The Umrah is one of the most personal and memorable journeys you will ever take, which is why you must organize it around your own needs and preferences. Visited by millions or more throughout the year for Umrah and Hajj, the teeming city, Mecca, is bustling with pilgrims from all over the globe and all walks of life, come together for the purpose of their faithful duties to their Lord.
One of the most common questions people have is whether to travel alone or in a group. It could be that your family and friends are not in a position to go with you or you really don’t want to wait any longer, or perhaps going by yourself is your choice. Traveling solo is not a big hassle if you know the language (Arabic and English). When going for Umrah on your own and knowing how to plan it, going solo can actually save you money as well as more flexibility and exploring places.
If you are planning to travel solo for Umrah, the first process is to arrange for a visa and then book a flight and hotel. The best bet is to check with the travel agencies for the needed documents. Umrah visas are offered from the 1st of Muharram to the 15th of Ramadhan. Most pilgrims opt to use a specialized travel agency, which will handle all the paperwork for them.
Planning a Solo Umrah can really help you keep the cost under budget and make it a memorable experience as well. If you want to save money, just get the Umrah visa through them (travel agencies) and take care of the rest on your own. For solo travel, you may prefer a single room. You can also opt for a hotel that suits your own interests and preferences; perhaps somewhere quieter, in a more peaceful location, or hotels that put you at the heart of Mecca. Depending on your needs, you can go for a budget accommodation or a more luxury accommodation for less.
For flights and hotels, you can simply go on to any travel website and book your tickets and rooms just like with any other destination.
M Hotel Makkah by Millennium: It is a 4-star property about 2.5 km away from Masjid al-Haram. You have a free shuttle to take you there 24hrs.
Picture Credit: Swissotel Hotels
Swissotel Al Maqam Makkah: This hotel gets you closer to the Masjid al-Haram without paying a fortune. You’ll still have to walk 5-10 minutes to the mosque.
Picture Credit: Hilton Suites
Hilton Suites or any hotel in Abraj Al baith: This hotel has the best reviews at a reasonable price right in front of the Masjid al-Haram.
Picture Credit: Elaf Group
Meshal Al Madina: Nothing fancy, just a place to sleep and shower that’s about 5 minutes to Masjid an-Nabawi.
Picture Credit: Pullman Hotels
Pullman ZamZam Madinah: Not too pricey and within a 5-minute walk to Masjid an-Nabawi.
Picture Credit: Intercontinental Hotels
Intercontinental Madinah: Literally right next to Masjid an-Nabawi. Ultimate convenience and luxury for the most reasonable price.
There is no need to be self-conscious or concerned, either – the minute you arrive at your hotel, you will see that this is an experience that offers no boundaries for age or background. Everyone mingles together in a way that breaks down all perceived barriers, leaving you free to carry out your Umrah in a relaxed and immersive way.
You will land in either Medina or Jeddah. During busy times such as Ramadan and peak holidays, it is best to arrive in Medina first. The airport is smaller and not many airlines fly into Medina, therefore, it is less congested. You can be done with immigration and collect your luggage within an hour wherein Jeddah it can be up to 2 to 3 hours or even longer.
If you are doing Solo Umrah you can manage and find flights that can arrive in Medina which would be more manageable. Arrive at the hotel and rest since the distance from Medina airport to your hotel wouldn’t exceed a 25 min drive. Then travel Medina to Mecca by SAPTCO buses or by Uber or taxis. Upon your return, all you need to do is to get from Mecca to Jeddah. This way you can save a 5-hour journey by coach since only you need to travel from Medina to Mecca. Prices for flights arriving in Medina and leaving from Jeddah are not too expensive either and it is less of a hassle compared to the 10-hour return journey to Medina by coach.
Jeddah airport is a busier airport so queues and delays are more prevalent. I would recommend trying not to fly into Jeddah if you can. Of course, if you cannot avoid it then brace yourself with patience, plenty of it too. It is an hour's journey (1 hr) to get from Jeddah to Mecca. Taxi drivers may give you high prices which you need to negotiate. It is better to book an Uber and pay a base rate of 250 SAR to get to Mecca, no negotiating is needed. Use Uber to get to Medina as well. The approximate rates are as follows:
You can buy location sim card from the airport from 35 Sr onwards on STC, Mobily or Zain networks.
The Saudi currency is the Saudi riyal (ريال, SAR), which has traded at a fixed 3.75 to the US dollar. Saudi Arabia is still largely a cash society, but credit card and debit card acceptance are surprisingly good everywhere. ATMs are ubiquitous, especially in gas stations and malls. All banks accept foreign cards.
Picture Credit: AlBaik
You are safely going to the cheapest country for food. You can indulge in some great Tongue-tickling delicacies in Mecca and Medina. From splurge restaurants to pocket-friendly street food, there is a vast variety of food available nearby to both mosques. If you are a fast-food lover do not forget to have Albaik, which is well known as a budget-friendly restaurant with 12 SR for a 4-piece chicken breast. The middle eastern staple, Shawarma, is widely available at 4 to 5 SR being the standard price for a sandwich.
Traveling alone can be daunting, what more traveling solo with a purpose to perform Umrah. Sometimes you need that extra push to do something beyond ordinary and In Shaa Allah it will bring the best of experiences to you and your soul.