Ramadan is the most important month in the Islamic calendar. It's a time of abstinence and reflection for Muslims.
Because Islam follows a lunar calendar, the dates of Ramadan change every year. This year, Ramadan will start around 8 or 9 March, depending on when the new moon is sighted. It lasts for 30 days, ending in April with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr.
Every country that observes Ramadan does so a little differently. Research before you arrive if you're visiting a Muslim country during Ramadan. Learn what to expect.
Be respectful of local sensitivities, rules and customs
It's important to be respectful of local culture and customs when you're travelling. When you arrive at your destination, ask locals about appropriate behaviour. Follow the lead of non-fasting locals.
Food and drink
Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan. Non-Muslims aren't expected to fast. But you should still know the local laws and customs around food and drink.
Eating or drinking in public during fasting hours is illegal in some countries. Tourists have been deported for breaking this law in the past. In places where it's legal, it could still be seen as offensive or insensitive. Even chewing gum and smoking in public can be taboo during fasting hours.
Restaurants may be closed during the day. If open, staff may ask you to eat behind a curtain or in a private room. If tipping is standard in your destination, consider tipping more generously. Staff are preparing your food while fasting themselves.
Talk to your hotel about providing packed lunches in countries where food is hard to find during the day. Or buy food you can prepare in your accommodation.
Alcohol can be hard to find. In many countries, businesses that sell alcohol will close during Ramadan.
Clothing and behaviour
Some countries may have stricter standards for clothing and behaviour during Ramadan. You might need to:
- wear clothes that cover your arms, legs and shoulders
- cover your hair if you're a woman
- avoid public displays of affection
- avoid loud music in public.
Research the expectations of the local people before you go. Follow their lead while you're there.
How Ramadan can affect your trip
Travelling in a Muslim country during Ramadan can be a rewarding cultural experience. But be prepared for changes in everyday life. Don't assume everything you want to do will be available. Ramadan can affect operating hours because locals are fasting during the day. This can include tourist destinations as well as essential services such as transportation. They may
- open later in the day for fewer hours
- open very early, then close during the day, reopening after fast has broken and staying open late into the night
- operate with less staff.
Confirm opening hours when planning your trip, and book ahead of time as much as possible.