I know many of you have asked when will the Umrah visa for 2019 – 2020 open, well the Umrah visas are now open but the new rules and regulations are still a mess.
If you are a regular reader on MuslimTravelGirl.com you know I always say that you should wait for the Umrah rules to be announced before making reservations. In the past week there were so many people who emailed (over 300) saying they have booked Umrah and agents are telling them different stories.
I will try to make the Umrah visa rules for 2019 – 2020 simple, please read them carefully and keep updated as I am sure they will change during the coming weeks.
Saudi Tourist Visa
The new tourist visa is available now. If your country is eligible you just hit the “Umrah jackpot” because now you can issue your own visa and travel.
If you belong to one of the 49countries that can issue a visa online via their website, you can now have your own tourist multi-entry visa for Saudi Arabia with which you can also perform Umrah and also explore the country as a tourist.
This is a great opportunity for those who were planning Umrah to save money on the visa. Currently, the tourist visa which allows you to perform Umrah costs £94 where the Umrah visa which has stricter conditions costs £250. For anyone belonging to these 49 countries, it makes sense to apply for the tourist visa and save the cash.
I have a full article on this so please make sure you read it as I will not be answering questions on it here. We have over 100 comments and everything you need to know if in the article.
The visa takes from 5 minutes ( my own) to a day in some cases for some of our readers.
Umrah Visa Fees for 2019-2020 Season
The Umrah season is now open, but what a mess if I may say!
It was supposed to open on the 1st of September but got delayed because Saudi style they wanted to implement a totally new system last minute.
It is still early days, as of writing this article there are still changes which I am monitoring.
The 2000 SAR fee is removed!
The repeat Umrah visa fee is removed, this means that those who have been to Umrah last year won’t pay to go now. Many people are winners on this.
However, as with everything there are also losers. Up until now, the Umrah visa from Saudi Arabia was free for all pilgrims, this meant the visa price you used to pay of £80 (which back then seemed a lot to many) was simply agent fees and processing.
Now, Saudi has introduced a fee for the visa of about 300SAR /£80 and then has introduced some other taxes on hotels, transfers and VAT soon, this takes the cost of the visa up to around £250/ £300 per person depending on your agent. Even for children.
This is a lot of money for a visa especially because it went from around £80 to £280 in a year.
People who are going for the first time to perform Umrah are actually losing and those who visit every year actually save about £150 per visa.
In short from this Umrah season 2019 -2020 onwards Saudi Arabian Umrah visas will cost around £250 per person.
Prince Visa who I recommend as a reliable agent offers a discount for MuslimTravelGirl’s readers from the UK. The price for an Umrah visa with the MTG discount is £230 per person!
Just make sure you mention our site when you call them for details.
I will announce the discount rate once we have settled into the new system.
We don’t receive a cut from this but with thousands of people reading the site on advice for Umrah, it is a great sadaqa.
We always appreciate duas though. 🙂
New Umrah E-Visa
The Umrah E-visa which is a great new system and makes things much easier is still being implemented so you won’t need to send your passport to your agent in order for them to issue you the visa.
However, the processing times which were 24hrs before have now increased to about 10 days due to the new regulations.
Umrah Visa Rules for 2019-2020 Season
Now, the BIGGEST game changer is that Saudi Arabia can made “complulsory” the package booking, which is were most of the problems come from.
They require in order to issue you the visa to have booked your hotels and transportation through approved websites and give the BRN code to the agent.
Now, this is what has created the mess because obviously it has not been implemented properly and the system is not working 100% yet.
I knew something is coming up because of last year’s MoU between the Hajj Ministry and Agoda, the online booking site. But I didn’t expect this to be compulsory.
Basically what Saudi is saying to pilgrims is that they need to book their HOTEL and TRANSPORT their approved sites, get a code and provide that to the agent so they can issue the visa.
The approved sites at the moment are:
Currently, these sites are the only approved ones.
Umrah Me and Tripshop have sent a tweet saying they are having issues and you cannot book yet!
Also if for example, you use Agoda to book your hotels you will have to book your transport only on Tripshop which gives you different code for your agent, some of these also apparently don’t work making it even messier for agents and travellers.
If you have booked travel and flights/hotels already please contact your agent to see what can be done in this case so you don’t lose your money. In the UK our recommended agent below will be happy to help and guide you.
I know Saudi has an issue with people booking hotels and then cancelling and staying with friends, I know hotels complain about pilgrims doing this and also I know some scam agents book non-existent hotels and people are left with no hotel upon arrival.
I also see why they would like transport booked, taxis and transport companies are a monopoly in Saudi and especially we here recommend using Uber and Careem, so it is a lot of business for many.
I have always said and it is a well-known fact that Umrah and Hajj are big business for many people and with the Saudi 2030 vision of 30million they are trying to find a system to capitalise on this.
Also, I cannot see many of the big booking sites that people use like Booking.com/ Expedia being happy that they have been ignored by this ruling.
As of now, I will withhold booking anything and just wait a couple of weeks especially if you are planning on going end of October or November onwards.
If you are going earlier contact your agent for information, on how you can proceed. If in the UK I recommend Prince Visa.
If you have not booked anything yet, just wait a couple of weeks until it becomes clearer if they will keep this system or remove it and allow only Umrah visas to be issued.
Is DIY Umrah Dead?
No, I don’t think DIY Umrah will go anywhere, even before we became the biggest site for Umrah tips and tricks and agents were saying they don’t allow Umrah visa only, there were people going on DIY.
When there is a will there is a way and sadly I find that this created more problems and “loopholes” that necessary.
Overall I hope they realise that this will not be sustainable and Saudi will have to change the process and allow Umrah visas to be issued on their own.
They truly cannot try to grow their tourism industry and their Umrah and Hajj pilgrims to 30million per year while putting such restrictions especially when the new Millenial travellers are so much more into technology and money-saving tips.
If you have read some of our articles on MuslimTravelGirl under DIY Umrah, you know that the biggest savings are on hotels.
Cheaper Options for Umrah
While we are waiting to see what will happen with the Umrah visas I suggested checking our articles on Umrah and travel tips to help you prepare yourself for your Umrah.
MuslimTravelGirl.com is the go-to website for people looking to plan and experience their own DIY ( Do-it-Yourself) Umrah thus removing the middleman and planning solo.
You can read about DIY Umrah planning on the main DIY page where we share the best DIY Umrah packages from Europe and the US every month saving you up to 40%.
It sounds scary especially when this is not a simple holiday, but trust me, there is a ton of info here and it’s much easier ( and cheaper) than you think.
Especially now with the new Umrah visa fees becoming more permanent it is even more expensive and cheap options are required.
If you are looking to plan your own Umrah for cheaper from anywhere in the world then you might not to check the Umrah section.
Make sure you read first the Ultimate Guide on How to Do a DIY Umrah here.
- The best time to book your Umrah for maximum money-saving here
- For transportation from Makkah to Medina you can find our guide here.
- For a DIY Umrah Package with Rihaala which is also ATOL protected check our post
- For cheap hotels, you can find some of our best options here.
- For the best hotels in Makkah or Medina check out the list here.
- For DIY Umrah packages with flights check out the ones we have made ready for you.
We also have a new project coming up on DIY Umrah and how to save thousands every time you go for Umrah. This is for those who want more in-depth information and travel tips that can help them save extra.
So if you want to find out more about this, make sure you sign up to receive the Umrah Transport Guide as I will email the info there.