Currently, the Saudi border is closed until further notice. Hajj this year will be available only for residents. We have no information of when will Umrah start again.
It was announced today and that Umrah will be stopped for people on Umrah visas and tourist visas for those who want to visit the two Holy cities of Makkah and Medinah.
Here is the announcement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This comes after neighbouring countries such as Bahrain and Kuwait had several cases detected.
The countries that have had the suspension according to Al Arabiya are:
What is happening for those going for Umrah
The list of the countries above is the one that will not be temporarily allowed to perform Umrah. These are the high-risk countries with many of the having restrictions from airlines and governments on travel. For information on UK travel advice here is the FCO link.
This is a smart move by the Saudi government in my opinion to protect locals and pilgrims alike. It makes sense as these two cities have a large number of pilgrims and it is so much easier to spread the virus and with Ramadan approaching it is a high season.
Sadly people will lose money and they will have to check with their agents or via credit cards or insurance if they can recoup some of the cost as this is a government ban and not an individual not wanting to risk it.
For the UK, US and Canada, for example, there is no issue to visit on a tourist visa for Umrah. It also seems that airlines are flying and allowing people according to some sources and people speaking with airlines. Hopefully, we will not develop more cases in those countries and they will manage to contain the virus.
(the UK currently cannot visit for Umrah, visit or tourism, Saudi airlines won’t allow them to board)
Should you go for Umrah now?
This is a very personal decision but if you have not booked your Umrah you might want to monitor the situation. Elderly and babies or immunocompromised are of a bigger risk so it’s important to be protected as much as possible.
Should you go if you have booked?
If you are healthy, you have taken all precautions and you are happy with your decision (considering there is no suspension) then insha’Allah Allah will make it easy for you.
Also, please let the dust settle, as always things circulate the internet, fake news, lies etc. I try to provide as accurate information as possible. I know people are panicking but if you leave in a few weeks/months don’t panic there is plenty of time to find out.
The UK, US, Canada are not high-risk countries so agents are now telling people they can’t go when in reality not even Saudi airlines have made announcements saying you can’t go. Just wait for more information in the coming days.
We should also remember that Allah invites us to his house and sometimes we might do everything but yet still not receive the invitation.
Things you can do
- If you have booked with agent speak about cancelling flights and hotel and getting some refund
- If you have insurance check that you can get compensation for your trip
- If you have paid with your credit card such as Amex see if they can refund it as well.
According to agents, Saudi Airlines has suspended boarding all UK passport holders with tourism, visit and Umrah visas.
This is not good news for people going in the next few days.
Other airlines might let you board the flights and say it is OK for them but you can be deported back from Saudi immigration so it’s your own risk.
Update 2: Some readers have emailed to say that BA is letting them change their flights for free up until 1st of August. Which is very good news. My only concern is that during July will be Hajj season and tourist visas cannot be used during that time and either Umrah. If you want to not lose your ticket I will be up until the Hajj season, you can read this post here for the dates.
Update 3: The Visit Saudi site, who is responsible for issuing the tourist visa has just made an announcement. Please see below:
I spoke to them via chat – and they confirmed that tourist visas are allowed from countries not mentioned above but NOT for Makkah and Medinah as ALL are suspended of visiting. They are not halting tourists just pilgrims.
Update 4: Many countries have shut their borders including Saudi Arabia. Currently, travel is suspended in the country with all flights cancelled for 14 days – which will probably be extended.
Until further notice, there will be no Umrah available. This will be interesting how it translates for those booked for Ramadan Umrah as it looks like there might be modifications there too.
Update 5: If you have travel booked soon, airlines and hotels are offering cancellations, refunds or travel vouchers. So make sure to check with the companies to get your money back. If on the other hand, you want to book some great travel deals, currently many are also offering flexible terms and cancellations for travel booked until the end of March. There are flights from Europe to the USA from £650 in business class.
Update 6: 17.03.20 The FCO is now advising against all but essential travel for the next 30 days, this usually means that if you have travel insurance it will cover you to cancel your trip. For those who have booked Umrah especially or holidays, it’s important to check and cancel.
It looks unlikely the situation to improve for Ramadan and I doubt they will fully open Umrah as well.
Please note this is accurate at the time of publishing, I will be updating this article with more information and questions as I receive them.