PREPARING FOR HAJJ & UMRAH
Booking a Pilgrimage Package
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. This article explains what to consider before and while booking your trip. It also explains what to do if you end up dissatisfied with your trip. For further and more detailed information please see the pages on package travel on the consumer pages of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) www.bis.gov.uk.
In the UK, anyone who offers for sale (other than occasionally) package tours must comply with the Package Travel Regulations (PTRs) 1992. The majority of Hajj and Umrah trips will fall under the PTRs and the main responsibilities for travel organisers under this law are explained in a separate factsheet.
Before you book:
- Check your trip is ATOL protected. Your Hajj or Umrah package will more than likely include flights. Any tour operator arranging packages with flights must hold a current Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL). Those who do not are operating illegally! 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. You can check whether your operator holds a licence on-line at http://www.caa.co.uk or by calling 020 7453 6424.
- You are entitled to rely on the descriptions on brochures and internet sites, including photographs they should not be misleading or inaccurate.
- Ask for and read the terms and conditions of the trip.
- At the time of booking and after:
- If you have any special requests make sure they are specifically mentioned on the booking form.
- Before the contract is completed you must be given information in a suitable form about any passport and visa requirements, health requirements, and security and repatriation arrangements in the event of the operator going bust.
- Before you leave on your trip you must receive a written copy of the terms of the contract for the holiday plus confirmation of your booking, details about the itinerary; transport connections; times and places; the name and address of a company representative or an appropriate contact for you to use while you are on your trip. These all form part of your contract with the organiser.
- Keep your contractual documentation, booking invoices, letters or other documents in a safe place.
Changes to the details of your trip
- Significant changes to your trip such as flight details or itinerary should be made known to you as quickly as possible in order for you to make appropriate decisions and if you wish to cancel your trip without penalty.
If you are unhappy with your trip
- Local Government Trading Standards Departments (TSDs) which are located within local councils are responsible for enforcing the PTRs and can offer you advice on how to seek redress. You can find the address and telephone number for your nearest TSD by entering your postcode on www.tradingstandards.gov.uk, or contact your local Council.
- Another source of legal advice is your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) www.nacab.org.uk
The Consumer Direct Website www.consumerdirect.gov.uk offers information and advice to consumers on a wide range of issues including package travel.
It should be noted that there are situations which may be encountered in Saudi Arabia (such as lost passports, health and safety matters) which are not covered by the PTRs. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provide helpful information on how to prepare for and what to expect from your Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage on their website http://www.fco.gov.uk/hajj .
It should also be noted that the CAA who issue ATOLs has no remit to deal with complaints about the standard and quality of Hajj or Umrah trips. This is again a matter for trading standards.
British Hajjis have the same protection as package holidaymakers when flights and accommodation are booked together; by booking through an ATOL registered tour operator, your rights are assured.
Hajj & Umrah tour operators/travel agents should not supply any misleading or deceptive material to pilgrims regarding the package price or any other conditions applying to the contract.
You are protected by the legislation The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 which has outlined clearly the responsibilities of (Hajj & Umrah) travel & tour operators and protects the rights of consumers (pilgrims).
Consumers with any queries are being advised to contact Consumer Direct London on 08454 040506 or 01622 626550 for further advice on their rights.
We have prepared a checklist of items to take with you for your spiritual journey
Find out who does what below
Consular services support British nationals around the world. Contact a British embassy, high commission or consulate if you are abroad and need urgent help eg. if you have lost your passport, been arrested or a victim of crime, or involved in an accident. We also provide advice and services such as certificates to get married.
“Know Before You Go” staying safe and healthy abroad
10 Things to do before you go
- Check the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice online at www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo or call 020 7008 0232/0233
- Get travel insurance and check that the cover is appropriate.
- Get a good guidebook and get to know your destination. Find out about local laws and customs
- Ensure you have a valid passport and necessary visas
- Check what vaccinations you need at least 6 weeks before you go
- Check to see if you need to take extra health precautions at www.doh.gov.uk/traveladvice or http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
- Make sure your travel agent is an ABTA member and, if flying, make sure your holiday package is ATOL protected
- Make copies of your passport, insurance policy plus 24-hour emergency number and ticket details, leave copies with family and friends
- Take enough money for your trip and some back-up funds e.g. travellers cheques, British sterling or US dollars
- Leave a copy of your itinerary and a way of contacting you such as e-mail with family and friends
What is ATOL?
ATOL protects you when you book a holiday with a UK travel company. It ensures you do not lose money or become stranded abroad if your travel company collapses.
ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence and is backed by the UK Government.
What are the benefits of ATOL protection?
- ATOL stops you losing money or becoming stranded abroad if your travel company collapses:
- If the company collapses while you are on holiday, the scheme will make sure you can finish your holiday and return home.
- If the company collapses before you leave the UK, the scheme will provide a full refund for the holiday.
What situations does ATOL cover?
ATOL protection applies to virtually any overseas air holiday booked with a UK travel company. The law says your holiday must be protected if you book a holiday with a single travel firm that includes:
- flights and accommodation (including a cruise), or
- flights and car hire, or
- flights, accommodation and car hire.
The scheme also applies when:
You book flights but do not receive your tickets immediately. This is most common with charter flights, but can also apply to discounted scheduled flights. Please note that ATOL does not apply to holidays or flights booked direct with scheduled airlines.
Your holiday involves at least one flight to or from the UK. For instance, a fly/cruise break where you travel out by ship and fly home, or a holiday in France where you travel out by Eurostar but fly home.
I have been given an ATOL Certificate. What is it for?
Your ATOL Certificate is proof the holiday you have booked is protected by ATOL. It explains what protection you have and what to do if your travel company collapses. Keep it somewhere safe and take it on holiday so you know how to make an ATOL claim if you need to.
At CBHUK we represent the British Muslim community on matters pertaining to Hajj & Umrah travel and work closely with Licensed Hajj & Umrah agents.
These are some of the services we offer:
- Support for British Hajjis
- Health Promotion & Advice
- Safety Advice
- Travel Safe Advice
- Support before, during and after Hajj
- Telephone Helpline
- Education and Training
- Pre Hajj Seminars
- Pre Umrah Seminars
- Travel Advice Clinics
- Travel Vaccination Clinics
ABTA aims to ensure that its Members maintain high standards and it allows you to travel with confidence.
ABTA requires high standards that its Members must live up to and we continually provide advice and guidance to help them do just that. You can be confident about booking with an ABTA Member because if they fall below the standard required in the ABTA Code we have disciplinary procedures in place.
What the Code means for you
When you book, look for the logo, because booking with an ABTA Member is the only way to get the protection of the ABTA Code. It covers your holiday from start to finish: from the information before you book, through the booking process, to helping you complain if anything goes wrong.
All ABTA Members must abide by the Code, which means that, among many other things, you can expect to receive:
Accurate information so you can make an informed choice
Advice or assistance on passport, visa and health requirements
An offer of a suitable alternative if there are building works that will seriously impair your holiday
A refund of your holiday cost if there’s a significant flight delay and you don’t want to travel A response to any complaint you might have within 28 days
Resolution of your complaint as quickly as possible and, if it can’t be resolved amicably, the guaranteed option of arbitration to find a settlement.
If an ABTA Member breaches the Code, complain to us and we will investigate the problem. See the sections below for information on how we approach this.
The aim of the Ministry is to oversee the logistical procedures and implementation of the ritual of Hajj and Umrah and the visit to the Masjid Al-Nabwi. To deliver services that would ease and convenience pilgrims in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility so that the pleasant and contented memories will be deeply remembered by the pilgrims, Hajj & Umrah performers and visitors acting as an ambassador to the world by giving a positive image of the services offered by the Kingdom to serve the guests of Allah.
The following is for information ONLY, all logistics, payments etc are handled between the MOHAU, Tawafa Office and Tour Operator according to the itinerary issued to you by your Hajj & Umrah Agent (UK).
GENERAL FRAMEWORK OF THE TASKS RELEVANT TO ORGANISING INTERNATIONAL HAJJ TRIPS:
The following is a general framework of the tasks undertaken by the Ministry of Haj and Umrah to organise the work concerned with international Hajj trips:
Organizing the work of tourist companies.
Organizing the work of official Hajj Missions.
Supervising the arrival of pilgrims via air, land, and sea ports.
Supervising the grouping of pilgrims for final departure.
Monitoring and conducting follow-ups.
Investigating and imposing penalties.
ORGANIZING THE WORK OF TOURIST COMPANIES IN THE HAJJ SEASON
Preparing tourist companies.
Ratifying the service contract concluded with the Tawafa Establishment.
Ratifying the housing contract in Makkah Al-Mukarramah, with the Ministry making sure that the following documents are enclosed with the contract:
The housing license from the Housing Committee or hotel license from the General Authority for Tourism and Antiquities.
The insurance amount of 15% of the contract value.
The bank guarantee of 50 Riyals for every pilgrim.
Ratifying the housing contract in Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah, with the Ministry making sure that the following documents are enclosed:
The housing license from the Housing Committee or hotel license from the General Authority for Tourism and Antiquities.
The insurance amount of 15% of the contract value.
The bank guarantee of 50 Riyals for every pilgrim
Ratifying the transportation contract
Ratifying the contract of the United Agents Office
Approving the files of tourist companies, which takes place according to the following:
A representative from the Tawafa Establishment, with which the company or establishment is affiliated, brings the file of the company or the establishment, containing the five basic contracts (the contract of housing in Makkah, contract of housing in Al-Madinah, contract of the United Agents office, contract of transportation, and the contract of service at the Sacred Sites) to the Ministry of Haj and Umrah.
The Ministry checks the data of the file of the company or establishment with the data of the contracts entered in the database of the tourist companies and also with the data related to ratifying the housing contracts of the Hajj Missions.
If the data matches, the Ministry approves the file of the company or establishment, and ratifies the housing contracts of the Missions.
The administration prints the bar codes of the pilgrims of the company or the establishment.
The Ministry sends the files of the companies to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue visas for the pilgrims.
THE PILGRIMS’ ARRIVAL VIA AIR, LAND, AND SEA PORTS
The Ministry of Haj and Umrah supervises the pilgrims arrival via different ports of the Kingdom and ensures that the pilgrims who have completed their procedures and have been arranged into groups are dispatched to the Hajj cities easily. Also, the Ministry evaluates the performance of the different bodies which work in the field of pilgrims’ services to make sure that the pilgrims are able to perform their rituals satisfactorily and easily.
The following is a summary of the procedures for receiving the pilgrims upon their arrival at the port and dispatching them to the Hajj cities:
When the pilgrim arrives at the port, the passport officer gives him a border number, and then enters the passport into the database.
The official of the Enumeration and Distribution Authority gives the pilgrim a badge with the name of the Tawafa Establishment to which he belongs, if pilgrim has paid all the necessary expenses.
The official of the United Agents Office collects the fees of the service and transportation from the pilgrims.
The Tawafa Establishment specifies the field service office responsible for serving the pilgrim.
The General Syndicate of Vehicles provides the buses necessary for transporting the pilgrims to the Hajj Cities, and the United Agents Office makes sure that the pilgrims’ luggage is loaded on the buses and also prepares the transportation report.
Field service offices make sure that the pilgrims have arrived at their accommodations in the Hajj cities and serve them while they perform the rituals.
GROUPING THE PILGRIMS FOR FINAL DEPARTURE
The field service office checks the availability of departure trips for the pilgrims departing by air or sea.
The field service office checks the housing contracts of the pilgrims upon grouping them to travel from Makkah to Al-Madinah to visit the Prophet’s Mosque.
The field service office coordinates with the General Syndicate of Vehicles to prepare the buses necessary for transporting the pilgrims.
The field service office prepares the report of grouping the departing pilgrims.
MONITORING AND CONDUCTING FOLLOW-UPS
The Ministry of Haj and Umrah monitors and follows-up the performance of the Tawafa Establishments, the General Syndicate of Vehicles, the official Missions, and tourist companies during the Hajj season to make sure that the services are provided to the pilgrims according to the applicable rules, regulations, and concluded contracts. Also, the Ministry receives the pilgrims’ complaints, and controls and documents any violations.
CONDUCTING INVESTIGATIONS AND IMPOSING PENALTIES
One of the main tasks undertaken by the Ministry is conducting investigations through the General Administration of Legal Affairs into the violations committed by the Tawafa Establishments. Also, investigations are conducted by certain committees concerning the violations committed by the tourist companies. Consequently, regulatory penalties are imposed upon them.
Conducting investigations: The General Administration of Legal Affairs prepares legal briefs on the suits that have been investigated in preparation for referring them to the authorized person concerning the violations attributed to the Tawafa Establishments. Then they are referred to the Tawafa Disciplinary Board.
Imposing penalties: The Tawafa Disciplinary Board examines the complaints submitted by the international pilgrims against the Tawafa Establishments which were submitted by the General Administration of Legal Affairs. The committee has the choice of either dismissing the case, issuing a warning, or inflicting a penalty.
As for penalties imposed on the tourist companies, a special committee is formed for this matter.
Tawafa Establishments aim to provide services to international pilgrims and visitors of the Prophets Masjid, to improve and enhance these services. They also aim to facilitate matters for the international pilgrims and Mu`tamirs so they are able to perform their rituals easily and overcome the hardships they may encounter during their stay in the Kingdom. Additionally, they seek to raise their staff’s level of performance, enhance their efficiency, and improve their capabilities.
The Uk is administered by “The National Tawafa Establishment for Muslims of Europe, America and Australia”.
Your Hajj/Umrah Agent arranges all itineraries through the Tawafa Establishment and work together to deliver the services that is advertised.
The Tawafa Establishments have offices in Makkah and Madinah to serve pilgrims, your first point of contact is your group leader and the involvement of the Tawafa Establishment is when government agencies are involved, major issues with hotels, transportation or when there is an emergency situation.