Ten Days Itinerary to the Algarve, South Portugal

 Ten Days Itinerary to the Algarve, South Portugal

Ten Days Itinerary to the Algarve, South Portugal

The South coast of Portugal is a beautiful part of the country that offers so many beaches and a lot of them are big enough to fit everyone that's visiting. The harder it is to find the beach however, the emptier it is going to be.

Beaches are only one part of it, it's always great for nature hikes, historic sights and lots of relaxation. I came to the South mostly for a surfing and yoga retreat, but I found so much more beyond that as you I'll see in this post. If you get the chance, then do make an effort to visit, especially, in the off season or the start of the season to get a more authentic experience. 


Is Algarve Muslim Friendly?

With the spread of Islam after the 7th century to North Africa, some of the regions around those areas such as the Southern Spain and Portugal were influenced by the religion of Islam. Some of the cities like Silves were fortified and that protected them longer. In the 12th century, Portugal were ruled by the Christian ruling again. A lot of the Islamic sights have been lost because of the The 1755 Lisbon earthquake.  

Further Reading: Arab Memories in Portugal By: Habeeb Salloum 
Tiles in Portugal

The affects of Arabs can be seen in the tile work and some of the Portuguese language. Tiles are called "azulejos", which sounds almost exactly as the Arabic word " Al Zellige" that is used to describe Moroccan tiles. Even the word "Algarve" goes back to the Arabic word "Al Gharb" meaning West. Referring to South of Portugal as the area West of Spain, where the Islamic Kingdom extended. 

On my trip to Algarve, I found it very muslim friendly. All my visits to Portugal have been really good and I am very thankful that is the case. Sometimes people are curious or just interested. A smile and a conversation usually break the barriers and the isolation. 

Algarve trip route

Weather in Algarve

Weather in Algarve

When I visited in April, the weather was a mix of rain and sunshine. That possibility of rain makes the South a less crowded place. The summer gets so busy that the ocean waves are not enough for everyone and the roads are filled with parked cars and vans. The start of Fall is a good time to visit especially that families are back to their home countries for their kids school. 

For weather predication through out the year check this graph from Holiday Weather. The predictions aren't very accurate, so it's better to use this as a general guidelines. It might be worth asking some locals too.

Ten Days Itinerary to Algarve

Ten Days Itinerary to Algarve - Trip Route

I started the trip from the furthest point of the South coast in Budens, which is an hour and a half from Faro airport then I made my way back slowly to spend four days in the Chicks on Waves yoga and surfing retreat. I then took a bus to Lagos and stayed there for three days. During the Lagos stay I did a day trip to Silves to trace some Islamic heritage in Portugal. I took a train from Lagos to Faro. I spent the last three days in Faro and took another day trip to Albufeira. Taking my luggage with me and using public transportation resulted in some back and forth, but it was still comfortable enough. If you are driving in the Algarve then your trip will be much smoother than mine.  

Highlights of Algarve Cities

Budens and surrounding area is a great place for yoga and surfing. There are so many retreats there such as the women only one I went to, Chicks on Waves, or I heard Good Feeling is supposed to be good. In short, it is a good place to relax and enjoy the beach life. 

Burgau and surrounding area is a great place for yoga and surfing

Lagos had a great little city vibe going on and they had the best vegetarian restaurants in Algarve. The cliffs and walking on them and next to them was the highlight of my entire trip! 

Lagos Cliff Walk

Silves is a cute little town with the famous Moroccan castle and I liked some of the tiled buildings there too! 

Moroccan Castle in Silves

Faro is underrated because most people leave it for the other interesting beach towns, but it also had a nice vibe. The main attraction is the park   

Faro City Break

Ten days were enough to see all the highlights, but there are more quaint villages and gorgeous nature to see. I could have spent three weeks there easily. My favourite city was Lagos and I would go back again for another visit for sure. 

Packing Tips for Algarve

If you are planning to go to Algarve in April or November then make sure you pack an umbrella and a rain jacket, but if you are going on the sunny months, then pack a sunhat instead. The water is VERY cold, so whatever season you are going, I would pack a little sweater or a cardigan to wear right after you come out of the water. If you are modestly clothed traveller like me, I would avoid the super hot months from June-August because being there under the hot sun, wearing layers can be slightly overwhelming unless you are planning to spend the majority of your time in the water then you are good! 

Food in Algarve

The food in the Algarve was okay. I mainly liked the food I had in Lagos, but Faro was not too bad either. Both of those two bigger cities had a few nice options. The great thing is that there is a lot of fresh vegetables and sea food. I think staying in a rented flat with a kitchen might be a good idea so you can use their delicious fresh produce to cook for yourself! 

Food in Algarve

Needed Budget for Algarve

Since Algarve is very touristy, the prices there can get expensive when added up. My budget aim there was mid-range; comfortable, but affordable. 

  • Flight from London to Algarve & Return in April on Ryan Air £180 (I booked it the same week I was flying, but you can find cheaper flights if you are more organised. 
  • Shuttle Service Faro airport (FAO) > Burgau 27.50 euros
  • Retreat (my retreat was work, but if you were to pay for it, it's between 650 to 800 euros)
  • Lagos Accommodation - Two Nights £45 (€ 50)
  • Lgos food and activities £60
  • Silves Day Trip £25
  • Faro Accommodation - Four Nights £125 (€ 140)
  • Faro food and activities £80
  • Albufira Day Trip £40
Muslim Trip to Algarve

Get a travel guide for Algarve: 

Over to you: What are you planning to do in the Algarve?


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Things to do on a weekend in Lagos, Portugal

weekend in Lagos, Portugal

Lagos was my second stop after the Chicks On Waves retreat since it's the closest main city. I had big plans for the city until it started raining heavily and continuously. Online guides and other posts all mention the sunny days of the Algarve. A lot of them failed to mention that the Spring here has a strong chance of rain. On the one hand, April is very quiet in the city and there are only a handful of people around, but on the other, people aren't there for a good reason! The rain in Lagos doesn't play, it's serious and heavy. If you are going to Algarve in April at least pack a rain jacket or an umbrella. Thankfully, I got some dry hours of sunshine and it was glorious. Lagos was actually one of my favourite parts in the Algarve. All the cliff photos that you see in adverts about Algarve come from Lagos. My only regret was not staying there longer! 



Things to do in Lagos

Explore the architecture of Lagos

The first thing I noticed coming into Lagos was the stone city wall. During my walk, I went to the two main churches there: Igreja de Santa Maria and Igreja de Santo António. They follow the traditional Portugese style of architecture and have some lovely geometric tiles inside of them. Another place I visited was the Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, which is the stone building facing the harbour dating back to the late 17th century. 

Ps. There are some nice walking maps online. I downloaded an offline walking map of Lagos from GPS my city

Spot the Graffiti

One thing that I enjoyed about Lagos was all the cool graffiti they had on offer. I spotted a few really cool pieces when I was there walking around the old centre. 

Join a yoga class

Thankfully, right next to my guesthouse was the InLight yoga studio and they offer various classes daily, so the walk in the rain wasn't too bad for three minutes. It was nice to pop down to a session and use my time wisely rather than staying in the guesthouse the whole day. 

Walk around the cliffs from every side

I saved the best for last. This was my absolute favourite activity in Lagos and it is really worth the hype. The second, the sun came out, I headed there and because beginning of April is still the off-season, I had the cliffs for myself. I led myself from the old town to the further one and I started from the beach all the way up. It took me about four hours and I could have stayed longer, but I didn't want to be alone in the middle of cliffs at night. There are so many fun options to do kayak and stand up peddling. Sadly, the weather was not on my side and could not do either, so please do it for me and tell me how it is!   

Where to stay in Lagos, Algarve? 

I happened to stay in the cutest little guesthouse in the old centre of Lagos. Having various spaces gave me a good way to spend my rainy morning indoors. I think I would have suffocated if I was staying in a hotel room. I cooked breakfast in the kitchen and stayed there reading from the balcony. The other thing I loved that this guesthouse is located in the middle of old town, which meant that everything was close by. The only down side was that the old town is full of bars and party spots and it meant some loud noises at night. 

Booking.com

Vegetarian Food in Lagos

I LOVED the food in Lagos. Although, I didn't find any halal options, I really enjoyed the vegetarian options they had! Below are the restaurants that I ate in because they were a walking distance from me and they had good reviews.  

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Silves: Tracing the Islamic Heritage in Algarve, Portugal

 Silves: Tracing the Islamic Heritage in Algarve, Portuga

Silves: Tracing the Islamic Heritage in Algarve, Portuga

When I finally got some sunshine in Lagos, I decide to go on a day trip to Silves to trace the Moorish heritage in the area. The main thing that is left from that heritage is the castle walls that you can see standing with all their might in the middle of the city. Not much else is left of it though, but it is still good to go and see their influence that is clear through the little chimneys on top of the houses and the tiles inside and outside buildings.

I tried to find the mosque that appeared in Google maps, but after a log walk all over, I came to a regular locked house. It could be the mosque sight, but who knows. I asked some of the locals, but no one knew either. 

How long do you need to see Silves?

The total time of the trip including public transports, sights and a sit down lunch was five hours. 

How to get to Silves from Lagos or Faro by Public transports?
There are two ways from Lagos to Silves: by bus, which is cheaper and stops you closer to the sights, but it takes longer. The other way is by train, which is the way I used. 

The Lagos train station is on the other side of the old town and there is a pedestrian bridge over the marina you can use to cross. I bought my return ticket from the counter at the train station for €5.90. The journey was about 40minutes. It is the same train line coming from Faro, so you can come from Faro to Silvas by train as well, but it will take a little longer.

Ps. Note the time of your returning return because they are every two hours. 

The train station in Silves is 20-30mins walk from the beginning of the old town depending how fast you walk. I did not see any taxis outside the station. There was a bus stop, but I didn't the timing, so I walked. The walk from the station is near a highway/Motorway, but it wasn't too bad. There weren't many cars and I walked by the side on the little pavement. There were other people following the same path so we all walked in one line. 

If you want to visit Silves alongside other locations, it might be worth joining a tour that takes you to them like the Silves, Caldas and Monchique: Full Day Tour (setting off from Lagos)

Silves Train Station. How to get to Silves from Lagos or Faro by Public transports?

It's also worth noting the other stops the train stops at in case you want to combine this trip with another city. My suggestion will be Portimão since a lot of activities and boat tours depart from there. You can even get a boat from Silves to Portimão . I was taking it easy on my trip, so I only stopped at Silves.

The benefit of walking from the train station is the lovely view you get of the castle and the cathedral. 

 The lovely view you get of the castle and the cathedral when you walk from the train station

The lovely view you get of the castle and the cathedral when you walk from the train station

Five Things to do in Silves

Stopping by the Market in Silves

One of the first things to see when you walk from the train station is the little traditional market they have there. It was a cute little thing with fresh fish, fruit, flowers and some local produce. It took me five minutes to look and photograph the whole thing.

Market in Silves

Going back in time and visiting the Moorish Castle

If you continue on walking, you will get to the town centre and start seeing the castle walls. It was only five minutes walk from the start of the old town. The only thing that remained is the walls and you can walk around them. They had three exhibition spaces; one with a few old objects, one about animals and one with black and white photos of the castle. I didn't like any of them and it would have been better to use the spaces with historic exhibitions that really transport you through time and gives the place an added value. It took me about an hour and a half to walk around the castle walls slowly and photograph the things I liked.

Wandering to Silves Town Hall

I did not even think much of the town hall and did not intend on visiting it but by chance I stood in front of it and was blown away by the tiles so I went in and loved the architecture of the main hall between the staircases. I must have stayed there for 20 minutes taking photos of the tiles any of myself next to them. The ground floor has the tourism information and a toilet.

Resting in the church

From the train station I saw the church in the skyline of Silves and I headed there to see how the inside is. It was a nice church and it took me 10 minutes to see every corner of it. It was good for a sit down and to see the religious symbols of the city.

Exploring the cute streets of Silves

Silves is a cute little town and the old town has so many little streets and alleyways that were mostly empty at 1pm in April. I was actually walking around to find the mosque, but it must have moved somewhere else without Google Maps being updated, but I just continued walking and photographing the tiled buildings.

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Eating in Silves

The old town is mainly touristy, so all the food spots I found were over priced restaurants and I had to eat in one because I was starving. The price of the fish was based on the weight, so check how much it is before it comes to your plate. Half of the Dorada fish I ordered was €17. If I knew, I would have had lunch back in Lagos and then came to Silves to see the sights. I would sugguest only having a beverage there and getting the train back if you are on a budget. If not, enjoy yourself! 

Eating in Silves

Budget for Silves: 

Train ticket return 5.90 euros
Activities:
Cathedral Entrance: 1 euro
Castle Entrance (student ticket) 1.40
Museum Entrance (student) 1.05
Lunch 20 euros (half fresh Dorada fish)

Books about Algarve and tiles you might like: 

Over to you: What are you planning to do in this destination?


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What to expect when you are going to Hajj for the first time?

 What to expect when you are going to Hajj for the first time? 

What to expect when you are going to Hajj for the first time? 

Last month, I got a request from another travel blogger to contribute in a list he compiled about sacred walks and pilgrimages around the world. The request was to write a little paragraph about my personal experience to the Islamic pilgrimage: Hajj. When I was writing it, it occurred to me that I have never actually shared this on the blog. My pilgrimage happened before my travel blogging days and I just never thought of sharing it before. After writing the 200 words I felt like I still had so much left I wanted to write about to give more details about my experience. I know other Muslim blogger have detailed Hajj and Ummrah guide like the Muslim Travel Girl, but I think Hajj first timers or people curious about this Islamic spiritual journey might find this post useful.

Content: 


How I went to Hajj

I went to Hajj back in 2009. I was coming out of a rough patch in my life. My mom wanted to cheer me up and reward me, so she and my uncles decided to gift me with Hajj. Of course I would not have gone at 21 years of age otherwise. One of the main conditions for Hajj is for the cost to be from savings and not a debt. It's God's way of making sure that we do it when we are truly able financially and physically. Funnily, earlier that year, I did think to myself "it would be nice to go to Hajj since it was going to fall in the winter months" and by Gods grace everything aligned for it to happen. I was truly blessed. Most people have to save up and plan for years before they get this privilege. The weather was not as nice as I hoped for because Mecca is located in a valley and the weather is consistent year round. Sometimes it rains, but that is not the norm. It is usually hot year round, but when I went that winter there was some nice breeze.

Even with the heat, the mosquito bites and the crowd, my soul was content and filled with comfort. 

Important Haj and Ummrah Arabic Terminology

 Me wearing my Ehram. 

Me wearing my Ehram. 

Before I go into more details about my Hajj, I wanted to tell you a few basic terms that you might have heard of or read when reading about the subject. I will be using some of them through out this post too just because the English equivalent is usually an explanatory sentence rather than a word. 

- Miqat ميقات is the geographical location where you make your intention to do the Hajj and where you start the journey. 

-Ehram إحرام is used as a verb and as a noun in Arabic. The person who intend to do hajj is entering a state of Ehram. The clothing worn during Umrrah and Hajj is also refered to as Ehram.

- Tawaf طواف is one of the actions of Umrrah and Hajj, where a person circulate the Kabba seven times.

- Sa'e سعي is another action of Umrrah and Hajj and it is the walk between the two mountains, Mount Safa and Mount Marwa, seven times. (Only a tiny bit of the mountains remain now though)

- Taqseer تقصير is the last action of Umrrah and Hajj that indicate cutting the nails and the hair after everything is completed. 

- Hajji حجي A man who has been to Hajj. 

- Hajjiah or Hajjah حجية/حجة A lady who has been to Hajj! So, yours truly here is a Hajjiah. 

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My Hajj story

 Photo of Kabba taken in 2008

Photo of Kabba taken in 2008

I headed to Hajj from East of Saudi with an organised group specialising in Hajj by Bus. The journey was almost two days of driving and stopping for food and bathrooms. The bathrooms on the roads were absolutely appalling. I tried to sleep most of the time even though the lady who sat beside was not pleased that I was not chatty. It was the first time I met the group of ladies, but in between the stops, I started getting to know them until we become friends by the time we arrived to Mecca.

Most people make their journey faster and more comfortable by flying directly to Jeddah Airport and taking a car to Mecca. Going by bus meant that we were going to stop at the Miqat in the city of Taif to make our intention for pilgrimage and to change from our black abayas into our white Ehram. In East of Saudi, the ladies usually get their Ehrams sewn especially for the journey. I got two made and switched between them. Although, I wished I had a third one with me! 

We finally arrived to Mecca and I parted ways from the friends I made on the bus because we all had shared room previously assigned for us. There were three other ladies that I shared the room with. I felt a little awkward the first night, but then we all hit it off the next day and I am still in touch with those ladies. I call them my Hajj sisters.

The first task was to do the Ummrah, which is a ritual part of Hajj and can be done on its on year round. I was with a very big group, but we were split to smaller groups of less than 8 ladies and were accompanied by a male and a female helpers that guided us through it all and made sure we preform the tasks correctly and comfortably. Preforming Tawaf, Sa'e and the short prayer took us about three hours. Thankfully, we did it after midnight when the weather was cool. It really makes a difference when the sun is not blasting its heat fully. A lot of the Ummrah and Hajj tasks come from the story of Prophet Ibrahim, his wife Hajar and their son Ismail, which I find very fascinating. The Sa'e comes from the walk that Hajar did looking for water between the two mountains.  

 Main Sights during Hajj. Usually Buses transport you in between most of them rather than walking. 

Main Sights during Hajj. Usually Buses transport you in between most of them rather than walking. 

On the 9th day of the 12th Arabic month "Thu Al Hujah", the challenge started when we headed to Mount Arafat to spend the day in supplications and prayer. All I remember now is my feeling towards it all. The group organisers took care of all the logistics, which gave me and the ladies with me all the time to focus on getting closer to God. 

After sunset, we all headed to Muzdalefah, which is another sight that pilgrims must stay in and spend the night there. The floor mattresses were set there and the time was spent between worship and socialising. There were a few fans in the tents, but it was really warm, so I started getting quickly agitated. One of the conditions of Ehram however is to stay as calm as possible because arguments can break the Ehram. It was a real test! 

 Zam Zam Water when it used to be good back in 2008 and 2009

Zam Zam Water when it used to be good back in 2008 and 2009

The next morning on the 10th, we walked to the Mina area to do more Hajj tasks such as throwing rocks at three columns. This is another action that we are reacting from the Prophet Ibrahim's story. The devil showed up three times to him at three different locations and the prophet threw rocks at him. This part was the hardest part for me hands down. I think I even cried a little. The area of each column is sort of small even with the new rebuilt area and the crowd was TOO MUCH, but by the grace of God and help from others I managed it. The following ritual was to do the sacrifice. Females give this responsibility to the group organisers and it's usually done for us. The sacrificed animal's meat is given to the poor. This also follows a story from prophet Ibrahim. He dreamt that God told him to sacrifice his son and although he was terrified he was willing to do it for the sake of God, but God sent a sheep to him to be sacrificed instead. There are so many donation programs to insure that the sacrificed animals go to people in need. There are also rules to ensure the well fair of the animal before this is done.

The last ritual is Taqseer, where we cut our nails and tiny bit of hair. Everything has to be done in that specific order. When all of this is done then that's it. The Ehram ends and Eid celebrations start.

It felt AMAZING! It went by really fast and although a little tiring, but I got a surge of spiritual energy that kept me going for months. 

Sadly, the cost of Hajj has doubled since I have gone and I am not sure I will be able to afford another one any time soon, but I would love to go again especially that I am older and I have a stronger appreciations for many things. It's a once in a life obligation, but we are allowed to go again. The Saudi government is trying to make it fair for other nationalities as well and limiting Saudi nationals to go to Hajj every five years.          

What to pack for Hajj?

When I was packing for Hajj, I had so much advice from relatives, who have been to hajj, but I still wish I packed a few more essentials, so here is a list that can help you plan your luggage better. Keep in mind that you would need two main, light, white outfits, good footwear, a water bottle and scent free toiletries and creams. Most importantly, you have to take some mosquito repellent, but please the Islamic ruling about this. It might not be allowed. All I remember is that the mosquitos really feasted on me when I was in Mena! You also need some seriously comfortable socks or stick on soles or something since you won't be able to wear your shoes inside the mosque and holy areas espically during Tawaf and Sae.  

Where to Stay in Mecca?

If you are going to Hajj, chances are that you are going with a group or a caravan that would have arranged this for you and it's actually better to let them take care of accommodations and transportations. Even Saudis themselves go with a group that arranges it all.

If you are going to Ummrah however, this can be done on your own. My mother and I have done it multiple times and we just booked a hotel that is a walking distance from the "Haram" Kabaa court. It is easily done on Booking.com, but sadly like any other place, there are busy seasons such as Ramadan and the Hajj month. The off season is much cheaper, but you can only do that for the Ummrah. 

Booking.com

Useful Resources for Hajj and Ummrah

Please note, different branches of Islam, might have different rules and slight variations, so double check the sources you need. The Islamic Mobility online library gives you free books and articles to download Duas website have lists of other relevant information and supplications.  

Hajj (The Pilgrimage)
By Dr Ali Shariati - XKP
Secrets of the Hajj
By Ayatullah Shaykh Husain Mazaheri
Hajj & Umrah: Journey of Life Time - A Complete Guide for Hajj & Umrah
By Fisabilillah Organization Authenticate Ulama's Organization
The Hajj: Pilgrimage in Islam
Cambridge University Press

Next Stop After Hajj: Medina

Coming all the way to Mecca usually means a quick visit to Madinah, the city where the prophet is buried. It is super crowded after Hajj because everyone has the same idea, but if you visit it outside of the Hajj and Ramadan times, it's a little quieter. It's never empty especially in the ladies section since they are usually given a smaller section than the men, but it always warms my soul going there. My mother and I usually stay in close proximity to the prophet's mosque and walk from the hotel to the mosque. You can watch the video below of the last time I went two years ago.   

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Over to you: Are you planning your first Hajj? Have you been to Umrah? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below! 


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GOING TO HAJJ FOR THE FIRST TIME
GOING TO HAJJ FOR THE FIRST TIME

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Albufeira in one day

 Albufeira in one day 

Albufeira in one day 

I heard mixed reviews about Albufeira some people really enjoyed it and other friends of mine completely hated it. It is one of the most mentioned cities in Algarve, so I decided to go check it out anyway for the day just to see it for myself. Let's just say that after visiting it, I won't be rushing back there. It really depends on the type of traveller you are and your purpose going there. If you just want to go for beach and resorts then this will be so much fun for you. 

I found it extremely touristy and very built up. Going around it needs a car or an uber. The buses within the city take ages to come and I got really confused with the stations. It I a big place not like all the cute smaller towns I visited in the Algarve. 


From Faro to Albufeira by Public Transports

I took the train from Faro to Albufira for the day and the return ticket was just over €6. You get a cheaper ticket if you are younger the 26 and have an ID with your age on it. The train station is far away from the old town and the marina, so you can either get a taxi from outside the station, book an uber or get the bus. 

I got the bus from outside the station since it was only 15 minutes away. I knew this from the nice old man who was sat outside. I still cannot understand the bus times and stops. The station bus takes you to the main bus station and you have to get the bus from platform 17 (though check on the day) and that will take you close to the old part of town. I was following the direction

On the way back from Albufira however, I took an uber from the Marina to take my train on time and it was over €12

Things to do in Albufeira

There are a few things that can be done in Albufeira a lot of them involve relaxing on the beach since they have so many beautiful sandy beaches. On the one day I spent there I didn't have time for that and I am glad that my beach day was not there because there were too many people. I got to try a few other things though that you might like!

Walk by the beach 

After spending few days in Algarve and seeing the half empty beaches further up the coast. The beach in Albufeira was a bit of a shock because it was the most crowded that I have seen on my trip. Getting to the beach was difficult to figure out just by using Google maps, but I got there at the end for a little walk. 

Albufira Beach

Visit the church 

There is something lovely about Portuguese churches and there was one on the way between the old part of Albufeira and the beach. I went inside to cool down as well! It was small, but pretty especially the blue tiles. 

Get some lunch

I found a nice halal Indian restaurant called Indian Night Tandoori that is a short walk from the beach. The food was very tasty and I liked resting in a nice air conditioned place for a little bit.  

Walk to the Marina

It took me half an hour from the restaurant mentioned above to the marina. The walk was really pleasant and quiet. You can see the ocean from above. 

Marina in Albufira, Algarve

Get on a boat tour

Going on a boat trip was my main motive to go visit Albufeira. I really wanted to go into the caves, so I booked a seat in the coastline and cave boat tour , which didn't turn exactly as I hoped. It was on one of those massive boat tours with at least 70 on board. It was a comfortable sail, but the number of people made it difficult to see some of the sights and we only spent 2 minutes or less inside the cave. It should be called glance at caves tour. I think the tour as an idea is really worth it, you would just have to do some research and go on the smaller boats because I think they would be more rewarding. In April there is a risk of not seeing the inside of the caves all together because of you

Get a travel guide for Albufeira

Lonely Planet Pocket Algarve (Travel Guide)
By Lonely Planet, Andy Symington
Lonely Planet Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary
By Lonely Planet, Robert Landon, Anabela de Azevedo Teixeira Sobrinho

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Weekend 2-day itinerary for Faro, Algarve

Weekend 2-day itinerary for Faro, Algarve

Faro is the point of arrival to Algarve and visitors usually book a bus and leave right away. I wanted to explore the city a little before I fly back home from the Algarve. Tourism in Faro has been increasing in the past four years, but it's still a nice and relaxing place to be in. The busiest times in Faro is from July to September and it gets ridiculously expensive as well. I went in April and it was quiet and only a handful of tourists were around. There is a risk of rain and cold wind in April, but I enjoyed it! 


Is Faro Muslim Friendly?

I was in Faro for three days and I know it's not long enough to know a lot about the city, but I felt really comfortable there. I went in April when the water was still rainy and on the cold side, so even the beaches in Faro were mostly empty and when I spent few hours by the beach, I wasn't bothered or stared at for being fully clothed on the beach :D

There is one mosque in Faro: Mesquita/Mosque de Faro, but it's far off the old town centre. According to Zabiha, there are also a few halal "Kebab" restaurants there, but I didn't try them.  

Faro Weekend Itinerary

Practical Information about Faro

  • You can get the Bus to/from Faro Airport to the old city centre by public bus number 16 and number 14 only cost €2.30 for one way. 
  • All the good restaurants are closed on a Sunday.
  • The archaeology Museum is free on Sunday mornings. 
  • Many things are still closed on Mondays. 
  • If you plan to eat a little later like 8pm and up, make sure you book a table or it will be really hard to get a table in the good spots. 
Things to do in Faro

Things to do in Faro

Explore Faro on foot

There are two companies that offer a free walking tour one with a guide. One company who has a blue umbrella and one a red one. The blue umbrella one was the first one that popped on google and I just went with it. It was run by Carlos and it was only 6 of us. It was two hours and a half and I loved all the information we got and the insider stories of Faro. 

Go inside the main sights of Faro

The three main sights in Faro for me were the archeology museum, the cathedral and the bone church. Each of them was very enjoyable and took about half an hour to go around, enjoy and photograph. 

Book a show at their theatre

On my walking tour, I learnt about the Faro old theatre, Teatro Lethes, and the history of it. An Italian doctor from Venice crashed on the shore of Faro and then fell in love with a rich lady from Faro. In his time in Faro, he missed the cultural activities and the shows of Venice. So, he brought the art scene to him! There was not anything on show when I was there, but if I go back, that's surely on my list! 

Spend a day boat tripping

One of the main attractions of Faro is visiting the little islands around that make the Ria Formosa Natural Park . It extends 60 km along the Algarve coast between the beaches of Garrão and Manta Rota. I went on a boat tour to three of the islands: Farol island, which translates to the lighthouse, Ilha Deserta, which is the deserted island and Ilha Da Culatra, the fishing village. The last island was the most inhabited. I was meant to see a fourth one, but the waves didn't allow for that to happen. Although April weather was tricky with rain and unpredictable waves, the islands were empty and it was nice to have them all for ourselves.

If you aren't keen on a boat trip, there is an option to do it as a walking trail as well.

Where to stay in Faro?

With my limited time in Faro and my desire to see the cities around it, I wanted to stay in a walking distance to the train station and the main bus station. I found a little guest house on Booking called: Guest House Capitao Mor . The location was fantastic, but the cleanliness level was low. I actually got bitten by a spider ON THE FACE there, which made my experience really difficult. I was happy that I was leaving and I got it looked at when I got back to London. Thankfully it was ok, but my face still has the scar. It was reasonably priced though. I have a few other recommendations below around some of the locations I visited: Aqua Ria Boutique Hotel , Faroway Hostel and Casas Adentro .

Food in Faro

Faro is a city that has a lot of people coming in and out of it, so the restaurants are usually packed at dinner time. I couldn't find a table for one in most of them. I was really confused on where to go, but I found a couple restaurants that I enjoyed: Se7e Pedras and Gengibre e Canela. I didn't find any halal restaurants on my way, but I was happy with the vegetarian options I had.  

Food in Faro
Vegetarian Food in Faro

Budget for Faro

Algarve is actually a little pricey and the sunnier the weather, the more expensive it would get. 

  • Flight: From London to Faro on Ryanair £86.67 - From Faro to London on jet2 81.90 euros
  • Guesthouse 4 nights £125
  • Walking Tour (Tip: 10euros)
  • Boat Tour £26.96
  • Food 10-20 euros for a meal. 
  • Other activities (entry fees 10 euros) 

More from Portugal:

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One day itinerary in Podgorica, Montenegro

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When I was researching the capital of Montenegro, Podgorica, most posts advised against going. When I was in Kotor, I asked a few locals about Podgorica and they also confirmed what the blogs have written. I had to go there anyway to catch my flight back home. I took my sweet time in Kotor and didn't leave it until 5pm because I wanted to arrive with some sunshine left just so I find my hotel and not get lost in the dark. I arrived to the capital with zero expectations and with planning to just work from my laptop that evening. 


Getting from Podgorica Airport

Podgorica airport is a tricky one. The train station near by was not working in April 2018, when I was landing and they don't have any other forms of public transports there. The only option is to get a taxi. Luckily, booking my flight with Ryanair gave me the option to book a transfer with them online. I just went to my "manage booking" page and paid £4 extra to book a car from the airport to the main bus station. On the way back, I got a car booked for 7euros via my hotel.  

Transfer from Podgorica airport to Podgorica Bus Station

How to Pronounce Podgorica?

I didn't even bother to learn how to say the name of the city because I didn't think I would need to since I wasn't planning to spending any time there, BUT when I got there and saw wha's on offer I learnt it!

Say it with me: Pod Go Reista repeat slowly a few times then you will get it! 

IMG_3572.jpg

Is Podgorica Muslim Friendly?

I was a little unsure what to expect being a Muslim in Podgorica, but I was very pleasantly surprised on how lovely everyone was. I also liked that Podgorica had halal food options and two mosques right in the centre of the city. I didn't see any ladies wearing a scarf, but I was only there for a day. From that limited time, I was very comfortable and I would love to go back there again. 

Muslims in Podgorica, Montenegro

Things to do in Podgorica in a day

Thanks to the lovely ladies at the hotel reception, I was given a map of the city that had the main sights, which by the way exist! Even though, most of the people in Kotor told me that the current capital has nothing to offer. I had to pack everything in a few hours, but I managed to see a good number of things. It was annoying that I had to rush, but I can at least share some highlights with you on here!

⁃ Hike up "Avanturisticki Park" & See Podgorica from above

I started my morning very early, so I can make it to the Gorica (Go Rista) hill, where the park is located. That is where the name of the city comes from and I loved it. It was like a mini forest with a paved road in the middle for walking and cycling. I spent two hours there trying to reach the view point to see the panoramic view of the Podgorica. I was just walking following my intuition rather than an actual route and due to my limited time, I had to leave before actually arriving all the way to the top. It was still worth it and it was a nice way to see a lot of the locals in their morning routine. A lot of elderly and middle aged couples were working out together and they were so cute! Many people were also walking their dogs. All of which were well behaved. It was a really nice atmosphere and I really enjoyed all the fresh air there. 

⁃ Visit "Crkva Svetog Dorda"

Right outside of the park, there is a lovely stone church, Crkva Svetog Dorda I found it charming with its simplicity and it was good to go and see it on the inside and walk around it. The metal lanterns inside were my favourite. It only took me 10 minutes to see it and photograph it all. It will be good to join it with the park. 

⁃ Walk on the Most Milenium (Millennium Bridge)

On the little walk to the park, I managed to pass by Millennium Bridge. It was really busy that part of the road, so I saw the bridge from a distance. It wasn't anything out of this world, but it was cool to see and walk next to. 

Most Milenium (Millennium Bridge)

⁃ Explore the Islamic heritage

I was very surprised to even see any Islamic heritage left from the Ottoman times especially that Montenegro used to belong to Serbia and let's just say they were not friends. A lot of cruel history from both parties that lead to the loss of many precious human souls. It is important to know the historical background no matter how sad it is. Back to the architecture, in the few hours I spent I the city, I managed to see two mosques: Starodoganjska Mosque, Osmanagic Mosque. The Starodoganjska Mosque was built in the last 15th century by Skender Chaush. It used to be the only mosque until 1582. The Osmanagic Mosque was built in the 17th century in the old part of Podgorica. 

Both mosques were really nice and small on the inside. I enjoyed going in and spending few minutes in each one. The people I met in there were very friendly and welcoming. 

⁃ Take in the turquoise Moraca river view and stop by Sastavci

I was so mesmerised by the turquoise colour of the river and I could have spent half of the day walking around the river and just picnicking there. I think that alone is enough reason to go to Podgorica. 

⁃ Eat traditional food from Montenegro

One of the happiest moments for me in Podgorica was finding the Pod Volat restaurant. It's halal and they had my beloved Civapi, so I was over the moon. Not to mention that my three dishes and juice were just £8! It was a huge difference compared to the Kotor prices. 

Where to Stay in Podgorica?

I stayed very close to the main bus station in Podgorica in Hotel Terminus In fact, the hotel was almost in the buses parking! Which was great because I arrived from Kotor at night by bus and just walked two minutes to it. It was also a good distance from the old town of 10 minutes walk. The service was great and the amanitas were basic and clean. I really enjoyed it.

 Breakfast at Hotel Terminus

Breakfast at Hotel Terminus

Booking.com

Packing for Podgorica? (Modest Clothing Ideas)

Podgorica gets really warm in the summer. Even hotter than Kotor especially that it's landlocked and does not have the sea breeze. I went it end of April and the weather was getting warmer. The morning was breezy and lovely, but the day kept getting warmer. If you want to pack modest summer clothes then I would suggest light maxi summer dresses with a cardigan and really light shirts and trousers. Of course taking comfy shoes with you there. 

Podgorica Budget

  • Plane from London to Podgorica £64.92
  • Hotel in Podgorica (One Night) £31
  • Dinner in Podgorica £8
  • Transfer from Podgorica airport to Podgorica Bus Station £4
  • Transfer from Podgorica Bus Station to Podgorica airport 7 euros

Get a travel guide for Montenegro: 

Lonely Planet Montenegro (Travel Guide)
By Lonely Planet, Tamara Sheward, Peter Dragicevich

Over to you: Have you considered Montenegro before? What would you like to see?


More posts you might like:

Two Days in Kotor, Montenegro

 Two Days in Kotor, Montenegro

Two Days in Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor is the first city I heard of in Montenegro. When I was in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I got a message from one of my Instagram followers telling me that I should pass by Kotor because it's a gorgeous little city. My trip was already packed, so I couldn't add any more stops to it, but the name stuck in my head ever since! Fast Forward two years later, I booked a quick trip to Montenegro and mainly to see Kotor. The beauty of Kotor and the areas around it is undeniable. Every time I visit a new area in the Balkan, I love that part of Europe even more!

The time I chose to go in April was really good as well especially for walking and hiking. The water was still cold for a swim. Two days were not enough to fully explore everything, but it didn't give me a taste of the city and due to it's increasing popularity, I would probably go to other cities in the future. 

Is Kotor Muslim Friendly?

Before we get into any details about Kotor, let's talk about everyone's attitude towards Muslims because that is important when planning a trip. I want to go somewhere, where I feel welcomed to enjoy myself. Short answer is YES. I was only there for two days, so it's not a huge amount of time to assess, but I felt so welcomed there. Everyone I met from the locals and other travellers was really nice. No one stared at me funny because of my head-wrap/hijab. 

The city itself does not have any mosques or halal restaurants. It's a small place, so you can easily get back to the hotel for prayer. Regarding food, there are plenty of sea food and vegetarian options. 

Muslim Friendly Itinerary for Kotor, Montenegro

Things to do in Kotor

Kotor is small and the things you can do there are somewhat limited. The suggestions below are good for two days, but I would advice you to actually venture outside of Kotor and visit the other towns and cities of Montenegro because they are so stunning and less crowded. Most of the tourists go to Kotor and Budva. Thankfully, when I was there in April, it was not as bad. However, the horrible gigantic cruise ships that were parked on the Kotor Bay brought a lot of tourists in during certain hours. Plus, the cruise ruined the sea view! 

- Explore old town (Kotor)

The old town also known as Kotor is so lovely! There are so many little alleyways that you can get lost in. The main sights, churches and museum are there too. You can spend half a day just walking around and taking photos especially of all the green doors that they have there. You can easily figure out the walking route and Google maps works fine there too. They have a few free wifi points, but if you need assistance you can go for a free walking tour , a quick paid walking tour or a full on informative walking tour . My time there was so limited, so I just did it myself.

- Go all the way to the top of Kotor

One of the highlights I loved in Kotor was climbing up St Ivan's Fortress and city walls. My advice is to choose your time wisely. I went in April when the weather was fantastic and I still got really sweaty, out of breath and over heated when I went half way up. I went an hour before sunset and I thought that was much better than going there when the sun was on full blast. However, I had to make sure I get back down before it was dark because I didn't want to be up there when it's dark. 

- Day trip by land

I was very lucky to do some good research online and find the 360 Monte tour guide especially that I didn't have a car and I really wanted to visit a few gorgeous places around Kotor. I did their "Great Montenegro Full-Day Tour" and I absolutely loved it. The location of the 360 Monte office was inside the old town facing the old town hostel. It was easy to find and I loved the tour guide lady. She was very sweet and chatty. The tour started with stopping by an old village to get breakfast. It's known for the smoked ham, bread and cheese. Thankfully, they had the option of a cheese and bread only sandwich. The drive continued on around gorgeous views and view points. My two favourite things on this tour were the hour we spent at the old royal capital, Cetinje, and the boat trip in River Crnojevica. The other people on this tour were a young crowd, so alcohol was served in the boat tour, but everyone drank responsibly and was respectful of me not drinking. There was an option to jump in the water on the boat trip, but the water was still on the cold side in April.

If I was staying longoer in Kotor, I would have loved going on the other tours that 360 Monte had on offer.

- Sailing around Kotor Bay

For my second day in Kotor, I wanted to visit their small islands and caves, so I walked to the Marina and picked a three hour boat tour. I didn't really have anything planned like above, but there were a few offers by the marina and I chose the 20 euro tour for three hours. I felt like three hours were a bit much on the boat. There were two main stops by the artificial church island and inside the blue cave, but it wasn't mind blowing. I would advice going on the two hour trip instead. The sea breeze was really cold as well, so make sure you have a sweater with you. 

Where to stay in Kotor?

Where to stay in Kotor, Montenegro

Most people seem to stay within Kotor, which is the old town area. I wanted to experience the local living and get away from the pricey options, so I choose a little guesthouse called No-follow Apartments Dakovic in Dobrota, which is the neighbourhood/area right outside Kotor. It turns out Kotor is not the name of the whole city, but only the old town, or at least that's what I was told. The place I stayed in was 20 minutes walk from the bus station, 15 minutes from the old town and about 5 minutes from the Marina. I wish I stayed there longer! I loved the view, the quiet and the privacy. The people I met there, who satyed in the old town told me how noisy their nights were. The only annoying thing was is that I was staying in Kotor for only two days, so there was a lot of going back and forth to old town.

If you want to stay in the old town and have a limited budget, you can try the Old Town Hostel . Most of the people I met on my tours in Kotor were staying there. I went with one of the girls to take a look, and it seemed decent and the bed had curtains. They had so many activities planned there as well. They did BBQ on the mountains and a dinner night each for 5 euros. I am not sure how comfortable, I would have felt because a lot of the activities revolved around drinking and I don't drink, but everyone was so nice.

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What to pack for Kotor? (Modest Clothing for Kotor)

Packing Modest Clothes for Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor's main season is in the summer and most blog posts will tell you to pack bikinis and tiny summer dresses, but that's not usually helpful for the modestly dressed for personal or religious reasons. I have a few ideas that you might find helpful below. The must-haves are flip flops, comfortable shoes, a nice maxi summer dress, a cotton cardigan, jersey scarves, light wide leg trousers and a shirt. The objective is not to over layer and to make that one layer as modest and as light as possible. When it comes to swimsuits, I would either bring a modest swimsuit or a long sleeves swimsuit with water leggings paired together.  

How much money do you need in Kotor?

My experince in the Balkan has been good when it comes to money and spending, but since Kotor is a very touristy place, I spent more than I hoped especially for food! 

  • Flight from London to Podgorica (return) £64.92
  • Bus from Podgorica to Kotor (return) 14 euros (Around 7 euros each way)
  • Hotel for two nights in Kotor (in April) £48
  • Tours (360 monte tour was complementary, but boat tour was 20 euros) 
  • Food £15 for one main and orange juice. I only had two meals out and made the rest of my meals at the guesthouse because groceries are much cheaper than restaurants. I spent 6 euros for a bag of groceries that made two breakfasts and two lunches. 

I didn't do any shopping there because the items on sale were on the pricier side. 

Recommended Reads for Montenegro

Lonely Planet Montenegro (Travel Guide)
By Lonely Planet, Tamara Sheward, Peter Dragicevich

Over to you: Have you considered Montenegro before? What would you like to see?


More posts from the Balkan you might like:

Keeping Fit Before and During Travel

 Keeping Fit Before and During Travel

Keeping Fit Before and During Travel

As you know, travelling is a big part of my life and I absolutely love it. A big thing that I do while travelling is walking all over the new city I am visiting. I love to walk for HOURS just seeing places and documenting everything. I also enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and walking up trails. Unfortunately, on my last two trips to Portugal and Montenegro, I felt a little embarrassed because I could not keep up with everyone. I got really out of breath, tired and flustered. The same thing happened to me on a local country walk too when everyone was breezing through and I was half dead going up the hill. I didn't like feeling like that at all, so I decided I have to build up my stamina and my level of activity because I want to be able to do all of these things without my own body holding me back.

Although I want to be fit, but I have to confess, I have a love/hate relationship with the gym. Even with my inner motivation, I always have to spend a while to convince myself to go and workout. When the convincing works and I go, I always feel SO GOOD. I am trying to be more consistent with being active, but I am also trying to mix it up with some gym, outdoors activities and even cycling now! Additionally, I am trying to be aware of what I eat too. Saying that, I still eat cake and have lazy days, but it's all about balance! 

In this post, I want to give you some reasons that can motivate your to stay fit (for travel's sake at least if anything), some possible ways for you to keep fit WHILE travelling and lastly some good gym related reads that you might find helpful too! 

Gym Motivation - fit to travel

 Why do you need to workout and stay fit?

We all know the short answer to this, which is to stay healthy, but let's go a little more into the reasoning because when my head is convinced, my body usually follows: 

Reason 1: You are preparing for your next adventure

A while back when I went on my Atlas Mountain adventure, I got tired after few minutes of climbing and I just dragged myself. I didn't get to enjoy it as much because I was so tired and my body was aching. I don't want the lack of my fitness and stamina stop me from enjoying physical activities on my travels. So, while I workout, I imagine endless hilly walks and fun hikes. That usually gets me going. 

Reason 2: You are giving yourself a break

With the amount of blogging, photo editing and writing I do, I could easily spend my whole day and night in the same posture staring at my laptop. I am not even kidding, I will even eat at my laptop sometimes. Getting up to hit the gym or workout gives me a much needed break. 

Reason 3: Better immunity for better travelling experiences

Working out builds your immunity and makes you stronger, which leads to better travelling experiences. Getting sick while travelling is the absolute worst.  

Reason 4:  More Energy for longer productivity  

I don't know if you feel this too, but some days I wake up with such low energy levels. I noticed that working out increases my energy. I always feel so awake and alert after a workout, which is win win because I get to be productive for longer. 

Reason 5: Great body

l mean hello? Who wouldn't want that and workout does help tone you up. Though a healthy diet is also needed. 


How to keep fit while travelling? 

If you have a gym or workout routine before you travel, try to keep some of it up when you are travelling. I have a few tips that you might find useful to stay fit when you are travelling: 

- Have a workout session in your hotel or room  

Some of the hotels have gyms and it makes it so easy to stay fit by working out in the morning. Websites like Booking.com can even allow you to choose the "gym" feature while you are looking for a hotel. Unfortunately, most mid budget hotels and guest houses don't have that option. The other alternative is to bring the workout to your hotel room by either downloading workout apps or by just downloading a set of workout videos to have at hand offline. I find this really helpful because so many places don't have a wifi connection! 

- Find a sporty class in the new location

When I was in Lagos, Portugal earlier this year, I happened to find myself stuck for things to do because the weather was very rainy in April, so I found a near by Yoga class and it really lifted my spirit instantly and I want to keep this a habit if time allows when I visit a new city. The great thing is, you don't really need to pack anything up with. I had leggings and trainers anyway, so that was sufficient. You can pack a travel yoga mat if you are funny about these things as well and it shouldn't take that much space. 

- Include active ideas in your travel itinerary

One of my first things that I do in a new city is a free city walk and I LOVE IT! That's at least two hours of walking and it's usually at the start of the day, so that's a good way to get some exercise in. Another idea is to go see a city from the top of hill or get up the stairs of an old building to the city scape like I did all over Prague. I think it's a good way to see the city and keep fit. There are so many tours that offer cycling around the city and that can also be a great option to burn some unneeded calories. 

- Be aware of what you are eating on your trip

I get it food is amazing! I don't even disagree and when you are away on a holiday, I know it gets even more tempting to indulge. I hear this sentence a lot: "oh go on you are on holiday." The problem is that you pay for that moment when you are back from that holiday. Like my Portugal trip clothes from last summer don't even fit anymore. It must be the three Pastel De Natas a day. oops. I should have only one! It's good to try new things but there are common no nos like fried, overly creamy and sugary food. Don't say no to everything, but try to make it balanced. I like to actually have desserts in the morning because I know I will burn them during the day at least.   

- Don't Forget Your Greens

When I am travelling and having meals at restaurants, I don't always remember eating my greens and getting enough amount of veggies. I don't even make it restaurants and end up surviving on carb loaded street food! A good way to make sure your greens are topped up is to go to the grocery store and just grab some fresh vegetable and cut them up to snack on. If that's not possible, take some vitamins with you at least. 

Good Health Reads 

I find reading about fitness and food really useful especially to understand everything logically instead of guilt tripping ourselves all the time! Flat Belly Kitchen is one of the books I started reading on this subject and I found it really helpful because it talks about the sad reality of food and it does not talk about carbs like something evil. They tell you what is good and bad based on their own research then give you alternative. Another good food book is Women Code because it talks about food and hormones, which is something so many women overlook in their daily lives. Roar was my first fitness book that I read and I just love that it was written by a female athlete and it discusses a lot of women issues like working out during a period and the various stages of the cycle and how it affects the performance. It is a heavey read and packed up with research, so it takes time to digest, but it's a good one. The last book "Thiner Leaner Stronger" is the latest book I got and I am still making my way through it. A little skeptical because it was written by a man for women, but he gives a lot of good examples and steps in there.  

I hope you found these tips useful and please comment any more tips you might have! 

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The unspoken etiquette of the London transports

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I am writing this post because of sheer frustration with some of the commuters I meet on a daily basis hence the angry tone of this post. I actually wrote most of this on a number of frustrating train journeys. After getting annoyed with others on the tube, I express it all by noting how courteous people need to be. Mastering the art of London transports needs time, practice and care for your fellow Londoners. 

The London transport system can be very confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it then your understanding of the city gets much better. This little guide will give you few pointers that you should be reading before you even get to London. I am hoping this guide will make you a pro London commuter. 


Nine Unspoken Etiquette of the London Transports

1- Know your route

Before you set off to use the public transports, make sure to actually know the route you will be travelling through as in check Google Maps or City Mapper and TFL. Get a clear idea and go. It might help taking a screen shot of the route or right down the stop names if you get easily confused and you probably will be if it’s your first few times. I think it took me a month to understand the system. I still make mistakes and get lost, but it’s only the odd time every few months when I am distracted. 

2- Scan & get a green light

Make sure you have money on your Oyster card and have it in a separate sleeve away from any other magnetic cards so you get a green light when you scan it and Wizz through the barriers. If you get a red light, the army of people behind you won’t be happy. Sometimes even when you get it all right, you still get a red light but these errors are beyond our control. 

3- Stand on the right, walk on the left

I don’t know how many times do people need to hear the poor automated message getting replayed over and over before they fully understand this. To be fair most people adhere to this, but you still get the odd people who do it anyway. I don’t mean the  tourists who might not get it yet, but I am talking about some locals who like to challenge the little rules that ease life. 

4- Don’t cause traffic

Using your phone while you walk isn’t a reason to slow down, but if that happens please stand on the side. Finish your text or whatever then carry on walking. The path is for serious walkers and if you want to stroll and have a chat the underground is not the place for you. Being slow because you are on your phone is super annoying to the people behind you who might miss their next train. Thoese little seconds here and there add up!

5- People can’t pass through you

Ok. I am sure you all learnt about body mass in physics class back in school, so if you stand in the middle of the door, people won’t be able to go pass through your body. You aren’t a gosht so stop acting like one. If you want to get in, stand on either side of the door to let people out of the tube FIRST then you can get in. It won’t leave without you. Pushing everyone to get on first before people get off is just bad manners. 

6- Just sit down or get out of the way

This is not a fun bus ride from school days. It’s a transportation system and everyone getting on it is probably tired and grumpy. Under no circumstances would anyone wait for you to reserve a seat for your bestie who is riding with you. Just grow up and let everyone sit in the available place and if your friend is quick enough she will get her seat too. I got the death stair for sitting when another girl was trying to hold the seat for her friend. The tube isn’t the place to bond & as girls they should understand that I might have been on my period and not able to entrain their behaviour physically or emotionally. 

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7- Move along the carriage

This is another message that every train driver has to announce about 50 times a minute. Just do it. When it’s busy people want to pack themselves in like sardines & you just standing in the middle and not moving along the carriage is inconsiderate. I sometimes have to jump over people who aren’t willing to move so I get some space. 

8- it’s probably safe not to smile

Ok, I am joking. You can smile if you want, but everyone just looks awkward if you even catch their eye. I like to always have a book with me and just read it to avoid awkward moments. I do politely smile sometimes because I think my London commuting face is a bit scary lol. 

9- Everyone wants to get somewhere

No one rides the tube just for the sake of it and everyone one is in a hurry to get home for dinner or whatever commitments that people have, so, please be nice to your fellow commuters. There is no reason to be rude. You can make the journey pleasant for yourself and others by being considerate and polite. 

Happy tube-ing everyone and God help us during rush hour in this heat. 

Over to you: Do you have any more advice to make the London commute more pleasant? 

Interesting Books about the London underground: 


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How can students live a cheap life in London?

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Although London is a very expensive city, being a student in London gives you a lot of perks that can make your time in this city really pleasant and even more affordable. Any full time student can take advantage of all the ideas listed below including mature students who are over 25. This applies for international students too. Most of these tips and ideas have changed the way I live in London for the better. It’s actually tempting to be a student as long as possible! 

 


Get London transports for cheaper in London

Before we mention anything, let’s talk about transportation and how you can actually get to places for cheaper while living in London. As soon as you enrol for your full time course in London, fill your student oyster form, have a personal photo ready and get it verified with your university or institution. Having your ID oyster will give you a third off of weekly, monthly & annual travel cards, which makes getting around so much more affordable. 

Travel by rail for a third less than everyone else

The transport discount isn’t only limited to London, you can also apply for a rail card if you are 16 to 25 years of age or if you are a full time student even if you are over 25. This process can be done online and you will have to pay £30 per year. This gives you great national train discounts so you can explore so much of the UK for reasonable prices. For example, my open return ticket to Manchester is £54 unlike the regular £84 ticket that adults have to pay. My Cambridge ticket with a same day return is £16.50 instead of the £30 adults pay. I really love this discount. I usually use this card for the train mostly, but having this card also gives you other offers on popular attractions such as: 

Shop until you drop with student discounts

When you enrol in your full time course, make sure you get a confirmation letter from your university because you will need it as prof to apply for the NUS card, which gives you lots of discounts on selected stores in person and online. You have to pay an annual fee of £28. This card is also handy as a proof if your student ID doesn’t have an end date. Another account you need in your life as a student is Uni Days and it’s similar, but completely free and only requires a university email to get started and approved. It’s really handy.

Pay less for food as a student in London 

A lot of the main stream restaurant chains like pizza express, Zizzi, GBK offer student discounts either through via uni days and the NUS card or via their own apps. You can also get 10% off your groceries at the co ops with the NUS card. 

Restaurant Discount Card for Students
Booking.com

Always ask about student discounts! 

I went to get my hair cut in Rush and randomly asked about student discounts and they had one!! This actually happened a few times. Sometimes places don't advertise or have a clear sign. Doesn't hurt to ask! 

Enjoy London museums and galleries as a student

Yes most London museum and art galleries are free in London, but even the free ones have changing temporary exhibitions and those always require a ticket. As a student you get it cheaper than adult tickets. So unleash your inner art critique because there is so much you can see and enjoy! 

 Victoria and Albert Museum 

Victoria and Albert Museum 

London Reads:

Over to you: What other advice do you have for students to live cheaply in London?


More London posts:

How to survive the heat in London?

How to survive the heat in London?

I don’t think people realise how hot London gets in the summer when we have a heatwave without rain. The first few days are glorious. Everyone is happy, all the summer outfits are out and ice creams are everywhere. Fast forward three weeks, people get grumpy, their skin is mostly red and burnt with very random tan lines and the moral gets a little low. All the misery happen because this city isn’t equipped to deal with a hot summer so it's a constant feeling of heat. Being Saudi, people are surprised that I even mention the heat because the Saudi summers reach to 55 C -131 F-, but in Saudi 98% of places are completely air conditioned and we don't feel the heat, but in London you feel it everywhere. I still enjoy the London sunshine though and I follow the tips included in this post to stay cool. 

How hot does London get in the summer? 

The average so far has been 26 C -78 F- and the hottest it got was 32 C -90 F-


Six Tips to Survive the Heat in London: 

1- Avoid the tube

Honestly getting the tube in the summer during rush hour (17:00-19:30) is disgusting. Just try to rearrange your routes to involve more walking and overground trains. If you have complete control over your schedule I would avoid any mode of transport at rush hour. It’s hot during freezing winter days let alone in the summer. The Central Line and Bank station are the absolute worst! There is no such thing as air conditioned underground *yet*. 

2- Stay Hydrated

Have your bottle water with you at all times. Get at least the one Litre bottle because you will drink it all without even realising. You can cool your water in the fridge then pour it in a thermostat to keep it cold! 

Another great thing that will keep you hydrated is fruits or vegetable with high water content like cucumbers and melons. They will keep you hydrated for longer as well. 

3- Plan Cooling Stops

Some big grocery stores or luxury stores are air conditioned, so if gets too hot, plan a mini cooling stop to the big Sainsbury’s near you and get cool again! I know this might sound silly but it works for me when I am walking long distance from one place to another! 

Some Londoners were even trying to compile a list of air conditioned spots on Reddit! Their list didn't go very far, but it might be entertaining to read.  

4- Cool yourself from the inside

This is the best time of the year to drink all the iced teas and to eat all the ice creams in this city. I love making my own iced teas since the cafe bought ones are usually very sweet. If you want to make your own, these recipes from Eating Well might help you. 

When it comes to ice cream there are so many yummy places to choose from. My usual ice creams stops are Chin Chin LabsSnowflake gelatoGelupo and Amorino. If I am not around those spots, I go to any local corner shop for ice cream. I am also developing a love for vegan ice creams! The Alpro vegan ice creams are so good! Especially the coconut *DROOL*

5- Shade is what you need

Seriously, being in the shade makes all the difference. So, when it gets too hot, go to the very shaded part of the park or better yet take a woods or forest country walk. I know most people want to hit the beach when it's hot (including me), but going to places like Epping Forest or Ashridge Estate is actually a good idea to stay cool. It might help to wear a sun hat or carry an umbrella to create your own little shade. 

6- Get a fan

I know summer is short and it’s not worth investing a lot in it, but you need to get a basic fan or the heat will keep you up all night. I only use my fan two months a year, but it’s so worth it!! Having a hand carried paper or electrical one might also be good at times. 

Although, there were moments where I completely melted in London and it’s only the beginning of July, I am very grateful for all the sunshine! I am able to wear all my summer clothes now and enjoy the many beautiful parks around. I hope you found these tips useful and please comment below if you have any more tips to stay cool this summer! :)