This is a comprehensive guide to help you become a pro Muslim solo traveler.
There was a point in my life when I felt tired of waiting. Tired of waiting for a husband to take me travelling and tired of dealing with randomness while travelling with friends. I was restless and I knew I wanted to explore life beyond England, where I resided at the time.
My first solo trip happened after I have already been living abroad alone for four years. Most people study abroad to travel and see the world, but I wasn’t brought up that way and I was usually broke by the end of the month to afford much. That first trip was an extension of my studies into Islamic art and it was to Granada. When I decided to go for that everything was last minute, but it all fell into place even better than expected!
Are Muslim girls allowed to travel solo?
Islamically there are two views. One that says yes, which is the majority of Muslim scholars and another that says no and it’s limited to the Hanbali school of thought. Both answers are based on narrations and interpretations from scholars. So, you are free to choose the school of thoughts that makes you more content.
As a Muslim woman, I think it’s a good idea for you to know your God given rights because sometimes cultures will have you thinking that you don’t have any. This is also a big debate that I don’t want to have on my travel website, but you can research this yourself and here’s a nice translated lecture to read on the subject of women rights in Islam.
Read: Our Expectations of the Muslim Woman. Lecture by: Dr. Ali Shariati
How do you convince your parents or husband to let you travel solo?
You might never face this issue and that’s amazing and you can skip right to the following section, but a lot of girls who come from Arab or Asian backgrounds face this and it’s their reality even the girls who live in the West. I get this question very frequently and I wish it was easier for every girl to travel. It usually comes from a loving place especially when it’s from the parents. If you are not married yet, then I would add “he must allow me to travel freely” into your marriage contract lol.
I was already living abroad and I still had to take my mom’s permission and her blessings before my first solo trip away from my main location. She wouldn’t have been able to stop me if I went anyway, but I wanted her to fully agree before I took that step. I was also 25 when I took that trip after being living independently away from home, so she didn’t have a reason to say no.
I have two suggestions that might sway the parents:
1- Prove that the destination is safe
The most common reason why parents especially disagree is their fear of your safety. So, show them the government stats about that destination and even the safety rates. Tell them every detail that would make them feel that you will be safe.
2- Prove that you can take care of yourself
If you are acting like a little princess not even doing your washing and not helping out, your parents won’t be very confident that you can take care of yourself, so maybe show them that you are independent and responsible first.
If the parents or whatever reason is not allowing you to travel completely alone then maybe you can consider travelling with a group or on a special Muslims retreat and here are my thoughts on them:
Joining a travel groups vs arranging it yourself
If you are not sure about travelling solo or still not allowed then you can start travelling the world by booking yourself into a group trip or a retreat run by Muslims or catered for Muslims or even general travellers who don’t want to party. Here’s a list of Five Muslim friendly groups that I know of and can recommend with a good conscious. I am always eyeing up G adventures and Intrepid Travel, but I haven’t tried them yet, but heard good things and they have some really good options from what I have seen online.
Read: Muslim Women Retreat in Morocco - Hijab Free Holiday!
Also Read: How to travel in a girl group
Before your solo trip
Research and prior planning is everything! I usually do this through reading blog posts from travel bloggers I like, look up destinations on Pinterest and of course read some lonely planet e-books because they are LIFE! When I am not sure about a destination, I also ask women travel groups on Facebook and they are usually so helpful.
Join the Muslimahs Who Travel Facebook Group, a community of Muslim women who love to travel!
Check safety and politics
Safety should not be taken lightly and you always need to check the political situation of the destination first. However, you have to choose your news sources correctly. For example, news about the Middle East are always scary, but the reality is very different than that. A good idea is to chat to locals on Facebook groups and ask locals on instagram to tell you the real situation.
Get a visa if you need one
With a Saudi passport, I usually need to get a travel visa to most of the places I travel to. For example, I have to get the Schengen when I travel to Europe, so I have to double check all of that before booking flights and travelling. If you are not sure if you need to get a visa, then just Google it!
Book a flight
My first stop to check flights is ALWAYS Skyscanner. They are great to give an overview of all available flights and best days to book. You can also set alerts to keep an eye on the price. Skyscanner is a comparison sight so you can’t always expect the cheapest prices, but it’s does give a good over view. Always look at alternative routes too. The routes that are not very comfortable are usually much cheaper.
Plan a basic itinerary + Prebook a couple things
About a month or so before my trip if I am organised and I booked in advance, I would start looking at some of the main activities that I want to do. Popular destinations like Italy gets booked up very quickly. When I got to Venice and Florence, I had to miss on some sights because I didn’t book in advance! Also, knowing what you might want to do will help you find a better accommodation.
I am a level 2 frequent traveller on booking.com because I usually book my hotels on there. I find them very convenient and I love searching for a hotel using their map and the provided side features they have, so my searches don’t take too long and I always find the things I like quickly.
Another option is the very popular airbnb. I know there are some controversy around it and what they are doing, but certain destinations are great for airbnb. For example, Barcelona is a pricey city and it’s over crowded with tourists, so I wanted to support a local and make it cheaper for myself, so I found a shared flat with a local girl and I stayed in her spare room. Yes I had to share the bathroom and the kitchen, but it was comfortable and I have done it a few times.
These are the two websites I personally book my travel accommodations from. Obviously there are more options that are great, but I haven’t tried them yet.
Download helpful apps for your solo travel
The internet is a gift from God! Honesty, you can download lots of apps that will make your trip so much easier and these are the ones I always use on basically every single trip of mine.
Pack your bag for your solo trip!
Believe me! You want to travel light! If you are in a foreign place for the first time and unsure of how to find your place, a heavy luggage will just hinder you and make you standout. I only travel with a carry on if I can help it and I can last three weeks with a carry on bag. If I go on longer trips, I get a bigger bag. Don’t pack everything right away and don’t pack random things. Lay everything on your bed and CHOOSE YOUR OUTFITS! Also take versatile pieces that you can dress up or down and you can mix to come up with more looks!
Another important thing, check the airline bag size. You know what’s not fun? When the evil lady of Easy Jet asks you to put your bag in their orange thing to see if you bag will fit. I had that and it was a complete nightmare and now I wouldn’t want to put myself through it!
During your solo trip
Arriving with a positive attitude
Yes it might be scary sometimes to travel in a place where you might standout especially if you are a visible Muslim in a Western country, but have an open mind. Be positive and kind in your interactions. Open up your mind to that new place you are visiting and try to enjoy every moment! No one owes you anything, but hopefully your trip will be positive. Always remember to smile!
Respecting the culture
You are embarking on your solo adventure to learn about a new culture, a new city and to impress yourself in that. Travel is not always comfortable and the things you will see and the experience are there for the people who reside there, so certain things might bother you. Just try to be respectful and enjoy the privilege that allowed you to be there.
Attempting the local language
When I was in Madeira island, off Portugal mainland, I stopped by a street fruit vendor. It was all normal. I pointed at what I wanted and they gave it to me. When I paid, I said “Obrigada” which just means Thank you in Portuguese. OMG you should have seen the SMILE on the old man’s face. He wanted to have like a whole chat, which didn’t happen because that’s all I knew from the language. Point is, people love it when you say few words in the local language, so have at it! Simple stuff like: Hi, Bye, Excuse me, Thank you, where is the dessert counter? You know essentials.
Navigating yourself on your solo trip
Can I just say that I am the worst at following directions? I am so much better now after years of travel, but I always take the longest route and circle around the whole building before I know where to go lol. This might happen when you are travelling. Keep your eyes open on landmarks that you pass and make a mental (or even physical) note of it and the distance it took you. That will help you navigate yourself. Also, have your offline map and extra phone charger handy!
Supporting the local businesses
I try my absolute best to support locals when I travel. For example, instead of booking a room in an internationally owned hotel, find a locally owned one and you can find that by Googling the hotel and reading about it. If you are shopping and buying gifts, get them from the markets rather than the shopping mall that supports international brands. Travelling is not only about us and our growth, but it is good to support other economies too. There is power in the travel dollar as they say. It’s even better if you choose less popular destinations because their locals need more support.
Okay, let’s talk food!! I know this is mega important when you are travelling to try the food of the nation you are visiting, but take it from me, you will survive if there is not halal meat because you can still eat vegetables, sea food and so on. Now, it’s much easier than ever finding halal food with the number of Muslims worldwide, but don’t let that stop you! You can find halal food by checking Zabihah, Trip Advisor and also typing the word Halal to Google maps!
Suitable Alcohol Free Activities
Most day-time activities are usually alcohol-free especially walking tours and most tours would tell you if there will be alcohol present. There are always things to do even in destinations known for their alcohol. For example, most people go to Prague for their booze and I went there and managed to completely avoid it and have a great time!
Meeting other travellers
Travelling solo does not mean that you have to have a completely isolated trip! You can meet other travellers during walking groups, from instagram or by asking on women only travel groups. Obviously use common sense and never tell anyone your personal details, but you can still do it safely! I met up with completely stranger women in Barcelona, Prague and Sarajevo. All I met on instagram/Facebook and had a fantastic time!
Documenting your trip
Last thing I wanted to mention is documenting your trip. I know most people only take a phone and just do everything on it, but it might be a good idea to take a light camera with you and a small notebook to write about your day in the evening. It’s just nice being able to document a trip and read through it at a later point in the future.
After your solo trip
You just come back from your trip! Congrats and here is what you can do if you need to do anything. You don’t have to at this point. If you needed more things to think about it then here it is!
Evaluate your solo travel experience
If you went on your first solo trip then you have to give yourself time to think about it and even evaluate it. Think of what you most and least enjoyed along with ideas to improve your next one. Be honest with yourself. Did you like solo travel? Would you do it again? Some people love it and some people don’t and that’s okay either way. You do you!!
Sharing your travel story
After you are back from your trip, you can share your trip either with your friends by chatting about it or sharing it on your social media. If you are interested in creating content with this trip then my little e-book about sharing will be perfect for you!