COVID-19 has changed our lives forever and one of the main impacts it has also had on us Muslims is our ability to perform Hajj and Umrah as we please. International borders are now opening up more and governments such as Australia and Saudi Arabia have eased restrictions. This is great news as it now allows travel to Saudi Arabia and entry to perform umrah, the first place for many they may wish to travel to!
The purpose of this blog is to both hopefully inspire you to go and perform Umrah and enlighten you with all the practical and logistical steps that need to be taken in order to do so. Please note that if you have never performed Hajj or Umrah before then it is highly recommended that you go with a reputable group and spiritual guide for your first visit! Please ensure you choose your group carefully as the spiritual guide on your first trip will make all the difference and ensure that you perform all the rites of Umrah correctly!
Please note that currently children under the age of 12 are not permitted to visit the holy mosques in Makkah or Madinah and therefore are unable to perform Umrah.
Children between the ages of 12-18 are permitted provided they meet the vaccination requirements for the respective visa and entry requirements into Saudi Arabia.
Step 1: Obtain a valid Visa.
In order to enter into Saudi Arabia you must have a valid visa for entry. There are now 2 types of visas available a Tourist Visa or Umrah Visa. Both of these visas allow you to enter Saudi Arabia and perform Umrah. To read more about the differences between a Tourist Visa and Umrah Visa please visit: http://bit.ly/TouristvisavsUmrahvis
To watch video instructions on how to apply for a tourist visa click below:
Step 2: Book Your Flights and Accommodation
Given current uncertainty that exists due to the COVID-19 pandemic it is recommended that you book accommodation that has a flexible cancellation or full refund option. With flights try and choose an airline that will refund your money as opposed to issuing travel vouchers where possible.
If you are travelling with a group the flights and accommodation will obviously be taken care of for you.
Step 3: Registering on Muqeem
Once you have obtained your visa you will need to register your covid-19 vaccination details into the Saudi government portal.
You should register your vaccine status at https://muqeem.sa/#/vaccine-registration/home before departing for Saudi Arabia and after obtaining your tourism visa. The site is available in Arabic and English.
Please note however that this cannot be done until 7 days before your intended date of arrival.
To watch a video instruction on how to complete this registration click below:
Step 4: Vaccination Certificate
You will need to download your international vaccination certificate. In Australia this can be done directly from the Medicare app, you will need to ensure that your Medicare account is linked to your Mygov account.
Step 5: Negative PCR COVID-19 Test Certificate
You will need to ensure that you obtain a negative travel PCR COVID-19 test 72 hours before departure to Saudi Arabia. A SMS is not acceptable, it must be a written document and will cost you approximately $150. You should take the printed version of the test result with you to the airport.
Please note that you will also need to get a negative PCR COVID-19 test in Saudi Arabia up to 72 hours before departing to return to Australia. The hotel can generally arrange this for you and it will cost around 300 riyals and the results take up to 24 hours. There are also places that you can look up in Makkah and Madinah for example Al Borg Diagnostics that can do the test for you. If you are after a more rapid test then you are able to obtain a test at Jeddah airport and obtain the result in 40 minutes. There is a premium for this service though and it currently costs 500 riyals.
Step 6: Download Applications
• Hajjap is an end to end guide on how to perform umrah. The App includes a list of all the duas needed to perform Umrah as well as audio versions of the dua to help you say them correctly. It also has historical information on the sites to be visited during the journey
Mandatory requirement for COVID contact tracing, Umrah Permit, Prayer permits in Makkah and Rawdah / Prophet’s grave in Madinah
• Tawakkalna (please note you will not be able to sign up or register until you actually land in Saudi Arabia, it will not work outside the country)
This application is mandatory and must be downloaded on each visitors smartphone. It will contain your confirmed vaccination status which will need to be shown to be allowed into all hotels, restaurants, transportation and the holy mosques. It will also contain your permits once you have booked them on Etamarna (see below).
• Etamarna (please note you will not be able to sign up or register until you actually land in Saudi Arabia, it will not work outside the country)
This app is used to book your permits for umrah, prayer, rawdah etc and can also be used to book transportation if required. However please refer to step 7 for recommended travel between Makkah and Madinah.
Other useful apps:
• Haramain Recordings (to listen to translations of Juma Khutbahs, see imam schedule for leading prayers and prayer times, watch Haram tv channels live)
Step 7: Transportation options between Madinah & Makkah
It is highly recommended that you book the Haramain High Speed Rail Train to travel between Madinah and Makkah. The reason being is that it is the quickest, comfortable and best value for money option. You will need to arrange transportation from your hotel in Madinah to the train station as well as transportation from the train station in Makkah to your hotel in Makkah. Taxis are readily available for this. The cost is approximately 40-70 riyals from Madinah to the train station. From Makkah train station to the Haram hotels is between 20-50 riyals.
If you are travelling with a group it is most likely they will take care of all your transportation requirements so you won’t need to book the train. But when choosing a group to go with ask them if they are going by train or bus as that will make a difference to your experience!
• 15-20 minutes travel time from Madinah hotel to Madinah train station.
• To arrive at Madinah train station 30-45 minutes before departure.
• 2 hours 19 minutes travel on train from Madinah to Makkah via Jeddah or 2 hours 6 mins non –stop from Madinah to Makkah.
• 15-20 minutes travel time from Makkah train station to hotel.
Total time estimated: 3-4 hours (Bus trips take between 7-8 hours normally and taxi trips take between 4-5 hours)
Cost: 170 riyals economy, 290 riyals business class (taxi will cost 400-500 riyals)
Weight: According to the ticket you are allowed 1 x 25kg weight luggage piece and 1 x carry on bag. However we found they were very relaxed about this as it was not busy, it may be different during busy times.
Meeqat: Intention to perform Umrah can be said whilst moving on the train this is usually within a minute after leaving the train station, or alternatively can be said from leaving your hotel in Madinah or by visiting the Meeqat at Dhull Hulaiyfah and saying intention before proceeding to train station.
To watch our instructional video on how to book the train please click below:
New Jeddah Airport and Zam Zam
Finally Jeddah has an airport that won’t leave you having nightmares after your Umrah trip or especially after Hajj where the Hajj Terminal was the final thing that could break someone!
However one last problem to be rectified is that currently there is no Zam Zam available at Jeddah airport and currently due to operational issues they are not letting anyone on any airline take any Zam Zam with them! This is such a shame and shock if you do not know before hand! Hopefully this is rectified shortly! It must be!
If you are leaving from any other airport other than Jeddah you are able to take Zam Zam with you. You can readily purchase Zam Zam now from most supermarkets including Bin Dawood! Note they do not come in boxes though suitable for air travel at the supermarket like they normally do when receiving from the airport. In Makkah you may wish to the Zam Zam factory in Kudai just 3km from the Haram.
May Allah swt allow you to perform umrah soon and accept and don’t forget us in your dua! Ameen.
Original Blog by Shan Rana
Information in this blog article is for information purposes only and may change depending on relevant regulatory changes. It is provided “as is” without express or implied warranty by OnePath Network.