If you are planning to go for Umrah this year and you are booking it yourself, you might want to wait for a little while.
I was emailed a few days ago with regards to some changes to the Umrah visa requirements, especially if you are doing a DIY Umrah. It seems that the Saudi embassy is planning to restrict hotel bookings when requesting only Umrah visa’swithout a package deal.
Up until now you could buy your Umrah visa and book your flights and hotels separately, which sometimes can make great savings. You still needed to provide the reservations when you apply for your visas but there were no restrictions.
Now it seems that you can still book your flights but you have to issue your visa directly with the hotel or the agency without using third party website such as Booking.com.
There is always a reason for this decision as many people took advantage of these options. Also with so many people going for Umrah it is harder to control the crowd. This however, in my opinion, leaves the Umrah and Hajj agencies to enjoy a monopoly that only hurts the average person. There should be other ways to make it easier to monitor and which are cost effective for pilgrimages.
This new rule is a total blow for many and I find it very sad and restrictive. I was told that the restriction might loosen up once we enter into the Umrah season thus I am advising you to wait if you are planning your Umrah. I will also know more when the Umrah visas are open and I will of course update you. You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter below in case you miss it.
So far I know that they will start issuing visas around the 1st of December; there is no exact date yet.
Also it seems that if you book directly with your hotel you should be fine for your visas. The problem with this for many is that hotels in Makkah can be expensive and the best deals are not on the hotels own website. However the benefit for many readers of MuslimTravelGirl (MTG) is that points and cash options are still unaffected and this makes it a great deal. If you haven’t started collecting points for hotels in Makkah then you might want to check some of my Umrah articles for more information. or my recent Hyatt stay saving me £4,000.
I hope they don’t restrict the use of points, especially with more international properties opening up this can be a pretty lucrative option for the savvy traveller or readers of MTG. 😉