Hajj Pilgrimage Travel Advice
Security travel advice for those taking part in the Hajj Pilgrimage
How safe is the Hajj Pilgrimage?
Threat level: Medium
Although there have been a number of security incidents at the Hajj over the years, the security risk remain medium. The main risks for Pilgrims remain health risks and there are a number of advisories in place for those wishing to make the pilgrimage.
Every year the Hajj pilgrimage sees over 3 million pilgrims descend on Mecca to perform Hajj, the most holy of Islamic pilgrimages. The number of pilgrims performing Hajj has risen a great deal in the past few decades, with around two thirds of the pilgrims being overseas visitors. You will need to check that your visa will be permitted as there is an ongoing effort to reduce visitor numbers by the Ministry of Hajj.
One of the five pillars of Islam, Hajj is obligatory for every Muslim once in their lifetime.
The date of the start of the Hajj is defined by the Islamic Hijiri calendar and is to be performed over specific days.
On the 11th of September 2015, a crane had collapsed upon the Holy Mosque in Makkah killing 100 persons and injuring many. Please take appropriate safety measures when making a pilgrimage participating in the Hajj, as gatherings have resulted in fatalities due to crushing. The deadliest incident occurred on the 24th of September 2015 in Mina, Mecca, where pilgrims were crushed and 2,431 were reported dead (although the official death toll issued by the Saudi Arabia Government, accounted for 769 deaths).
It is advisable to avoid peak times, especially during the stoning rite to prevent severe injuries resulting from stampedes and crowd crushes.
To remain safe when proceeding to the casting of the Jamaarat, the Ministry of Hajj makes the following recommendations:
- Adhere to the schedules designated for you by the Mutawwif
- Adhere to the lanes designated for proceeding to the Jamaarat and returning from Jamaarat
- Avoid pushing other pilgrims and proceed quietly and calmly
- Do not carry personal effects
- Do not walk against the direction of the traffic
Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and as such local laws, customs and traditions must be respected. Please make sure your behaviour reflects this and does not cause offence, as these are strictly enforced. Please note that in Saudi Arabia you can be held without charge by the police force.
Be aware that there is a higher risk of pick pocketing and petty thefts during times where large crowds gather, this has been prominent in the Grand Mosque, Makkah and also Midina.
One area of concern surrounds the possible spread of infectious or contagious diseases during Hajj and Umrah with so many people in one small area, many from under developed countries with little disease control. Extra personal hygiene precautions should be taken at these times and you should avoid personal contact with others.
Please heed caution when booking and planning your itinerary for travel, use a reputable travel agency covered by ATOL and accredited by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, select residence based on security measures and vary your routes and travel to aid keeping a low profile. Take care when using your vehicle and carry out appropriate safety checks before departure.
During Hajj pilgrimage, public transport are crowded and roads are congested between ritual sites, so long delays can be expected. As a result of this, travel should be planned meticulously in advance.
Pilgrims must carry documentation at all times including an identification card and wristband issued by their Hajj travel agency, a valid permit to perform Hajj and relevant vaccination certificate as detailed in the 'visa requirements' section.
When landing at the aiport of King Abdul-Aziz in Jeddah, expect it to be crowded and to have to wait long hours to go through customs and immigration services due to the vast number of travellers arriving at the airport to take part in the pilgrimage.
Note that ZamZam water must be transported in checked luggage and is subject to quantity restrictions, so ask your travel agent and airline about this before travelling.Note:
Saudi Arabia is a very strict country with many religious laws and traditions and their rules are particularly tough during the Hajj pilgrimage. It is very important that visitors respect the culture of Saudi Arabia at all times. Further advice can be found here: Cultural advice on visiting Saudi Arabia
Emergency Services for the Hajj and Mecca
Police emergency: 999
Traffic Police (Al Maroor): 993
Fire emergency: 998
Medical emergency: 997
Health Affairs: 012-530-8812
Lost Pilgrims: 012-530-8813
The National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of Turkey and Muslims of Europe, Americas, and Australia
Website: مؤسسة مطوفى الحجاج
Street Address: Mecca Al Mukarramah, Al Nuzha Road, near Alnuzha Bridge
Currency: Saudi Riyal
Time now in Riyadh:
Consular information for the Hajj
U.S. Embassy Riyadh
P.O. Box 94309,
Telephone: +966 114 883800
Telephone: +966 126 670080 (Jeddah)
Telephone: +966 0114 819100
Visa requirements for the Hajj
All pilgrims entering Saudi Arabia require a visa and this can be difficult to obtain in the run up to or during the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Hajj. All Muslim visitors during Hajj will require a valid Hajj visa and all non-Muslim travellers will need to show evidence of reasons for their stay. This is particularly important for any travel to Jeddah and you should allow plenty of time for your visa to be processed and accepted. Female pilgrims travelling alone will require a sponsor ("mahram") to meet them at the airport and accompanied them during their pilgrimage or they will not be permitted to enter the country. Visitors from all other countries should check with their Embassy or Consulate.
All Hajj and Umrah pilgrims are required to present a certificate of vaccination against meningococcal meningitis infection ACWY. This is a necessary condition for visas to be granted.
Once Hajj pilgrimage is completed, pilgrims aren't authorised to stay longer in Saudi Arabia.
Healhcare and Immunisations for the Hajj
Local authorities require pilgrims to be vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis (ACW135Y), no less than 10 days prior to arriving in Saudi Arabia
Vaccination against influenza is also preconised as this is a virus that can be easily transmitted in crowds.
It is advised that pilgrims are also up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. You should ensure that you have been further vaccinated against diseases such as Tetanus, which is usually administered when you are a young baby. You may also want to consider a Hepatitis A vaccination.
Pilgrims arriving from the following countries will be required to show evidence that they have received a polio vaccine at least 4 weeks prior to departure to Saudi Arabia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Somalia, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza), Syrian Arab Republic, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen. You will also be administered a dose or oral polio vaccine upon arrival to the country. Your doctor should be able to give you more information.
Although there is no direct risk of Yellow Fever in Saudi Arabia, if you are coming from a country where there is a risk of the disease, or transiting for longer than 12 hours in an at risk country, you will be required to provide a vaccination certificate. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
You must be physically fit to take part in Hajj and Umrah rituals as it involves walking long distances in hot temperatures. Pregnant womens and young children should postpone their pilgrimage until they are in good physical condition and muslims with severe health conditions are exempt from their religious duties.
MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), an acute respiratory infection that is transmitted by dromedary camels and between humans, is also an issue in Saudi Arabia. Pelgrims with underlying medical conditions should consult their GP to assess whether or not they should attend the Hajj pilgrimage. Contact with camels and other animals as well as consumption of camel milk and meat should be avoided to prevent contracting the disease.
Good quality shoes should be worn outside times of prayer to prevent burning the feet. Sun cream must be applied to exposed skin and umbrellas can be carried by male pilgrims who are not authorised to cover their head to protect themselves against the sun. Keep hydrated throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
Medical care varies greatly out of the main cities and large towns and can prove costly. Within the larger cities, the standard of treatment is excellent and efficient. Ensure that you have adequate health and travel insurance to cover the cost of any necessary medical care.
Personal hygiene must be paramount during the Hajj pilgrimage, wash frequently and thoroughly your hands, in particular before eating and only drink bottled water.
Take precautions with food and avoid not properly cooked meat and unpasteurised milk at food stands.
Be aware that during Hajj and Ramadan, diseases and illnesses can spread quickly through the vast number of people visiting the country and gathering together in areas. You should bring sufficient supplies of basic medication to treat diarrhoea, headaches, cuts and graze to last the entirety of your trip.