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Travel in Malaysia During Ramadan

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Vagabond Kids: Travel in Malaysia During Ramadan

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Travel in Malaysia During Ramadan

Malaysian Style Mosque in Malacca

I started writing this post while in Malaysia an Islamic country and it is Ramadan, (which is the holy month when Muslims around the world fast and abstain from physical needs during the daylight hours) I can’t help but recall the first time I traveled to Malaysia during this month. I was a bit nervous, a bit scared of what I could eat and when, I was also a bit on the clueless side as to proper manners and expected behavior during the fast. Today, I thought I would write a quick post about traveling during Ramadan, at least as it applies to the parts of Malaysia where I have traveled. I by no means am an expert on the subject, but I figure if I travel to Malaysia and bring my kids, what's stopping you?

First, the question I hear from friends and family are: is it safe, can I find food, can I eat and drink during the daylight hours ,and more importantly should I travel during the month of Ramadan? The answer to all of these questions is yes. There is no reason to postpone your travel during the month of Ramadan to a country like Malaysia. Food and drink are readily available in all stores, Indian, Chinese and Western restaurants. While if you are in a small town rather than some of the bigger cities you may find a bit more difficulty, there should also be places to find water or snacks.

Kuala Lumpur

I often wondered what polite behavior is during the fasting month, so I asked one of my friends. Simply put, use polite table manners and you probably won’t offend. While most modern Muslim’s would not take offence if you drank a glass of water in front of them, I try to avoid it. I will not eat in front of a fasting person, it seems to me that we have all gotten too casual in this regards anyway, but especially so this month. There are exceptions for Children, however, which something that this Vagabondmom cares about and if your kid has to eat, let them eat. Eating in restaurants or café’s not frequented by Muslims is also totally acceptable. And breaking of the fast, well, there is a whole set of rules for those who are fasting, but for the traveler a few common sense guidelines should be enough to get you on your way!

Buka Puasa at the JW Marriott Hotel

Each day there are specific times for the start and end of the fast. These times are established and then published by the local press and monitored by the local mosques. The call to prayer at sundown is a big deal as hungry people are ready to eat after a day of fasting! During the month it is very popular for many of the Malaysian’s to eat at big buffets (called Buka Puasa) and fancy restaurants. If you intend to eat out, I suggest you either eat early (before 7pm) or make reservations long in advance. Also be prepared to either eat the buffet if offered or understand that some of your favorite dishes may be sold out or only served on the buffet. When breaking fast with your friends and colleagues, you should not eat prior to the call to prayer which happens around 7:30 (again each day is different) and don’t be surprised if your dining mates go off to pray before they eat. I usually take my time and wait until after they have returned from prayer and eaten or have taken a drink before I do the same, again in many cases this is simple table manners.

Otherwise, the only advice I would give is to avoid the week of Hari Raya. Hari Raya is the end of the fasting month and is also called Eid and is the equivalent of December holiday season for those who come from “western” cultures. Be prepared to wait in long lines, travel with 100, 000 of your closest friends and generally suffer all of the inconveniences that we find when trying to travel the 2 weeks between Christmas and New Years. Travel during Ramadan is a great way of learning more about the Islamic religion. Many of the Malays are willing to discuss religion with you and are happy to do during this festive period. And, frankly the buffets are pretty darn good too~!

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At August 25, 2010 at 6:16 AM , Blogger Sleepless In KL said...

Excellent post, Kristy. May I add a bit? All fastfood outlets operate like usual. And it's totally okay for (pre-puberty) children -- Muslim or not -- to eat anytime, anywhere. It's normal to see in, say, a McDonald's outlet, a veiled Muslim mother sitting with her small children; her children would be eating while she watches over them.

As for Eid, the travelling part is a pain but if you are already *in* Malaysia, it would be an interesting time to be around because there are many open houses, including ministers' houses, where anyone of any race or religion can go and partake of the food. If you are in the villages, it would be an excellent time to experience local culture...and food :D


At August 27, 2010 at 9:32 AM , Blogger Kristy said...


Thanks for the comments,I love all the buffets, in fact I will be back there right before Raya and hope to take in at least one :-)

At September 1, 2010 at 12:51 PM , Blogger Tracy said...

Great post. The list of times I keep seeing in local newspapers here in Penang finally makes sense! We're been living in Penang for the last month so we're still learning. Ramadhan has been a wonderful insight into the local culture and I think its a great time to visit Malaysia. Loving watching the Ramadhan markets explode with people and frantic activity after sunset.

I'm really enjoying reading your posts and photos, particularly on all the places we've yet to visit. We've been travelling around SE Asia with our 5 and 3 year old since the start of the year and have barely scratched the surface. I noticed on your 'places to go' page that you're heading to Penang in November. It would be great to catch up with you and swap travel stories. We even have a few spare bedrooms that are always open to other travelling families...



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