Hajj is an annual religious pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken each year by 2-3 million people. The 2018 dates for Hajj are approximately August 20-24. Umrah is a pilgrimage that can be completed at any time of the year.
Planning ahead for Hajj and Umrah is essential. Please review the following information and links for more details concerning:
For pilgrimage, you must have:
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:
Do not travel to Saudi Arabia without having made lodging and transportation arrangements in advance. You may face difficulties with Saudi immigration and have trouble finding available services once you have arrived.
The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and Consulates General in Jeddah and Dhahran cannot assist in arranging travel permissions within Saudi Arabia or resolving immigration violations.
U.S. citizens who reside 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 and with the approval of their Saudi sponsor.
Keep travel documents (your U.S. passport or U.S. “green card” residency permit) secure 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 Riyadh and Consulate General Jeddah
U.S. travel agent and its Saudi representatives
Your travel group
Hire Reputable Tour Operators
Hajj and Umrah are attractive targets for defrauding unsuspecting travelers. Be aware of unscrupulous tour operators who abandon pilgrims, 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, and do not leave passports or valuables unattended.
Lost U.S. passports or residency permits (“green cards”):
The Hijiri calendar is used in Saudi Arabia for all official functions. Please review the dates on your visa carefully, and make sure you know when it expires.
Do not overstay your Hajj or Umrah visa. Penalties for overstays may include fines amounting to thousands of dollars, detention pending deportation proceedings, and bans on returning to Saudi Arabia in the future.
Umrah visas are typically valid for about two weeks. You must depart before the visa expires.
Ask travel agents for updates should the Saudi government revise its requirements. During Hajj, the government may set new departure requirements that limit when you can depart. Local regulations include provisions that may keep you from leaving early. 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.
Saudi visa rules require that women below the age of 45 must be accompanied by a “mahram” (e.g. a male member of their immediate family) for Hajj or Umrah. Women must travel with their mahram, or be met by them upon arrival; otherwise, they may experience significant delays and/or be denied entry.
Women over 45 may travel within a tour group and without a mahram provided they submit a notarized letter of no objection from someone who could be considered their mahram, authorizing travel for Hajj or Umrah with the named group.
Be prepared for standards of accessibility and accommodation below the minimum of what is required in the United States. For further information see the Ministry of Hajj website.
Make sure your routine immunizations are up to date, and ask your tour operator about the vaccinations required for your visa. Hepatitis A and B, and Polio vaccinations are also recommended.
Carry hand sanitizer, as well as treatments for colds, diarrhea, and anything else you might need.
Heat-related illnesses: Move to a cool area and seek medical attention if you experience profuse sweating, chills, headache, dizziness, and nausea. Temperatures at pilgrimage sites consistently exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. Stay hydrated, rest, and protect yourself 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
Between Ritual Sites
Saudi authorities forbid the taking of photographs (still or video, including those taken with your phone) 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.
We recommend that travelers returning to the U.S. not bring any food items, including dates, that are not commercially processed and in their sealed, original container. Customs authorities at the port of entry to the U.S. are responsible for deciding which items to allow.
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 Advisories, and Saudi Arabia’s country 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.
|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.|
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 011-966-012-667-0080 to reach us at Consulate Jeddah. When dialing the Riyadh area, use city code 11, e.g. 011-966-11-488-3800 for the U.S. Embassy. Cell phone numbers do not use the city code.
Emergency Contact Information for U.S. Citizens
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.
During the 2017 Hajj period, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates General will be closed for routine services from September 1-9, and September 24 for Saudi National Day. Pilgrims making Umrah at other times of the year should be aware that the Embassy and Consulates are typically closed on major U.S. and Saudi holidays. A list of closures is available at U.S Embassy & Consulates in Saudi Arabia.
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
What We Can and Cannot Do
We hope that you will have a trouble-free Hajj or Umrah, as thousands of other pilgrims from the United States do each year. If something does go wrong, however, the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah can provide you appropriate consular services, such as:
We cannot, however: