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Have you recently booked an adventure to Indonesia, Dubai, Malaysia or the Philippines and realised half of your trip overlaps with the Islamic holiday of Ramadan?

Don’t be concerned that your trip will be different than you imagined because of the holy month – Ramadan will not derail any of your travel adventures. If anything, your visit to Muslim countries during Ramadan might be all the more exciting as this wonderful Islamic celebration dedicated to values and purity also involves beautiful festivals and delicious fast-breaking feasts.

However, prior to your departure, it is important to learn which countries celebrate this holy holiday and how it is often observed by locals.

So, here is our ultimate travel guide to travelling in Muslim countries during Ramadan to help you have a fun, safe and respectful trip…

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What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the holy month of fasting. Every year during this period, practicing Muslims will fast from dawn until dusk, only allowing themselves to eat and drink after sundown.

Muslims fast during Ramadan because doing so honours Sawm, which is one of the Islamic religion’s Five Pillars of Faith. The four other pillars include Hajj, Zakat, Salat, and Shalada.

During Ramadan, Muslims not only refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours, but also avoid engaging in forms of immoral behavior at all times as a religious pledge to practice self-restraint.

When is Ramadan?

Ramadan starts and ends with the appearance of the new moon, which means the dates of the holy month change from year to year. Typically, Ramadan lasts between 29 and 30 days depending on the moon’s cycle, and is followed by the fast-breaking celebration of Eid-al-Fitr (also known simply as EiD).

Because the dates of Ramadan fluctuate each year, it is important research when the holy month will be celebrated prior to travelling to a predominantly Muslim area. It is likely that Ramadan will occur during the following dates:

Year First Day of Ramadan Last Day of Ramadan
2019 5 May 4 June
2020 23 April 23 May
2021 13 April 12 May
2022 3 April 2 May
2023 23 March 21 April

What to expect when travelling during Ramadan

As a traveller during the holy month, you do not have to refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours, but it is imperative that you’re respectful and considerate of those around you who may be fasting in accordance with their religious principles.

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    Are shops and restaurants open during Ramadan?

    If you’re travelling during Ramadan, you won’t be without restaurant and food options during your trip. While some stores, food carts and restaurants close during the day to honour the fasting, you will still be able to find places that cater to those who are not observing the holiday.  

    In some locations, such as Dubai, a designated area for tourists to eat and drink may be established. Hotels and restaurants will often use screens to keep western diners sectioned off from Islamic guests. Restaurants that cater for travellers may be open as usual, but be aware that places away from these areas are likely to be closed or have ammended operating hours.  

    While in most cases, local people will understand that you are not under the same obligation to fast but awareness is appreciated. Pregnant, nursing women and young children are exempt from the provisions, however discretion should be practiced

    A number of the countries that celebrate Ramadan also are home to a variety of other religions and will therefore operate as usual. This is especially applicable to many Asian nations – including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Thailand – which are extremely popular with travellers.

    Additionally, while some restaurants might be closed during the daylight hours, many do open their doors at night once the fast has been broken for the day. Because of this, a lot of restaurants may be busier than normal to accommodate everyone who is hoping to enjoy a tasty meal after fasting all day. The upside is restaurants often stay open later as well during this time, so you can feast well into the night if you wish.

    However, if you choose to venture outside of a heavily populated area and travel to a remote village or town that is majority Muslim, be prepared to plan ahead and bring a snack along with you just in case.

    What happens at night during Ramadan?

    The streets may be a little more empty during the day than they’d usually be outside of the holy month, but the festivities that occur during nighttime at Ramadan is something you’ll want to experience at least once in your life.

    As the sun sets, you will often see large groups gather together to break that day’s fast with a meal known as iftar. There might also be special performances and public gatherings after sunset, which are open to everyone – including tourists - to take part in.

    Some countries even host vibrant bazaars at night once the day’s fast has ended. A lot of times these local markets and bazaars will also boast considerable discounts on goods, making it the perfect time to stock up on delicious food and travel souvenirs.

    Where can I stay during Ramadan?

    It is unlikely your accommodation will be affected during Ramadan, so you can confidently book a place in your desired location during this period. You may even discover your hotel or hostel provides food onsite for those visiting the Islamic areas who do not participate in the ritual of fasting. This then allows you and those travelling with you to eat as normal in the privacy of your accommodation without causing any disrespect to the local Muslims.

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    How to behave in public during Ramadan

    Whenever you’re travelling to a new country and experiencing a unique culture, it is always important to be respectful and mindful of the locals and your fellow travellers – not just during the holy month. If you happen to be travelling to a Muslim nation during Ramadan, you should practice this thinking even more so.

    If you find yourself in a Muslim country during Ramadan, try to avoid eating, drinking (especially alcohol), smoking, chewing gum and dancing in public during daylight hours. Do not engage in public displays of affection even if you are married, as this could be seen as offensive. Make sure you also wear more conservative clothing that covers your shoulders and legs and does not cling too tightly to your body. Modest dress standards and other Islamic customs may be more strictly enforced during the holy month. 

    Do not take pictures of – or otherwise disrupt – people during prayer. If you venture into a mosque that is open to the public during the holy month, be extremely considerate of those around you.

    Non-muslim travellers should pay attention and respect those who are participating in Ramadan so as not to offend Islamic values. Be warned: if you demonstrate culturally insensitive behaviour, you could be arrested.

    Which countries celebrate Ramadan?

    Ramadan is a dawn-till-dusk fast celebrated by Muslims all over the world. If you're travelling to any of the below countries during the holy month, make sure you're respectful of the locals and their practices during this time, while also making the most of the vibrant nighttime festivities:

    Afghanistan Indonesia Morocco Syria
    Albania Iran Nigeria Tunisia
    Algeria Iraq Oman Turkey
    Bahrain Jordan Palestine Uganda
    Bosnia Kuwait Philippines United Arab Emirates
    Brunei Lebanon Qatar Yemen
    Egypt Libya Saudi Arabia  
    Ethiopia Malaysia Somalia  
    Ghana Mauritania Sudan  

    Why experiencing Ramadan is a good idea

    Travelling to a new destination is always an exciting experience – and the celebrations of Ramadan only heighten this experience.

    Although Ramadan is a holiday observed by Muslims, it does not exclude anyone from enjoying or revelling in its customs. As long as you’re prepared for the day-to-day happenings to be slightly different during this time, your trip is bound to be amazing.

    Prior to take off, be sure to research your destination to ensure you know the common practices and occurrences that may occur during your time in the Muslim area. Otherwise, have fun and enjoy this truly magical local experience whichever Islamic country you find yourself in during Ramadan!

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