Hajj, which purifies man of most sins, is really a very sacred journey whose spiritual aspect may be overshadowed when faced with logistical troubles. Therefore choosing the "perfect" hajj package is vital to allow you to focus on the spiritual part of the journey wholeheartedly.
Following are some aspects to consider when selecting a hajj package:
Choosing an agency registered with the Ministry of Hajj over a sub-agent increase your chances of a clean journey. Registered agencies are far more aware of the latest rules and regulations of processing visas, can contact Ministry of Hajj to resolve a challenge, are accountable to Ministry if pilgrims file a complaint and are far more resourceful for making airline, hotel and transportation arrangement. They are also cheaper because travel arrangement in Saudi Arabia can only just be done by authorized agencies. Sub agents have to buy services from these agencies and therefore sell the package at a level up price.
Despite all of the advantages of licensed agents stated earlier, you are able to choose a sub agent when you yourself have heard good things about them From Pakistan. All Authorized agents might not give a good service although some sub agents are very professional. Therefore you ought to choose a hajj package provider based on referrals.
Company of a knowledgeable and experienced guide in your group is necessary. Irrespective of how much information you have accumulated from books and lectures, you might face questions, you had not anticipated before. It can also be important to understand if the travel agency seeks advice from their guide. For logistical ease, some agents may plan departure to Arafat and Muzdalifah before the full time recommended by Islamic law. Choosing an agency that plans the trip under a respected imam can mitigate risks of taking shortcuts or going against Sunnah.
Make sure you check that the Imam is going to do the hajj with the pilgrims of the package you have selected. It is difficult to contact the Imam if he is remaining in an alternative hotel, travelling in an alternative bus or surviving in an alternative tent in Mina from yours. This issue is especially common with agencies that provide large number of packages under the guidance of one or two Imams only.
Having a female guide would be of added benefit for sisters performing pilgrimage.
It is beneficial to check if the travel agency features a full-time employee in US and Saudi Arabia. The more an agency utilizes outside resources, the much more likely it is to suffer with mismanagement. Also the longer an agency has provided Hajj services, the higher equipped it is to offer a organized service.
Most Hajj packages advertise price with fare from New York to Jedda. If you live elsewhere, be sure to include the cost of domestic air fare to New York when selecting a package. Also add the cost of Hajj fees and Zabiha to have an estimate of the precise amount you will be spending per person.
Accommodation in a convenient site is extremely useful. Hotel near to the Haram and Masjid - e- Nabwi is more important than the amount of stars of a hotel because it would cut travel time, conserve energy for worshiping and save time by devoid of to stand in long lines to complete wudu or use restrooms. It could be better in cases to fairly share your room with 4 people in a hotel near Haram and not sharing room with one other person but at a larger distance from the Haram. Moreover hotel ratings are per Saudi Government standards which are very different from the American standards of rating hotels.
Do not worry a lot of in case a hajj package does not offer meals in Makkah and Medina. There are many of options around Haram to consume and drink among prayer times, but may take up lots of your own time waiting in a line. Hotel buffets is actually a time saver or even a big distraction, as frequently people may spend lots of time socializing too much. It is however good for food in Mina and Arafat as options will be limited. If you are performing Hajj with family it could be better to select an offer that offers meals through the trip.
Choosing hajj packages that land in Medina first, can save time spent in immigration lines. Pilgrims landing in Jedda can experience 14 - 18 hours in immigration before leaving for Makkah. However choosing package where pilgrims land in Jedda opens up a lot more flight options and might be cheaper. Same holds true for leaving Saudi Arab. Medina as a slot of entry or exit could save lots of time.
Ask the agent concerning the location of the tent in Mina. VIP Tents are mostly (if not all) at a short walking distance from Jamarat. However regular tents in the North American Camp are in terms of a 50 minute walk to Jamarat one way. Actually some tents are not even pitched in Mina. They are located beyond huge sign boards that say "Mina ends here"!
Hajj packages promising access to private apartments during stay static in Mina is really a plus. Tents in Mina are small with just enough space for people to sleep. Pilgrims can thus leave their luggage in their rooms throughout their stay static in Mina. In addition it opens up the option to use the bathrooms and showers of the area and not the ones setup in Mina camp.
Hajj packages that provide free shuttle service from Mina to Haram can allow you to save money. Taxi fares increase exponentially during Mina days. Lured by the earnings, a number of individuals come from other cities to are taxi drivers and could even get lost while trying to drive pilgrims to Haram. Buses though cheaper take quite a while to arrive. Therefore a shuttle service given by your agent would be quicker and free.
Most hajj packages hand out SIM cards. This is actually a time saver too. Otherwise you may have to wait in lines to get a SIM card.
Considering these logistical issues while choosing an ideal hajj package will hopefully cut your worldly worries of performing hajj and allow you to focus on your worship to your heart's content.