Top Tips for a Safe Hajj
Written by Rashid Mogradia
Founder & CEO of the Council of British Hajjis | www.cbhuk.org
London, Friday 28th September 2012
Updated 5th October 2012
Around 25,000 British Muslims will join over two million men and women from over hundred countries to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage this year.
Hajj is a Journey of faith and one which every Muslim aspires to fulfil at least once in their lifetime.
For many Hajj and Umrah pilgrims their trip is thankfully a memorable and trouble free occasion. However, you may have heard reports about some pilgrims who have suffered at the hands of disreputable travel organisers.
Whilst the majority of Hajj & Umrah tour operators in the UK deliver an excellent service year on year, guiding pilgrims to Hajj and back, there are however cases of people falling foul to unscrupulous tour operators and have fallen victim to Hajj fraud.
There will be those who would have saved up thousands of pounds for Hajj, picked a tour operator who would have promised them the earth, accommodated all their requests for flights and accommodation but as soon as the payments have been made, are hard to track down, phone calls left unanswered and simply un-contactable, leaving the would-be pilgrims in a state of anxiety, anger and deep anguish. As the departure date nears, to get a sunken feeling that the Journey of a Lifetime that they had dreamt of shattered into a million pieces. On the other hand some may be fortunate to actually fly out, but on arrival the 5 star hotel that was promised turns out to be a 2 start bed and breakfast, transportation issues and a total nightmare from start to finish.
Here is a list of things you can do to ensure you select the right tour operator and to avoid any issues:
- Book with a Tour Operator who holds an ATOL. Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL). An ATOL ensures that your prepayments are protected and also provides for getting you back home if necessary in the event of the operator going bust. Check the Status of the tour operators ATOL at www.caa.co.uk or call 020 7453 6424.
- Check that your travel agent/tour operator is accredited by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj
- Visit the Tour Operator at their offices. Ask neighbouring shops to see how long they have been operating. If the tour opeartor has propped up over the last few weeks, the chances are that they may be in it for a quick profit, in which exercise caution. Reputable business will have been operting for many years and will have ATOL, IATA and MoH licences.
- Check Companies House to see how long the buisness has been operating.
- Website are cheap and easy to setup, do not rely on them. Always check the above accreditaion and licences and visit the operator at their offices.
- Get everything in writing and ask for and read the terms and conditions of the trip.
- Make payments by Credit Card – this will ensure a paper trail and protect any payments in the event of non-delivery os products or services
- Talk to your friends and relatives who may have knowledge or used the services of different tour operators and ask them for their recommendations
- If there is an issue try to resolve this with the tour operator in the first instance, if this fails contact your local trading standards. If there is an issue whilst in Saudi Arabia then you can contact the Ministry of Hajj who have offices located in and around Makkah and in Jeddah (see below).
- DO NOT be swayed by last minute deals. If they look to good to be true they usually are.
If the tour operator has disappeared with your money then this is fraud and you need to contact your local Police immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Support in Saudi Arabia:
British Hajj Consular Delegation
Elaf Kinda Hotel PO Box 4616
Close to Abraj Al Bait Towers,
King Fahad Gate,
Tel: 02 574 5555
Fax: 02 573 7557
Office ext: 02 573 7502
British Consulate-General, Jeddah:
P.O. Box 393
Tel: 02 622 5550
Fax: 02 622 6249
Ministry of Hajj (Makkah):
02 557 1714
Ministry of Hajj (Jeddah):
02 665 5811 or 02 647 7551
Emergencies in Saudi Arabia:
British Hajj Delegation
Providing FREE Medical Assistance and Support for Pilgrims
Effective: 19th October – 4th November
Location: Burj Al Sultan Hotel
Ibrahim Al Khalil Street (Behind Makkah Hilton).
Tel: 0557 437 100 or 0557 440 200
Support in the UK:
UK FCO Consular Enquiries:
Tel: (+44) 020 7008 1500
Tel: 0300 123 2040