Umrah season sees a record influx of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia – around six million people visit the holy city of Mecca for Umrah, with 750, 000 pilgrims visiting during the Islamic month of Safar.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia has recently established a global network for receiving and issuing visas for Umrah with an e-track service. The service is meant to help the ministry in tracking and regulating pilgrims in and out of the city.
When traveling to Jeddah and on to Mecca for Umrah, keep a few tips in mind to complete your spiritual journey with ease.
During your visit to Mecca, especially if you are traveling from abroad, take care after recent outbreaks of diseases such as MERS-CoV. It is advised that pilgrims wear masks, changing them at regular intervals.
Stay up to date on news of any infectious diseases before traveling and read up on symptoms. Make sure you take special care of personal hygiene and wash your hands regularly.
The government recommends getting immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases before traveling to Mecca. Check your health insurance to see if you’re covered for vaccines, and contact a clinic to see what vaccines they advise, such as meningitis or influenza (flu).
If you don’t already have health insurance, now’s a good time to get covered. Compare all health insurance plans and make sure you ask them if they have any specific plans for Umrah. If you are traveling to Saudi Arabia from the UAE think of getting travel insurance for Umrah.
You will want to be able to stay in touch with family and friends – check whether there are any special deals available from your provider close to the time. And consider pre-paid credit cards to keep on top of your expenses. Again, travel insurance is a good idea, with the huge numbers of people in Mecca for Umrah.
You can also get pre-paid mobile plans for visitors from the moment you arrive in Saudi Arabia.
Security and transportation
The police department in Mecca has set up a security and traffic plan to ease the way for pilgrims, reduce criminal activity and ensure safety for pedestrians, especially close to the Grand Mosque. Changes include parking bans in the central zone of Mecca, assigned taxi stands, allocated parking for people with special needs and banning cars from entering pedestrian routes before major prayers.
Before you travel, research and gather together all the information you need on travel routes, transportation approvals and pedestrian routes. It’s also a good idea to keep emergency contact details at hand in case of theft. You can even check out the Ministry of Hajj site, where information on maps, prayer times and regulations is provided for pilgrims.