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Old November 22, 2012, 02:04 PM
Crisis Crisis is offline
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Thumbs up Umrah advice for Hajjis

I just came back from my Umrah trip and I thought I would share some information that will be useful to others. As I am from the UK, some of the information will be from my point of view.

The route I took was London > Medina [Turkish Airlines] > Makkah [ Taxi ] > Jeddah [Taxi] > London [ Etihad]

Best route to take is
Your country's airport > Jeddah by air
Jeddah > Makkah by taxi
Come back to Makkah and take the 1 hour Saudi Arabian Airlines flight to Medinah
Come back to Jeddah from Medinah using the 1 hour Saudi Arabian Airlines flight
Jeddah > Your country's airport by air

DO NOT land at Riyad International airport if you have a Umrah visa , even if you plan to get a connecting flight. From what many have said, Saudi officials will give you grief and may even send you back!



VISA
It is a good idea to submit visas first before booking your flights as it takes 2 weeks. The travel agent only needs to present your flight details on the day he goes to collect the passports. Passports start getting processed at the embassy on Monday. So, if your passports are submitted on a Wednesday, nothing will get done until the coming Monday. Travel agents charge you £50-60/visa. You have to submit two passport photos as well. Women should wear scarf and then take picture. You can fill the visa form or your travel agent can fill it for you. Always use your common sense to choose your travel agent .... see what the travel agent office looks like. If it looks like a dump, avoid them.

BOOKING FLIGHTS
You can book flights with Expedia. They work out £100-200 cheaper than a travel agent and it's easy to change with them and they are available 24/7 by phone. There is nothing called an Umrah airline ticket. If you have an Umrah visa and you arrive at Jeddah or Medinah airport, it's good enough. Do remember to double-check your flight details on airline's website so that your destinations are correct. It is best to do an online check-in ( way of confirming your seats ) and you also get to choose a different seat such as next to the window if seats are available. After you do your check-in, print your boarding pass and take these with you to the airport for a faster check-in. ( If you don't have a printer at home, you will be given a boarding pass at the airport anyway ). Pay attention to transit time for flights as well.

Makkah is very overcrowded than Medinah.
If you want to start your journey in quiet Medinah :
aircraft > MEDINAH airport> taxi 50SR > MEDINAH > taxi 500SR > MAKKAH > taxi 150SR > JEDDAH


If you don't mind starting your journey in overcrowded Makkah :
aircraft > JEDDAH > taxi 150SR > MAKKAH > taxi 150SR > JEDDAH > aircraft 140SR > MEDINAH


BOOKING HOTELS
Make sure you know check-in and check-out times of your hotel. Book a reasonably priced hotel room ( around £100 / night ) which has enough beds for your party. Paying extra for Masjid view isn't necessary. Check out location of hotels from Masjid al Nabi and Masjid al Haram on google maps. Expedia can show all hotels at once on google maps. If you can't afford a 4* or a 5* hotel, you will have to book your own motel when you arrive there ( Misfala area in Makkah and across the main road after Masjid al Nabi in Medinah ). Check facilities such as internet access, mini-fridge, free breakfast etc.

LUGGAGE
Always travel light.
Carry with you in-flight a gym bag or a messenger bag which has your passports, boarding passes, luggage stickers, medicines and 1 x t-shirt/shirt and 1 x trouser/tracksuit trouser. Water bottles more than 100ml are not allowed from Heathrow.
Your cargo luggage should be a pull-trolley and you should pack it with : 1 x t-shirt/shirt +1 x trouser/tracksuit trouser per day of your trip and a few underwears; lip balm, face cream, tooth brush, mini scissor, wipes, etc. Do not stock up in London as things are cheaper in KSA and it's sensible to buy there. Cargo luggage weight should not be more than 10-15kg.

MEDINAH ARPORT
You board a bus to go to the airport terminal from your aircraft.You fill in a tiny form with everyone's details and give to immigration police officer. You then collect your luggage and meet Bin Tabid ( I am not sure who he is ). If your luggages have not arrived and time is then after midnight, talk to baggage officer Shoaib and fill in a lost baggage form. According to Shoaib, it is common for bags not to arrive with passengers at Medinah airport. Your bags will then arrive the next day. Bin Tabid will arrange a taxi for you.

MEDINAH HOTEL
Check-in to your hotel. Make sure you have not arrived before your check-in time otherwise, you will be waiting in the lounge. It is also helpful to bond with Pakistani/Indian/Bangladeshi ( Asian ) bell-boys or staff as they can speed things up for you or give special benefits.
Movenpick Medinah anwar hotel is next to Masjid al Nabi and can be accessed via gate 15H.
You may find that your clothes need a daily wash. Wash and squeeze and then let it dry on a chair in your room via the AC air. Hotel Dry cleaning can turn out to be expensive.

MEDINAH SHOPPING
Gate 15H first left has an Al-Rajhi bank ATM. £1 = 6SR
Currency exchange is straight among shops past Western hotel.
Buy a thobe 60SR and a salawar 30SR as they are loose fitting and ideal in the hot weather. Also, buy a prayer tupee 2SR . Burkha costs 50SR. Prayer mat - 10SR Each Masjid Al Nabi gate has ladies/men with carts full of items. These are cheaper to buy. After any prayer, sales start full swing at the gates.
Buy a pair of leather/fake leather slippers 15SR and not regular slippers as the marble floor in the Masjid is very slippery.
Bin Dawood is a departmental store and has plenty of things. Try to buy Laban / juice bottles from here. Drink cans are expensive at 1.5SR. Try to buy 2l bottles for 5SR from shops / bakalas.
Bargaining in clothes stores is advisable but bargain at a reasonable price.
SIM cards are sold by men sitting with glass boxes outside the gates. Mobily SIM cost me 40SR. To top-up, you have to buy a 10/20/50 SR top-up voucher, which are also sold by them.
Best restuarant in area is Al Sanabel under Sanabel hotel ( behind Hilton ). Decent Turkish food but not dirt cheap. KFC/Hardees are outside Gate 20. KFC don't taste nice - 3 pcs KFC chicken meal 20SR

MASJID AL NABI
Medinah is not very crowded and you can easily get to the front row during prayer times. Ziyarat is at Gate 1 and try to go after Esha to avoid being tuna-packed. It is advisable to see Mt. Uhud and other sites and taxi cost is 100SR

MEDNIAH > MAKKAH TAXI
Journey costs 350SR if you bargain around. Avoid asking hotel staff to help you as taxi drivers then pay them a reward fee of upto 100SR and that gets added at asking price. Taxi will take you to Masjid Meeqat where you buy ihram clothes 35SR, have shower and pray. Showers are clean. Journey takes 4 hrs. at 150kph

MAKKAH HOTEL
Check-in again. Movenpick Makkah and Rotana Rayyhan is at floor P11. Masjid al Haram is at Floor 0.
Check-out can take upto 30 mins. as it is a busier area.

MAKKAH SHOPPING
Makkah is utterly crowded! There is a Bin Dawood here as well. Smaller shops are in an area called Misfala and they are past the bridge being constructed ( behind the huge clock tower )
No people with carts over here!
Plenty of shopping malls are around incl. shops like Mothercare, NEXT, etc.
There is also a KFC/Hardees. Best eating place in my opinion is Taguz BBQ Chicken. 1 x serving of Maharaja 1/2chicken and rice meal is enough for 2 ppl and is priced at 22SR

MASJID AL HARAM & UMRAH
Always leave 15 mins. before prayer start time as it is very crowded. Go to 2nd floor of Masjidas you will always find space there.
Bab al Salam is at right side of Masjid al Haram ( if you are looking at it while under clock tower ) and you take escalator to go down. Best time for tawaf is before Zohr or before Asr as it's not crowded and you have greater chance of touching Hajre Aswad. Always start out in outer circle and gradually move in to an inner circle on next tawaf. Touching Hajre Aswad is like going through a stampede! It is advisable to rest during Safa-Marwa run and then continue when you have regained your stamina. Umrah at the Masjid takes 6 hours. During Ramadan, it is always packed and my beat-the-traffic times do not apply.
" Barber tower" is under the bridge and costs 15SR for a haircut. You will be hounded by saloon-promoters for haircut if they see you in Ihram and with hair!
Unfortuantely, I didn't have time to visit sites in the area, so can't tell you about taxi cost to visit them.

MAKKAH > JEDDAH TAXI
Taxi costs 150SR after bargaining and takes 1hr. 15 mins. at 150mph and reckless driving.You must tell the taxi driver to drop you off at the Hajj terminal.

JEDDAH AIRPORT
Jeddah airport has 3 terminals, one for Saudi Arabian airlines, one for all other airlines and one for Hajj/Umrah passengers. Distance between International and Hajj terminal is a few metres but you have to take a 20 mins. taxi ride at 50SR. From Hajj terminal to International terminal, it costs 100SR though!
Hajj terminal is rubbish, with no seats inside terminal building , no immediate restaurants. International terminal is much nicer and has shops and restaurants and better toilets and a mosque. Check-in desks close 1 hour before flight departure and if you are late, you might as well book the next flight as the desks are unmanned after the desks close. At Hajj terminal boarding gate, you get on a bus and 15 mins. later, you get on your aircraft.

EXTRA INFO
- Maintain basic manners such as don't break queues, accumulate/clean up restaurant tables after you finish eating, etc.
- Don't be a rebel and wear T-shirt / jeans to go and pray. Everyone else is wearing thobe and salwar, FIT IN!
- Women should wear a one colour burkha. Burkhas with shiny embroidery isn't really the way to go. Face MUST NOT be veiled during Umrah
- If you are married, don't rest you arm on your wife's shoulder or hold her hands and walk about inside Masjid-al-Haram.
- Lot of ppl eat and then litter just outside the Masjid al Haram boundary. Please eat at food courts on floor P3 or in your hotel.
- Learn basic Arabic beforehand as no one knows English.
- Arrange your own taxi rather than telling hotel as it works out cheaper. Hotel staff like bell-boys get commission from taxi drivers and this commission money indirectly comes from your pocket!
- Non-Umrah people also do Tawaf during the day
- Put shoes in a bag at either Masjids and take them inside and place at shoe racks.
- Use authorized taxis ( Taxi written on them ) as they are more safe. Use private taxis only if the car looks average and the driver looks trustworthy
- I have taken down Tel no of few taxi drivers I liked. Please contact me if you want their numbers. You need to give them 1 hour notice.
- The SR prices for taxis I have quoted are what I paid. Some are fixed or the regular price from going from A to B. But you can end up paying less if you bargain reasonably. Always wear a thobe and then bargain. If you are wearing jeans and T-shirt for example, the prices shoot up!

Last edited by Crisis; November 22, 2012 at 08:35 PM..
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  #2  
Old November 23, 2012, 06:08 PM
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Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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It's funny the post is stalled at 666 for op and the topic. Anyways, I was fortunate by grace of God to perform Umrah Hajj and my humble advice would be not to have any expectations at all while mentally and spiritually preparing for it, forsaking everything here on earth, and home for a change.

Great thread.
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Old November 23, 2012, 09:24 PM
Crisis Crisis is offline
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Thanks Zee.

I went with my whole family once and Mom decided to do some last minute shopping .. tabeez, Zamzam water, etc. We ended up reaching the airport 30 mins. before our Intl. flight departed. Unfortunately, baggage drop in and check in closed an hour before departure and we couldn't fly out that day. Our hotel was also boooked till that day and because it was the beginning of Ramadan, booking another new day was going to cost me an insane amount for just a night! We ended up sleeping at the Intl. terminal.
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