Ramadan tips for Foreigners

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The Holy Month of Ramadan has started here in Turkey and over this thirty day period devout Muslims fast during daylight hours. This means not eating, drinking, smoking or even chewing gum, from early in the morning until the evening. Once it’s no longer possible to distinguish a piece of white string held up to the sky, it’s time to break the fast. It’s also a time to reflect on one’s life, to examine whether you have been compassionate, generous and honest.

As a visitor you’re exempt from fasting, but to make the most of your travels during this month here are some useful Ramadan tips for foreigners.


  • Forget that outside of cities like Istanbul and Ankara, restaurants might be closed at lunchtime in smaller towns and villages, because not enough people are eating out. Grab a snack or a sandwich before you leave your hotel to keep you going.
  • Be afraid if you wake up at 3am to loud noises. It’s just a man playing a drum called a davul, making sure everyone is up in time to prepare and eat the pre-dawn meal known as sahur.


  • Remember to wish people “Iyi bayramlar”, a good or happy festival.
  • Go to an evening meal to break the fast, called iftar, if you’re invited. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get together with new friends and enjoy Turkish hospitality.
  • Take candies to give to your host if you’re invited to someone’s home. Baklava is always welcome.
  • Be discreet if you decide to drink water during the day, especially in summer. No one will think badly of you but imagine how thirsty any onlookers will feel!
  • Do go to Sultanahmet or Eyüp in the evening. Once there, join in with the families, couples and young lovers exploring the delights of the Ramadan fairs. Sample manisa macunu, a sweet sticky paste dating back to Ottoman times, have your name written in Arabic calligraphy or laugh at the antics of the Karagöz, the Turkish shadow puppets.

The most important of the Ramadan tips for foreigners to remember is to just enjoy taking part in traditional Turkish life!

* If you want to know what it’s really like to live in Istanbul, come laugh and cry with me in my book Istanbul Dreams: Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom.

Planning to come to Istanbul or Turkey? Here are my helpful tips for planning your trip.

For FLIGHTS I like to use Kiwi.com.

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

I’m a big advocate of public transport, but know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time. When I need to be picked up from or get to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

ACCOMMODATION: When I want to find a place to stay I use Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Let me guide you around Kadikoy with my audio walking tour Stepping back through Chalcedon or venture further afield with my bespoke guidebook Istanbul 50 Unsung Places. I know you’ll love visiting the lesser-known sites I’ve included. It’s based on using public transport as much as possible so you won’t be adding too much to your carbon footprint. Then read about what you’ve seen and experienced in my three essay collections and memoir about moving to Istanbul permanently.

Browse the GetYourGuide website or Viator to find even more ways to experience Istanbul and Turkey with food tours, visits to the old city, evening Bosphorus cruises and more!

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.

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