Hajj Fact Sheet
MERS Corona Virus Advisory
The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia undertaken each year by 2-3 million people. The approximate dates for this year’s Hajj are September 9-14, 2016.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS CoV) continues to pose risks in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government recommends that the following travelers postpone attending the pilgrimage this year:
- Pregnant women
- Those with chronic health issues, such as heart, kidney, diabetes, cancer or respiratory diseases
- Those with congenital or acquired immunodeficiency disorders
See the Saudi Ministry of Health website and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for additional information on MersCov.
Planning ahead for Hajj is essential. Please click on the following links for information concerning:
- Pilgrimage Travel Requirements
- Hiring Reputable Tour Operators
- Visa Information
- Women Pilgrims
- Transportation at the airport and between ritual sites
- Transport of Agricultural Items and Zamzam Water
- Safety and Emergency Information
- Contact information for Hajj Authorities
- Emergency Contact Information for U.S. Citizens
- Consular Services for U.S. Citizens
For Pilgrimage, you must have:
- Vaccination certificate for inspection by Saudi authorities at the port of entry. Current vaccination requirements are available from the website of the Saudi Ministry of Health.
- Identification card and wristband issued to all pilgrims by your Hajj travel agent. Keep them with you at all times.
- Valid permit to perform Hajj. The Saudi government enforces strict penalties on people who perform Hajj without this permit.
- Hajj and Umrah travel plans made through a Saudi government-approved travel agent. This is how you obtain entry, accommodation, and transportation in Saudi Arabia. For a list of approved travel agencies, see the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia website and the Saudi Hajj Ministry website.
Please select a reputable, approved travel agent and ensure that you are guaranteed accommodations and transportation, in addition to an entry visa.
Failure to obtain a permit or use an approved travel agent can result in:
- Immediate deportation
- Large fines
- Ban on future travel to Saudi Arabia
If you arrive in Saudi Arabia without lodging or transportation arrangements, you may face difficulties with Saudi immigration and have trouble finding available services after arrival.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General in Jeddah and Dhahran cannot assist in arranging travel permissions within Saudi Arabia or resolving immigration violations.
U.S. citizen residents in Saudi Arabia must travel with Saudi-government-approved sponsor groups to perform Hajj. Foreign Muslim residents of Saudi Arabia may perform the Hajj once every five years. Advance approval must be obtained from an immigration office with the approval of the Saudi sponsor.
Keep travel documents (U.S. passport, U.S. residency permit “green card”) in a secure location during your trip. Make two copies of your passport—including pages stamped with Saudi visas—with one set at home and the other in a safe place while you travel.
Always carry contact information for:
- U.S. embassy and consulate
- U.S. travel agent and its Saudi representatives
- Your hotel
- Your travel group
The Hajj is an attractive target for defrauding unsuspecting tourists. Be aware of unscrupulous tour operators who abandon tourists, leaving them with unpaid bills, and hoteliers who demand the payment of exorbitant “hidden charges” for the return of passports. Only deal with licensed and established tour operators.
Pick-pocketing and other forms of theft are prevalent in Mecca, particularly in the region of the Grand Mosque, and in Medina.
Stay with your travel agency group at all times.
Lost U.S. passports or residency permits (“green cards”):
- Report the loss immediately to your travel agent.
- Obtain a report from the local police.
- Upon completion of Hajj, the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah can assist in issuing replacement passports to U.S. citizens and “boarding foils” to U.S. legal permanent residents who lose their “green cards.”
Do not overstay your Hajj or Umrah visa. Penalties for overstays may include a fine of 10,000 Saudi Riyals ($2,667) and incarceration pending deportation proceedings.
Umrah visas are valid for 15 days; you must depart before the visa expires. Ask travel agents for updates should the Saudi government revise its requirements (e.g. requiring pilgrims to depart earlier than the 10th of Muharram). Travelers must comply with all Saudi government travel regulations.
Permitted areas of travel and duration of stay: If you are unsure, be sure to ask for clarification upon arrival.
- Hajj and Umrah (pilgrimage) visas are valid for travel only in the vicinities of Jeddah, Mecca, and Medina, and for travel between these cities. These visas are not valid for work or residency. Unapproved travel outside these areas may result in problems with Saudi authorities.
- Non-Muslims are forbidden to travel to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. All pilgrims must leave Saudi Arabia after Hajj no later than the 10th of Muharram of each year (approximately October 24, 2016).
- Pilgrims are forbidden to stay in Saudi Arabia after the completion of Hajj.
Women below the age of 45 must be accompanied by a “mahram” (e.g. close adult, male relative such as a husband, son, father, or brother) for Hajj. Women must be met by their sponsor upon arrival. Women who are traveling alone and not met by sponsors have experienced delays before being allowed to enter the country or to continue on other flights.
Women over 45 may travel without a mahram in an organized group, provided they submit a notarized letter of no objection from the husband, son, or brother, authorizing travel for Hajj with the named group. Violators face deportation.
People with Disabilities: Be prepared for standards of accessibility and accommodation very different from those in the United States. For further information see the Ministry of Hajj website.
Have routine immunizations up to date. In addition to required vaccinations, the following vaccinations are also recommended: Hepatitis A and B and Polio. Carry hand sanitizers, cold, diarrhea, and skin irritation medication.
Heat-related illnesses: If you experience profuse sweating, chills, headache, dizziness, and nausea, move to a cool area and seek medical attention. Temperatures in Mecca tend to range between 64 and 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Stay hydrated, rest, and use protection from the sun.
There are facilities providing water, public accommodations, and other amenities. Due to large crowds, however, travelers should expect long wait times for basic amenities, especially in Mina, Muzdalifa, and Arafat.
At the Airport: Expect Crowded Airport Terminals
- Waiting time upon arrival at the King Abdul-Aziz International Airport in Jeddah may exceed twelve hours, due to the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.
- Expect a lengthy wait in hot and humid conditions before leaving the airport to Mecca or Medina. Travelers with only carry-on bags will find baggage transfer at the airport much easier than will those with checked baggage.
- Some Hajj pilgrims now fly directly to Medina and proceed to Mecca by road. There is no airport in Mecca.
- The Saudi authorities may only permit travelers to leave the Hajj terminal with their Hajj travel groups. The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and Consulates General in Jeddah and Dhahran are unable to assist with this issue.
Between Ritual Sites
- The Saudi government provides strict timetables to Hajj groups for all movements (bus, light rail, and foot) between the ritual sites. Bus, light rail, and pedestrian routes are extremely congested, and travelers should expect long delays.
- In recent years, light rail trains have been overwhelmed, with pilgrims waiting several hours at the train station in Arafat and Muzdalifah on crowded platforms. Trains may also be extremely overcrowded. Timetables and light rail movements are outside the control of travel agencies.
- Use maps and smartphone applications to navigate the Hajj ritual sites that stretch from the Grand Mosque (Al Masjid al Haram) to Arafat.
Saudi authorities forbid the taking of photographs (still or video, including mobile telephone photographs) at the Holy Mosque at Mecca or at the Prophet's Mosque at Medina. Any violation of official instructions is likely to lead to the confiscation of your device. While a prior ban on cameras and camera phones has been relaxed, exercise good judgment and respect the rules of each site.
See U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for guidance on bringing religious articles back to the United States.
Zamzam water (drawn from the sacred Zamzam well inside the Grand Mosque): Please check with your travel agent and airline for guidance. Most airlines limit each traveler to one container of up to 10 liters (2.64 gallons) of Zamzam water as checked baggage.
- U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the U.S. Department of State's, Bureau of Consular Affairs website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts and Warnings, and Saudi Arabia’s Travel Warning and Country Specific Information can be found.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow us on Twitter @KSA_ACS and @TravelGov as well as the U.S. Mission Saudi Arabia, Consulate General Jeddah, and Bureau of Consular Affairs Facebook pages.
In the event of an emergency, please use your social media and other accounts to let family and friends know that you are ok. Doing so reassures your loved ones and allows our Embassy and Consulate staff to focus their efforts on helping other people in need of emergency assistance.
- The National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of Turkey and Muslims of Europe, Americas, and Australia
966-012-920012013, Mobile: 0505-608-150
Street Address: Mecca Al Mukarramah, Al Nuzha Road, near Alnuzha Bridge
- Health Affairs
- Lost Pilgrims
- Emergency Services
Traffic Accidents 993
Note: When dialing the Jeddah area (includes Mecca and Taif) from the U.S., use country code 966 and city code 12. For example, dial 011-966-12-542-7003 for the National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims. When dialing the Riyadh area, use city code 11, e.g. 011-966-11-488-3800 for the U.S. Embassy.
||(966) (11) 488-3800|
||(966) (12) 667-0080|
||(966) (13) 330-3200|
Hours of operation are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm local time in Saudi Arabia, Sunday through Thursday for routine inquiries. During regular business hours, please ask for the American Citizens Services Unit.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General will be closed:
||Saudi National Day|
For emergency cases outside of regular business hours or during holidays, use the same numbers listed above to reach a duty officer for assistance.
In addition, you can call the Department of State from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays):
- From the U.S. & Canada: 1-888-407-4747
- From Overseas: + 1 202-501-4444
In the event of an emergency, please use your social media and other accounts to let family and friends know if you are ok. Doing so reassures your loved ones and allows our Embassy and Consulate staff to focus their efforts on helping other people in need of emergency assistance.
We hope that you will have a trouble-free Hajj, as thousands of other pilgrims from the United States do each year. If something does go wrong, however, the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah can provide you appropriate consular services, such as:
- Arrange for emergency U.S. passports and “boarding foils” for lost I-551 (“green cards”) for U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents. After Hajj, please bring a report from the police station regarding the theft or loss, and a copy of your U.S. passport or green card if possible.
- Seek to contact you within 24 hours of being told that you have been arrested.
- Make special arrangements in case of civil disturbances or disasters.
- Provide contact information for local lawyers and hospitals.
- Arrange for a spouse or next of kin to be informed if you are involved in an accident, arrested, or die, and advise them on the appropriate procedures.
We cannot, however:
- Arrange for travel outside of the designated areas in Mecca and Medina.
- Resolve immigration violations.
- Become involved in any disagreements, e.g. pilgrim and travel agency disputes or lost baggage.
- Rearrange airline, hotel, or other travel bookings.
- Pay for hotel, legal, medical, travel, or other bills.
- Obtain someone’s release from prison.
- Provide legal advice or intervene in court cases or criminal investigations.
Learn About Your Destination
Check your overseas medical insurance coverage: Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.