How to prepare for a Hajj pilgrimage
Wondering how to get to Makkah and what to bring? Enjoy a smooth trip with essential Hajj tips to help with booking, packing and budgeting for your sacred pilgrimage.
From important rituals and spiritual preparation to package pitfalls and financial considerations, here’s what you need to know before setting off on your Makkah travels.
Overall Planning for a Pilgrimage to Makkah
Your once-in-a-lifetime journey requires physical, spiritual and practical preparation. While modern transportation makes Hajj accessible to pilgrims of all fitness levels, it can still be an arduous trip. Start a workout regimen that includes walking and strength-building exercises at least a month before you leave. Add more fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods to your diet. If necessary, consult your physician to get approval for travel. Your paperwork needs to be in order, so pay attention to visa requirements. It’s a good idea to make a will before you leave.
Spiritual preparation is equally important. To attain the needed state of purity, you must repent sins, redress wrongs and reconcile unsettled issues with people in your life. Practice patience, avoid conflict and refrain from sin as you strengthen your relationship with Allah. Learn your prayers by heart and study the Hajj rituals you will soon perform.
Booking a Trip to Makkah
Don’t trust just any Hajj organizer you find online. Book with an agency authorized by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. For protection against fraud, pay with a credit card instead of a debit card or bank transfer. Get as many details as you can about the Hajj package, such as Makkah hotel names and the number of people who will share a room. Inquire about included meals, in-country transportation and the distances between locations on the itinerary. As Muzdalifah has limited facilities and can get crowded, it’s a good idea to get specifics about your night under the stars.
But booking Makkah travel isn’t just about logistics and physical comforts. Read online reviews to find agencies that can cater to your spiritual needs as well. Consider group dynamics to make sure your companions have like-minded spirits.
Packing for Your Muslim Pilgrimage
As you could be away from home for weeks, begin with a complete packing list. Three sets of Ihram clothing are advisable, as you’re almost guaranteed to get them dirty while outdoors. Bring two types of footwear — durable waterproof slippers for bathroom visits during the pilgrimage, and comfortable shoes for long walks. A pocket Quran will come in handy, as will a pocket prayer mat when you find yourself on the go at Salah time. Consider downloading the sacred text to your phone, along with a guide to Hajj rituals.
You’ll want a small backpack for incidentals on your trip to Mina. An umbrella will shade you from the desert sun. Remember that toiletries should be scent free. Search online for halal-friendly travel kits that include sunscreen, conditioning shampoo, unscented soap and lip balm.
Considering Hajj Costs
During the journey, pilgrims must be debt free with enough savings to provide for dependents at home. While the pilgrimage is affordable for most locals, those living outside of Saudi Arabia can expect the total cost to range from US$3,000 to US$10,000 per person. You will use cash for many of the day-to-day expenses. See if you can exchange money at home so you’ll have at least 500 Saudi riyals (US$130) when you arrive. To get cash while in the Kingdom, you’ll find an ample number of banks, currency exchanges and ATMs in and around Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah.
As Saudi Arabia can be an expensive country, make a budget and consider what costs you will incur. If your mobile plan doesn’t have international coverage, a local SIM card (about US$100) allows you to stay in touch while away from home. Does your Hajj package include dining at local restaurants? You will also want to budget money for sadaqah (charitable giving) and the Eid al-Adha ritual; the obligatory animal sacrifice costs between US$80 and US$150.
From upscale boutiques to bustling open-air markets, Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s most memorable shopping opportunities. Make a list of people you wish to buy Hajj souvenirs for, and plan how much you intend to spend on each.
But the best Hajj preparation tip is also the simplest: Open your heart to the wonders that await.