Foreign Office warning to every UK traveller going on Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca

Saudi officers from the national security forces register and check pilgrims at the Hajj Terminal at Jiddah airport, Saudi Arabia
-Credit: (Image: AP Photo/Amr Nabil)


New guidance has been issued by the UK Foreign Office for any British nationals going on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The annual mass gathering, which must be performed by adult Muslims at least once in their lifetime, will this year take place from June 14 to 19.

Dates were confirmed following the Dhul Hijjah moonsighting last week. This also determined the Saudi date of Eid ul Adha as June 16 and the Day of Arafah as June 15, during the pilgrimage. Those two dates will be a day later for those following UK moonsightings.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office says British nationals who live outside Saudi Arabia must apply to go on the pilgrimage through the official Nusuk Hajj Platform. Details of the process and further updates can also be found on the official Ministry of Hajj Twitter and the Nusuk Hajj platform pages.

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Saudi Arabia has already welcomed more than 1.3 million pilgrims for this year's Hajj but has had to ban hundreds of thousands of others from entering Mecca. The Saudi Press Agency says security forces have turned away 153,998 foreigners who had arrived on tourist visas rather than the required Hajj visas. Another 171,587 individuals who are based in Saudi Arabia but don't live in Mecca have also been removed from the holy city for not having proper Hajj permits.

Entering Mecca without a valid Hajj permit between May 23 and June 21 could result in a hefty fine, deportation and a ban from re-entering Saudi Arabia, the FCDO said. But you can apply for an e-visa or electronic visa waiver to perform Umrah, a similar pilgrimage that can be undertaken at any other time of year outside the Hajj season.

Entry to Hajj 2024 is now closed and people are urged to beware of offers from anyone claiming they can secure further places for travellers from the UK, as these won't be valid and could be a scam. UK-based organised crime groups are known for targeting people planning Hajj or Umrah trips.

To avoid scams, only book a Hajj place on the Nusuk Hajj platform, check the Saudi Ministry of Hajj information for the procedures you must follow, and make sure your travel agent or operator is ATOL-protected when booking Umrah. Research the travel company before you book, even if family or friends recommended it, and be wary of offers that seem too good to be true as criminals may advertise fraudulent deals through licensed travel companies.

When paying for your Hajj or Umrah visit, use a credit card, keep a record of any transactions, get everything confirmed in writing, and ask for written terms and conditions. If you have been a victim of Hajj fraud in the UK, contact your local police, the City of London Police Fraud Desk, or Action Fraud.

To attend the pilgrimage, you'll also need a valid certificate of vaccination against the ACWY strains of meningitis 10 days before arriving. For more information on health risks and vaccination requirements, read the TravelHealthPro Hajj and Umrah guide.

The FCDO asks people to check the rules on bringing medication into Saudi Arabia and make sure they have enough to last the entire trip and cover any possible delays in flying back. It warns that contagious diseases spread quickly during Hajj because of the huge numbers of people who take part. Flu, colds and respiratory problems are common.

In addition, you should prepare for extreme heat. Temperatures in summer can exceed 50C so drink plenty of water and don't stay out in the direct sun for too long.

The FCDO adds that the Hajj visa is for a set length of time and can't be extended. Check your visa expiry date to make sure you know when you must leave Saudi Arabia. If you overstay, you may incur large fines and/or be detained and deported or banned from returning to Saudi Arabia in the future. Stay with your tour guide and group throughout the pilgrimage to make sure you receive your Hajj package entitlement.

Pilgrims should keep their passports and travel documentation safe during Hajj. Take photocopies and keep one copy with you while leaving the other with friends or family. If you lose your passport during the Hajj, you will need to apply for an Emergency Travel Document (ETD) to return to the UK, which costs £100. See Apply for an Emergency Travel Document for more information.

The FCDO is also advising against all travel to within 10km of the Saudi Arabia border with Yemen, and all but essential travel to areas between 10km and 80km from the border with Yemen. Additionally, it advises against all but essential travel to Abha International Airport in Asir province.