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Hajj in Saudi Arabia

Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel
Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions
Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

Key points

  • Make sure you are fit enough to do the pilgrimage and pack enough prescription and over-the-counter medicines to last your entire trip.
  • Prepare for very hot temperatures and stay hydrated.
  • Check with Saudi Arabia for their most current vaccine requirements. Travelers to Saudi Arabia should be up-to-date on all routine vaccines. Saudi Arabia may require or recommend other vaccines for pilgrims.

Measles

Outbreaks of measles are currently occurring in Saudi Arabia and in many other countries around the world. Measles is extremely contagious, and the crowded conditions during Hajj provide an ideal opportunity for measles transmission. Immunity to measles is critical. For travelers who do not have evidence of immunity or who lack written documentation of measles vaccination, CDC recommends two doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days, to be completed before travel. For travelers who have written documentation of only one dose of MMR vaccine, CDC recommends a second dose before travel.

Why consider health risks for Hajj?

The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is one of the world’s largest mass gatherings. In 2019, Hajj will take place August 9–14. Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as Hajj are associated with unique health risks. Before you go, visit a travel health specialist for advice, make sure you are up-to-date on all routine and travel-related vaccines, and learn about other health and safety issues that could affect you during your trip.

What can you do to protect yourself during Hajj?

Before your trip

  • Make an appointment with a travel medicine specialist or your health care provider to get needed vaccines and medicine at least 1 month before you leave.
  • Pack a travel health kit with your prescription and over-the-counter medicines (enough to last your whole trip, plus a little extra), first aid supplies, and your health insurance card. 
  • Monitor travel warnings and alerts.
    • You also can enroll with the nearest US embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest safety updates and assistance in an emergency.
  • Prepare for the unexpected.
    • Leave copies of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, and passport with someone at home, in case you lose them during travel.
    • Consider buying travel health and medical evacuation insurance. If you are injured or get sick during your trip, your health insurance might not cover health care you receive abroad.
  • Learn about health concerns at your destination.

During your trip

  • Take steps to prevent illness.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Avoid contact with animals, to prevent diseases such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
    • Use only clean (unused) razors for head shaving. Male pilgrims should go to officially designated centers to be shaved, where barbers are licensed and use disposable, single-use blades.
  • Protect yourself from hot temperatures and sun exposure. Pilgrims can expect daytime temperatures over 100°F during Hajj.
    • Stay hydrated.
    • Perform rituals at night when possible.
    • Use personal umbrellas to shade yourself from the sun.
    • Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher when outdoors.
  • Follow security and safety advice for mass gatherings.
    • Avoid densely crowded areas.
    • Perform rituals during non-peak hours.
    • Know where all emergency exits are and how to get to them.
    • Carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp.
    • Carry local emergency service numbers and contact information for the nearest US embassy or consulate in Saudi Arabia.
    • Follow all local laws and social customs.
  • Follow food safety and water safety guidelines. Contaminated food or drinks can cause travelers’ diarrhea and other diseases. Travelers’ diarrhea is the most common travel-related illness.
    • Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products, such as milk and meat.
    • Eat only food that is cooked and served hot.
    • Eat fruits and vegetables you have washed in safe water or peeled yourself.
    • Drink water, sodas, or sports drinks that are bottled and sealed, or very hot coffee or tea.
    • Use ice made with bottled or disinfected water.
  • Take steps to prevent mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that spread diseases, such dengue and malaria, can be found in Saudi Arabia.
  • Always wear seat belts and choose safe transportation. Motor vehicle crashes are the top killer of healthy US citizens in foreign countries. 

If you feel sick during your trip

  • Talk to a doctor or nurse if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever.
  • For more information about medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad.
  • Avoid contact with other people while you are sick to prevent spreading germs.

After your trip

Some travel-related illnesses may not cause symptoms until after you get home. If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. If you have a fever and are coughing or have a rash, call your doctor ahead of time to avoid exposing other people at the medical facility. 

 

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