Hajj, which purifies man from all sins, is a very sacred journey whose spiritual aspect can be overshadowed when faced with logistical problems. Therefore, choosing the "perfect" hajj package is important to allow you to focus on the spiritual aspect of the journey wholeheartedly.
The following are some aspects to consider when choosing a hajj package:
1. Choosing an agency registered with the Hajj Ministry over a sub-agent increases your chances of a smooth journey. Registered agencies are more aware of the latest rules and regulations on visa processing, can contact the Ministry of Hajj to resolve a problem, are accountable to the Ministry if pilgrims file a complaint and are more resourceful in connection with airplane, hotel and transportation. They are also cheaper because travel arrangements in Saudi Arabia can only be done by authorized agencies. Sub-agents must purchase services from these agencies and therefore sell the package at a price quote.
2. Despite all the benefits of licensed agents mentioned above, you can choose a sub-agent if you have heard good things about them. All authorized agents may not provide a good service, while some sub-agents are very professional. Therefore, one should choose a hajj package provider based on referrals.
3. Business with a knowledgeable and experienced guide in your group is necessary. No matter how much information you have gathered from books and lectures, you may encounter questions you did not expect before. It is also important to know if the travel agent is seeking advice from their guide. For logistical ease, some agents may plan departure for Arafat and Muzdalifah before the time recommended by Islamic law. Choosing an agency that plans the trip under a reputable imam can reduce the risk of taking shortcuts or heading towards the Sunnah.
4. Make sure that the imam makes hajj with pilgrims in the package of your choice. It is difficult to contact the imam if he is staying at another hotel, traveling in a different bus or living in a different tent in Mina than yours. This problem is especially common in agencies that offer only a large selection of packages under the guidance of one or two imams.
5. Having a female guide would be an added benefit for sisters who make pilgrimage.
6. It is useful to check if the travel agent has a full-time employee in the United States and Saudi Arabia. The more an agency relies on external resources, the more likely it is to suffer from wrong management. The longer an agency has provided Hajj services, the better equipped it is to provide an organized service.
7. Most Hajj packages advertise fare with New York to Jeddah fare. If you live elsewhere, be sure to include the cost of domestic fare to New York when choosing a package. Also add the cost of Hajj fees and Zabiha to get an estimate of the exact amount you will be spending per. Person.
8. Accommodation in a convenient location is very helpful. Hotel near Haram and Masjid – e-Nabwi is more important than the number of stars in a hotel as it would cut travel time, save energy for worship and save time by not having to stand in long lines to make wudu or use toilets. It may be better in case you share your room with 4 people at a hotel close to Haram and not share a room with another person, but at a greater distance from Haram. In addition, hotel ratings are according to Saudi government standards that differ from US ratings standards.
9. Do not be afraid if a hajj package does not offer meals in Makkah and Medina. There are plenty of options around Haram to eat and drink in between prayer times, but waiting for a line can take a lot of your time. Hotel buffets can be a time saver or a big distraction as people can often spend a lot of time socializing too much. However, it is good to receive food in Mina and Arafat as the options will be limited. If you are performing Hajj with family, it may be better to choose a package that offers meals throughout the trip.
10. Choosing hajj packages that first land in the Medina can save time spent on immigration lines. Pilgrims landing in Jeddah can experience 14 – 18 hours in immigration before traveling to Makkah. Choosing a package where pilgrims land in Jeddah, however, opens up many more flight options and can be cheaper. The same goes for leaving Saudi Arabia. Medina as an entry or exit port can save a lot of time.
11. Ask the agent about the location of the tent in Mina. VIP tents are mostly (if not all) a short walk from Jamarat. However, regular tents in the North American camp as far as 50 minutes walk to Jamarat are a road. In fact, some tents are not even turned up in Mina. They are located above large billboards that say "Mina ends here"!
12. Hajj packages that promised access to private apartments while staying in Mina are a plus. Tents in Mina are small with just enough room for people to sleep. Pilgrims can thus leave their luggage in their rooms during their stay in Mina. It also opens up the opportunity to use the bathrooms and showers in the room and not the ones set up in My camp.
13. Hajj packages that offer free shuttle service from Mina to Haram can help you save money. Taxis rise exponentially in Mina days. Lured by the profits, a number of people come from other cities to work as taxi drivers and may even be lost while trying to drive pilgrims to Haram. Although cheaper buses take a long time to arrive. Therefore, a shuttle service provided by your agent will be faster and free.
14. Most hajj packages provide SIM cards. This can also be a time saver. Otherwise, you may have to wait in lines to get a SIM card.
Contemplating these logistical issues while choosing the perfect hajj package will hopefully prevent your worldly worries from performing hajj and allow you to concentrate on your worship to your heart's content.