The Hajj is one of the world’s largest annual mass gatherings, and this year the season is expected to occur between 26 June – 01 July. Due to the vast numbers of attendees, who are generally in very close proximity, this event has previously been associated with unique public health risks.
Approximately two million Muslims from more than 183 countries make Hajj each year to Saudi Arabia. Most international pilgrims fly into Jeddah or Medina and take a bus to Mecca. Pilgrims travel by foot or bus approximately five miles (8 km) to the tent city of Mina, the largest temporary city in the world, where most stay in air-conditioned tents.
The Saudi government requires pilgrims to complete all required Health-Regulations-En.pdf (moh.gov.sa) at least 10 days before the start of the Hajj season. The Hajj vaccination requirements along with other travel precautions to reduce disease risk are available from this link: Health-Regulations-En.pdf (moh.gov.sa).
Safety and security
As there is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Saudi Arabia, New Zealanders considering making the pilgrimage are advised to read our travel advisory for Saudi Arabia. If you decide to travel, we recommend registering your details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and ensuring you have comprehensive insurance coverage before you go.
New Zealanders performing the Hajj are advised to follow any instructions issued by the local authorities, avoid wearing or displaying items that appear valuable, such as electronic devices, cameras and jewellery and obey all bans on filming or photography, or risk having equipment confiscated and/or being arrested.
Travel to new areas may cause an upset stomach from contaminated food or water. Diarrheal disease is common during Hajj, caused by bacteria or viruses. Pilgrims should always wash hands with soap and water thoroughly after using toilet and before handling food and eating.
Due to the large number of people from many different countries attending, infectious diseases may easily spread. In addition to vaccinations required and/or recommended by the Health-Regulations-En.pdf (moh.gov.sa), ensure you are up to date with all routine vaccinations before you go, especially measles (MMR vaccine). A travel doctor may recommend additional vaccinations such as hepatitis A vaccine to help reduce your risk of illness.
Hajj travellers are advised to avoid contact with live animals, especially camels and avoid consuming raw or uncooked animal products (including milk and meat). Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was identified first in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The virus has been isolated in camels in this region and is spread to humans by contact with camels. The last laboratory-confirmed case was reported from Saudi Arabia in December 2022.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is the Saudi government department with overall responsibility for managing the annual pilgrimage. You'll need to book your travel through a Saudi-Government approved travel agent. Ensure you use a reputable agent who will provide accommodation, transport and an entry visa. Using a non-approved Hajj operator may be punishable under Saudi law and could include deportation, jail, financial penalty and a ban on future travel to Saudi Arabia. If in doubt, contact the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. For further information, we recommend contacting the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Saudi Arabia.
If you are unwell when you get home
After returning from the Hajj, travellers are advised to self-monitor for 21 days. If symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, sore throat, diarrhoea, weakness, vomiting, stomach pain or unexplained bleeding or bruising are experienced, phone ahead to your local health provider or call Healthline on 0800 611 for advice.
Consular assistance in Saudi Arabia is provided by the New Zealand Embassy, Riyadh:
New Zealand Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Street Address Diplomatic Quarter, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Postal Address PO Box 94 397, Riyadh 11693, Saudi Arabia
Telephone +966 11 488 7988
Office Hours Sun – Thurs 0800-1200, 1230-1500hrs
Reviewed:12 May 2023, 15:34
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