Muslims are required to perform the Haj pilgrimage only if their health and finances allow it. Image Credit: EPA

Dubai: The Haj is a priceless spiritual experience, but the entire trip can cost UAE pilgrims from Dh16,000 to Dh150,000 for a 14-day package to Makkah and Madinah, Haj tour operators say.

There are 6,228 pilgrims from the UAE going on the Haj this year, including 5,228 UAE nationals and 1,000 expatriates, according to the Abu Dhabi government.

Pilgrims from around the world are expected to spend 630 million to 700 million Saudi riyals each day during the Haj, according to the Saudi-based daily Al Riyadh.

Average spending per pilgrim during the Haj is estimated at 4,700 riyals for the regular Haj period of 18 days, the paper reported.

In the UAE, pilgrims can opt for low-cost to VIP packages from Haj and Umrah tour operators or hamalat. Costs vary depending on the number of days, mode of transport, hotel rating and proximity to the holy sites.

Low-cost packages for 14 days can cost about Dh15,000 to Dh20,000, said Mohammad Anas Ahmad, general manager of Al Fajr Haj and Umrah Services. This includes an economy air ticket or bus ticket to Saudi Arabia, shared accommodation at a distance from Mina, food, transportation between cities, medical coverage and Haj visa costs to pay for pilgrim services in Mina, he said.

VIP packages can cost Dh60,000 to Dh120,000, he added. This buys a five-star single or double hotel room in the Markaziya area.

"UAE nationals and expats prefer to be in the Markaziya area," Ahmad said.

But they can cut their expenses by travelling by bus to Saudi Arabia and sharing accommodation, he added.

Saudi Public Transport Company (Saptco) operates services from Dubai to Saudi Arabia and between Saudi sites. A one-way ticket costs Dh500. Alternatively, some local tour operators also provide bus services.

"Very few people now travel by land. There used to be a great demand from expats. But the tour operators cancelled these bus trips because fewer visas are issued to people in the UAE than can fill the buses," he said. "This will affect low-income people who will not now consider going."

For travel between the holy sites, an economy bus ticket costs Dh2,000 and VIP tickets Dh3,500, according to Ahmad.

The Makkah Metro is only open to domestic pilgrims during the first phase of testing in the first year, according to Hassan Sharhan, a sales associate with Al Mawaddah Haj and Umrah tours.

"Staying in the Al Aziziya area can reduce costs to a half or quarter. It is close to Mina and the rituals," Ahmad said.

Pilgrims must be vaccinated against meningitis and influenza. Vaccinations are free of charge at the Preventive Medicine Department at Al Baraha Hospital for those going on the Haj.

It is not necessary to buy medical or travel insurance as the Haj tour operators are required to provide a medical team on the trip.

"The UAE delegation to Saudi Arabia has a complete medical team for emergencies in Madinah, Makkah and the holy sites," Ahmad said.

Playing safe

  • Do not carry large amounts of cash with you.
  • Do not pack extra luggage
  • Tour operators provide food for the entire journey.
  • Carry your medication if you have a specific ailment.
  • If you are a non-Arab speaker, learn some basic Arabic words.

Savings tips.

  • Arrange for accommodation near Mina like the Aziziya area.
  • Do not rent an entire tent, consider shared accommodation
  • Choose a tour operator recommended by another pilgrim

Total Haj costs: (14 days of Haj, inclusive of all expenses)

  • VIP packages: Dhs. 60,000- Dhs. 120,000
  • Mid-level packages: Dhs. 20,000- Dhs. 45,000
  • Low-cost packages: Dhs. 15,000- Dhs. 20,000

 Accommodation: (14 days of Haj at the Markaziya area):

  • Five-star hotel: Dh60,000- Dh80,000 (Single or double rooms, half board)
  • Four-star hotel: Dh35,000
  • Three-star hotels: Dh25,000- Dh30,000

Food: Provided by Haj tour operators as part of package

Air tickets: (Economy, return ticket)

  • Emirates: Dh4600
  • Etihad: Dh4200- Dh5,700
  • Saudi Arabia Airlines: Dh4050- Dh5,700
  • Air Arabia: Dh3,300

Bus tickets

  • Dubai-Saudi Arabia: Dh500
  • Bus travel within Saudi: Dh2000 (economy). Dh3,500 (VIP)

Are you travelling for Hajj? How much is it costing you? Do you know anyone who is not going due to it being expensive?