is a tradition of communal bathing that dates back many years. As weird as that is, it is still a very rejuvenating experience, and you can find many ryokans around Japan which offer a private experience – and are Muslim-friendly! Ryokans are Japanese inns which are more than just a place to sleep in. It offers the full traditional Japanese experience of relaxation. You will find rooms with tatami floors, futon beds and hot spring baths. Hot springs have a lot of health benefits – from healing skin problems, boosting blood circulation, to relieving pain – the list is endless! Guests are also required to change into the traditional yukata and enjoy Japanese cuisine. With much of Japan tourism taking an initiative to become more Muslim-friendly, you will find that there are some ryokans which offer Halal services. Keep reading to find out which Muslim-friendly ryokan you will want to book a stay at.   1) Risshisha Machiya Hotels Credit: Risshisha Easily one of the best ryokan chains in Kyoto the Risshisha Machiya highlights traditional comfort and innovation. The best part is that it has been Crescent rated! Their ryokans have elegant wooden furnishings and are designed in the traditional minimalistic Japanese way but with modern sensitivities, which makes these ryokans stand out from the rest. All you have to do is kick back and relax in your yukata while enjoying some much needed “me time”. The hotel chain has introduced Muslim-friendly services into their list of facilities, every room in the ryokans are equipped with prayer mats, the Qibla mark, Qibla compass, prayer clothes, as well as special tableware for Muslim guests. They have also introduced a Halal menu that has been approved by the Japan Islamic Trust. They offer Gyudon Rice – which is a rice bowl with seasoned beef, Butter chicken curry with rice, Vegetable Penne, as well as Japanese Mochi stuffed with assorted flavours like matcha, mango and brown sugar. Credit: Risshisha You will find that Risshisha ryokans are situated close to Kyoto attractions, so that you can easily access the hotel after a day of exploring. The ryokans are also close to the Kyoto train station; if you are travelling by train you will be able to reach the hotel within 5 to 10 minutes. Address: Kyoto Headquarters, 279, Shimochofukuji-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8375, Japan Website Facebook   2) Sato-Yu MukashibanashiYuzanso Credit: Sato-Yu MukashibanashiYuzanso Yuzanso offers a more traditional ryokan experience, located near Japan’s largest lake, Lake Biwa, surrounded by nature all around; you will be able to witness stunning vistas. The Shiga prefecture hot spring has a history dating back a 1200 years! It doesn’t get more authentic than this. The hotel has 109 rooms with 53 rooms coming with your very own private open air hot spring bath – privacy and luxury! Yuzanso also has an indoor public hot spring bath as well as an open air public hot spring bath for all guests, with separate bath areas for men and women. The open air baths are made with Cedar wood and both the men’s and women’s bath areas are equipped with a jet bath and sauna. Yuzanso is part of the Muslim-friendly travel movement happening in Japan and have added Halal services to their facilities to accommodate Muslim guests. They have included a Halal menu, and ensure that their food has been prepared without any Non-Halal ingredients. They have a big breakfast spread with many varieties of food, as well as a Japanese style crab cuisine during winter. The hotel is located in the Shiga Prefecture which is 20-minutes away from the Kyoto Prefecture; you can get to the hotel by taking a train to Ogoto-Onsen station. The hotel offers free transport from the Ogoto-Onsen station, you can inform them before reaching the station and they will send a shuttle bus to pick you up. There are quite a few sights to see in Shiga – you can head to the Biwako Terrace a resort which offers stunning views of Lake Biwa and its surrounding areas, a great place for a photo op. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Mangetsuji Temple which is home to the Ukimido or “Floating Temple” on Lake Biwa. Once you are done at Shiga headover to Kyoto for more sightseeing as that is where most of the attractions are. Address: Ogoto 1-9-28, Otsu-shi, Shiga 520-0101, Japan Website Facebook Instagram   3) Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo Credit: Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo Situated in Nanzen-ji area of Kyoto, home to stately villas from the Meiji period of Japan, the Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo will not disappoint. They have a total of 18 rooms, with 6 of them being private suites equipped with their own hot spring water bath. The rooms located at their main building, Honkan, overlook the beautiful garden with its intricate landscaping in the traditional Japanese way. The hotel does not offer any Halal facilities; however, you can opt for their Washouku Vegetarian course. Just because it is vegetarian does not mean you will not be able to enjoy the taste of Japanese cuisine it is prepared in the traditional Japanese style of cooking by balancing both Ying and Yang, so that guests can enjoy the authentic Japanese taste. Other than chilling in your suite all day you can pay a visit to some of the attractions in the area, it’s just a 5-minute walk to Nanzenji Temple, Eikando Temple and, the Heian Jingu Shrine. Address: Kyoto Garden ryokan Yachiyo, 34, Nanzenji Fukuji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 606-8435, Japan Website Facebook Instagram   4) Sumiya Kiho-an Credit: Sumiya Kiho-an This ryokan emphasizes on stylish and elegant luxury, nestled within the suburbs of Kyoto away from the hustle and bustle of the city this is the perfect place to relax and let go of all that stress. Much like other ryokans, they are equipped with tatami mats and futons, however they have included the added luxury of kotatsu – tables with heaters. Their suites come with private onsens, directly sourced from the Yunohana Hot Springs. They also offer a half-day or one-day onsen experience, so if you just want to get a brief glimpse into relaxing the Japanese way you can go for these packages especially if you aren’t staying in Kyoto for long. You can even opt for a spa day to get rid of weariness from travelling, as this Sumiya Kiho-an offers 30 minute packages. Since the ryokan is in the suburbs of Kyoto, you will not be too far from the main attractions in Kyoto. Address: 25 Miyanooku Hiedanocho Kakihana, Kameoka 621-0036, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan Website Facebook   5. Otaru-Kourakuen Credit: Otaru-Kourakuen Otaru-Kourakuen is surrounded by beautiful a garden boasting of 100 year old trees and 200 cherry blossom trees! Definitely a sight not to be missed and deserves a stay at. The hotel consists of 35 rooms of which only 28 have private open-air hot-spring bath, however, if you have booked a room without one, you can always opt for the private onsen on the second floor via a reservation from the front desk. Otaru-Kourakuen offers Muslim Friendy service – they offer a prayer rug, Kiblah direction, as well as a map of all prayer spaces and Halal shops within Otaru for the ease of their Muslim guests. They also offer Halal breakfast and dinner! You can choose between a Halal Shabu Shabu Hot pot, and 2 Halal course meals of varying prices. Otaru is full of things to see and do – activities vary from season to season. There is a happening arts and crafts scene – especially glassware – as well as activities like skiing for the adrenaline junkies. Note that they need at least 3 days advanced booking for Muslim guests to ensure they are provided with the best Halal friendly service. Address: 18-2, Shinko 5, Otaru, 047-0152, Hokkaido, Japan Website Facebook Instagram   6. Kansuiro Ryokan and Onsen Credit: Kansuiro Ryokan and Onsen Located in the famed resort town of Hakone, Kansuiro Ryokan is only 2 hours away from the bustling city of Tokyo, and is a safe haven for those wanting to escape the city. The hotel is a beautiful Taisho era architectural masterpiece – step into the charming resort and get transported back in time! Their baths are in the Kakenagashi style – which means that the water is not recycled, but is fresh and comes straight from the source. They have taken extra care in giving you an exclusive experience by regulating the quality and temperature of the water. They have a wide variety of rooms to choose from; each designed to make you feel at home and as relaxed as possible in the traditional Japanese way. They do not offer any specific Muslim-friendly services, however, you can always opt for their vegetarian meal course. Be sure to inform them when making your reservation. While there you can check out the Hakone Open-air Musuem, Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and, Owakudani geothermal valley. Address: 88, Tonosawa, Hakone-machi, Ashigara-Shimogun, Kanagawa, 250-0315, Japan Website   7. Kashiwaya Ryokan Credit: Kashiwaya Ryokan You will find this ryokan nestled in the mountain valley of Shima – a picturesque hot spring town just 3 hours outside of Tokyo. A Hot spring hotspot for amongst the locals, but not so much with the tourists – it will offer you the authentic countryside onsen experience you have been looking for. This ryokan has a more casual setting but has all the authentic ryokan elements such as tatami floors and paper screens. They have 15 guestrooms, and you can opt to have a dip in your own hot spring bath or go for any of their 3 private outdoor onsens. They do not offer any Halal facilities, however you can choose their vegetarian menu when ordering food. Address: Kashiwaya ryokan, 3829 Shima, Nakanojo Agatuma-gun Gunma 377-0601, Japan Website  Facebook Instagram If you are looking for an authentic Japanese experience – then booking a stay at any of the above ryokans will fullfil that for you. So start planning your Japanese ryokan vacation now!...

  • All You Need to Know Before Moving to a New Country

    People move overseas for various reasons - travel, work, studies or simply for a better lifestyle. Moving to a foreign land can be an amazing experience, yet a very daunting one as well. Prior to moving, there are many things that you should take into account such as the time spent on packing and cost of living.  To help ease your worries, here are a list of 5 tips that'll help you be fully prepared when you're moving abroad.   1. Housing Photo by Binyamin Mellish from Pexels The number one priority for anyone planning to migrate overseas is housing. Yes, this may seem troublesome to settle but it is the most essential step in your moving process. Rather than stay in an Airbnb apartment or hostel, you should opt for something more permanent. It's also important that you do thorough research on whether you would have access to necessities like water, electricity and the Internet. You should also take note of the steps in purchasing your new home such as having to sign a lease for which the first month of pay or or having to pay a security deposit up front. Remember to use reputable sites to check for houses up for rent. It would be an additional bonus if you seek your information from a local or someone from your hometown that has moved to the country which you're intending to move to. In addition to assisting you, they will be especially helpful in overcoming any language barriers which you may encounter during your move. On the other hand, you may also find suitable accomodation the old fashioned way, which is by getting in touch with a real estate agent, reading the Classified section on the newspaper or even by talking to an expat – their recommendations would be the best as you can get an idea of what you want and where to find the right housing based on their experiences.   2. Cost of living Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels The cost of living in a country is one of the most important factors that you should consider before moving to a new country. Some cities have a very high cost of living while others have a more affordable cost of living. It is so important that you do your research on which country is most suitable for you because a low cost of living may mean that the city may is not very well-developed and safe. A good way to approximate which cost of living is suitable for you is by basing it on your income. Real estate and food prices go up if the city is a capital. One tip I would give you is that you should find housing in the suburbs where cost of living is usually more affordable than places located near the centre of the city.   3. Job market Photo by Lukas from Pexels When you're deciding which country you're moving to, you should always make it a point to check the job market of the particular city that you're moving to and also base your decision on the type of job you're looking for. Be sure to do your thorough research on whether the country has well-developed industries and has jobs available for you. More so, you could also look into niche jobs, as some city job markets may be saturated. Always check if you have the right requirements and then apply for a job before leaving a country, so that at least you can feel at ease knowing you have your means of income secured.   4. Co-work and co-living spaces Photo by Visual Tag Mx from Pexels If you are someone who is always on the move and loves experiencing new things constantly, opting for a co-working and co-living space is best. A lot of digital nomads are going for this trend these days, where you live and work in the same place and meet other digital nomads and entrepreneurs. Some of the best places to stay at are Sun and Co in Spain, Mokrin House in Northern Serbia, Unsettled located at Barcelona, Tuscany, Bali and Cape town, Roam located at Tokyo, Miami, Bali and San Francisco.   5. Learn the language Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay  If the country you're moving to has a national language that you're unfamiliar with, it is best that you sign up for language classes so you ease your worries of encountering language barriers in your new country. Indeed, communication is essential when moving abroad and this will ensure that you don't feel alienated upon your arrival. Some countries may even require you to have a language qualification. Thus, you should do some background research on whether the visa you're applying for requires any sort of qualification.   All in all, these points should cover most of the essentials that you should take into account before moving abroad. Hopefully, these points will make you feel prepared and reduce your worries when you're moving. Good luck and have fun!...

  • 10 Stylish & Elegant Swimwear for Muslimahs

    You’ve got your dream beach vacay planned – the perfect resort, a great itinerary and the best group of people to enjoy it with – but there’s one slight problem. What are you going to wear to the beach or pool? We all want to look great and feel great during a beach holiday or while lounging by the pool, an old oversized t-shirt, leggings and a scarf won’t do! Don’t worry ladies, we have got you covered with a list of 10 stylish and elegant Muslimah swimwear. From sporty to stylish, this list covers all – you are going to be spoilt for choice!   1) Madamme BK Credit: @madammebk on Instagram One of the most famous luxury swimwear lines out there, Madamme BK will not disappoint. Designer Vanessa Lourenco realised that there was a need for modest swimwear within her entourage, and decided to put her fashion education to use by creating Haute Couture Coverage swimwear. Her brand emphasises on the stylish and elegant –bringing together western and eastern sentimentalities into her creations to make every woman feel sophisticated.If you are a minimalist, you would love their Tunisia, Oman and, Dubai three-piece swim suits. Simple swimwear yet absolutely stylish and sophisticated – they come in muted, neutral tones. All three swimsuits come with equally stylish and matching headpieces.Looking for something a bit more fun and colourful to really bring out the holiday spirit, opt for the Agadir or Amélie Teal Burkini. The Agadir swim suit is another three-piece suit with a long, skater skirt cut tunic with a big tropical print in a muted red and white, whilst the Amélie swim suit is in a beautiful teal colour with pink detailing at the hem and collar.Website   2) LYRA Swimwear Credit: @lyraswim on Instagram A brand with a more personal back story, LYRA has a fit for every woman. Created due to one woman’s struggle to find the perfect swimwear which suited her modest lifestyle, this brand has something for everyone. Beautiful contemporary designs, with minimalistic detailing and elegant shapes – you will not be disappointed. The brand emanates classic Hollywood with a side of Moroccan beach coolness and minimalism. The swimsuits are created with light weight, fast dry, premium quality Italian Carvico fabric, along with high UV protection. You can purchase them as separates or a full set. Each set comes with a matching turban style head covering, leggings and long sleeve tops allowing you to create the fit that you want. The brand also closely practices ethical work conditions and empowers their tailors. They are an active member of the #ThisGirlCan campaign. Their swimwear has been worn by prominent figures such as news anchor Noor Tagouri and Olympic fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad. LYRA has three collections – SOFIA, RAYA, ASRA – all three have minimalistic, contemporary designs with some differenes between them. This ensures that you can find the perfect fit for you! SOFIA has more sporty designs; RAYA goes for a more feminine look, while ASRA is more elegant.Website   3) Nasira Marbella Credit: @nasriamarbella on Instagram A Spanish brand, Nasira Marbella offers simple but exclusive modest swimwear. If you are looking for something simple and well made then Nasira Marbella will be perfect. Their swim suits are made with 50+ UV protection and all appliqués are hand sewn, the material used is quick dry. All swim suits come with a turban style cap and is produced by the brand Flexfit. They have a variety of classic black swim suits with fabric appliqués to add a fun element to the piece. However, if you are looking for something with a little bit more oomph you can opt for their brightly coloured swimsuits – like the cherry pink suit that will definitely make you stand out at any pool party.Website   4) East Essence Credit: East Essence Are you a sucker for prints? If so, East Essence has got you covered! But it’s not just prints; East Essence has got it all! Unlike the other brands on the list they have a wide range of swimwear in different designs and colours. They’ve got simple one colour swim suits for women who like to keep things minimal and, a more glam collection with sequin detailing to really get you in the mood for a glam holiday! Who doesn’t like some sparkle?! From feminine designs to more sporty designs they have something for every woman. They even have a collection specifically for beach sports and are more wear and tear resistant – these would also be ideal if you are going for a swim at a river or waterfall. So don’t miss out on any of the adventure! They even have UV resistant beach wear abayas in colourful prints – so if you aren’t overly fond of swimming you could just lounge on the sand while sipping on a cool drink and just enjoy the waves crashing in, all while looking absolutely fab!Website   5) Veilkini Credit: Veilkini A modest swimwear brand based in the UAE, Veilkini will not disappoint. With options ranging from regular, sports and, even plus size – no woman will be left out from having a fun pool vacation or beach holiday. May it be simple designs or colourful prints; you can easily find what suits your preferences the best. All swimwear by the brand are three piece swim suits with detachable head pieces. The fabric used is a 80% nylon – 20% spandex mix, with low water absorbency which allows you longer pool hours and the swim suit dries quicker. The swimsuits come with a 50+ UV protection rating and are also resistant to sea salt. They suggest that you order one size smaller if you want a tighter fit as the sizes given on the website are excluding stretch.Website   6) Adasea Credit: Adasea A Turkish family run brand that has been around since the 1970’s, they offer a variety of swim suits to fit your preference, Adasea is definite contender when looking for the best fit. Choose from their many fully covered or not fully covered – yet modest swimwear styles which come in minimal, sporty designs as well as in elegant prints. Their designs have a lot of attention to detail, with delicate floral patterns and frill details at the ankles of the leggings. Adasea is another brand which offers plus size modest swim wear, in classic sporty styles and patterns. Not all of their swimwear comes in three pieces; however, the headpiece might not be detachable in some swimsuits. They also offer a LYCRA range of modest swimwear. They also have other beach/ pool wear such as beautiful kimonos in printed chiffon and, lace.Website   7) Mayovera Credit: Mayovera The second Turkish brand on this list, Mayovera swimwear is groovy and stylish! With a few patterns inspired by the 60s and 70s it has a vintage look but with a bit of modernity added in. The swim suits come as a three piece, which includes the head cover which is styled as a classic 70s headscarf. Their swim suits are not tight fitted, and are more on the loose side. However, that does not mean they are any less stylish. The design is very reminiscent of 60s fashion with loose tops paired with flared pants. If you love vintage fashion, this brand will definitely have you looking groovy! They even have matching beach bags for the swim suit as well. They have a variety of bags to choose from if you want to accessorise your beach/pool look – ranging from clutches to totes. They also offer plus size modest swimwear.Website   8) Hawaii Beach Wear Credit: Hawaii Beach Wear Hawaii Beach Wear is based in Malaysia, they offer swimsuits for everyone; however, they do have a small modest swimwear collection. The company has been around since 2008 and has a lot of experience within the swimwear industry, so you can’t go wrong in selecting a swimsuit by Hawaii Beach Wear. They offer vibrant floral prints paired with classic minimal black burkinis. Their swim suits come as swim tops - which include a head cover – and as swim dresses. You can choose between minimal, sporty designs and colourful but elegant floral designs.Website   9) Riva Mera Credit: Riva Mera If you are into sporty chic, Riva Mera definitely delivers that aesthetic! Their swimsuit designs are the classic burkini with sporty but colourful detailing in colour blocks and stripes. The swimsuits come as three pieces with a turban styled head cover or attached hijab. The fabrics used for the swimsuits are polyester and Lycra. They also offer styles similar to Mayovera and have floral prints as well, so you really would be spoilt for choice. You can choose from their fully covered designs or their half covered designs based on your preference.Website   10) Mayo Bella Credit: Mayo Bella Last but not least on this list, Mayo Bella offers up some classic fully covered burkinis. Their swim suits come in plain black and in fun prints; you can choose between something which has more of a minimal print or go for a pretty floral print. Most of their prints are in muted colours, while you will find a few single coloured swim suits in colours like bright pink and blue. The fabric they have used to create the swimwear is light weight polyester.Website   Hopefully this list will help you find the perfect fit for your beach vacation – but remember these swim suits are not only limited to the beach or the pool, you can even wear them to swim in fresh water rivers or lakes! Looking great is important on holiday, but having fun and enjoying every bit of your trip is equally important! Adjust your head cover, wear those shades and, step into the water, girls!    ...

  • Furthering Your Studies In A New Country? You Need To Know These Tips!

    While you learn how to be independent, moving to a new country to study can be more stressful than fun. Rest assured, it doesn't have to be this way. The following tips will help you navigate this new life experience.   1) Documents Photo by Sam Johnson from Pexels It’s easy to get excited about the prospect of living in a new country but remember, without the right documentation you wouldn't be able to embark on your new adventure. Make sure all the necessary forms are filled, apply for visa months in advance – do not wait until the last moment as visa processing can take ages depending on the country you are moving to. Do not get discouraged if you fail a visa interview, you can always try again! Make sure you have all your dates right, try your best to leave a few weeks earlier than the commencement date of the course as this will allow you to adjust to the new environment and be familiar with everything before starting university. Therefore, it is important that you purchase airplane tickets in advance as well, look for student offers on tickets, most airlines allow additional weight in luggage for students. Before leaving for the airport do a thorough check of all the documents you need to carry on hand, especially passport and other visa documents. Most universities offer airport pickups for students, so register online for that prior to leaving.   2) Background search Photo by Marek Levak from Pexels Do a background search of the city you will be moving to, it is important to know the local culture and what kind of crowd resides there – not to scare you, but be sure to check crime rates, it is better to be safe than sorry. You can join online student forums, some may even be hosted by the university that you are be attending, and they can help you with any doubts or questions you have. Check cost of living in the area, what supermarkets and shops are close to your accommodation, how far the university is from bus stops and train stations or if it is possible to walk to university.   3) Choosing the right accommodation Photo by Vecislavas Popa from Pexels This can be a tough one, but you will be spoilt for choice with places to stay. There will be accommodation for every budget, the university will also have dorms or halls but they will be on the more pricy end of the spectrum. However, if you can afford it, go ahead as it comes with additional benefits like being very close to the university, having access to university gym facilities on a discounted price (check the university website for more info). The most important thing you need to know about finding the right accommodation is that the further you are from the university the lower the prices. Always find accommodation that you can share with others, as this further brings down the amount of money you will be spending on accommodation. It could be an annex, an apartment or even a full house! Sharing with housemates is fun as you’ll never be alone, and it won’t be as daunting as living alone, however, if you are looking for a place you don’t have to share, go ahead – cause that too comes with perks.   4) Cost of living Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels Before moving it is important to check the cost of living, especially if your parents are going to send you a monthly allowance. This way, you can easily manage your expenditure. You might be able to find a part time job but that also depends on the type of visa you have and the country you are travelling to.   5) Managing finances Photo by maitree rimthong from Pexels The bulk of your expenditure might be your rent. However, it is so easy to spend your money excessively on food, clothes and other things which are not found in your country. The best way to easily manage your finances is to always opt to eat in and cook your own meals as this will save a lot of money! Do meal preps, cook for 2 days and store the food in the refrigerator for later and reheat before eating (using the microwave or stove). This way, you will also be managing your time. That does not mean don’t eat out at all, sometimes during exam season it might not be very efficient to cook all your meals so opt for takeout. Your student ID will be eligible for certain discounts at restaurants so do make full use of it. The other option you have is to go for precooked frozen food, however, this is not a healthy option so do minimise this as much as you can. Remember, maintaining good health is very important while studying.   6) Be open to anything (that's Halal!) Photo by Marcin Dampc from Pexels Don't enter the new country with preconceived ideas of them or stereotypes. You should keep an open mind because you’ll be surprised about how different the country is from your assumptions. Alongside that, do ensure that you also prepare prepare yourself for a culture shock. Perhaps you should spend as much time as possible engaging and learning from the locals as they know the ins and outs of their city and will help you navigate your way through your new environment. Keep track of festivals and events and attend them, especially things like the Sunday market and Christmas sales. The university is bound to host events as well, so do attend those and be a part of the university community!   7) Make new friends Photo by Min An from Pexels You may miss your friends back home, but it is so crucial to meet new people and make friends in your new city as this will help you immensely in the long run. It may seem daunting at first, especially if you are an introverted soul, however, you will be surprised at how nice people really are and they can be very accommodating. If you are very shy and don’t know how to start, join a club or society, universities have many – so sign up for something you like and you will meet enough likeminded people!Most importanly, make sure you surround yourself with people who make you feel happy and good about yourself, not people who have ill-intentions towards you or constantly try to bring you down. You don't need that kind of energy in your new environment!   8) Take public transport Photo by Vitaly Vlasov from Pexels Always opt for public transport because students usually get special rates. Regardless of which country you're traveling to and whether you are doing a part-time job, you need to save money and meet the local people. There's no better way to do this than taking public transport. Who knows? You may even save up enough money to get yourself a car! Yes, people who study in the USA and Australia are are known to be able to afford their own vehicle but that takes a lot of financial planning. If you live fairly close to your university, you could walk, or even cycle to your campus. This will ensure you maintain a healthy lifestyle!   9) Study! Photo by fotografierende from Pexels It is so easy to get distracted when you are in a new country and city especially since you are constantly meeting new people and being exposed to many new things at once. However, this is not an excuse to stay away from studies. Remember, the main reason you are here is to study so keep that as your main priority and plan everything else around that. Having said that, it's inevitable that at some point in time, you may feel homesick. But just keep in mind that during those days, you should take a breather and freshen up your mind. Recite a few prayers and then return back to studying. Rememeber that everything will be worth it in the end if you put in the effort. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so make the most of it. You will come back with a list of new skills and experiences to boot, as well as fond memories that you will cherish forever. Remember to balance studies and fun! Good luck!...

  • 10 Steps To Stay Focused & Motivated For The Right Reasons

    Sometimes staying focused and maintaining motivation to finish a task or attain a goal can be difficult, especially with our other life commitments. However, it is important to achieve your goals and dreams, even if it’s just a personal goal or a small task.Different people approach goals in their own way, but not everyone can see a task through to the end. That is where the following tips come in, if you are struggling with staying focused and motivated these tips are for you!   1. Start afresh and set your goals clearly Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay How many of us set goals for ourselves but fail to work towards them? There can be many reasons why this happens – mostly distractions, but that is ok! Remember, you can always start fresh. Yes, there should one end goal but you can set up as many mini achievable goals along the way! Goals don’t have to be these big unattainable tasks, they can be anything from – read a paragraph of the Quran everyday to writing a to-do list for the next day before bed. If you are someone who has been evading your goals for awhile, start from the beginning, look at the reasons why you didn’t stick to them in the first place and work around that. Write down your revised goals or jot them down in your head – whatever works best for you and stick to them this time round.   2. Figure out your game plan Image by Pexels from Pixabay  Once you have figured out your goals, set up a clear work plan to achieve them. What are the steps you need to take to achieve said goal? How can you implement the steps? These are questions you can ask yourself; it will help you start on it without leaving you lost and confused.   3. Work towards a bigger cause Image by Henning Westerkamp from Pixabay  As important as self improvement is, it can be a bit tedious therefore, focusing some of your energy on a cause that you are passionate about can be quite refreshing and make you realize that you are capable of great things. It could be anything! You can start small by making measures to ensure that you reduce the amount of plastic you use in your everyday life, make sure you dispose of waste correctly (i.e. putting a milk carton in the right bin), maybe even give food to a needy person. You could even help someone who’s struggling with studies or someone who is stuck on a task at work.   4. Feeling content Image by Avi Chomotovski from Pixabay  It can seem hard to feel content in our busy everyday lives, we always overlook the small achievements we have made and even sometimes think we don’t deserve to give ourselves a break, but this is not healthy. Take a minute to feel content with what you have achieved so far, look back at the things you have done and give yourself a pat on the back. This will keep you motivated to do more and work harder. It is also important to remember that failures are not always such a bad thing, failures are the best teachers, don’t give yourself a hard a time just cause you could not do something the way you planned. As important as it is to plan things out, you must also be open to the idea that not everything can be controlled and that plans do go wrong, so be content with whatever else that you have achieved.   5. Always count your blessings Image by Pexels from Pixabay A close second to contentment is gratitude. Be grateful for the life you have, be grateful to the people closest to you – your family and friends. It is very important to stay grounded but that does not mean you should not dream big. Keep an open mind but keep your head low, approach things logically and carefully asses a situation before making a solid decision. Be thankful for the small things, even for a glass of water – be grateful to yourself as well, sometimes it is very easy to overlook yourself. Self love is very important too!   6. Sense of responsibility aamiraimer on Pixabay It is very important to develop a healthy sense of responsibility; we need it to navigate the complex dynamics of society. Have a sense of responsibility to be better for God, as well as for your parents and the rest of society. Be responsible for your actions, that way you will be able to do anything well and without much error. Also have the strength to own up to your mistakes as well as any good work you have done. People easily forget they have a responsibility to be a good citizen within society, set good examples and, live in harmony.   7. Never rush to push yourself Free-Photos on Pixabay We can sometimes be in such a hurry to finish a task; therefore we tend to rush ourselves. This is not a good thing and is definitely not healthy. Have a clear mind and work steadily towards your goal, this is where your game plan comes into play. If you have carefully planned everything out, you don’t need to rush. Just follow the steps one by one and you will eventually reach your goal.   8. Consistency is key Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay  Be consistent throughout your journey, stick to the plan as much as possible, constant changes can lead to indecisiveness which will distract you from your end goal. Also remember practice makes perfect, so stick to a routine plan and after a few days or weeks it’ll be just like breathing to you.   9. Challenge yourself Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay  It is easy to be within our comfort zones and for some of us it may even be helpful in attaining our goals, however, it is important to challenge yourself once in awhile. This will get you prepared to face any situation and will keep you motivated. Setting a challenge for yourself is actually fun way to achieve a goal, achieving a goal doesn’t always have to be so serious. Challenge yourself to finish a task within a few days or a week and then enjoy the relief and feeling of contentment afterwards. You can even challenge yourself by planning a trip abroad and saving up money within a specific time period. Setting personal deadlines is a great way to stay motivated and on task – but be sure to do it in a healthy way and not stress yourself too much! If you really want to get out of your comfort zone, register for a marathon, go on hike, maybe do public speaking – try at least one thing that is out of your comfort zone!   10. Enjoy the journey Image by silviarita from Pixabay  Everything doesn’t have to be all work and no play, plan your goals in a way that you can enjoy your life as well, because if not you will start resenting the very goal you set out to attain. Keep things light whenever possible and remember to enjoy the process. If you don’t enjoy it and it starts stressing you out at a very unhealthy level then it is not for you or you are doing something wrong. So take time to reassess your plan and goal instead of just enduring it.   Hope these tips will help you be focused and stay motivated. Good luck and dream big!...

  • Why are These 10 Travel Destinations Unusual?

    Everyone wants to go to France, Maldives or the US for a vacation but if you would like to experience something slightly different from touristy destinations, we've collated quite a few amazing places that you could explore! Pristine, secluded beaches, historically rich cities, and a diverse range of terrains in one place – this list has got it all! Keep reading to find out what are the 10 most unusual travel destinations off the beaten path.   1. Red Beach, Panjin, China Credit: Wikipedia Yes, you read that right – Red Beach – also referred to as “ Red Carpet Beach” by locals. The Red Beach national corridor is one part of the Liaodong coastline extending for 118kms. It garners more than 2 million tourists annually, so why not be one of that 2 million and enjoy the absolute splendour of this magical landscape. The vibrant red colour is given by the seep weed which grows from summer to autumn. Panjin is a coastal town with a lot to offer to travellers – beautiful countryside, hot springs and ancient towns offer much for sight seeing and leisure. You can get to this scenic coastal town by a long distance bus. You can even take a train from Beijing to Panjin. There are a few halal restaurants within the province such as Ming Mings Dumplings, Yifeng Moslam park and many more. Check the China foreigners guide for more restaurants.   2. Popeye Village, Malta Credit: @popeyemalta on Facebook This fun, quirky town was originally a film set for the famed “Popey” Musical starring the ever wonderful Robin Williams. So, this should be one of the top destinations to visit on your list! Located next to the turquoise sea, this colourful town is for the young at heart, especially for all you Popeye the Sailor-man fans. The town hosts many events throughout the year and has many guided tours. You can find accommodation at Melliha, there are many hotels and getting from there to Popeye village is very easy, you could just walk the 2Km distance or take a bus from there. The bus routes tend to change in Malta so refer the Malta Transport website for all the information you need. There are many Halal restaurants scattered around the islands and it is very easy travel in Malta, since the islands are small and the distances aren’t that long. There are many Turkish restaurants and a few Indian restaurants which are Halal friendly.   3. Pamukkale, Turkey Credit: @Pamukkale.Hierapolis on Facebook Located in the picturesque southwest of Turkey, this pristine white locale is the stuff of dreams. From the white terraces to the crystalline green pools, Pamukkale, Turkeyis a dreamscape worth experiencing. Pamukkale translates to “Cotton Castle” and rightly so, it is also the home of the well preserved ancient Graeco-Roman city of Hieropolis. An all in one location with its travertine limestone formations, hot springs, ancient temples, bathouses and necropolis all rolled in to one, this is a definite once in a lifetime adventure you should take. Bathe in the beautiful warm pools like the Romans once did, and explore the remains of a once great spa city. The easiest way to get there is to board a flight from Istanbul to Denizli Cardak Airport, Turkish Airlines offers flights to Denizli. Denizli is 65km away from Pamukkale, you can opt for an airport shuttle, or you can get a bus from the Denizli bus station – the ride is 40mins. There are many hotels in the city that suit all budgets, as well as many Halal friendly restaurants in the area, so you can easily find food without having to worry about Halal authenticity. Some of the best restaurants are Mhemet’s Heaven, Cadde Grill House and Yildiz restaurant; you can do a quick Google search and find many Halal friendly restaurants easily.   4. Giethoorn, Netherlands Image by Michel van der Vegt from Pixabay Beautiful, serene, quiet, green, these are a few words that describe Giethoorn, a water village also referred to as ‘Dutch Venice’, however minus the crowds and commercialisation. It is an idyllic village setting, with fewer roads and more canals, most areas are not accessible by car – it is either by foot or by boat. The canals are lined with pretty, traditional Dutch thatched roofed houses and almost each house has their own boat, even the mail man uses a boat! It is best explored by joining a canal cruise or by opting for a guided tour with the help of local skippers. You can get to Giethoorn from Amsterdam in one and half hours if you are going by car, you can opt to hire a cab or rent a car and drive by yourself. There is no direct way you could get to the village by public transport, if you really want to however, you could get the train from Amsterdam to Steenwijk, and then catch a bus from Steenwijck to Giethoorn – this trip will take two hours. Accommodation wise, there are a number of hotels within the village, or you could even opt to stay just outside the village. It may be a little difficult to find Halal friendly places in this area, however, there are a few restaurants scattered around the Overjissel province where Giethoorn is located.   5. Socotra, Yemen Image by danielshimmin0 from Pixabay  An island that is a part of an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, a surreal, alien landscape that is sure to leave you mesmerised. It was recognised by UNESCO as a world heriatage site in 2008, and is referred to as “the most alien looking place on Earth”. It is so isolated that it’s wildlife is unique to the island and have evolved to adapt to its dessert environment, it is home to a very distinct species of tree known as the Dragon’s Blood Tree, aptly named as it oozes blood red sap. The Bottle Tree is a quirky tree that looks like the foot of an elephant with pink flowers on the top, referred to as desert rose. The island has its own version of birds, such as the Socotra Sunbird, Socotra starling and Socotra grosbeak. The only native mammal on the island is the bat. It is best to book a tour to better explore the island and get more insight. You can reach the Island via Sanaa, the capital of Yemen; get a flight to the Sanaa Airport and from there a get flight to Socotra. You could even go for a direct flight to the island through the Arab Emirates, Felix Airways has scheduled flights from Sharjah to Socotra and back. Don’t expect luxurious resorts and hotels here, it is mostly eco-friendly and you will find five hotels, one eco lodge and many eco-camp sites. Since the island belongs to Yemen, their cuisine is mainly Halal, so you don’t have to worry about trying to find authentic Halal fare.   6. Taha’a, French Polynesia Credit: Tahaa Whilst Bora Bora garners most of the crowd, Taha’a is almost overlooked, but that doesn’t mean this flower shaped island has nothing to offer. If you are looking for a romantic escape or just a few days of pampering, Taha’a will definitely fulfil your dreams. A true island paradise with rolling hills, and valleys covered with banana, watermelon and coconut groves. It is the home of the world’s most priced Tahitian Vanilla, making up for 80% of the export from French Polynesia. The whole island is intoxicated by the scent of vanilla and will draw you in with its white sandy beaches, coral reefs, and absolute seclusion. The only way to access Taha’a is by boat from her sister island Raiatea. You will have to take a flight which may have stop overs at Paris, Auckland, or Los Angeles, from where you’ll fly to an airport closest to Taha’a depending on the airlines. There are many resorts and hotels to stay at in Taha’a, the more reputed hotels can be on the pricier end of the spectrum. It may be difficult to find Halal food in Taha’a, however, their cuisine mostly comprises of fruits of the sea and fruits of the land, therefore most of the food are Halal friendly.   7. Isle of Skye, Scotland Credit: @IsleofSkyeScotland on Facebook The mystical Isle of Skye which translates to “Cloud Island” from ancient Norse, it is the second largest of Scotland’s islands and the most beautiful! Magical and mysterious, the island boasts deep lochs, towering cliffs and moors, as well as incredible wildlife – a nature lovers dream! Rich in history and culture Skye is a great place to explore, with places like the Mealt Waterfall and Kilt Rock, the Old Man Storr, the Fairy Pools of Glenbrittle, Dinosaur footprints at Staffin Beach, Dunvegan Castle and many more. The closest airports are the Glasgow Airport and the Inverness Airport, from which you can opt to drive to Isle of Skye or take a bus. There is no railway on the island; instead it offers buses and local coaches. The island is full of quaint little cottages that you can rent out; some offer self catering whilst others offer bed and breakfast. The town of Portree is where most tourists stay at; it is the capital of the island and has many hotels, cafes and supermarkets. If you really want to experience Skye, then opt for camping. It is fairly easy to find Halal food in the Island as there is a population of Indians and Pakistanis who live there. They are quite a few good Indian and Pakistani restaurants, as well as some Bangladeshi ones.   8. Bagan, Myanmar Credit: @WonderBaganMyanmar on Facebook This Buddhist temple city was once the capital of an ancient Kingdom, however, now it is an important archaeological zone. Bagan is often compared to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and may even be a rival to Machu Pichu, however, this ancient city has a charm of its own. Witness the majesty of the golden stupas in the temple plain and catch the sunset over the Irrawaddy River. You can witness the beauty of Bagan by Hot Air ballon, the ancient city is a sight to behold 2000 feet up in the air. You can even get more close and personal by biking it on the ground, exercise and a view! Don’t forget to check a local market as well, and get as many souvenirs as you want, also add local festivals to your itinerary as you will be able to taste the best of Burmese hawker food. Flights arrive at the Nyaung-U Airport and it is a 10min taxi ride to Nyaung-U town centre, whilst it’s a 20 minute ride to Old Bagan or New Bagan. When travelling to Bagan it is advisable to go through a travel agent, as they will make sure you have a safe and enjoyable experience. However, if you do want to travel independently, do a though search on travel requirements and hotels. The more luxurious hotels and resorts are located in Old Bagan, whilst more mid range and budget hotels are found in Nyaung-U and New Bagan. Nyaung-U is Bagan’s largest town, this is where you will find most of the restaurants and hotels, however, it tends to get quite crowded. There are few high end restaurants that serve Halal food, whilst other restaurants will be willing to serve Halal food on request. Most stalls or small restaurants may not have the regular Arabic Halal sign but instead will indicate the availability of Halal food by the number “786” (this is a substitute used within South Asia), therefore look for this sign when looking for Halal eateries.   9. Lake Baikal, Russia Credit: @baikalia on Facebook Known as the “Pearl of Siberia”, Lake Baikal is a crescent shaped lake which is a whopping 1637 metres deep and contains a fifth of the world’s water! It is the world’s deepest lake, and is bigger than Belgium. Due to these properties it has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Summer is the best time to visit Lake Baikal, you will be able to see its natural beauty in all its glory, with the lake’s clear blue waters, and the mountains. Some areas have remained the same since the ancient times – almost untouched or changed by weather. During the winter the lake turns into an expanse of powder white ice and snow, you can enjoy a fun dog sledge ride over its hard surface. You can get to Lake Baikal by flying to Moscow and then boarding a plane to Irkutsk which is 65km away from Lake Baikal or Ulan-Ude which is 150km away from the lake. If you want to have a more interesting journey, you can use the Trans-Siberian Railway and hop on a train from Moscow to Irkutsk which is 3 days, Beijing to Irkutsk which is 2 days, or the train from Vladivostok which is 2.5 days. After which you will have to board a bus from Irkutsk bus station to Lake Baikal, the journey takes 10mins. The best route to take is Mosco -Slyudyanka, it takes 4 days and you will be dropped off right at the shoreline of Lake Baikal. You can stay at the hotels and hostels located around the shoreline of the lake or even camp out or stay on a boat. Finding Halal food may be difficult especially if you are travelling by train; therefore it is better if you pack your own, like instant noodles and other small snacks. When booking a room make sure they provide a stove or small kitchen as you can prepare your own meals that way. You can get grocery shopping done at nearby cities like Irkutsk, which is just a 10min bus ride away from Lake Baikal.   10. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Japan Photo by Satoshi Hirayama from Pexels Located in Kyoto, the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is a must see place before you die, photographed multiple times, but you have to really be there to experience it’s green mystique. The bamboo grove is a great spot for a quiet walk or bike ride, rows of bamboo swaying in the light breeze is not a sight to be missed. Absolutely beautiful and pure, it should be a must visit when in Kyoto. The best way to get to Kyoto is by Kansai Airport, afterwards you can board a train to Arashiyama. You can use the Japan Railways, Keifuku Railways, or Hankyu Railways. There are many hotels and guest houses in Arashiyama, and they are available for every budget. There are quite a few Halal restaurants scattered around Arashiyama, as well as shops. You can find a full Halal menu at the Yoshiya restaurant just 10mins away from the Japan Railway Saga-Arashiyama train station. They introduced this Halal menu in 2018, and have served Japanese Halal food since.   Book your flight and pack your bags, your unusual adventure awaits you!...

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