One of the questions I receive all the time is which airport is better for Umrah? As always there is no straight answer, but that wouldn’t be fun would it?
The answer typically depends on:
1) when you are going
2) how many people are going with you
3) the duration of your trip
4) if you are only visiting Makkah
During busy times such as Ramadan and peak holidays it is best to arrive in Medinah. The airport is smaller and not many airlines fly into Medinah therefore it is less congested. You can be done with immigration and collect your luggage within an hour where in Jeddah it can be 2-3 hours or even longer.
Also if you are travelling with small children it is easier to arrive in the hotel and rest since the distance from Medinah airport to your hotel wouldn’t exceed a 25 min drive. Prices for flights arriving in Medinah and leaving from Jeddah are not too expensive either and it is less hassle compared to the 10 hour return journey by coach
Jeddah airport is a busier airport so queues and delays are more prevalent. I would recommend to aim not to fly into Jeddah if you can. Of course if you cannot avoid it then brace yourself with patience, plenty of it too. 🙂
If you are doing a DIY Umrah option you can manage and find flights that can arrive in Medinah and leave from Jeddah which is closer to Makkah. Today many Umrah tour operators are catching up and I have seen offers for arrivals in Medinah and departure from Jeddah or visa versa.
Leaving from Jeddah is much easier and the airport has more facilities so you can make it a more comfortable stay. During Umrah I have heard of people being sent to the Hajj terminal for arrival or departure which is not ideal since there are no facilities whatsoever there. They even tried to send me there on my last Umrah in Ramadan however the agent changed his mind in the end.
Peak Umrah times are the bank holidays, school holidays and during Ramadan where more people have days off and prefer to visit the holy land for longer.
If you are doing a DIY Umrah from Medinah you can take the SAPTCO coach which are government operated and very comfortable. I vote for the VIP service. You can check a full guide for transportation during Umrah here. The coach stops at the meeqat point for Makkah so you can make your intention for Umrah and change into ihram.
Another option you have and this is less known is arriving in Yanbu which is a city about 220 km from Medinah. Your Umrah visa includes flights in and out of Yanbu as well.
Yanbu has a small airport serviced by low cost carriers such as Air Arabia, FlyDubai and some larger airlines such as Turkish and Saudi Airlines. Because there are quite a few flight options sometimes they have good prices which can make sense for those doing a DIY Umrah.
In short the best airport for arrival in Saudi Arabia for Umrah really depends on you and your circumstances. However I would advice if you are travelling during peak times December to April and in Ramadan to avoid arriving in Jeddah. Unless you prepare yourself for long delays and possibly arriving or departing from the Hajj terminal. 🙂