Hajj and Umrah Tips


     Makkah Tips
     Madina Tips
     Geography & Transportation
     Food
     Lodging & Accommodations
     Health
     Safety
     Mobile/Cell Phone & Internet

Makkah Tips

The least crowd is normally a couple hours after sunrise and couple hours after Isha. Mostly people stay from Fajr to sunrise in the Masjid and then go to their rooms. They return for Zuhr and then go for food. Then they stay from Asr or Maghrib to Isha and return at about midnight. Remember if you are doing Tawaaf in the Mataaf or on the roof, you will be under open skies. Use sunblock and time your Tawaaf to avoid the sun and heat.

The new expansion has made Saee easier. The crowd in the Saee follows the pattern of the crowd in Tawaaf. You can do Saee in five different levels. All levels are air-conditioned except the levels on top of the roof.



Madina Tips

Best route is to enter from Bab-Salam (Gate 1) and exit from from Bab-Baqee (Gate 41).
Makkah Layout

Please refer to map below for the Ladies Prayer locations.
Makkah Layout

There are two to three times a day where visiting the grave of Prophet Muhammad PBUH and the Riadh-ul-Jannah is open for women:

  • From sunrise until 9:30 AM
  • From 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM (This time is sometimes open and sometimes not depending on the crowd)
  • From 9:30 PM to 12:00 Midnight

Note: These are approximate times and can be changed whenever the governments want. They normally stop women from entering about half an hour before closing time.

Please see the map below. The dark red line indicates the entrance for women to go to the grave of Prophet Muhammad PBUH. The light blue is the path for both going and coming back. The path is partitioned off from the sides.
Makkah Layout



Geography & Transportation

Jeddah is one of the three largest cities in Saudi Arabia and has a major seaport. Jeddah serves as the gateway to Makkah and Madina. Most people coming for Hajj or Umrah first arrive in Jeddah and then go to Makkah or Madina by road.

Azizia is a neighborhood in the Makkah area that neighbors Mina. Many Hajj groups are booked to stay in Azizia, as it is cheaper. Azizia is an ideal location during the days of Hajj, but is about 5 km/ 3 miles from Haram.

Makkah, Madina, and Jeddah are linked with large multi-lane highways. In addition, Jeddah and Madina have International Airports.

 DistanceModeTimeCost
Makkah-Madina440 km/275 milesBus6 hoursSR 25/person
Taxi4.5 hoursSR 50/person
Makkah-Jeddah90 km/55 milesBus1 hourSR 10/person
Taxi1 hourSR 15/person
Madina-Jeddah405 km/250 milesBus6 hoursSR 25/person
Taxi4 hoursSR 50/person
Air0.5 hoursSR 250/person

 DistanceModeTimeCost
Makkah-Mina5 km/3 milesWalking1.5 hoursNone
Taxi/Bus15 mins.*SR 30/person**
Train15 mins.***
Mina-Arafat10 km/6 milesWalking2 hoursNone
Taxi/Bus15 mins.***
Train15 mins.***
Arafat-Muzdalifa7 km/4 milesWalking2 hoursNone
Taxi/Bus15 mins.***
Train15 mins.***
Muzdalifa-Mina2  km/1.2 milesWalking30 minutesNone
Taxi/Bus5 mins.***
Train5 mins.****


Notes:

All time and distances are approximate and vary based on where you are located in the given areas.
*These are minimum time. This varies with traffic and can take even 20 times longer.
**Buses are normally arranged by the Hajj Organizer. Private taxi rates need to be negotiated then and there.
***The Hajj Group Organizer needs to organize train trips.

Taxis and private cars are readily available for hire in Makkah, Madina, and Jeddah. During the time of Hajj, local residents start driving their own cars as taxis. Thus, taxis and private cars normally do not use any sort of meter and the price of the ride is negotiated before starting the ride. Many taxis and private cars charge per person and wait until the car is filled before going. If you want, you can negotiate a rate for the whole car and then the taxi or private car driver will not look for other passengers. Most of the drivers tend to drive way over the posted speed limit on the highways. Address this concern before your start your journey.

Most of the transportation of groups is done on bus. It is quite normal that a bus is delayed a couple of hours before embarking on its journey. A few stops are made on the route for bathroom, prayer, and food breaks. It depends on the driver about how long the breaks are and if he will wait for everyone to board back or if he will leave people behind. Please be cautious and board the bus before it leaves as it an cause a lot of problems.

Trains between Makkah, Madina and Jeddah are scheduled to start for Hajj in 2017. There are trains that connect Makkah, Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifa. The trains are fast and comfortable, but the access to the trains is very congested and stampedes can occur. The organizers of your Hajj Group will have to arrange for the trains.

There are millions of people who come for Hajj and Umrah. Accommodating them is a challenge. There are very long queues are immigration and other government checking areas. Please plan ahead and be prepared for hours of waiting time. Have some snack with you. If you are travelling with a group, you could have one member of the group stand in line while the other sit down somewhere.



Food

During the Umrah and Hajj season, many people flock to Makkah and Madina. This increases the demand in food facilities around the Holy places. Unfortunately, the limited time available for food preparation, accompanied by the increased quantity of prepared, food may contribute to the loss of control over microbiological hazards, leading to food poisoning cases in restaurants that do not follow public health rules.
To avoid food poisoning, one should avoid eating at a restaurant unless they are sure of its compliance with public health and hygiene food standards and of the hygiene and health of its food handlers. Make sure that meat products are cooked thoroughly; vegetables and fruits are washed and cleaned from soil; and ready-to-eat foods are stored in refrigerators properly and not exposed to high temperatures over long periods of time or to pests.

There are numerous international food chains available in Saudi Arabia. To name a few, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Little Caesars and KFC. There are other local food chains such as Al-Baik, Tazej, Kudu and Hardees. These places follow proper hygiene standards and are safe to eat.

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Lodging & Accommodations

Lodging is scattered all around Masjid Haraam. One should not only look at the distance from the Masjid when selecting a residence, but also the approach. Makkah is a very hilly area with many slopes and the Masjid is located in the valley. Thus, a lot of lodging accommodation might be close by, but on top a high gradient slope, causing excursion when going to and coming back from the Masjid.

Most of the hotels are towards the north of the Masjid (opposite of the Qibla). Madina topology is flat and accommodation rates generally decrees with increased distance from the Masjid.

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Health

As Makkah and Madina are in the desert, both the cities are extremely hot. The heat in Makkah is generally more than in Madina and is felt more as Masjid Haraam is open. Avoid planning on doing Tawaaf around noontime. Be sure to stay hydrated and carry water with you, consult your doctor before going for Umrah or Hajj about using salt tablets if you perspire profusely. At night it sometimes become cold especially in Muzdalifa. Make arrangements for such anomalies.

It is very common to catch a cold, cough, or the flu as people from all over the world are present and there is very close interaction between people. Avoid staying close to people who are coughing. Many people use a surgical facemasks to avoid getting sick. Keep the medicine you normally use for coughs and colds with you, as the exact same medicine might not be available.

There are numerous hospitals and pharmacies around the Masjid Haraam and Masjid Nabawi. There are clinics within the Masjids also. Medical expense is generally cheap and sometimes even free. Pharmacies are available everywhere and carry most types of medicine. Prescriptions are not necessary to buy medical drugs.



Safety

A lot of shoes and slippers get misplaced or stolen in Makkah and Madina. The problem is worse in Makkah as there are limited shoe racks. Normally, at the entrance of the Masjid, a plastic bag is given and you can store your shoes and slippers in them and keep them with you. Having you own pouch to carry your shoes and slippers might be better. If you must leave your shoes at a shoe rack, split the pair up and place each shoe at a different location. In Madina there are a lot shoe racks inside the masjid, which are generally safe. Remember the number of the shoe rack where you kept your shoe and make sure that the area you kept your shoes are not enclosed when the partitions are set for women to go visit the grave of Prophet Muhammad PBUH.

Theft and pick pocketing is very common. Dedicated gangs come to do this dirty work. Leave all important documents at your room and only keep the money you require for that day. People snatch purses when you are in Sujood. They pick your pocket when you are doing Tawaaf. Be careful about sudden jolts and insure that it is not easy for someone else to slide their hand in your pocket or cut it off.

You should bring a sufficient amount of funds with you for Hajj or Umrah. Traveler Checks are the safest form. Money Exchanges are readily available for when you need to convert your money. Do not convert all your money, but do so as per the need. Do not carry large sums of money with you to avoid the risk of losing it all to theft.



Mobile/Cell Phone & Internet

There are three cell phone carries in Saudi Arabia: Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Mobily, and Zain. Many international operators have agreements for roaming with these carriers.
All there have very competitive rates and provide nearly the same service. All carries bill by the second and you are billed for all outgoing calls, SMS, and MMS. Incoming calls and SMS are free.

All unlocked GSM cell phone work in Saudi Arabia. You just need to insert a SIM card and you are good to go.

All three cell phone companies provide pre-paid SIM cards to pilgrims doing Hajj and Umrah. These SIM are valid from a couple of months and then become useless. You can buy a SIM for about Saudi Riyal 20 and available everywhere including the airport. The SIMs have same amount of money in them as the price you paid for the SIM. Recharges for the SIM are available in nearly every store

All cell phone companies have 4G access. If your phone supports 3G or 4G, you can use internet on your phone. Some hotels provide Wi-Fi access, but might charge you for it. All major hotels have an internet cafe. Mina has full Wi-Fi coverage during Hajj time.

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