After publishing my last post about tips for traveling to Muslim countries during Ramadan, someone reached out to me and asked, what about for Muslims? What’s it like to travel while fasting, and what tips do I have for doing so?
Well, I’m going to be honest here. I have traveled during Ramadan exactly once in my life and I hope to not have to do it again. Right after I typed that I remembered I would have a week of fasting left while I’m in Spain at the end of this month. D’oh! So…I hope I don’t have to do it again after this year.
The only time I’ve traveled while fasting was back in 2012. Ramadan started near the end of July, so I had the fortune of starting the month in Indonesia, a mostly Muslim country. Since I was working at the time and a lot of my coworkers were fasting, I found there was a sense of camaraderie both at work and throughout the city that I quite enjoyed. Unfortunately, I was nearing the end of my internship in Jakarta and had a full 2.5 weeks of travel planned through Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Phuket and Bangkok with my sister and another friend. These travel plans included lots of early morning flights and I’m going to be honest here: we struggled.
So as someone who took on the challenge of fast-paced travel in the summer heat of Southeast Asia while fasting, I have plenty of suggestions on how to make your travels enjoyable without having a hangry breakdown. These are my tips for traveling while fasting.
Avoid if it you can
I obviously love traveling and will do so at any chance I get. Ramadan is different though. Part of what makes this month enjoyable is the sense of community that I get from being at home and connecting with friends, family, and faith. This is incredibly challenging to do while out exploring on the road. Plus, it’s difficult to go visit tourist sites, walk around all day, and do a bunch of activities when you’re lethargic, hungry, and thirsty. If you don’t have a real reason to travel during Ramadan, then spend this month at home and take your vacation another time.
Duh, right? This is so easy to do when I’m at home since I have an endless supply of drinkable water at my disposal. While traveling, it’s easy to become dehydrated when you’re not fasting, and even easier to do so while fasting. Make a point to buy a bunch of water for your room, and buy a couple of bottles after iftar to hydrate throughout the evening.
Visit another Muslim country
This one is a given. The only time I’ve ever fasted in a Muslim country was for a few days in Indonesia, and it was awesome. The sense of camaraderie and understanding that comes from fasting with an entire city or country is unrivaled. We’re all in this together! Plus, countries often adjust their restaurant and store hours according to fasting, which makes it easier to enjoy activities in the evening.
Go somewhere with shorter fasting days and good weather
While I benefitted from a slightly shorter fasting day in Southeast Asia than in Los Angeles, I certainly didn’t have the upper hand when it came to the weather. Southeast Asia is hot and humid all year round, but especially so during its dry season, which is when I was traveling. Heat doesn’t exactly get you pumped up to get outside. Choose somewhere with shorter fasting days, decent weather or both.
Find the local mosque and Muslims
If my dad can find Sudanese people in Jakarta, Guangzhou, Rome, and Galway, you can certainly find Muslims (there are a lot more of us anyway) in whichever country you’re visiting. Chances are high that there’s a local mosque as well. Given that Ramadan is all about the community feel, I find that breaking your fast with other Muslims allows you to replicate the feeling of a temporary home away from home.
This may seem counterintuitive to what I’ve written, but hear me out. One reason for my many struggles was my desperate attempt to travel like I normally do. At the time, “normal” travel was a packed schedule that started early and ended late so I could take full advantage of my 3 days in each city. Needless to say, this didn’t pan out so well for my crankiness. I recommended adding an extra day or two to your itinerary to factor in the fact that you will be traveling slower whether you like it or not.
Plan your meal(s)
Nothing is more disappointing than a bad meal after a long day of fasting or having to frantically search for a restaurant ten minutes before it’s time to break your fast. I’m a huge fan of trying local cuisine during my travels, so if I’m limited to one meal per day, it better be good. Plus, it’s kind of fun to get excited about what you’re going to eat later. Check out my tips for finding the best food while traveling.
Take frequent breaks
If you’re going to insist on keeping a fast-paced travel schedule, then be prepared to take plenty of breaks. I’m really terrible and have a tendency to go non-stop then collapse into bed at night (I’m working on it), but without the power of caffeine, this was close to impossible to do. Besides, you’re on vacation so breaks should be a necessity anyhow.
Last but not least – have fun! While traveling while fasting is certainly challenging, it can still be enjoyable. I always find that many cities around the world come alive at night, especially during the summer. Since Ramadan will take place in the summer for the next four years or so, you’ll get the chance to enjoy plenty of cool local events in the evenings – and what better time to explore the city than when you get a burst of energy? Happy travels!
Have you ever traveled while fasting Ramadan? What was your experience like? Share in the comments below!
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