Hajj travel tips: from visa dates to scams and a handy app

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The beginning of this year’s Hajj pilgrimage is now just a week away, and for those making their way to Makkah, here’s a list of things you should know before you go:

Exit and entry dates for those travelling on a Hajj visa

The last date of entry on the Hajj visa is August 15, 2018, while the first date of exit is August 26 and the last date of exit is September 25.

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Also read: Top 10 sites to see in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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Where you can go on a Hajj visa?

If you’re travelling on a Hajj visa, you’re only permitted to travel to certain areas within Saudi Arabia. This year Saudi Arabia will provide Hajj visas for Qatari nationals on-arrival. The visas are valid for travel only in the vicinity of Jeddah, Makkah, and Medina, and for travel between these cities. Be aware that it is your responsibility to obtain the correct visa and book the right flight, and also to have the right vaccinations (what vaccination you will need will depend on where you are travelling from, and your tour guide will help you with that. Regardless, Saudi Arabian authorities recommend the flu vaccine for all pilgrims). Remember that without the right documentation you could encounter difficulties.

Muslim pilgrims arrive at Jeddah airport, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah. Karim Sahib / AFP
Muslim pilgrims arrive at Jeddah airport, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah. Karim Sahib / AFP

The baggage policy

Every airline has its own standard baggage policies, but it’s worth noting that authorities in Saudi may impose allowance restrictions of their own and that can depend on your country of origin, the airline you’re using and the agent. Make sure you contact your airline or agent (or your local Saudi Arabian Embassy) directly so as to avoid any confusion.

Due to the sheer number of travelers, wait times at the Saudi Arabian airports can be long: those who manage to take only carry-on luggage with them and travel light will experience a far shorter wait.

Zamzam (holy water)

Most airlines allows passengers returning from pilgrimage to bring as much as five litres of Zamzam as part of their checked in luggage allowance for free. Again, it’s worth checking with your airline. If it’s allowed, make sure you pack it properly to avoid leakage. Any excess baggage must be shipped and there are authorised services in Makkah and at King Abdulaziz International Airport.

Check-in time

As a general rule, passengers travelling on international carriers, like Emirates or Etihad, should report to the airport check-in area within six hours of the scheduled flight time. Travellers flying on a Saudi airline, like Saudia, though should arrive three hours before it’s time to fly. Again, check directly with your airline, and expect the airport to be extremely busy, so it’s best to arrive with plenty of time.

Muslim worshipers, some carrying umbrellas to protect them from the scorching sun, gather for prayer at Namirah mosque near Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahmah (Mount of Mercy), where the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have given his final sermon, on August 31, 2017, ahead of the climax of hajj. Clad in white, their the palms facing the sky, some two million Muslims from around the world gathered on Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat for the highlight of the hajj pilgrimage. / AFP PHOTO / KARIM SAHIB
Muslim worshipers gather for prayer at Namirah mosque near Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahmah. AFP

Photographs

Taking photos of any government buildings, military installations or palaces are forbidden. Also be conscious that taking photos of people on the streets is also frowned upon, and it’s best to leave binoculars at home.

Do not take photos at the Holy Mosque or Prophet’s Mosque in Makkah.

Scams to be wary of

Unfortunately, there are people who try and take advantage of the globe’s largest pilgramage of people during this time. Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Cairo warned against online Hajj scams that promise pilgrims fast-track services.The embassy said in a statement on Saturday that those wishing to perform the pilgrimage in the kingdom should make sure that the name of the Hajj services provider is listed on the official website of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. Read more about these here.

Must-have Hajj app

Manasikana is an interactive app that assists you during your journey. Set up by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah it is available in several languages, including Arabic, English, Urdu and Malay, and offers a variety of features, such as maps of Makkah, Jeddah, Madinah and Holy sites, highlighting places of interest. The map feature helps to identify your current location and provides the journey time to the next destination. It also has prayer times, weather conditions, currency conversion and news.

See more Hajj travel policies and general tips at Skyscanner.

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Read more

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