Preparations For Hajj or Umrah
Choose a travel agent who offers a wide selection of “packages” for Hajj. Not all of the products of travel agents are of equal quality and value. Choosing the right agent is of crucial importance. Hopefully, a representative of your travel agent will be your constant guide and trouble shooter during Hajj. Invest time and effort in this essential phase of your preparation
Talk to friends and acquaintances who may have recently used the services of various companies and ask them for recommendations. The quality of service and commitment to the comfort and well-being of the pilgrims vary significantly among travel agents. Whereas a good and responsible agent can “make” your Hajj, a bad one can just as easily “break” it.
Be sure to ask the travel agent specific questions and have him give you specific answers:
What will be the duration of your stay in Mecca and Medina? What dates? Is the program flexible or will it allow no changes once it is made? Is there any additional cost to such changes? If so, what is it?
How far away will you be staying from Haram ash Shareef, both in Mecca and in Medina? If your place of residence is not within easy walking distance (10-15 minutes), what type of transportation to and from Haram ash Shareef will be made available? How often during the day will it be available?
Will a representative of the travel agent who is fully conversant with the rites of Hajj, and Saudi rules and procedures for customs, immigration, and travel be with you at all times? Will he stay in Saudi Arabia for the duration of your visit? You do not want to be left in Saudi Arabia without adequate guidance and assistance. The laws and procedures there can be very difficult, frustrating, and time-consuming.
Will the representative of the agent be conversant with the Arabic language? If not, will an interpreter be provided in Saudi Arabia? Most Saudi authorities do not speak English, and your command of Arabic is likely to be limited.
Will you have the option of travelling within Saudi Arabia, (for example from Mecca to Medina), in a taxi hired by you at your own expense instead of the prepaid bus provided by your muallim? How about possible return by air from Medina to Jeddah on your way out of the country instead of the usual prepaid bus? Get a good idea of this additional expense.
You may want to use the above options in view of the fact that the bus journeys during Hajj season can be nerve-racking. For example, a bus journey from Mecca to Medina (approximately 400 km or 250 miles) can take as long as twenty to thirty hours, whereas a taxi will cover the same distance in three to four hours. The small additional cost you will incur is well worth the money in terms of time saved and physical discomfort avoided.
If you choose to use any of the alternate travel options (and it is highly recommend that you give them very serious consideration), be sure to redeem your unused bus coupons at Jeddah airport on your way out. Your travel agent should be able to help you in this.
What kind of arrangements will be made for your stay in Mina and Arafat? How about the food arrangements in Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah?
Does the price of your package include meals? See if the agents make an effort to vary the menu. You may have to supplement your meals with milk, fruits etc. Food supplied by the agents tends to be monotonous, and the lack of variety is likely to kill your appetite after a couple of days!
Will the agent arrange for a sacrifice on your behalf on the 10th of Zul Hijjah? This is a common service agents often provide for a small fee. They will inform you of the time of the sacrifice so that you may perform other rites accordingly.