Tayyab Journal / ENG

Independent Umrah journey. Costs from A to Z

As-salamu alaykum!

Among the most coveted journeys in every Muslim's life is the pilgrimage: Umrah and Hajj.

Hajj represents a fundamental tenet of Islam, and each year, a designated number of quotas are assigned worldwide and subsequently distributed among tour operators. In contrast to Umrah, this implies that a typical Muslim cannot undertake Hajj individually.

Umrah is a non-obligatory journey to Mecca, free from specific time restrictions except during the Hajj season and without imposed quotas. You can undertake Umrah at your convenience, and numerous travel agencies offer assistance in arranging Umrah trips. Their primary goal is to offer the utmost comfort at an affordable price.

Can Umrah be undertaken without the involvement of travel agencies as intermediaries? Yes, let's explore the requirements and anticipated expenses for such a journey.

The initial step is to acquire a visa, which can be applied for online at https://visa.visitsaudi.com/. For citizens of Kazakhstan, the visa cost typically averages around KZT 60,000 (subject to currency exchange rates), and it is valid for three months.

The second aspect involves the expenses related to transportation, encompassing flights, trains, and taxis. In essence, embarking on an independent journey begins with an assessment of these primary costs.

The price of airfare is contingent on several factors, such as the lead time before the journey when you purchase tickets, the level of comfort offered by the airline, your departure city, and any layovers involved. Let's consider a scenario: suppose you're a resident of Almaty, and you intend to plan your Umrah trip two months in advance. Under these circumstances, you can find a ticket with a single (though lengthy) layover from Almaty to Medina, costing between KZT 55,000 to 65,000. It's worth noting that this ticket only covers hand luggage up to 10 kilograms, and additional charges apply for checked baggage and meals.

We recommend considering the purchase of a round-trip ticket right away, but for the return journey from Jeddah, which is in close proximity to Mecca. A ticket for the JED - ALA route, featuring a direct flight by Air Astana and allowance for luggage (particularly if you plan to bring items like Zamzam water and gifts for relatives), will cost approximately KZT 150,000.

Additionally, budget in advance for intercity travel expenses, including the train journey from Medina to Mecca at approximately KZT 23,000 (equivalent to 180 SAR), the taxi ride from Mecca to Jeddah airport, which costs around KZT 32,000 (about 250 SAR), and allocate about KZT 50,000 for local transportation within the cities.

The third, and notably significant, expenditure pertains to your lodging arrangements. Initially, you'll need to determine the duration of your stay. Let's assume you plan for a 7-day trip. Based on this, you can commence the process of calculating your accommodation expenses.

Typically, travel agencies arrange hotel accommodations. You can independently explore hotel rates on the Booking app. However, an alternative option is to explore offers from individual homeowners. You can assess prices for renting apartments or rooms from private individuals using the AirBNB application. This service ensures the security of your funds until you check into your chosen lodging.

Your journey's initial destination is the blessed city of our Prophet (peace be upon him) - Medina. The pricing for renting apartments in the immediate vicinity of the Prophet's mosque ranges from $40 to $400 per day. You can secure a comfortable room with amenities like air conditioning and a refrigerator for about $50 per day. Thus, for a 3-day stay in Medina, your expenses would amount to $150.

Note: You may wish to visit Rauda (to offer prayers near the Prophet, peace be upon him). As per the hadith: Rauda is one of the gardens of Paradise. To do so, it is advisable to download the Nusuk app beforehand and complete your visit registration. It's important. Without registration, you will not be allowed inside the building.

Returning to the topic of lodging, it's worth noting that the price of renting apartments in Mecca tends to be higher than in Medina. Prices typically span from $70 to $1,000, varying based on the proximity to the Al-Haram Mosque and the level of interior decor. On occasion, you can come across a quite appealing option for around $100. In sum, your accommodation expenses for a 3-day stay in Mecca would total $300.

Another aspect to consider in your travel budget is your food expenses. While it might not appear to be a significant factor, it plays a crucial role in determining the quality of your stay and your overall energy levels. Food costs can vary widely, contingent on individual preferences and daily calorie requirements. However, let's base our estimate on the price of a standard lunch in Mecca, which typically amounts to 70 SAR, equivalent to around KZT 8,750. If you multiply this amount by three meals a day and seven days, you'll arrive at a total of KZT 183,750. It's worth mentioning that travel agencies usually include only two meals a day in their packages.

Note: In close proximity to the mosque of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Medina, you'll find a market known as "Souq Bilal." I highly suggest paying a visit to this bustling marketplace. It is home to a diverse array of cafes that serve a wide range of delectable oriental cuisines..

The final item on our list of expenses for the journey is ensuring you have access to the internet. We strongly advise not overlooking this aspect, particularly if you're not proficient in Arabic, as internet connectivity will be essential. You'll rely on it for asking directions, translating signs, planning your route, and displaying your reservation in Nusuk – it's indispensable throughout your trip. For a seamless start, we recommend activating roaming at Almaty airport during check-in. Alternatively, you can opt for the AirAlo service, which provides a virtual eSIM with a 20% discount on the initial payment. You can obtain a promotional code for this offer from the promotions section of the Tayyab app.

Upon your arrival in Medina, you'll have the option to purchase a local foreigner's SIM card right at the airport (valid for only 3 months). The maximum data allowance on this card is 25GB, so it's advisable to use data judiciously and employ your phone only when truly necessary. The cost of this SIM card is 150 SAR, which is approximately KZT 19,000.

Summing up the expenses for a 7-day independent journey:

  • Visa - KZT 60 000
  • Travel - KZT 215 000
  • Lodging - KZT 220 000
  • Meals - KZT 185 000
  • Internet - KZT 19 000

In total: KZT 696,000 (equivalent to approximately $1,500 in currency).

Wondering about the prices offered by travel agencies? Umrah tours provided by travel agencies typically range from $1,550 to $2,500 and vary based on the package you select. In this scenario, travel agencies handle all the complexities of the visa process, route planning, hotel reservations, and even provide the services of a guide who will accompany you throughout the journey.

If your primary objective is to save money, we recommend considering a reputable travel agency, as this option eliminates the hassle of organization, and the cost is essentially the same as if you were traveling independently. Our partner, Hickmet Travel, comes highly recommended.

However, if you prefer to travel alone and do not wish to be bound by group restrictions, then the method we've outlined here is the most suitable choice for you.

  • The default expiry date of your passport should be no earlier than 6 months. This is important. Otherwise you may be turned back at the airport.
  • According to the Hanafite madhhab, women are not allowed to make the pilgrimage without a mahram (husband or close male relative).
  • If you are making the pilgrimage for the first time, try to get as close to the Caaba as possible before looking at it. At the first sight of the Caaba, the heart is filled with awe and Allah accepts the supplication.

May Allah accept your Umrah and exalt you in stature!