Travel Blogging and Social Media hashtags and feature accounts

As we all know, being on social media is crucial especially for bloggers and artists because that's the main way people find out about us. As a travel blogger, it's good to have visibility via specific hashtags and features. These are the ones I find most useful for Instagram. Keep in mind that I keep my caption clean from these hashtags and only use my own, but add them in the comments below to give a neater look to the photos. 

Top Travel Hashtags

Daily Travel hashtag: #TravelTuesday #WanderlustWednesday 

General Travel hashtags: #travel #wanderlust #explore #travelfind #discover #instatravel #traveljunkie 

use: season, day, county, city, occasion as well. 

Top Travel Feature Accounts

Might be a good idea to start with smaller accounts because bigger ones get 100s of tags a day. 

#LPTraveller @lonelyplanettraveller 
#BBCTravel or #LoveTheWorld @bbc_travel
#WeLiveToExplore @WeLiveToExplore
#wonderful_places @wonderful_places
#TheGlobeWanderer @TheGlobeWanderer
#beautifuldestinations @beautifuldestinations
#IPulledOverForThis @IPulledOverForThis
#PassionPassport @PassionPassport
#TLPicks @travelandleisure
#discoverearth @discoverearth
#darlingescapes @darlingescapes

Top Travel Feature Accounts and Hashtags Specifically for London

#ThisisLondon @London
#london4all #london4all_video @london4all
#TopLondonPhoto @TopLondonPhoto
#London_only @London_only
#lotiloves @londontheinside
#timeoutlondon @timeoutlondon

Top Travel Feature Accounts specifically for females

This photo was featured on @Globelletravels  and there are a number of travelling females account that support and empower such as: #Girlsborntotravel @Girlsborntotravel , #girlsmeetglobe @girlsmeetglobe , #girlsLOVEtravel @girlslovetravel , #femmetravel @femmetravel, #TheTravelWomen @TheTravelWomen

Top Travel Feature Accounts specifically for Muslim and/or Arab travellers:

The photo below was featured on #361.world @361.world 
There is also #muslimtravelers @muslimtravelers 

Muslim Travellers on instagram

For Feetlfies (feet selfies) for when you are travelling and when you are home: 

#fwarabs @fwarabs

#fromwhereIstand #FWIS @fromwhereIstand

#Ihavethisthingwithfloors @Ihavethisthingwithfloors

#Ihavethisthingwithtiles @Ihavethisthingwithtiles

PS. remember that if you are using brands/products or you are in a place that owns a social media account you should tag them too! 

connect with me on insta @designeresra

Over to you: What are your favourite travel hashtags and accounts? 

15 Facts About Saudi Women

It seems like the world is very curious about Saudi women. In a dinner party last year, I got asked a million questions about the life of a Saudi woman and what she does. When I answered honestly people were shocked and thought I was making it up, but I was not. Saudi women are normal and they strive to better their situation. It's true that Saudi is mostly a male oriented society, but women have been working so hard proving themselves and establishing their place in society and I think now more than ever. I compiled a list of facts about Saudi women just to give you an idea of how life it is back home. Of course there are some different cases, but in my city in the Eastern Province in Saudi these are facts.

1- Saudi Women are educated

Education is a key part of the saudi society because without it you can't go far in life. From the age of 6 girls start going to school to the 12th grade. There isn't even a question here. A girl is born and is enrolled in school as simple as that.

2- Saudi Women are HIGHLY educated

High school diplomas are not even considered education if you don't go to university. The competition is insane to get into university. There are only a handful of public (free) universities in Saudi and because the average Saudi barely makes 30K a year a free education is the best option for everyone. Most of my friends have a masters degree. 

3- Saudi Women don't usually leave education when they get married

It's normal for girls to get engaged or married during their university years, but that's a rare reason for leaving education. Most couples wait till after the bachelor's to conceive a child (yes Saudis are familiar with birth control). 

4- In fact, they stay in education even after they have a child or two

Sometimes couples want children and after a semester off, the lady goes back to school to finish off her degree. It's not easy, but with family help it works.  

5- Saudi Women work

After university, most Saudi ladies would work. The ladies without higher degrees work in shops, which is a new thing that started only few years ago. Prior to that women only had the option to work in hospitals/university/companies and banks, but the work force have expanded. Thankfully, the women in my family are highly achieving. We have four medical doctors, university lectures and an engineer.  

6- Saudi Women contribute financially in supporting her family

Life is expensive and a 30k a year average is barley enough to feed a family, so women have to work and participate in supporting the family financially especially for the kids education. Government monthly salaries are a myth. You only get a salary when you work or when you are extremely poor. (Read: Myth One: Saudi the land of the riches). 

7- Saudi Women raise their own children

I hear this one a lot, for some reason some of my friends in the West think each Saudi woman has an army of maids to raise their children. That might be the case in rich families, but the average middle class lady raises her own children with the help of her mother and mother in law. 

8- Saudi Women don't usually leave their children with maids

There is another myth about Saudi ladies leaving their children with maids to go out. Again, that's not the case for the average lady.  

9- Saudi Women can't afford maids

In fact, It's really hard getting an in house maid. It's not like it was 20 years ago. Plus most families can't even afford it. 

10- Saudi Women's main road block is the guardian's permission

This is the saddest fact of them all and is basically could make or break the Saudi woman. If the girl has a psycho male guardian or an over protective one, her life will be very hard because the guardian has the power to allow her to study, work, get married and travel. Usually the first two happen as normal like mentioned above, but travel is the major issue. If he (dad/husband/uncle/brother) says no, then good luck.   

(Read: Saudi Women's Biggest Issue). 

11- Saudi Women have drivers because they HAVE TO it's not a state of riches

When people hear refer to the family driver, they just assume I am just a rich Saudi, but having a driver is a necessity of life since women themselves aren't allowed to drive. It's also a complete pain getting drivers from abroad and the locals on Uber and Careem (taxi apps) are not cheap. 

(Read: Saudi Issues: Women Driving). 

12- Saudi women study abroad and travel the world

The first part is an increasing fact especially after the King Abdullah's scholarship program in 2005. It used to be taboo for girls going abroad on their own to study, but it has become a normal option in the past ten years. Granted that the female doesn't have a really bad guardian who says no. The travelling part is still new, but Saudi women have started travelling and enjoying themselves. Although when they are slightly older (end of 20s/start of 30s). 

(Read: Saudi Women Travelling The World). 

13- Saudi Women do arranged marriages differently

Arranged marriages happen in Saudi, but not like what most people imagine. It's not like she knows nothing about the guy and she only sees him on the wedding night. I am sure that happens too, but it's not the norm. Normally, a family will introduce themselves to the girls family to suggest that their son would be a fit for their daughter. There is a whole process after that of getting to know the guy. Kind of like supervised dating. If they hit it off, they get engaged, where they can really get to know each other. If that goes well, they get married. That could take months or years. It depends on the family and the couple.  

14- Saudi Women get married for love too

With social media, mixed work environments and education abroad, Saudi women have been able to find men on their own and falling in love. It's becoming more acceptable. 

15- Saudi Women take care of themselves and workout.

In the past ten years, Saudi women have made an effort to stay fit and beautiful. Going to the gym and working out is an increasing habit. The gym choices are very limited and are only in a handful hospitals and hotels. The memberships aren't cheap either. It could be 200 GBP a month, but women are working really hard on their bodies. They are even trying to include more sports in education and getting involved in the olympics. This is just the beginning. 

It's not always easy for a Saudi woman, but even with the cultural restriction she is making the most out of it. There is room for growth and improvement of course, but she is not locked up at home like most people I meet seem to think! :)

Further Reading Material: 

Beautiful People of Sri Lanka

Here are some of the beautiful people I met during my solo trip to Sri Lanka. Each person on here made my stay in Sri Lanka special. 

It was such a pleasure meeting the locals and speaking to them. I wish I spoke to them more and asked for their stories. They all showed me kindness and added to the experience.

What was one of the memorable conversations you had with a local on a trip? 

Secret Paradise in Sri Lanka

From Kandy, I got a tuk tuk and headed to Dambulla for the magnificent cave temples I have heard of and for the UNISCO site: Sigiriya. Unfortunately, they both didn't happen. The temple didn't let me in because of my headscarf and then I ran out of time to visit the rock, but all of that was forgotten the moment I entered Heritance Kandalama, which was just like paradise. I wish I stayed there longer, but one night was good to treat me and relax me. 

The hotel is very eco friendly and it's built within the forest just by the lake. It is really breathtaking and could be an amazing honeymoon hotel. They have three pools and I went to the natural floor pool. It was the most relaxing thing I have done ever. 

The craziest thing that happened was me forgetting to lock my balcony door! It enabled the monkeys to get in and steel my passport! It was very surreal, but thankfully the wonderful staff looked for it all over and brought it back. So, if you stay there -or anywhere in the nature in Sri Lanka- make sure your balcony and windows are locked. You can see all of that in the video below the photos.  

By the way, you can go to Heritance Kandalama directly from the airport. It's only three hours drive and you can even make that the starting point of your trip! 

It was a place to remember and the crazy monkeys just made it more memorable. It's absolutely gorgeous and I would highly recommend it.

Thank you so much to Heritance Kandalama
for inviting me and giving me this fabulous experience. 

Ten Things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka, which makes it a very busy and loud city. I didn't expect it to be that crazy, but it was! I stayed there for four days and I thought that was slightly too long because after the first two days you run out of things to do. There are many possibilities around the city that are an hour or two away.  I got to do a number of things while I was there that I really enjoyed and thought you might find helpful. 

One. Have a breakfast with a view

The beautiful thing about Kandy is the location. It's in the hill country and if you stay in a hostel that's further from town centre in the hills around you could get a beautiful view. 

Breakfast with a view in Kandy

Two. Watch them move it move it

The dance show is mainly for tourists, but it's fun to watch especially if you are not in a festival season. It went on for an hour and it was very entertaining. It's located next to the temple of the tooth. You can see some of the dances in the video below. 

Three. Treat your taste buds to some tropical fruits

Sri Lanka is a tropical island with an abundance of delicious fruit. It was a joy eating all of them in every stop I had. They were full of flavour. You can see me trying some in the video above!

Four. Drink a fresh cuppa straight from the source   

There are a number of tea related things in Kandy such as the tea museum, tea plantations and the tea factory. It's worth trying at least one because tea is a major thing in Sri Lanka and the hill country is where it is produced. You can read about this in details in my previous post: Sri Lankan Tea: from the tea leaf to the cup. You can also watch it all in the video below. 

Five. Get to know the herbs and spices

There is an herbs garden very close to Kandy and I think it was the only one according to the tuk tuk driver. The entry and the tour are free, but they try their best to convince you that you need one of their natural products in your life. It's a mini trap to buy, but I still found it fascinating looking at all those spices in plants form. 

Six. Walk around the rice fields

I haven't seen rice fields before and during the drive outside of Kandy I saw some from the tuk tuk and I stopped for a little wander. 

Seven. Listen to the prayer chants by the Kandy Lake before sunset

Before going to Sri Lanka, I didn't really know much about Buddhism, but something I found really beautiful was the sound of prayer chants from the temple that you can hear by the Kandy lake. I was there around sunset so that plus the water and the orange sky was magical. Although there are main roads around the lake so the street noise could get annoying. 

Kandy Lake

Eight. Visit the temple if you are allowed in

One of Kandy's biggest attractions is the temple of the tooth. It's really close to the lake and the fancy touristy restaurants. People are asked to cover their legs and arms and take their head covering. In my case, I wasn't allowed in, but that's their religious rule and I respect that. It was a shame that I was so close yet so far away. 

Temple of the Tooth Sri Lanka

Nine. Shop haggle free

I picked a strange area to stay in in Kandy, so I was far from most touristy things, but I found myself very close to the Kandy Handcraft Centre. Everything has a price written down and you don't haggle, you just pick and pay. I find these places much more relaxed than shopping in markets and getting weird prices. They had everything there and I got few presents for myself. 

Shopping in Sri Lanka

Ten. Escape to a beautiful resort

You can even find a peaceful escape in the city such as the Earl's Regency I stayed in. It was so nice going there for some well deserved relaxation. 

Beautiful Resort in Kandy Sri Lanka

I hope you enjoyed these suggestions and please feel free to share some of the things you enjoy doing in Kandy! 

London After Midnight

When my friend suggested to keep walking around the river in South Bank and cross the main footpath bridges in London at 11pm, I jumped at the opportunity! I always wanted to experience London at night, but I never felt comfortable doing it on my own. The weather has been warm and glorious. I haven't spent a July in London before. I am usually away during that time, but this year I came right when summer started. It was surprisingly busy, but when the weather is good in London people stay out longer. I only had my Canon G 7X mark 1 with me and I thought the photos turned out really well for a point and shoot. Here are some of the photos I took on the walk.  

A Peaceful Escape in Crazy Kandy

I spent my first week in Sri Lanka in small towns and villages as you might have seen in the previous two youtube videos: Whales and Mangos in Sri Lanka and Elephants & Treehouses in Sri Lanka. It was very peaceful. I felt like I was in a world of my own, but when I arrived to Kandy I was welcomed with a wave of loud noises and insane traffic. It is the second largest city in Sri Lanka after all. After two days of being in super busy Kandy, I was invited to try a complimentary night in Earl's Regency by the Aitken Spence Hotels. The only thing I was sad about was not going there sooner! It was a true escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. It's also not too far from the main attractions. The rooms were very comfortable and the views were stunning.   

Kandy has a number of restaurants around town and there are nice ones around the lake, but I was very happy I had dinner and breakfast at Earl's Regency. There was a plenty of choice and it was all delicious. There was a live music performance during dinner as well, which added to the atmosphere. 

Overall, I had a very pleasant stay there and enjoyed the food and the views. It is a really peaceful escape from the very busy city. 

Up High in Sri Lanka

After a few hours on the train from Ella to Noneya and two fun bus rides with the locals, I finally got to Kandapola, a small village in Nuwara Eliya. The breeze was slightly colder in that part of Sri Lanka. The higher up the hill I went, the colder it got. It turns out that Kandapola is the coldest spot in the whole of the island. It is where Heritance Tea Factory is located on its own hill surrounded by endless fields of tea. I was very excited to be staying there. It is a tea factory that was converted into a classy boutique hotel. The tea factory within it is still functioning, but it was reduced in size. All the tea that is made in Heritance Tea Factory is only served and sold there. There is big machinery in the basement that works for half an hour around dinner time. It is fun to watch. 

My room was comfortable and I had the prettiest view of fields upon fields of tea, but it was very cold. It was like British cold like 8-10 C and I was not prepared. There was a heater in the room, but the corner rooms get even colder. I wish I had a cardigan with me, but all my clothes were super summery. 

The tea experiences at the hotel were my absolute favourite. You can read about them in details in the previous post: Sri Lankan Tea: from the tea leaf to the cup and even watch me participate in the youtube video: Perfect Cuppa: The story of Sri Lanka Tea. 

The hotel is on it's own little hill and far away from town, so it's a good idea to just eat at the hotel otherwise it will be very tricky. I also didn't see any food options on the way. The breakfast was really yummy. The staff were really friendly and suggested some authentic Sri Lankan dishes for me to try. For dinner, I had the set menu and it was so delicious with a good number of options from international to Sri Lankan food. PS. The chicken is halal. 

Along side the activities and the nature,  Heritance Tea Factory have a spa and gym. I haven't tried them, but they seem nice. 

Overall, I really enjoyed my stay and the staff were exceptional. I think it's nice to go there for a day or two to relax and get some tea and lovely cold breeze. 

Thank you so much to Heritance Tea Factory 
for inviting me and giving this fabulous experience. 

Sri Lankan Tea: from the tea leaf to the cup

When I moved to England, few years ago, I couldn’t help but fall into the English tea tradition. My tea collection slowly expanded and I was introduced to a range of healthy organic teas as well. When I relocated to London, my tea addiction took a turn to the best. I was invited by sofa.com for a tea tasting of the good and proper tea brand. I think that was the moment when I tasted real tea. It was indeed good and proper. From that point on my love for tea increased ten folds and I became accustomed to good quality tea. Going to Costa after that or any of the high street cafes became a torturous experience of drinking something that resembled tea, but not quiet. It tasted more like tea dust.

My love for tea was actually one of the reasons that drove me to visit Sri Lanka. I really wanted to get lost in their endless tea fields and just taste the realest, freshest cuppa. When I finally made it to the land of tea, I tried various tea experiences. I still feel like I should have done more, but that’s just my greed talking. I started with the experiences at the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory then followed it with a visit to the Ceylon Tea Museum in Kandy and ended it with a visit to the Geragama Tea Factory, which lead me to a tea shopping spree!

Despite the long journey I had, I was so ecstatic to be at the Heritance Tea Factory, that I was very energetic and ready to indulge in the tea experiences they have on offer. I started with the tea plucking experience. It was so much fun! First order of business was getting dressed in a traditional Sari and a fitted head basket for the pickings. The expert lady who accompanied the group and I was so knowledgeable in everything tea. She explained how the right black tea leaf is identified and showed us the difference between the ones used for green tea and white tea. Even after she showed me twice, it was still hard to pick the right leaves. It is a seriously tough job. Having three cameras did not help either. I wanted to photograph and film everything.

The tea plucking experience at the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory

The tea plucking experience at the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory

Tea flower. The tea plucking experience at the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory

Tea flower. The tea plucking experience at the gorgeous Heritance Tea Factory

The most challenging part was dropping the leaves in the head fitted basket with the wind blowing. I bet half of my leaves danced away in the wind instead of actually making it in the basket. After the plucking that lasted for roughly twenty minutes, we headed back to the micro tea factory that hosted the original machinery of the factory before it was refurbished and we talked about the process of making black tea. Since Sri Lanka is one of the main producers of black tea that was the main focus. It was the end of the day, so the machines were not in operation sadly, but I got to see other tea machines in action when I went to the Geragama Tea Factory and I enjoyed watching the process. It felt so different with people operating it and doing it live. I included it in the youtube video where you can watch here: 

After my awesome tea experience in Heritance Tea Factory, I headed to the hotel lobby with the expert for a tea tasting. I have done a tea tasting before, but this one was the real deal. It was done exactly like how their professional taster does it every morning. I was presented with four types of tea: strong black BOPF -Broken Orange Pekoe Fanning-, lighter black BOP -Broken Orange Pekoe-, medium black Pekoe and green tea. They were made to be strong so the flavour is at its fullest. It was like the wine tasting you see in the movies, where the taster takes a mouth full, swishes the liquid in the mouth and then spit. I was sad about the spiting part. It is hard to get the full taste without swallowing it. It is really an art. My favourite was the medium Pekoe, which slightly reminded me of the oolong tea I enjoy a lot. I had to purchase some of that because the tea made in that estate is only sold in the hotel and used there. 

Tea Tasting at the Heritance Tea Factory.

Tea Tasting at the Heritance Tea Factory.

When I headed to Kandy, my tuk tuk driver was adamant to take me to the tea factory he knows. The Geragama Tea Factory. I am glad he convinced me because as I mentioned above was amazing to see. Before heading there, I insited to stop at the Ceylon Tea Museum  of Kandy. The driver tried to change my mind and told me how boring and an uninteresting, but I told him it was a top choice on the Lonely Planet Sri Lanka guide so it had to be done. He was right. It was not as fun as the real thing. The tour was very informative and you get a “free” cup of tea that you pay for in your entrance ticket. The Geragama Tea Factory was the driver’s plan and a complete coinsdiance. It is free to enter and to be taken around, but everyone is so nice and the tea shop is like a dream, I had to do all my tea shopping there. I came back about three kilos heavier with tea, but to my defence this will be my annual tea supply! If I mention buying any more, please stop me!

Geragama Tea Shop

Geragama Tea Shop

PS. The Heritance Tea Factory experiences were complementary from the hotel.