Safety & Security
Each year around 3.7 million pilgrims participate in the Hajj. Since 2013 the Ministry of Hajj has been imposing a global 20% reduction in the number of Hajj pilgrims due to infrastructure works in Makkah. Pilgrims who have performed Hajj in the past five years will not be granted a visa, although we understand certain exemptions will be applied, such as those accompanying disabled pilgrims. Before you travel for the Hajj, you should carefully consider the information and advice on the website of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London and the Health section of this travel advice.
If you are traveling to Saudi Arabia through another country, you should check for advice on possible travel restrictions with that country’s Embassy in London. Saudi government regulations require British pilgrims performing Umrah and Hajj to travel with a UK travel agency accredited by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.
You should confirm the full itinerary for your pilgrimage before departure. The British Embassy receives many requests for help with disputes and dissatisfaction with tour operators. In recent years there have been significant improvements in how the Hajj is organized. The last time deaths or injuries resulted from the pressure of the crowds was in 2006. But as with any large gathering, you should take extra care.
There has been an increase in the number of reported pickpocketing cases and other theft forms in Makkah, particularly in the Grand Mosque region and Medina. It would be best if you took extra care of your passport, tickets, and other valuables while visiting these areas. Please make a copy of your passport before you travel, and keep it in a safe place.
You are not allowed to take photographs (still or video, including on a mobile phone) at the Holy Mosque at Makkah or the Prophet’s Mosque at Medina. This restriction also includes the courtyards surrounding these two holy sites. Any violation of these instructions will likely lead to the confiscation of your film, camera, or phone.
Public demonstrations are illegal in Saudi Arabia. Follow local media and be alert to local and regional developments which might trigger public disturbances. It would be best if you avoided public gatherings or demonstrations. Despite warnings issued by the authorities, demonstrations occasionally occur, mainly in the Shia communities in the Qatif area of Eastern Province and Al Hasa. Violent clashes have occurred between demonstrators and security forces.
Saudi Arabia-Yemen border
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to within 10km of the border with Yemen and all but essential travel between 10km and 80km of this border. If you’re currently in an area where the FCO advises against all but necessary travel, you should consider whether you have an essential reason to remain. If you do not, you should leave the area.
Since 25 March, Saudi Arabia has been leading coalition air strikes in Yemen following the request for support from President Hadi to deter continued Houthi aggression. Clashes along the Saudi-Yemeni border have increased recently, resulting in military and civilian casualties. SCUD missiles were fired from Yemen into Saudi Arabia on two occasions in June, and further launches are possible. Missiles may be targeted by military facilities in Najran Province, Asir Province, Jazan Province, and the most south-westerly part of Riyadh Province.
Airports near the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border have been closed temporarily from time to time: you should check with your airline before traveling to airports near the border.
Saudi Arabia-Iraq border
Take great care in all areas close to the Saudi Arabia-Iraq border. On 5 January 2015, 3 Saudi Arabian border guards were killed in clashes close to the Arar crossing point.
Although the crime rate in Saudi Arabia is low, there have been some isolated incidents of more severe crimes. On 3 November, there was a shooting incident outside of a mosque in Daiwa which resulted in 5 reported deaths. Take particular care when traveling outside towns and cities. On 13 January 2014, a car carrying 2 German diplomats was fired at in the Eastern province. Petty crime does also occur.
You should wear seatbelts at all times. Distances between cities are large, and emergency services can take some time to get to any accidents or emergencies. Some Saudi cities have implemented an automated traffic system. Before leaving the country, you will need to pay any fines issued through this system. You can pay at the airport but only during regular Saudi office hours.
Oil infrastructure remains a possible terrorist target. Shipping serving the oil installations should ensure SSPs are implemented fully and robustly while operating in the area. All ships should maintain a high state of vigilance in Saudi Arabian ports and report anything suspicious to the authorities. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Bab El Mandeb areas may be at increased risk of maritime attack from pirates.