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Jamil Mohamed and Nisha Jamil in Istanbul, Turkey Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: In a case of ‘revenge tourism’ after the COVID-19 pandemic, an expat couple in the UAE is back with valuable lessons after a month-long road trip to 13 countries, most of them in eastern Europe.

Jamil Mohamed, 44, and his wife Nisha Jamil, 39, are back in Dubai after travelling to Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia (Czech Republic), Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland, covering 8,800km in their Dubai-registered 4WD Land Cruiser.

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The Dubai car number plate attracted attention wherever they went, such as seen here in Somerneimi, Finland Image Credit: Supplied

Though their road trip was only one-way as they flew back from Finland in view of Ramadan, the couple said this was a unique experience, taking them closer to nature and experiencing the culture of different countries at a time when the world was itching to return to normality.

People welcomed them wherever they went, their Dubai-registered number plate, drawing a lot of attention.

“People were not used to seeing a Dubai number plate in most places that we visited,” Jamil, who runs a shipping and logistics company in Dubai, told Gulf News.

Ever since they returned, he said he had been contacted by many people seeking tips to go on similar trips after they saw his social media posts.

“A man from Bahrain spoke to me for almost an hour. So, I felt it is good to share some tips that would come in handy for people planning similar trips. I see people are eager to travel now. Youngsters are especially crazy about road trips.”

Planning, preparation

Since he had been toying with the idea of this road trip for quite some time, Jamil said he started doing online research for the trip since November-December.

Fuel and food

“Planning well is key in such trips. I used to check Google Map for getting an idea about the route and distance and then made an estimate of the fuel that would be needed.”

The couple had taken cans to fill petrol in case of emergencies, but fortunately did not require them. “There was no lack of petrol stations. We could find one at least every 100km or so.”

Though his car is a 2021 model, Jamil said he changed all the tyres before the trip. “We used all-season tyres as we had to drive in rain and snow.”

Since they prefer halal food, they also stored almost 30kg of food in the car, said Nisha.

“It was only in Iran and Turkey that we ate out mostly. In all other countries, we preferred to cook and adjust with the dry food items that we carried. We ate only two meals a day and some fries unless we were hungry.”

However, a lot of food was left over when they finished touring Finland, following which they handed them over to the Indian friends they had befriended via social media, they said.

“They were happy to receive it,” said Jamil.

Tackling communication

He said a major issue they faced was related to communicating with the local people in many countries. “Since they don’t speak English, we had to use Google translation. We also downloaded Farsi and Turkish version of Goggle translation to use in case we face internet access issue. But, thankfully we had data all the time, except while crossing some borders. Data access was easy because we used ‘e-SIM’ that gives global internet coverage. That helped us make WhatsApp calls to kids in Dubai, other family members and friends.”

Sharing his live location in family and friends’ groups was something that Jamil frequently did. “We never know what could happen in such a trip. I had told two of my cousins to be on stand-by in case of any emergency. I felt it was a good idea to keep others updated about where exactly we are.”

“We used Garmin and Waze GPS apart from Google Map. Also we carried four mobile phones,” he said about the backups they banked on.

Hurdles on the way

However, one of the phones used by Nisha was stolen while the couple were in Serbia, Jamil said, calling for caution among travellers. “My sunglasses were also stolen from a petrol station when we were moving to Hungary from Romania.”

During that time, the couple said they once had to wait for hours to cross the border since there was a long queue of Ukrainians trying to cross the border due to the Russian invasion. However, they did not face any issue due to the conflict in the region. “We used to check the news every day. Thankfully, we didn’t face any difficulties,” said Nisha.

Jamil said they will hit the road again in December for a trip to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Egypt with their children Khadeeja Hanan Jamil, 17, and Aisha Daneen Jamil,11.