The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is one of the world’s largest mass gatherings. In 2018, Hajj will take place from about August 19 to August 24.
Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as Hajj are associated with unique health risks prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue travel guidance for pilgrims.
What can travelers do to protect themselves?
Before your trip
- Make an appointment with a travel medicine specialist or your healthcare provider to get needed vaccines and medicine at least 4 to 6 weeks before you leave.
- CDC recommends all travelers be up to date on routine vaccines, such as influenza and measles. Check with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for its most current vaccine requirements.
- Saudi Arabia requires meningitis (meningococcal disease) vaccine if you are traveling to take part in a pilgrimage.
- Saudi Arabia may require or recommend additional vaccines, including yellow fever or polio vaccine. See the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health’s Hajj regulations for the most current vaccine requirements and recommendations.
- Pack a travel health kit with your prescription and over-the-counter medicines (enough to last your whole trip, plus a little extra), first aid supplies, and your health insurance card.
- Monitor travel warnings and alerts.
- You also can enroll with the nearest US embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest safety updates and assistance in an emergency.
- Prepare for the unexpected.
- Leave copies of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, and passport with someone at home, in case you lose them during travel.
- Consider buying travel health and medical evacuation insurance. If you are injured or get sick during your trip, your health insurance might not cover health care you receive abroad.
- Learn about health concerns at your destination.
During your trip
- Take steps to prevent illness.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid contact with animals, to prevent diseases like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
- Use only clean (unused) razors for head shaving. Male pilgrims should go to officially designated centers to be shaved, where barbers are licensed and use disposable, single-use blades.
- Protect yourself from hot temperatures and sun exposure. Pilgrims can expect daytime temperatures over 100°F during Hajj.
- Stay hydrated.
- Perform rituals at night when possible.
- Use personal umbrellas to shade yourself from the sun.
- Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher when outdoors.
- Follow security and safety advice for mass gatherings.
- Avoid densely crowded areas.
- Perform rituals during non-peak hours.
- Know where all emergency exits are and how to get to them.
- Carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp.
- Carry local emergency service numbers and contact information for the nearest US embassy or consulate in Saudi Arabia.
- Follow all local laws and social customs .
- Follow food safety and water safety guidelines. Contaminated food or drinks can cause travelers’ diarrhea and other diseases. Travelers’ diarrhea is the most common travel-related illness.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products, such as milk and meat, to prevent diseases like MERS.
- Eat only food that is cooked and served hot.
- Eat fruits and vegetables you have washed in safe water or peeled yourself.
- Drink water, sodas, or sports drinks that are bottled and sealed, or very hot coffee or tea.
- Use ice made with bottled or disinfected water.
- Take steps to prevent mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that spread diseases, such dengue and malaria, can be found in Saudi Arabia.
- Always wear seat belts and choose safe transportation. Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 killer of healthy US citizens in foreign countries.