Travelling is becoming an increasingly big part of our lifestyle, so it’s inevitable that for some of us, vacation plans may overlap with the holy month of Ramadan. Here are pointers to consider when deciding whether to fast or not while travelling:
In the Quran, Allah says that you are exempt from fasting while travelling because He does not wish to make it difficult for you.
On the day that you’re travelling, you can start fasting once the sun has risen and stop as soon as you are considered “travelling” – which means you’re outside the city, town, or village where your home is. That said, you have to make up for the day you missed by fasting a day outside of Ramadan.
However, if it is actually more difficult for you to find time to make up for your missed fast outside of Ramadan, then you are allowed to and should fast while travelling. There are no extra rewards for fasting in more difficult condition though.
It’s also important to note that if it’s actually unbearable for you to fast, then it is considered haram and your fast will not be counted.
The rules of in-flight fasting
If you are fasting during a plane journey, the hours of your fast is not related to the country you’ve departed from or the one you’re going to arrive in. You should break your fast whenever you physically see the sun set.
Even if it is iftar in the area where your plane is in, but you can still see the sunlight from the plane window, you should wait until it is dark outside. If you know that iftar time has not been reached in the country you’ve departed from but it is already dark outside, you should still break your fast.
If you’ve broken your fast before or during the plane ride and see the sun rising again during your journey, you are not required to start fasting again as you’ve already completed your fast for the day.
To avoid straining your body, plan your journey closer to Maghrib so that you can break your fast sooner.
The closer a country is to either the North or South Pole, the longer the days get in summer. So, for instance, a Muslim in Iceland would have to fast nearly all day! This can be really difficult, not to mention taxing on the body. Islamic scholars advise following the fasting hours of Saudi Arabia, where Mecca is. Alternatively, follow the schedule of the country where you’re originally from, or the closest country with distinguishable days and nights.
But since Ramadan moves up by about a month each year, you’ll notice that from this year onwards, the fasting hours are getting shorter. For those fasting in our home country of Malaysia, fasting hours generally remain the same as we’re along the Equator. However, those holidaying or travelling to Europe will notice that the days will get shorter as the years go by and Ramadan falls earlier in the year (approaching winter).
For domestic travellers
If you’re Malaysian and looking to balik kampung during the Hari Raya rush, our advice is to book your flights early to be able to land and settle in at your destination before it’s time to buka puasa or even fly off right after you break your fast to at least get some food and drink in. As an added bonus, airlines are capping their airfares and increasing flight frequencies to accommodate those looking to travel home for the holidays.
For those Musafir (travellers) who are driving, be sure to have water, dates, and some snacks with you on the trip, even if you’re planning to make your journey during the day. Considering how heavy Malaysia’s cross-country traffic jams can get, your road trip may take longer than anticipated. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the literal middle of nowhere with no immediate access to food or drink.
General tips for those who are fasting
When breaking fast, avoid taking sudden large intakes of sugars and fatty foods, which can disturb your metabolism and cause dizziness, fatigue, or indigestion.
International SOS doctors advise that you should break your fast with a date, yoghurt, and water and then wait for 10 minutes before consuming foods that are rich in minerals and vitamins.
Avoiding foods that are high in fat and sugar may be a little hard with restaurant dishes, so perhaps break your fast with lighter foods first before consuming a bigger meal.
It’s tempting to skip sahur if you’re tired. But it’s important to take it during your travels in order to have sufficient energy to get you through the day. Choose foods that contain complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread, barley, and lentils, which help store and provide energy.
Getting your hands on food for sahur can be tricky as not all hotels provide 24-hour room service. It’s a good idea to stock up on food the night before.
Because you’ll be less active while fasting and may eat a heavy meal right before bedtime, it is important to exercise to stay healthy. But avoid straining yourself; concentrate on lighter exercises such as brisk walking or yoga. International SOS doctors recommend waiting two to three hours after iftar before you start working out. Keep in mind that exercising right before bedtime may make it harder to fall asleep.
Aside from fasting and doing charity, Ramadan also encourages Muslims to focus on learning more about the religion. This can be tricky when travelling as days and schedules can be unpredictable, which is why it is helpful to set weekly goals. At the start of the week, work out how much of the Quran you plan to read or videos on Islamic talks you can watch on YouTube. Do plan some off days as well and don’t be so hard on yourself if you miss a session.
Editor’s note: This article was first published on 18 June 2016, republished on 3 April 2022, and now updated to include more current information.