You need to be very specific about your food requirements. If you request for Halal food, describe what Halal is as it is not enough to just say “no pork”. It is very common practice to fry vegetables in recycled oil that has previously been used to cook pork. So make sure to request the restaurant menus from your tour provider and double check with them that the food options served are indeed Halal. It might seem like overkill but it will ensure that your travel agent will take your food requirements very seriously. It will give it the time and detailed care that parents expect you to provide for their children during the trip.
If you are planning to observe prayer times, ask for a timetable and check where/whether you will have a quiet space for your students to do this. Be careful. It is fairly easy for a tour provider to say that they would be happy to oblige and that it is no problem to stop activities to have a few moments of prayer. But, it is not that straightforward. For example, students might end up having to stop at a noisy public square with no quiet space available to pray close by. This can be especially troublesome in places like the Forbidden City and People’s Square. Students might be on a site visit at a local business where the venue might not have the space available to pray. Or students might be in the middle of an activity that could pose a safety risk if stopped midway, such as on a hiking trail or climbing activity. Again, it might seem like overkill. But, by requesting a timetable and double-checking if and where there is quite space to pray, you will ensure your trip provider has also thought these things through.
Likewise, if you plan to visit a mosque for Friday prayer, speak to your tour operator beforehand to ensure this works with your itinerary. For students that might not want to visit the mosque, ask your operator to provide alternative things to do during this time. There are some very cool mosques worth visiting in China. The Dragon Trip regularly includes visits to The Niujie Mosque in Beijing (Built in the 10th century), The Great Mosque in Xi’an (built in the 8th century) in our Xi’an and Beijing itineraries.
Make sure that you choose a travel provider that is flexible and understanding to your needs. As although China has five officially sanctioned religions, it is our experience that the most common ‘religion’ is a cross of atheism, ancestor worship, cultural superstitions, agnosticism, and national allegiance. Therefore many urban professionals might not fully understand your specific cultural and religious requirements. Highlighting the importance of vigilance when checking the trip itinerary against your school groups needs.
Planning a school trip all boils down to making sure your students feel at ease during their trip abroad. During the trip, you don’t want to be in a situation where you are consistently checking every dish against dietary restrictions. You want to avoid a scenario where you find yourself in a crowded Forbidden City during call to prayer. And, you definitely want to make sure your travel guide understands your specific requirements.
At The Dragon Trip, we have seen an increasing amount of schools in the Middle East approaching us to arrange their educational trips. We believe it is because we are truly committed to accommodating all religions and in making sure that students spend their time learning at our amazing destinations – not fretting about going against their cultural observances.
I hope that our tips above can help in planning your school trip to China. As a premier educational trips provider, we have taken over 70 schools around the world to amazing destinations in China, Japan, and Southeast Asia – amongst these, a significant portion of our schools are from the Middle East such as Dubai International Academy, Dubai American Academy, Al Khalil International School and Doha College. Through the years, we’re proud to have developed a level of know-how and expertise in arranging travel for students coming from religiously observant Muslim backgrounds.