AIMS:To determine diabetes patient's adherence to five self-care behaviours (diet, exercise; medication, self-monitoring of blood glucose [SMBG] and foot care) in low- and middle-income countries. DESIGN:Systematic review. DATA SOURCES:We searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, PUBMED, SCOPUS, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Cochrane library and EMCARE for the period January 1990 - June 2017. REVIEW METHODS:Title, abstract and full text screening were done according to eligibility criteria. A narrative synthesis of the literature was conducted. RESULTS:A total of 7,109 studies were identified of which 27 met the review eligibility criteria and were included. All the studies used self-report of adherence to diabetes self-care. Studies reported adherence rates in two major forms: (a) mean number of days participants performed a recommended dietary behaviour/activity during the past week; and (b) proportions of participants adhering to a recommended self-care behaviour. Mean number of days per week participants adhered to a self-care behaviour ranged from 2.34.6 days per week for diet, 5.5-6.8 days per week for medication, 1.8-5.7 days per week for exercise, 0.2-2.2 days per week for SMBG and 2.2-4.3 days per week for foot care. Adherence rates ranged from 29.9%-91.7% for diet, 26.0%-97.0% for medication taking, 26.7%-69.0% for exercise, 13.0%-79.9% for self-monitoring of blood glucose and 17.0%-77.4% for foot care. CONCLUSION:Although most diabetes patients do not adhere to recommended self-care behaviours, adherence rates vary widely and were found to be high in some instances. IMPACT:Health services in low- and middle-income countries should monitor adherence to diabetes self-care behaviours rather than assume adherence and resources should be invested in improving adherence to the self-care behaviours. Large-scale accurate monitoring of adherence to diabetes self-care behaviour is needed and consideration should be given to choice of measurement tool for such exercise.