Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia

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

Key Points

  • Check with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for its most current vaccine requirements. Travelers to Saudi Arabia should be up to date on all routine vaccines. KSA may require or recommend other vaccines.
  • The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that pregnant women, older adults, children, and those terminally ill postpone their plans for Hajj and Umrah this year.
  • Travelers should prepare for hot temperatures and stay hydrated during rituals.
  • Travelers should make sure they are fit to do the pilgrimage and pack enough prescription and over-the-counter medicines to last their entire trip.

Why consider health risks for Hajj and Umrah?

The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is one of the world’s largest mass gatherings. In 2018, Hajj will take place from about August 19 to August 24. Umrah is a similar pilgrimage that can be done at any time of the year, but many pilgrims choose to do it during Ramadan (about May 15 to June 14).

Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as Hajj and Umrah are associated with unique health risks. Before you go, you should 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.

Note: The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that pregnant women, older adults, children, and those terminally ill postpone their plans for Hajj and Umrah. .

What can travelers do to protect themselves?

Before your trip

  • Make an appointment with a travel medicine specialist or your healthcare provider to get needed vaccines and medicine at least 4 to 6 weeks 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

What is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)?

MERS was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and can lead to severe illness and even death. Symptoms of MERS include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. People with diabetes, kidney failure, chronic lung disease, or weakened immune systems may be at high risk for severe disease from MERS.

  • 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 like 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, to prevent diseases like MERS.
    • 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 #1 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 develop a fever* and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula**, you should call ahead to a healthcare provider and mention your recent travel.
    • Also, tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal while traveling.

Traveler Information

Clinician Information

 

*Fever may not be present in some patients, such as those who are very young, elderly, immunosuppressed, or taking certain medications. Clinical judgement should be used to guide testing of patients in such situations.

**Countries considered in the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring include: Bahrain; Iraq; Iran; Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza; Jordan; Kuwait; Lebanon; Oman; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Syria; the United Arab Emirates (UAE); and Yemen.

TOP