Choosing a right agent is the most important aspect of planning for your Hajj. There are two types of tour guides: authorized licensed agents and sub-agents. Authorized licensed agents are companies or groups who hold their own licenses from the Saudi authorities. Sub-agents are those who use the name of the agents to get the visas. These sub-agents simply get their people together, take their passports and go to the agent who gets them the paperwork to get you into Saudi Arabia. After that the main agent is not necessarily aware of who you are, so you have no protection if you are let down.
You should choose an authorized licensed agency, recognized by Saudi Arabian authorities. Obtain a list of authorized licensed agencies in your country from the Saudi Arabian Consulate. Below are examples of questions that you should ask your agent:
How do I get to Saudi Arabia?
- Do you hold your own license or are you a sub-agent?
- If sub-agent, what is the name of the main licensed agent?
- Are you responsible for the accommodation or is it the main agent?
- What is the package dates?
- Are these dates firm and have you booked the seats?
- Which airline are you using?
- Is it a direct or indirect flight?
- Will there be someone accompanying the group?
- Can I have a leaflet advertising your package?
- What type of accommodation will you provide and has it been booked?
- Can I have details of the accommodation in writing? I need to know the quality of room, number of people sharing and its distance from the Haram.
- How many people are in the group and how many helpers will we have?
- Do you provide the food in Makkah and Madinah?
- Do you provide the food in Mina?
- Do you provide our own transport to and from Mina?
- Are we taking a sheikh/imam with us?
- Do you and your helpers speak Arabic?
- How will you organize the Tawafas?
- Is the sacrificial animal (qurban) included in the package?
- How will you organize the stoning of Jamarats?
- What kind of accommodation will there be in Arafat?
- Do you provide the food in Arafat?
- How do we travel from Makkah to Madinah?
There are more than 24 air, land and sea inlets for receiving pilgrims in the central, eastern, northern, western and southern regions of the Kingdom.
Among the land inlets are: Halat Ammar, Jadidat Arar, Al Ragei, Salwa, King Fahd Causeway, Al Khadra, Al Tewal, Elab and Al Wadeah.
Among sea inlets are: Jeddah Islamic Sea Port, Yanbu Port and Dammam Port.
Among the airports are: King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh, Prince Muhammad bin Abdul Aziz Airport in Madinah and King Fahd International Airport in Dammam.
Most pilgrims travel by air to Jeddah and then travel by bus to Makkah via Jeddah-Makkah expressway.
Are there direct flights to Makkah?
No. There isn't a civilian airport in Makkah. The nearest civilian airport is in Jeddah.
How do I get to Makkah?
Once you arrive in Jeddah and your documents are checked, you will travel to Makkah by bus. These buses are provided by the local transport companies through the General Cars Syndicate.
How long does it take to travel from Jeddah to Makkah?
The distance between Jeddah and Makkah is about 50 miles. If you go by taxi it may take about one and half hours. It will take longer by bus. Taxis from Makkah to Madinah cost about SR 50-60 per person.
I've heard my passport will be taken from me. Is this true?
Yes. Once you have gone through customs and immigration, travel coupons for internal travel in Saudi Arabia will be attached to your passport and you will be escorted to a bus to travel to Makkah. At this point your passport will be taken away and will be kept by the mutawwif (a guide assigned to you by the Government). It will be given back to you at Jeddah airport on the day you return home. You will be given a photo-ID card by your mutawwif in place of your passport. You will also be given a tag (a rubber bracelet which will identify you to the mutawwif in case you get lost) and a Hajj security badge.
Make sure you carry the ID card and wear your bracelet at all times and take care of them.
It is also advisable to carry with you notarized copies of your passport.