Umrah Visas are open! Yay
This is great news and honestly now I just want to book my flights and go.
I wrote a post about the new regulations for Umrah visa 2016 after I received several emails from people asking me about the visa changes. Now it’s good news as you can still book your DIY Umrah and save some cash. The bad news is that this needs to be with non-refundable hotels and flights.
There are several reasons why the Ministry decided to accept only non-refundable hotels and it concerns people who want cheap options and cheat the system. I understand when someone can’t afford to sleep in a hotel and wants to stay in masjid Al-Haram but this essentially causes problems for others. In this occasion making stricter rules when it comes to normal people who would like some flexibility when booking, in case their visas don’t get issued on time.
I have been told that you will have to always have your flights and hotels pre-booked before applying for your visa.
You can still book with third website parties such as Booking.com, Agoda.com Expedia.com etc. but the hotels need to be non-refundable.
One way to overcome this will be booking on loyalty programs I assume. Every Umrah I have done has been on miles & points which saves me a ton of cash yet I’m steps away from the Haram. The points for hotels are flexible which means you can cancel them, however there is less likelihood they will reject your visa on this.
Why using points for hotels could be good
- You can save cash when booking on points
- Shows commitments since you do have points to use with the brand.
- Flexibility in case your visa is delayed
- 4 and 5 star reputable properties just steps away from the Haram
Overall it is not as bad as they made it sound at the beginning. I would be very upset if the Ministry decided to permit bookings only via hotels and not third parties. Because this ultimately leaves the visitors vulnerable to monopolies and price increases. I understand the Ministry wants to secure a fair option for the hotels and an easy way to manage millions of people coming to Makkah. So essentially this can be a god thing as well.
Some hotels with the best loyalty programs are Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental, SPG and Marriott. If you want to find out more about how to save cash with some of these hotels here.
There is also a new system from the Saudi government called “Sijjil” which is suppose to save you 10%-15% on hotel bookings, I cannot find it online other than articles about it so if you have any info please do message me.