Every year, more than 2 million Muslims from all over the world visit Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj and Umrah. The Hajj rites are performed during the last month of the Islamic calendar, the Dhu al Hijjah. It is completed between the eighth and thirteenth days of the holy month. Before heading off to Saudi Arabia to perform the rites, be sure to buy
travel medical insurance or
against any unexpected accidents, illnesses, or injuries to ensure the trip is adequately covered.
Things to Do for Travelers in Hajj/Umrah
The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is considered as a compulsory religious duty for all adult Muslims who are financially and physically capable of performing it at least once in their lifetime. Over the years, several ways of performing the Hajj have developed. Here’s a basic guide of things to do during this holy trip:
Day 1: Ihram and Mina
On the first day of the Hajj, pilgrims enter the sacred state, or “Ihram”. They cross the outer boundaries, or Miqat, of Mecca and move towards the tent-city of Mina. The rest of the day is spent praying to Allah.
Day 2: Arafat
The second day of the Hajj, or the ninth day of the Dhu al Hijjah, is one of the holiest days not only during the Hajj but also of the entire Islamic calendar. Pilgrims travel about 15 kilometers (over 9 miles) from Mina to Arafat. In the evening, they set off for Muzdalifah (9 kilometers, or more than 5.5 miles, from Arafat). Here, they collect pebbles for the next day’s religious rites.
Day 3: The Big Hajj Day, or “Yawm-Ul Hajj Al-Akbar”
This is the longest and most intense day for the Hajjis. They begin their day before sunrise and head back to Mina. In Mina, thousands of Hajjis converge at Jamarat Bridge and throw seven pebbles at the Jamarat column. They also perform the slaughter by sacrificing a goat, a sheep, or a camel. A lot of men may shave or trim their hair after this ritual. Several pilgrims may continue to Mecca to continue with the Tawaf and Al-Safa rituals:
Tawaf: the pilgrim walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba.
Al-Safa: the pilgrims walk seven times between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah.
After completing these rituals, they head back to spend the night at Mina.
Day 4 and Day 5
On days 4 and 5, most pilgrims spend their time in Mina, continuing with the process of throwing pebbles at the Jamarat. On completion of their rituals in Mina, the pilgrims head back to Mecca on the fifth day. They proceed with another circulation of the holy Kaaba as their final farewell.
Travel Risks for International Travelers in Hajj/Umrah
Hajj is one of the largest gatherings of religious pilgrims in the world. Here are some travel advisories to keep in mind during your Hajj pilgrimage:
The greatest risk that Hajjis need to be mindful of during their pilgrimage is the risk of stampede or meeting with an accident due to the large number of devotees visiting Mina in a span of just five days. In recent times, the Government of Saudi Arabia has taken stupendous measures to mitigate accident risks. However, the risk of the stampede is especially high near the Jamarat Bridge, where devotees converge on Day 3 of the Hajj.
Due to the sheer number of visitors traveling for the Hajj, pilgrims are often susceptible to health risks. Travelers may experience food and water-related diseases like diarrhea and cholera.
Dehydration and Exhaustion
The Hajj can be a physically exhausting experience. The elder pilgrims are often not able to cope with the walking and physical rigor that the Hajj rites demand. Visitors with pre-existing medical conditions and co-morbidities could also be at a greater risk of exhaustion, dehydration, and fainting spells.
Hajjis often face extreme weather conditions during their Hajj rituals. The area of Mina experiences diverse climatic conditions. In the past, pilgrims have had to withstand thunderstorms, sandstorms, heatwaves, and extreme humidity during the Hajj pilgrimage.
Most men have their hair trimmed or shaved on the third day of the Hajj rituals. Sharing of blades or usage of contaminated shaving blades may increase the risk of diseases.
Hajj/Umrah Travel Medical Insurance for International Travelers – FAQs
A Hajj travel medical insurance plan provides insurance coverage including medical care, hospitalization, repatriation, medical evacuation, and even repatriation of mortal remains. It also provides insurance coverage for accidents and other assorted travel costs. Be sure to check the policy wording before purchase to know what is and is not covered in the plan.
Do I need travel medical insurance for Hajj/Umrah?
In December 2019, a new agreement was signed between the Hajj and Umrah Ministry and Tawaniya—a Saudi Arabian Insurer. All pilgrims entering Saudi Arabia automatically qualify for pilgrim insurance during their visit.
However, the insurance coverage is only limited up to 100,000 riyals, or approximately $26,000 in U.S. dollars. Also, pilgrims are only able to obtain medical aid in Saudi Ministry of Health hospitals or private hospitals accredited by the Health Insurance Council of Saudi Arabia.
Due to the very high number of Hajjis’ medical facilities in the area, hospitals may be over-burdened or limited. Most pilgrims prefer to buy travel medical insurance to obtain world-class healthcare in private hospitals.
Why buy travel medical insurance for Hajj/Umrah?
A vast majority of pilgrims coming for the Hajj usually buy travel medical insurance for their Hajj/Umrah pilgrimage. There are several benefits of buying Hajj travel insurance:
Provides the flexibility of buying coverage for the entire family or a solo pilgrim.
Provides insurance coverage for your entire trip, including Medina and other sites in Saudi Arabia, and not just for the Hajj.
May offer coverage for acute onset of pre-existing conditions.
Coverage for emergency medical evacuation and repatriation.
Hajj/Umrah Trip Cancellation Insurance for International Travelers – FAQs
Trip cancellation insurance provides a financial safety net to tourists and pilgrims for their Hajj and Umrah. It can safeguard you from any trip cancellation charges that you may have to pay as a result of having to cancel your trip at the last moment. The travel insurance can also provide added benefits in case of flight cancellations, delayed departures, missed flights, and delay or loss of checked baggage.
Why buy trip cancellation insurance for Hajj/Umrah?
For Muslims from all over the globe, the Hajj is probably the most sacred religious ritual. A last-minute cancellation of your Hajj pilgrimage can be a very emotionally disturbing experience.
Trip cancellation insurance may not be able to prevent unavoidable circumstances that lead to trip cancellations. But, travel insurance can protect you from the financial burden of heavy cancellations and loss of deposits that are associated with cancellations. You can receive reimbursement for any prepaid, non-refundable trip expenses (like airfare and lodging) if you have to cancel for a reason explicitly listed in your policy’s certificate wording. Be sure to check the fine print for details before you purchase.
What all is covered under trip cancellation insurance for Hajj/Umrah?
The exact coverage varies from plan to plan. However, most standard trip cancellation insurance policies cover the most common reasons for cancellation, including:
Flight cancellations or delays
Weather-related cancellations or delays
You, a travel companion, or a member of your immediate family getting sick or dying
Buy travel insurance and perform your Hajj/Umrah rituals without the stress and worries of travel risks.
Before You Take the Hajj/Umrah, Do This
During your Hajj/Umrah rites, you will need items like a prayer mat, the holy Qur’an, and bead-counters. Male travelers planning to shave or trim their hair should carry their personal shaving blade or trimmer to avoid the risk of contaminated blades.
Check the weather forecast before completing the final packing. It is advisable to carry a broad-brimmed hat, sunscreen, a water bottle, wet towels or wet wipes, and sunglasses to beat the heat of Saudi Arabia. Nights in the desert tend to be much cooler, so keep a light cardigan or shawl handy.
Also, don’t forget to compare and buy the right travel insurance plan to enjoy this pilgrimage of a lifetime to its fullest. Enter some basic information about your trip, compare a wide variety of options, and select the plan that best matches your needs.