Travel expert debunks myths around travelling during Ramadaan

Travelling to the UAE and other Muslim countries during Ramadaan can be a delightful experience. Picture: Supplied.

Travelling to the UAE and other Muslim countries during Ramadaan can be a delightful experience. Picture: Supplied.

Published Mar 27, 2024


The holy month of Ramadaan, which is a period of fasting, prayer, reflection and community, is observed by Muslims worldwide, is expected to continue until April 9.

This year, it overlaps with the Easter break as well as other South African public holidays, a time of the year when many people travel.

Scores of South African travellers are likely to find themselves in popular destinations where this sacred Islamic observance takes place.

This includes South Africa's own Muslim communities as well as international countries like the Maldives, the Middle East, Turkey, Indonesia, Morocco and Malaysia.

Flight Centre South Africa said while many aspects might be slightly adjusted during Ramadaan in these locations and many other Islamic countries, there are several misconceptions about what travel is like during this period.

“Ramadaan is a time of spiritual reflection, kindness and fostering understanding between people,” the Flight Centre’s general manager Antoinette Turner said.

“As travellers, being aware of local practices during this period allows us to show respect and fully embrace the diverse experiences destinations have to offer.”

Below, Turner has debunked some of the most common myths about visiting destinations in Ramadaan as well as how visitors can culturally immerse themselves in this spiritual practice.

“From witnessing vibrant traditions and community celebrations to being invited to join the evening Iftar feast that breaks the daily fast, there are many special moments to embrace,” she says.

Travelling to a Muslim country during Ramadaan can be a delightful experience. Picture: Supplied.

Here are some common misconceptions on travelling during Ramadaan that Flight Centre often encounters:

Myth 1: Everything shuts down

Reality: Turner said this isn’t the case as many restaurants, cafés and tourist attractions, including tourist offices, may revise their operating schedules to accommodate the fasting hours and increased spiritual activities.

“Be prepared for a more relaxed pace during the day, with the evenings becoming incredibly lively with markets, cultural events and a festive atmosphere.”

Myth 2: You can’t eat or drink anywhere

Reality: Most destinations have designated areas for non-fasting individuals to eat and drink during the day. Turner said popular tourist spots are also used to cater to visitors.

Myth 3: Everyone expects you to fast too

Reality: During Ramadaan, only Muslims are required to abstain from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn until dusk.

While visitors are not expected to fast, Turner said that it is respectful to refrain from consuming food or beverages and even chewing gum, in public spaces during fasting hours.

Myth 4: Travel is off-limits

Reality: Ramadaan can be a fantastic time to visit a location as during this time, you'll get to witness beautiful traditions and experience the vibrant community spirit.

Myth 5: You can’t dress the way you want

Reality: Turner said regardless of the time of year, it is recommended for travellers to dress modestly in Islamic countries or areas.

This is the case when visiting religious sites and tourists are also urged to be mindful of their actions and language.

“Men and women should both cover their shoulders and knees and avoid tight clothing,” Turner said.

She said swimwear is suitable at a hotel or resort swimming pool, provided there is no notice indicating otherwise.

Myth 6: Iftar is only for Muslims

Reality: This decadent evening meal to break the day’s fast at sunset, is one of the highlights of Ramadaan.

Turner said that travellers may receive invitations from locals to join Iftar gatherings.

“This is a gesture of friendship and an amazing cultural experience, so accept gratefully if offered the opportunity.”

Travelling to the Maldives during Ramadaan can be a delightful experience.

Flight Centre SA has listed some popular destinations for South African travellers where many locals may be observing Ramadaan.


This tropical paradise offers a unique Ramadaan experience, with many resorts providing special packages that include Iftar and Suhoor meals, which are consumed by Muslims before dawn and before the day’s fast begins.

There are also cultural activities and opportunities for spiritual reflection during the Islamic month of fasting in the Maldives.

Middle East

Turner said cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha in the United Arab Emirates feature vibrant markets, cultural festivals and a strong sense of community during Ramadaan.


The Turkish city of Istanbul blends ancient traditions and modern life during Ramadaan.

“Explore iconic mosques, attend cultural events and immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere,” Turner said.


From Jakarta's bustle to Bali’s serene beauty, this Asian country has diverse Ramadaan traditions.


Marrakesh, Fez, and Casablanca transform during Ramadaan with traditional markets, illuminated streets and a rich celebration of Moroccan culture.


Ramadaan’s Malay, Chinese and Indian influences can be experienced in cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang.