Australians planning to attend this year's annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, expected to fall between 20 and 25 September 2015, should familiarise themselves with our travel advice for Saudi Arabia, which advises Australians to reconsider your need to travel to Saudi Arabia at this time due to the threat of terrorist attack.
Be a smart traveller. Before heading to Saudi Arabia:
- organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
- register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
- subscribe to this bulletin and the Saudi Arabia travel advice to receive email updates each time it's reissued
- follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Safety and Security
About three million pilgrims perform the Hajj each year. Australians should expect overcrowding at religious sites and should be alert to possible safety risks. Stampedes involving dozens or hundreds of deaths have occurred. On 24 September 2015, there was a stampede at Mina outside Mecca involving over 700 deaths. In 2006, more than 400 pilgrims were killed in another stampede.
You should safeguard your valuables from theft and obey all bans on photography and filming. You are not allowed to take photographs (still or video) at the Holy Mosque at Mecca or at the Prophet’s Mosque at Medina. It is recommended you use only authorised locations for changing currency.
Saudi authorities will regulate the use of vehicles in locations of the Hajj. You should follow the instructions of local authorities.
Advice from the Ministry of Hajj
The Ministry of Hajj is the Saudi Government department with overall responsibility for managing the annual pilgrimage. It oversees several agencies responsible for various aspects of managing the Hajj, including the Hajj Foundation, which looks after the welfare of pilgrims, and Al-Wakala, which is responsible for the correct allocation of pilgrims to their respective groups.
The Ministry of Hajj has advised that it is prohibited to hold gatherings and group prayers, or to raise voices or to perform rituals of worship not practised in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Ministry of Hajj has also advised that producing or distributing any printed or electronic material by Hajj pilgrims or tour organisers is prohibited, unless it is authorised and approved by the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information.
Strict laws apply to blasphemy and pilgrims should avoid making statements or utterances that could be interpreted as blasphemy. In the past, people suspected of violating these restrictions have been sentenced to long jail terms and floggings.
Pilgrims should note that all telephone numbers given below are local numbers in Saudi Arabia. The number of pilgrims using these services can result in long delays.
Entry and Exit Requirements
All Hajj travel bookings must be made through a Saudi-Government approved travel agent. Pilgrims should ensure they have selected an approved and reputable agent who will provide accommodation, transport and an entry visa.
Foreign pilgrims must have Hajj visas. A Hajj visa is for travel to Jeddah, Mecca and Medina only and visits outside these cities before or after the Hajj are usually not allowed. All pilgrims must leave Saudi Arabia after Hajj no later than the 10th of Muharram of each year (approximately 23 October 2015). Saudi Arabia forbids pilgrims from staying in the country after the completion of Hajj. Visitors who overstay their Hajj visas are subject to a fine of 10,000 Saudi Riyals (approx. AUD 3,500) and incarceration pending deportation proceedings. All visitors should obtain clarification upon arrival as to the permitted areas of travel and length of stay.
Australian Muslims living in Saudi Arabia are eligible to undertake the Hajj once every five years and must get approval from the Saudi immigration office.
Please read the health section below for entry requirements related to health issues.
Arrival and Departure at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah
Given the large numbers of pilgrims arriving and departing King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, you should be prepared for delays. Pilgrims arriving at the airport can expect to take several hours to clear customs and immigration at the Hajj terminal. It is a good idea to take food and water with you.
Pilgrims have to declare all money they carry into Saudi Arabia.
On arrival at the terminal, authorities will take your passport and give you an identification card and a wristband. The Pilgrim Guides Association will hold your passport while you are performing the Hajj and will return it to you on departure. Before you leave Australia, we recommend you make two photocopies or scans of valuable documents, including your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone in Australia.
Pilgrims are then transported to the reception centre on Jeddah Road. The Saudi police operate security checkpoints on the road from Jeddah to Mecca and delays can be expected.
Mecca reception centre
Telephone: 012 530 8200
Medina reception centre
Telephone: 014 8263131 / 014 8321985 / 014 8226108
Airline Offices in Jeddah
Lufthansa Telephone: 012 6693666
KLM Telephone: 012 6672503
Air France Telephone: 012 651 2000
Saudi Air (in Saudi Arabia only): 9200 22222
In Case of a Lost or Stolen Passport
It is important to note that to replace a lost/stolen passport, you will be required to present to the Australian Embassy in Riyadh for an interview when you lodge your completed application together with photos and supporting documents. For more information, contact the Australian Embassy in Riyadh.
The Hajj Foundation provides accommodation in air conditioned tents with mattresses and three meals a day, with tea, coffee and snacks during the day. All basic food provisions are provided free of charge to all pilgrims. No cooking is allowed in the Mina Tent City Area.
Information for Dual Nationals
The Saudi Government does not recognise dual nationality. This may limit the ability of the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to Australian/Saudi dual nationals who are arrested or detained.
It is illegal to hold two passports in Saudi Arabia. Second passports will be confiscated by immigration authorities if discovered.
The Ministry of Hajj and other sources of assistance
The Ministry of Hajj is the government agency that distributes pilgrims to their assigned sections designated by country. Australians are assigned to Branch/Group(s) 42, 43 and 45 accommodation areas.
Ministry of Hajj office in Jeddah
Telephone (24 hours): 012 647 7551 / 012 665 5077
Ministry of Hajj office in Medina
Telephone: 014 826 3131
Ministry of Hajj office in Mecca
Telephone: 012 557 1714
Facsimile: 012 557 1731
The National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of Turkey and Muslims of America, Australia and Europe is available to assist pilgrims with any emergencies.
The National Tawafa Establishment contact details are as follows:
Al Nuzha Road,
PO Box 9772
Phone: 012 5427003 Ext 101, 666
Fax: 012 5420992
Website: www.teaa.com.sa (Arabic only)
The Saudi Ministry of Health requires all visitors to have a valid vaccination certificate against Meningococcal Meningitis. The certificate must have been issued no more than three years and no less than 10 days before arrival in Saudi Arabia. Travellers from Australia are required to produce valid and up-to-date proof of meningococcal disease vaccination (serogroups A, C, Y, and W135) in order to get a visa to enter Saudi Arabia. Consult your doctor or travel clinic if you are in any doubt.
For detailed information about the vaccinations required, please visit the Saudi Ministry of Health pre-Hajj health tips page and the health regulations information page. We recommend that you carry your vaccination certificates with you in case authorities ask to see them.
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority requires all pilgrims to report all medicine and medical devices in their possession upon entry and departure. Please note that a pilgrim or organiser is not allowed to provide another pilgrim or organiser with medicine.
Pilgrims need to protect themselves from sun, dehydration, exhaustion, foot problems and respiratory and bronchial illnesses. Warm clothing may be necessary as night temperatures in winter can drop below 10 degrees Celsius. If you are taking medication, you should bring an adequate supply and a doctor's certificate describing the medication.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
There is ongoing concern about the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a viral respiratory illness that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since been identified in other Middle Eastern countries such as Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Pilgrims who perform the Umrah and Hajj this year should pay particular attention to hygiene measures recommended by the World Health Organization and the Saudi Ministry of Health, including frequent hand washing, especially after contact with ill people or their environment, avoiding close contact with animals, following the usual food safety measures and avoiding direct contact with people who are suffering from acute respiratory infection. Seek medical advice as soon as possible if you feel unwell.
See our MERS-CoV travel bulletin. There have been no cases in Australia to date.
The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that the following persons not perform the Hajj or Umrah at the current time: the elderly (above 65 years of age); those with chronic diseases (e.g. heart disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease, diabetes); those with immune deficiency (congenital and acquired), malignancy and terminal illnesses; pregnant women; and children (under 12).
Pilgrims should consult their doctor before travelling to review the risk and assess whether making the pilgrimage is advisable. More information is available on the Saudi Ministry of Health website.
Hospitals in Mecca
General Hira’a Hospital, Mecca
Telephone: 012 520 3535
Emergency: Ext. 4441 / 4449 / 4438 / 4442
Admittance: Ext. 4170
Ajiad Hospital, Mecca
Telephone: 012 573 0070
Emergency: Ext. 114
Admittance: Ext. 129
Information: Ext. 121
King Faisal Hospital, Mecca
Telephone: 012 5566411
Emergency: Ext. 1140
Admittance: Ext. 5147
Information: Ext. 1144
Al Nour Hospital, Mecca
Telephone: 012 566 5000
Emergency: Ext. 6
Admittance: Ext. 9
Information: Ext. 8
King Abdul Aziz Al Zahir Hospital, Mecca
Telephone: 012 544 2400
Emergency: Ext. 1158 / 1156
Admittance/Information: Ext. 1167
Facsimile: 012 544 0024
Where to Get Help
Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.
Ambulance Telephone: 997
Police Telephone: 999
Traffic Accidents: 993
Ministry of Hajj (Mecca)
Telephone: 012 557 1714
Facsimile: 012 557 1731
In Saudi Arabia, you can obtain consular assistance from the:
KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Telephone (966 11) 2500900
Facsimile (966 11) 2500902
In a consular emergency, if you are unable to contact the Embassy, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.
Please visit the following website to obtain information about what assistance the Embassy can provide under the consular service charter.