Just got back from a few days in Amman with the W Hotel and wanted to share a bit of what we got up to!

I was actually in Jordan a few months ago and had written a bit of a rundown/helping hand here alongside me very first vlog (here) so go have a creep if you’re interested!

Last time around there were a few things I didn’t get a chance to do and wallah I never thought I would be back so soon let alone have the opportunity to a) work with the W and b) do/see the things I missed so alhamdulillah times a million yet again for the way everything works and falls into place xxx

The W Amman recently opened in Jordan and is lovely jubly! Friendly and helpful staff, beautiful views of the city, and honestly a great place to stay if you’re ever in town.

The hotel features its very own helipad (because why not?!) and our first morning had us working out/taking pictures on it lol – fyi, it was at this very moment when Saira realized she needed to get back on that whole running and exercising tip.

Myself and a couple others were shooting scenes and the like throughout the week with @wearematteblack which was a laugh and a half so stay tuned for the final video which is bound to look amazing inshallah (I made them promise to make me look cool lol fingers crossed)

Made our way to the Citadel which we never got a chance to go to last time; had seen some stunning photos of the view and the amphitheater in the distance, and it didn’t disappoint.

We visited Rainbow Street again, and I’m not too sure I’m in love with it very much lol last time around it was during the day and I gave it the benefit of the doubt; figured it was one of those places which comes alive in the evening lol but this time around it was evening, and yes definitely more alive, but meh.

Maybe I just haven’t wandered in and out the side streets to completely be in awe of what it is, but it was nice to just stroll and chat with everyone nonetheless. Saira also lost her charger and sunnies so yay go team!

Next we were headed on a bit of a road trip to Wadi Rum and Petra for some glamping and camels and 4×4’s which is right up my alley lol hadn’t seen Wadi before so was excited to do that and really just be in the desert again!

Spent the night with Wadi Rum Night Luxury Camp and would definitely recommend them if you fancy a night in Wadi. Air conditioned tents with your own bathroom, hot shower included lol I was more than impressed!

Saira also lost her jacket which had some important documents and cards and cash inside and freaked out after realizing it was missing a day later lol smh but alhamdulillah it was found and everything was intact!

Petra was the next day and getting in took a little longer than usual because filming permits etc. had to be sorted. Some of you must have seen on my instastory that we drove into Petra from the back all the way to the Treasury bit – so blady amazing and a story I’m ready to tell anyone and everyone who’ll listen lol

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Last time I never got the chance to view the Treasury from up top and it’s something I really wanted to experience. Once you get to the Treasury bit, head towards the left of it and one of the locals will offer to take you up for a fee (we got him down to 6JD for two people); I don’t think you’re able to go up without one. It’s about a 10-15 minute climb (wear trainers or comfortable shoes – not flats) and once you get to the top you’ve got to give someone else some money to get to the actual mat bit where you can sit and take your photos for instagram and get a pretty cool view of what’s below!

After Petra we were headed back to Amman as most of us were flying out that evening. There were some extra shots the team wanted to get on the helipad back at the hotel so your girl headed up only to be greeted up close and personal by a real-life helicopter which I got to sit in and hover about in which was freaking amazing! ( I was well excited lol check out my highlights on instagram for clips!)

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And that’s that! Inshallah definitely want to take mama to Jordan at some point as I think she’d really enjoy it! I think I mentioned this in my last post as well but I’d recommend at least a week-and-a-half to two weeks just to cover some of the main sites Jordan has to offer. Also don’t forget about the Jordan Pass which covers your visa entry alongside access to Petra, Wadi Rum etc., and it’s also valid for 12 months after purchase so your girl felt chuffed using hers again at the airport haha

Still not finished that Nepal post from April, yikes, but its coming I promise!

love and light and hugs sent your way xoxo

Everyone’s got different needs in general day-to-day life, and whilst travelling those needs tend to be magnified to a million and one [for some]. The need for a fluffy pillow, a shower in only the most pristine of conditions, carpeted flooring, a closet with hangers, and whatever other comforts of home aren’t necessarily going to be givens once you leave (def available if that’s what you’re after so by all means you do you, but this post isn’t about that!).

Depending on where and why you’re jetting off, you’ve almost always got somewhat of an idea of what you’d like to spend a chunk of your budget on. Tours, all-inclusive resorts to just chill and never leave the premises, food, a concert or event you’ve flown in for, shopping, sightseeing etc. etc. you get the point lol

I personally enjoy spending my travel budget on doing stuff as opposed to where I lay my head at night, again, depending on where in the world I’ve headed. As long as I’ve got a bed to sleep in and a bathroom in decent condition (okay hot water too lol) I tend to be alright! Don’t get me wrong though, I have and do stay at hotels and can def be about that fluffy pillow life at times lol but there are alternatives out there which are just as good at a fraction of the price.

I was in London a couple weeks ago, stayed in a hostel (@astorhostels), and asked you guys on instagram if you had any questions/concerns about the hostel life because I’m aware it isn’t always the preferred type of accommodation for some; especially if you’re a solo female [Muslim] traveler. Last time I was in town I stayed a lovely hotel which I was tempted to return to, but thought we’d go a different route this time around.

Before we get into some of those questions,, some of you might be thinking “what is a hostel?” Prior to my experience, I was always under the impression of them being this dingy establishment of cramped bunkbeds situated either in the heart of a busy city or the outskirts of town, filled with backpackers who couldn’t afford to stay anyplace else, no food, maybe a dirty bathroom *insert idunno emoji here*

BUT a few years ago my lovely younger sister changed my entire perception after we stayed in a hostel in Kyoto, Japan. She had been staying in them for a while at this point whilst touring around the country and I always scoffed at the thought lol but was slightly jealous of how she could afford to stay at a different place every couple nights. I remember first entering the building and thinking ‘Saira are you dumb? This is so freaking cool! Why haven’t you done this before?!’ (she said I had better credit here so there’s that)

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credit: @abbasspace

SO! What is a hostel exactly?

A hostel is essentially a budget-friendlier version of a hotel; envision a smaller hotel with dorm-like vibes. They aim to provide more of a social and shared travel experience via an alternative accommodation space, again, at a fraction of the price of a hotel. Because they’re catered to travelers and tourists alike, their locations are blady wicked! Almost always in close proximity to main transport systems, tourist sites and attractions, local munch spots etc., they allow for the best and easiest accessibility to anything and everything you’d want to explore whilst in town.

sidetone: yes you can roll up with luggage and not just a backpack lol some have lifts which help, some don’t, but you’ll survive!

Do you usually travel alone?

Yes and I love it! Either alone or with a friend or two, but mostly solo! Travelling on your own allows you to get to know yourself, the good and bad, and truly adds perspective to life in terms of how miniscule certain things, and even you, are in this world, reiterating the idea of living your best life and being true to yourself.

Your first solo trip is always going to be daunting and scary and you being super self-conscious of the world and everyone ‘watching’ you, but it’s just you in your own head lol the world can either be a beautiful place full of love and hope or a big bad scary monster out to get you; you ultimately decide which one it is. Every place, every country and experience is truly what you make of it; I’d always recommend going in with an open mind and open heart and being conscious of the fact that whilst this may not be your ‘normal’ or reality, it is for many others and to be mindful and respectful of that. (side note: would you be interested in a separate post on solo travel itself? tips etc?! let me know in the comments!)

Do you feel safe in hostels with belongings there?

Yes. I’ve got mini locks for my case(s) which I use sometimes, and many hostels also have a safe which they can lock away any valuables for you. You’ve often got to put down a refundable deposit ($5 or something small) but it gives you peace of mind if you’re worried about someone taking something. Depending on the room you’re in, everyone’s got their designated ‘space’ to keep their things and only those people assigned to that room have access via a key card (just like a hotel) so you don’t have to worry about someone from another room or floor snooping.

 Are hostels mixed? Are there female only dorms?

Yes, and yes! The hostel itself is mixed, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a female-only hostel, but the room you choose to stay in is up to you. Rooms are either all-female, all-male, mixed, or some also have the option for private rooms which is an entire room to yourself! Depending on the hostel, some rooms have bathrooms (with showers) in the rooms, some have them outside in the hallway which are communal (could be mixed). Rooms themselves could consist of 4-beds or more; in Japan my sister and I were in a private room with a shared bathroom, and after she left I switched to a 4-bed. In London I stayed in a 10-bed with a bathroom inside, Athens was a 4-bed with bathroom inside, so it all just depends on the place itself!

 

Cleanliness? How clean are the facilities especially if they are communal?

In my experience the hostels themselves have been pretty clean; just like in a hotel there’s ‘room service’ mostly to tidy up the bathroom. The one thing no ones really got control of though is the cleanliness of fellow travelers which might be kinda gross sometimes lol cleaning the sink and countertop once you’re done with it, or not leaving smelly socks/shoes out in the open are common courtesies you’d presume to be normalcies… but nah lol clean up after yourself because that’s how your mamas raised you, and hope the person before you has also done the same! If you’re quite anal about germs etc. you can always pack disinfecting wipes or something of the sort (my mama loves Lysol wipes haha) but they’ll get the job done.

What is your experience staying in a hostel as a female/Muslim/hijabi? (I always imagine myself sleeping in a room full of intoxicated people.!)

 My experience has been great so far! I’ve personally never allowed those ‘labels’ to define nor restrict me from doing certain things and so I don’t think you should either, but I definitely understand where you’re coming from x

As a female, sorted, you’ve got the option to choose an all-female dorm if that makes you more comfortable. As a Muslim, same thing lol stay in whatever dorm you feel more comfortable , pray in your room or the commons area, or you can always ask reception if they’ve got a private room you could use for 5 mins which I’m sure wouldn’t be an issue. As a hijabi, if you don’t want to say hi or smile or engage in conversation with me because you’ve already made presumptions of what I’m like based on what’s on my head, that’s on you and I’m not too bothered lol but like anything else if you make the first move ie. introduce yourself to your roommates or start chatting to people asking where they’re coming from, plans for the city etc. you’ll naturally find something to bond over regardless because you’re all technically at the hostel for a similar reason (travelling, stop over, touristing, taking a month off life etc.)

Regardless of the communication stuff haha er well as a ‘hijabi‘ if you don’t want to go to pub night at the hostel, don’t go; this is that whole making life choices thing again init and I get that wearing and/or being in hijab presumes this restriction upon what you can and can’t do, but everyone’s got different values and deems more importance upon some things than others, so just like you get by in everyday life in terms of what you consider ‘permissible’ in accordance to your beliefs, you’d just do the same I suppose!

Can you sleep without hijab, is it safe?

Yes you can; again whatever makes you feel comfortable. I tend to stay in female dorms so it comes off once I enter the premises and of course when I sleep lol and then walking around the hostel or in commons doing work etc. I either throw on a hoodie or hijab it and it’s all good!

Do you have to share a room with strangers?

If you’re travelling alone, yes, unless you opt for one of the private rooms. If you travel with a group of friends etc. you can always just choose the same room so you’ll at least end up together in a room with strangers lol

 

Where can I find hostels?

I’ve only ever used hostelworld, hostels.com, and hostelbookers ; they’re legitimate, reliable, and have a massive range of places to choose from. Just like when you go to book a hotel, you’ve got ratings to look at, comments/feedback, photos etc. to help make your decision easier. I tend to look at the ratings and location; how close they are to public transport and town centers. Being close to transport helps in terms of going to/from the airport as well because you can often make your own way instead of getting jipped by airport taxis!

*Amenities etc.

 Most hostels offer laundry services either on or off the premises, and if you’re in desperate need of an iron you can always ask. In Athens I was taken to the basement to use the iron in the laundry room which obviously isn’t room service, but it got the job done and I wasn’t fussed in the slightest! Breakfast is also available at times; either there’s a café or shop of some sort, or recently in London Astor Hyde Park had a cool initiative where breakfast was only 1pound and all funds were donated to charity. If you follow me you know food isn’t a massive priority during my travels so I tend to skip out on brekky wherever I’m staying and grab-n-go whilst I’m out exploring!

Wifi and outlets are also a standard. If you’re in need of a travel adapter you can grab one from reception (often at the cost of a refundable deposit which is cool). Same with towels (I’d suggest bring your own though just because..!)

Hostels almost always have events going on at the space itself which is wicked and a great way to meet people as well. Movie nights, free walking tours etc. and there’s always a plethora of posters posted on the walls about things to do (just like at uni!) If you’re interested in booking tours etc. as well, your hostel can also assist with that sometimes or even have a discounted rate as you’re staying with them; some might also have affiliations with local restaurants which grants you a percentage off your meal which #nocomplaints !

I stayed at the Astor Hyde Park during my time in London and I loved it! So close to Hyde Park and literally the most perfect location in the ‘Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington’, an area I had never explored before whilst in London which I loved. 10 minute walk to the Natural History Museum, and a 12-15 minute walk to 2 underground stations (South Kensington and Gloucester) which was a blessing. Walked meself to Nottinghill and Portobello Road Market (25-30 min) which was through town and a highstreet; also easily walked into and through Knightsbridge and Trafalgar Square which was lovely (thankfully I was blessed with fabulous weather which is often a rarity in Londontown!) Also had no idea it was the same weekend as the BAFTA’s but they were literally taking place the next street down to us which was pretty cool!

Astor have got a chain of 4 hostels in and around London: Astor Hyde Park, Astor Victoria, Astor Queensway, and Astor Museum, and they’ve kindly gifted us a promo code to use on your next stay with Astor; use: ASTORLUV for 10% off your booking via their site here [max 14 nights] xo.

I feel like this post is long enough already, but I hope it’s helpful and inspires even one of you to step out of your comfort zone and give it a go even if it’s just for a night! If you’re interested in somewhat of a recap of me trip, check out my ‘Londontown’ highlight on instagram (@shazaira) for some walkings&talkings! Feel free to get in touch if you’ve got more questions/concerns etc. as I’d love to help out and be sure to let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed this read! xx

Special thanks to Astor Hyde Park for hosting me during my stay in London. All opinions and views expressed are my own.

 

Travelling to and from places tends to make you more aware of what you can/cannot live without for a certain amount of time alongside what’s practical versus what isn’t. With time I think I’ve been able to narrow down a few essentials which are ‘musts’ in my hand luggage and I basically never travel without, and as a result have made the entire travelling process a lot less stressful!

I’ve always loved my little mini trolley/hand luggage/small suitcase as it a) allowed me to take more stuff along and b) made me feel like a tourist, but to be honest all that rolling and pulling and then finding a spot big enough on the plane and then lifting and then waiting to grab it again and rush to your connecting flight became a little too ahh. Don’t get me wrong, I still use my ickle orange trolley when need be lol but behold the infamous backpack/rucksack/knapsack which a) allows you to roam duty free with both hands, b) doesn’t take up much space, c) isn’t really that heavy, (and d) has the potential to look cutesy..!) I wanted to share some of my favourites that I can’t travel without and would love to hear if you’ve got any ‘must-haves’ packed away!

Everything you see here fits snugly into me bag with room for a book, chocolates, the occasional blanket scarf and a little bit of duty free shopping of course ! 🙂

-thick warm socks are a must because tbh I always get cold on planes and plus its just more comfortable, especially on longer flights, to take off your shoes and hang out in socks!

-Saira wears glasses so they replace the contacts during flights and the contact lens case fits perfectly into the glasses case essentially turning it into a practical 2-in-1 !

-wires [phone charger/earphones] because duh. Laptop gets charged before hand and is only ever used to watch shows or read a book so the battery usually does me good!

-card holder because you never know when your luggage is overweight and have to credit card that ish. also because you should just keep your money on you..!

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I like to stay somewhat organized and have a spot for my passport and boarding passes and documents etc. so this ickle bag gets the job done. I tend to stick the backpack into the overhead compartment and just keep this with me at my seat because it saves me from getting up every time for the basics. When I’m not travelling, everything just stays in the bag which goes into an empty suitcase; that way when it’s time to go someplace I don’t have to worry about making sure I’ve got everything or look for me passport etc etc.!

-I never used to travel without a pen or writing tool, and then filling out forms and landing cards and visa papers without one or having to borrow one became a bit of a reality and so now I just leave this one in there at all times and it saves me a lot of trouble having to look for one!

-passport because again, duh. Also passport and pen placed in the same location is kinda sorta ideal for when you need your passport number and information to fill out the aforementioned forms so yay! *lightbulb!*

-pills; tylenol or paracetamol or anything to help migraines or sick feelings because they happen on long trips

-packet of tissues to cry, blow noses, soak up spills, etc. (because those are all realistic scenarios)

-I was forever losing those tiny keys that lock your suitcase and hiding them in safe places and then forgetting where I put them, but they’ve now found a permanent home 🙂 When I’ve arrived home or at a destination, the lock goes in as well and that way everything just stays in one place!

-hand cream because it gets hella dry in the plane sometimes, or you come back from washing your hands and they’re longing to be moisturized !

-roller ball perfume is definitely a must! It isn’t pictured because it’s hiding in the bag, but   sometimes people stank or you end up smelling a little and rollerballs are just super super convenient to throw into your purse or take ‘to-go’! My favourites are the Victor Rolf Flowerbomb, Balenciaga’s Florabotanica, and  TomFord’s Velvet Orchid !

-also not shown is chewing gum! because you eat and sleep and sometimes don’t pack your toothbrush with you and chewing gum has that magic ability to make your mouth feel clean…! lol also chewing during take off helps prevent your ears from getting blocked!

-cutesy goodbye letters and notes from people who sometimes miss you also reside in this bag (which I found today #blacks) which are always nice to read when you’ve got nothing to do for 8 hours and make you reminisce about people and memories, and kind of place you in a thinky perspective moment about the past and what once was, versus the present and what’s to come in terms of where you’re going, like actually physically going because you’re at an airport or on a plane after all! (that got unnecessarily deep real fast lol)

This is not a ‘makeup’ bag, but more so along the lines of a touchup/basics/just enough to look presentable kinda sorta bag ! For when you’ve had a night flight and your face looks oily and beat as ever and you don’t want to walk out of the airport looking like a complete mess lol

-I randomly picked up this packet of travel sized bronzers by TooFaced at Sephora one day just because and had it sit with my normal size bronzers for ages. Realized that it was travel size for a reason, allowed it to come along on a couple trips, and it’s been with me ever since. The brush came with the set and is perfect both in terms of its size and to achieve that somewhat of a half-assed contour-on-the-go which is usually just enough!

-eyedrops because contacts and glasses and dryness in the plane make your eyes itchy and dry and these just make them feel better

-I love love love this lip balm and would probably be the one thing I recommend everyone try at least once! It’s the Chanel Hydrabeauty lip balm which is the perfect balance of not too greasy or glossy or tinted or smelly or dries out or you need to keep re-applying etc etc etc. (you get my drift) try it!

-‘Soap&Glory One Heck of a Blot’ aka the best blotting powder ever. The one and only soap&glory product I have ever used or wanted to use and again one of those random things I picked up at the drugstore, but oh so worth it especially when travelling and wanting to get rid of that tired traveler sheen we all get on our T-zone!

-There’s either a lipstick or some lipcolor in the bag just incase; today just so happened to be the Art Stick by Bobbi Brown which I’d also recommend you try. It’s basically a lip crayon but a good quality one with color that stays put and just makes you look a little put together lol this ones in the shade ‘bare nude’ and is definitely one of my favourites!

By no means are these super restrictive ideas on what you’ve got to carry with you in your hand luggage, but just some sharing ideas incase some of you stress about what to pack/not pack! Are there any ‘must haves’ that you travel with or always need in your bag?! xoxo