Things to Know When Traveling to a Muslim Country During Ramadan

If you're planning on traveling to a Muslim country during Ramadan, here are the important things you need to know for your visit! | Muslim Travel | Ramadan Travel | Travel During Ramadan |

Ramadan is a special time for us Muslims. Besides not eating or drinking from dawn to dusk, it’s also a period of religious reflection, spiritual cleansing and plenty of generosity and socializing. Those that choose to travel to a Muslim country during Ramadan will often witness an atmosphere unlike that of Christmas in the U.S., with decor, shopping, and good cheer.

That being said, traveling to a Muslim country during Ramadan is not without its complications, especially for visiting non-Muslim tourists. Although this is a unique opportunity to experience traditions, customs, and even special meals and desserts, many countries adjust business hours and rules in order to accommodate those fasting. In order to ensure you can enjoy your trip while still respecting local customs, here’s what you need to know when traveling to a Muslim country during Ramadan.


What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the Muslim holy month that starts on the 9th month of the lunar calendar. For 30 days, millions of Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Yes, this means no food or water, even if you’re really, really thirsty (seriously, people ask me that). To us, it’s not just about fasting from food and water, but about spiritual reflection as well. It’s a month of increased prayer, charity and hospitality. It’s also a time to refrain from bad behavior and thoughts – think cursing, gossiping, and all the other habits that you promised yourself you’d break on January 1st ;). Ramadan starts 10-11 days earlier every year. In 2020, it starts on April 23rd. In 2021, it will start on April 12th. For a basic breakdown on FAQs, you can read this link, but feel free to ask me questions as well!

For the intents and purpose of this being a travel site and all, I’m sharing with you some tips on what to know when traveling to a Muslim country during Ramadan, as well as a few rules to follow in order to be respectful of local cultures during this time.


Which countries observe Ramadan?

Well, there are Muslim communities in pretty much every country, but the only places where Ramadan may affect your travels are in Muslim-majority countries. The Middle-East and North Africa, parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and a couple of countries is Southeast Asia more or less cover it. Note that intensity of practice varies widely depending on the country you’re in. This list offers some good country-specific tips, so read about the specific country you’re visiting if you’ll be traveling during Ramadan.


Ramadan Terminology You Should Know

  • Ramadan: The Muslim holy month when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 days.
  • Iftar: This translates directly to breakfast, and refers to sunset when people break their fast.
  • Suhoor: This refers to the meal that people oftentimes eat before the sun rises to try to keep the morning hunger at bay. Many hotels and restaurants open for suhoor.
  • Eid-al-Fitr: Translating directly to “breakfast celebration”, this refers to the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan and fasting.


Tips for Traveling to a Muslim Country During Ramadan – How to Be a Respectful Tourist

Don’t eat or drink publicly during the day

If you're planning on traveling to a Muslim country during Ramadan, here are the important things you need to know for your visit! | Muslim Travel | Ramadan Travel | Travel During Ramadan |
Moroccan “snack”

Remember: you’re not expected to fast while traveling in a Muslim country during Ramadan. And while nobody will chide you for eating in public, and it certainly isn’t against the law (mostly), it’s a tad disrespectful when everyone is you know, starving. Some countries are stricter about this than others. I know Istanbul is more tolerant but it was rare to see people eating in public in Cairo. In Dubai, it’s not allowed. Either way, as a general rule, try to be discreet about eating and pack lots of snacks and water (or buy them at the grocery store). Also, note that in many countries, restaurants will be closed to the public throughout the day in preparation for breakfast at sundown. Some restaurants might be reservation-only since the whole country is eating at the same time although most hotels still have at least one restaurant open all day for guests. Keep that in mind and prepare accordingly!


Avoid alcohol

Alcohol is forbidden for Muslims, although this a rule that many people and countries follow quite loosely except during Ramadan. Many countries (including the oh-so-popular Morocco) actually go dry for Ramadan: the sale of alcohol is usually forbidden for the entire month. If you’re staying at a beach resort or upscale hotel somewhere you should still have access to drinks, but either way, Ramadan certainly isn’t the best time for a boozy holiday. As Aretha Franklin once sang, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T!”


Dress appropriately

If you're planning on traveling to a Muslim country during Ramadan, here are the important things you need to know for your visit! | Muslim Travel | Ramadan Travel | Travel During Ramadan |
You can even look cute doing it 😀

In all honesty, it’s important to dress modestly in many Muslim countries year-round, but it’s especially important if you’re traveling to a Muslim country during Ramadan. Locals are already pretty good at spotting the tourists, so just try not to be too skimpy or revealing. It’s disrespectful. Also, no PDA. This can get you in trouble on a normal day in some countries, but PDA during Ramadan is especially rude. You’re better safe than sorry.


Plan ahead

Normally, bustling cities tend to slow down during Ramadan and many office and store hours are shortened. Although many places come alive at night and can stay open until the wee hours of the morning, don’t expect shops to be opening bright and early. If you’re one of those people who travels on a tight schedule, be sure to do extra research for opening times of attractions, tours, and restaurants. Or just travel slower so you have more time to spend at your destination.


Become a night owl

If you're planning on traveling to a Muslim country during Ramadan, here are the important things you need to know for your visit! | Muslim Travel | Ramadan Travel | Travel During Ramadan |
Djemma el Fna in Marrakesh comes alive at night.

The nightclubs and bars don’t turn around and open after sunset (they’re usually closed all month long), but the streets come alive after everyone has broken their fast. Many shops sell special Ramadan treats, and cafes and public spaces are open late to accommodate socializing, family time, and suhoor. Don’t hesitate to join in on the local festivities! If you can join a family for iftar or walk by the local mosque at sunset, do it. You get to observe the local culture in action and really get a taste for the special time that is Ramadan – a time for hospitality and generosity.


Traveling to Muslim Countries During Ramadan: A Unique Experience  

At the end of the day, Ramadan isn’t just about not eating or drinking. It’s a month when millions of people join their family and friends to eat, celebrate, and reflect. It’s a time of charity and appreciation and despite the hanger pains, a time that the whole community really comes together. While it certainly isn’t the most convenient time to travel (for Muslims or non-Muslims), it is by far one of the most interesting. If you can get past the pain points and the occasional hangry person like me, you’ll gain a little more insight on a religion that the whole world should certainly learn more about. Happy travels – and to my fellow Muslims out there, Ramadan Kareem!


Have you ever traveled during Ramadan in a Muslim-majority country? What was your experience like? Share in the comments below!


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43 thoughts on “Things to Know When Traveling to a Muslim Country During Ramadan

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thanks Dan! I have a post coming up on that as I did travel for about a week and a half during Ramadan a couple of years ago. It was quite a challenge haha. But off the top of my head, I’d say slower travel, colder countries where possible, plenty of rest breaks, nothing too strenuous, etc. I have a post coming soon and will link it to you once it’s up 🙂

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Hey Dan!

      As promised, here’s the new post with tips for Muslims traveling during Ramadan! Hope you find it useful 🙂

  1. Travel Pockets says:

    I have never traveled to a Muslim country, but these are all great tips if and when I do. I don’t know if I could fast for that long! Have you been able to do it for 30 days? I always wondered if restaurants would be open during ramadan. Now I know 🙂

    • Sally E says:

      Thanks for reading! Yes, I’ve fasted the full 30 days of Ramadan since I was 11 or so! The first few days are always challenging (especially with my caffeine addiction haha) but it gets easier. It definitely depends on the country regarding restaurants and hours but it’s always worth checking beforehand and planning accordingly! No need for people to fast by force 🙂

  2. Ferna says:

    I grew up in the southernmost part of the Philippines, surrounded by Muslims.. and these are the best tips during ramadan. this is a good read.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      I haven’t been yet but I didn’t realize there are so many Muslims in the Philippines! Thanks – I’m glad you found them useful 🙂

  3. Wander With Jo says:

    I was in Indonesia for 11 months (Which included 1 month of Ramadan). I am not a big fan of fasting and I was staying with Christians who didn’t celebrate Ramadan so it was quite different experience for me. Yes we didn’t get a lot of food options during day which was a downside but overall it didn’t affect me much. Thanks for the tips though, I was planning to visit Dubai during ramadan but cancelled as I wasn’t sure of how it would be.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      That must have been an interesting time to be in Indonesia! I happened to be there for a week or so during Ramadan as well, and it didn’t seem too difficult for non-Muslims to get access to food? Luckily non-Muslims don’t have to fast or anything but it is always good to be respectful! I imagine it would be difficult to enjoy Dubai during the daytime during Ramadan, although I’ve heard that it really comes alive at night. Either way, I hope you enjoy your visit whenever you do go 🙂

  4. Tara Schatz says:

    A very helpful post for anyone traveling during Ramadan. I always try to be respectful of cultures and religions when I travel, but it’s not always easy. Such a great post!

  5. Ivy says:

    Thanks for the informative post! I’ve never traveled to a Muslim-majority country (Bali’s Indonesia’s exception I suppose) but this is really good to know for future reference!… in that I might just avoid traveling there during Ramadan haha. I don’t think I can fast for that long (extremely hangry person!) and I wouldn’t want to disrespect anybody. It sounds like an amazing experience though!

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      I’m glad you found it useful!
      Bali is an exception but since that island is primarily Buddhist, I don’t think they typically observe Ramadan like Java. I’m not sure on that one! Luckily, non-Muslims aren’t obligated to fast anywhere :). It’s just about being respectful to the locals who are.

  6. Sarah Attaway says:

    This couldn’t come at a better time! I’m heading to Malaysia and didn’t realize it was Ramadan until after I booked my trip. Thanks for the fantastic tips 🙂


    • Dan On The Road says:

      Great to know you’re coming to Malaysia, Sarah! As a Malaysian, I do recommend you check out the evening Ramadan pop-up street bazaars as they tend to serve the best street food this time of the year!

  7. Ria (@lifeinbigtent) says:

    Yes, last year I was in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It was amazing experience. To see how the daily life changes as well needed to adapt new habbits for 1 month 🙂 I’m curious how will be this year, like I will stay in Bali (not Muslim island) but for Idul-Fitri will go to Jakarta 🙂

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      That’s awesome that you were able to experience it in Yogyakarta! I was fasting while there for a couple of days during Ramadan in 2012 and enjoyed the experience of the city coming alive at night. I’ve heard that you don’t feel much of a difference in Bali but Eid al FItr in Jakarta sounds like it will be so much fun! Enjoy!

  8. Deea says:

    Ohh, I was in Morocco 2 years ago during Ramadan! I completely agree with most of your points, however I cannot totally agree with the 1st one (to not eat and drink during daytime). As foreigners, it was impossible for us to get through the summer heat with no water and at least some waffles to keep us going on the long walks and roadtrips. So yes, snacks and water should always be on you, especially if you’re more sensitive 🙂 And always be respectful.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Yes, you’re totally right! I just updated the headline to say “publicly” because in the description I said “be discreet about eating” but the headline made it unclear haha. Thanks for catching that! But I agree with you – as long as you’re respectful, that’s the most important part!

  9. Miriam @londonkitchendiaries says:

    Thank you very much for this insightful post. I have many muslim friends and always admire how they manage fasting during Ramadan. Never travelled to muslim countries during Ramadan but I will definitely refer back to your post if I do.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thanks Miriam, I’m glad you found it useful! It’s definitely challenging at first but it gets better over time! 🙂

  10. Lost With Purpose says:

    A useful post! We’re in Pakistan right now, and we’ll be here for all of Ramadan. We’re a little worried about the heat + no water, as eating and drinking in public is actually illegal here during the holiday. But, at least now we know a but more about breaking fasts at the end of the day!

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Oh yikes! That’s unfortunate that it’s illegal. Sounds like you’ll have to stock up on lots of groceries and such before the start of Ramadan. But I imagine that when it’s time for iftar, the cities will come alive and it’ll be magical. I’d love to hear about your experiences 🙂

  11. Rica Lewis says:

    Very interesting! It’s always fascinating to read about traditions and cultures outside of my own. Thanks for sharing ?

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post :). I love sharing cultural tidbits where I can!

  12. Courtney CJ says:

    Great post. I am debating whether or not I would be able to include Morocco in my summer trip. I want to be sure I am visiting at an ideal time for -me- but to be respectful. I’m glad other people are observing customs!


    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thanks Courtney! I’ve heard of lots of travelers visiting Morocco during Ramadan and absolutely loving it, but it definitely has its challenges for non Muslims! I think doing some research beforehand always makes a world of difference for both your experience and the locals as well! Whichever you decide, Morocco is AMAZING and I hope you enjoy your visit 🙂

      • lara dunston says:

        Hi Sally – we just chatted on Twitter. So pleased to have discovered your lovely site today and your other post on travelling during Ramadan for Muslims. I’ve linked to it here from our post on travel during Ramadan (for non-Muslims):

        My husband and I lived in the UAE for 8 years as I mentioned and during that time and for a few years after we left Dubai we travelled frequently throughout the Middle East on assignments for guidebooks, magazines and newspapers. Every country is so very different in how they observe Ramadan, which is why we broke down the experience by country, but then even within the country it varies enormously depending upon whether it’s a city or small town, whether it’s touristy or not. I personally love travelling during Ramadan and think if non Muslims can semi-fast during the day and abstain from drinking wine with meals, it’s a wonderful experience.

        • Sally E says:

          Hi Lara! Thanks for linking to my site! I really appreciate it :). I just saw your post and it’s SO comprehensive – definitely updating the link I initially included. I’m quite jealous that you were able to experience Ramadan in so many countries – it really is one of the most beautiful times to travel in Muslim countries if people are willing to be a bit more flexible with eating / drinking. I hope I get a chance to visit more Muslim countries during Ramadan over the next few years as well. Thanks for sending your post!

  13. Brigitta says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I am currently living in Turkey, and it’s so good to know the proper etiquette during Ramadan as a non-Muslim person.

    • Sally E says:

      Hi Brigitta,
      Of course, I’m glad you found it useful! I’ve seen a few photos of Istanbul during Ramadan and it looks amazing! I hope you’re enjoying it.

  14. Ha says:

    Thanks for sharing many interesting tips! I have Muslim friends and I tried fasting last year as well. It was difficult not to eat and drink for so long. It’s truly challenging for non-Muslim to travel during Ramadan.

    • Sally E says:

      No problem! Yes it’s definitely challenging for people fasting but we get used to it! I can see how it is challenging to travel to Muslim-majority countries during Ramadan but I think it’s doable as long as you’re prepared…and you get a totally different experience as well! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  15. Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate says:

    My first time ever visiting Morocco was for two weeks in the height of Ramadan and I remember being RAVENOUS. Even though they say it’s technically OK for Westerners to eat (not in public but private), we couldn’t find anywhere open, even a bodega, where we could purchase food! I guess it was good from an expanding-waistline point of view 😉

    • Sally E says:

      Hahah oh man! Yeah, I can imagine that it would be close to impossible to find places open. Your best bet would have probably been a chain hotel. I think it can be an amazing experience to travel during Ramadan BUT only if you’re prepared. I guess now you know for next time!

  16. Pinelopi Kyriazi says:

    I have Worked in Qatar for 9 years and its truly challenging for the Muslim people. During 2006 it was very difficult for the expats also, as nothing was open during the day, not even supermarkets. Now the things are much better. The positive thing about Ramadan for all the expats is a whole month of reduced working hours. 🙂

    • Sally E says:

      Yes Ramadan is challenging for sure but it gets easier after the first couple of days. The reduced working hours for everyone helps, I’m sure :). And I’m really surprised that not even supermarkets are open – people need to shop to make food for iftar! So odd. Glad to hear it has changed since then though.

  17. Ablah Kethu says:

    Thanks ton for this most amazing one that truly helpful to know the detailed info on travelling at the time of Ramadan. I have been planning but finally booked this time so your article is more helpful for me to know the things. Thanks to you for helping me plan the trip now!

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