Hajj is more difficult these days: Every year, all year round, Muslim pilgrims from all around the world are traveling to the homeland of the religion Islam, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in order to perform the major and minor pilgrimages which are known as Hajj and Umrah respectively.
While earlier on it was a very simple process of simply visiting the Kingdom and performing the pilgrimage, however today due to the immense number of pilgrims which are coming to the Kingdom, security measures as well as rules and regulations, the process has become difficult.
Hajj Agents: People have now opted to choose various Hajj agents and agencies which work specifically in providing pilgrimage services for both Umrah and Hajj pilgrims.
While there may seem to be a huge number of these Hajj agencies available in Muslim countries to facilitate the pilgrims, there are also several scammers out there who even scam such a pious and noble act.
Therefore, one must choose their Hajj agent correctly, or they may end up losing their hard earned money, and the chance to perform pilgrimage as well.
Choosing an agent to perform Hajj is a key part of the Umrah and Hajj preparations. The Ministry of Hajj in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has produced a guideline as to what you should be looking for when you are choosing Umrah and Hajj travel agents.
It is very important that the pilgrims completely understand these specifications and criteria and apply them every time they are buying Umrah or Hajj packages. The criteria are mentioned below;
1-Registered Agent: Pilgrims should be choosing a Hajj agency which has been registered with the Ministry of Hajj in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Only the registered agents have been authorized by the Ministry of Hajj to organize trips for Umrah and Hajj.
Any approved agent has a four-digit license number which has been issued by the Ministry of Hajj. The Pilgrims can also check if the agent has been approved or not by visiting the portal of the Ministry of Hajj at http://haj.gov.sa/
The pilgrims can and should check any testimonials which might be available to your agent or agency, what the other people had to say about them will tell a lot about their services and will be a good indicator to help you select.
2-Is he aware of the latest regulations? All those agencies which are registered are more likely to be completely aware of the new and latest regulations and rules of processing the visas and all other necessary requirements in order to organize the Umrah and Hajj trips.
The agents or Hajj agencies registered with the Ministry of Hajj are also accountable to the Ministry hence if any of the pilgrims are unhappy with any agency or agent for any genuine concern or reason, they can file an official complaint to the Hajj Ministry against the specific agent or agency.
3-The Contract between Haji and Hajj agent: The Hajj Ministry has also highlighted that a sales invoice or contract between the Umrah and Hajj travelers and the travel agents must include the following;
- Types of accommodation (building or hotel) where the pilgrims will stay during the pilgrimage trip and also the distances from the resident to the Holy Mosque in Makkah and the Mosque of the Prophet in Madinah.
- Type and class of the transportation service which will be provided during the pilgrimage.
- The catering service which will be included in the travel package which includes the type of food which will be provided in Madinah, Makkah and the sacred sites such as Arafat, Mina, and Muzdalifah.
- Full Itinerary which should include the flight class, date and also the name of the airlines which will be transporting the pilgrims and also any stops which will come en route.
4-Cash Payments in Advance: The Ministry of Hajj has also warned the pilgrims not to fall into the common trap of low-cost Hajj packages which have been advertised by rogue agents and are asking for cash payments beforehand.
5-Female Guide: Both pilgrims and agents should ensure that there is a female guide along with the group so that all of the female pilgrims can perform their pilgrimage easily and without any hindrance.
6-Travelers should also check if the agency has the Hajj package set from the main city of the country, if travelers live somewhere else they should ensure they take into consideration the travel cost to the main city. Some agents will put the charge into your package cost if you are in some other city.
7-Religious and Spiritual Guides: Some of the agents will also include experience and highly knowledgeable spiritual guides along with their group of pilgrims.
It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you might have accumulated about Hajj and Umrah from books and lectures, or educational videos, you can still learn something more about the rituals of Umrah and Hajj and if you do not know anything it is always good to have someone knowledgeable on the matter.
8-Location of the Tent in Mina: The pilgrim should ask their Hajj agent about the location of their tent in Mina. If you will be informed beforehand as to how long it will take to travel to the Jamarat from your tent, you will become mentally prepared for the journey.
9-Makkah or Madina? Some agents will take the pilgrims to Madina first instead of Makkah. The time which is spent in the immigration queue at the airport in Madina is much less than the one in Makkah. You might want to consider this fact before you book your package. Decide whether you want to go to Makkah or Madinah first?
10-Saudi SIM Card: Some of the Hajj agents will also provide Saudi SIM cards included in their packages. This will be a real time saver for all pilgrims; otherwise, you will have to wait in a considerably long queue in order to get a SIM card for your phone in Saudi Arabia.