If you are visiting Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah, the advice on this page can help you stay healthy.
People who should postpone their pilgrimage
Because the 2017 Hajj is expected to be very hot, and because of the risk of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the Saudi Arabian government is recommending some people postpone plans to participate this year. This includes:
- elderly pilgrims (above 65 years of age)
- those with chronic diseases (like heart, kidney, respiratory disease and diabetes), immune deficiency (congenital and acquired), malignancy or terminal illness
- pregnant women
- children under 12 years.
Before you go
Make an appointment to see your GP or travel clinic 4 to 6 weeks before you leave to discuss your fitness to travel, what vaccines you need and what health precautions you should take.
- If you take regular medicines, make sure you take enough to cover the whole time you will be away and carry a doctor’s letter to avoid confusion at customs.
- Ensure routine and mandatory vaccinations are up to date.
- To receive a Hajj visa, all travellers must submit a certificate of vaccination with the quadrivalent meningitis vaccine. Some travellers also need to show proof of yellow fever or polio vaccination.
- We also recommend you get the seasonal flu vaccine before you travel.
While on Hajj or Umrah
Avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke
Drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and seek shade when possible. Some rituals may be performed at night to avoid daytime heat.
Stop diseases spreading
- Hajj events will include large crowds, however, try to avoid the most densely crowded areas. Perform rituals at non-peak hours where you can.
- Maintain a high level of personal hygiene and wash hands frequently with soap and water. If water is not available, small bottles of hand sanitizer can be used to help keep hands clean.
- If you are sick with respiratory symptoms (coughing and sneezing):
- cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands afterwards
- wear a mask over your mouth and nose
- keep a distance of 1 metre away from other people.
- Avoid close contact with people who are coughing, sneezing or appear to be sick.
- Avoid sharing personal hygiene tools (like toothbrushes) and razor blades. These can transmit bloodborne viruses like hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. For shaving, use licensed barbers using disposable blades at officially designated centres, or use your own disposable blades.
- Avoid contact with live animals (particularly camels) and their environments.
Safe food and drink
- Follow good food safety practices, such as avoiding undercooked meat or food prepared under unsanitary conditions.
- Drink water and beverages that are sealed or you know have been purified, and check the expiration dates.
- When you buy packaged food, check it is sealed and when the expiration date is.
- Wash fruit and vegetables well.
- Do not consume dairy items made from raw milk.
- Follow road safety rules to avoid injuries. Remember that vehicles in Saudi Arabia drive on the right side of the road.
- Take extra care when crossing roads.
- Always wear a seatbelt when travelling in motor vehicles.
Bring a personal first aid kit.
If you are unwell when you get home
If you get sick with a cold or flu-like illness (with fever and cough) in the first 2 weeks after you return, you should:
- seek medical attention or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 – tell them that you’ve been to Saudi Arabia recently. Call your GP before you go, as they may wish to keep you out of the waiting area to prevent possible exposures of others
- cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and wash your hands afterwards
- minimize your contact with others to keep from infecting them.
MERS is a viral respiratory illness. It can be very serious – between 30% and 40% of patients with MERS have died. It is most dangerous for people who already have serious medical conditions.
Most cases of MERS have been reported in Saudi Arabia. It is thought to originate in camels, and can spread to people who come into contact with camels or who eat or drink camel products (like raw camel milk).
MERS can spread between people, but in most reported cases this has happened in hospitals rather than in the community.
Visit the World Health Organization website for the latest information on MERS.
Find out more from the Ministry
- Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus – information for health professionals on MERS and what the Ministry is doing to monitor the situation