Choosing an agent is a vital part of Hajj and Umrah preparations. The Hajj Ministry of Bangladesh produces a guideline as to what to look for when choosing a Hajj and Umrah Travel Agent. It is important that pilgrims understand these criteria and apply them when buying a hajj or ‘umrah package. These criteria are briefly mentioned below:
When a Bangladeshi Muslim people need to choose a Hajj & Umrah agency from this country, he should follow some criteria that are mentioned in below. We hope if you follow this criteria’s you can choose a Hajj & Umrah agency as perfect as you want.
1. Pilgrim should choose an agency registered with the Saudi Ministry of Hajj. Only registered agents are authorized by the Hajj Ministry to organize International Hajj and Umrah Trips.
2. An approved agent has four digit license number issued by the Ministry. Pilgrims can check if an agent is approved or not by visiting Ministry’s Hajj Portal.
3. Registered agencies are more likely to be aware of the latest rules and regulations of processing visas and other necessary requirements to organize Hajj and ‘umrah trips.
4. Registered agents are accountable to the Ministry; therefore if pilgrims are unhappy with an agent for a genuine reason, then they can file a complaint to the Ministry against that agent.
5. The Ministry also highlights that a sales contract between Hajj and Umrah travelers and Agent must include the following details:
i. Full itinerary including flight class, dates and name of the transporting airlines and sea carriers, and if any stops en route.
ii. Types of accommodations (hotel or building) where Pilgrim will be staying during the trip and their distances from the Holy Mosque in Macca Al- Mukkarramah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah. Accommodation should include information about the total duration of stay.
iii. Catering service included in the package including the type of food will be provided in Makkah, Madinah and at the sacred sites namely Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifah.
iv. Type and class of transportation service will be provided during the pilgrimage.
v. Type and class of transportation service will be provided during the pilgrimage.
6. The Ministry of Hajj also warns pilgrims not to fall into the trap of fake and low-cost service packages that are occasionally advertised by rogue agents and ask for cash payment.
Other points pilgrims may also consider are follows:
1. If you want to make your stay easy, fresh and enjoyable then it is important to choose the best travel packages.
2. In the Hajj time so many Muslims around the world planning to visit at the same time so they should choose package early.
3. Check if the agent is registered with the local regulatory body of the country concerned. In the case of Bangladesh, it is ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licensing).
4. Some agents include knowledgeable and experienced spiritual guide with groups. No matter how much information you have accumulated from books and lectures, you may still encounter situations related to hajj and ‘umrah rituals when you need an immediate answer. A knowledgeable guide is very helpful at that moment of time.
5. Having a female guide with the group is also helpful for sisters performing the pilgrimage. You may ask your agent whether there will be such a person with your group.
6. Most agents cost their hajj and ‘umrah packages from the main city of the country such as from Dhaka to Jeddah. If you live elsewhere and unless you make your own arrangement, make sure you ask your agent to include the cost of domestic air fare with the package.
7. Some agents take the pilgrim to Madinah first instead of Makkah. Time spent in immigration queue in Madina is usually less. You may consider this before booking your package whether you want to go Makkah or Madina first?
8. Ask the agent about the location of the tent in Mina. If you know beforehand how long it will take to go to Jamarat from your tent, you can take some mental preparation.
9. Some agents provide free Saudi SIM cards with their packages. This could be a time saver; otherwise, you may have to wait in a long queue to get a SIM card while in Saudi Arabia.
10. You may check any testimonials of your agent – what other people said about them. This may a good indicator for selecting an agent.
Finally, despite all preparation and planning that you have done, still be prepared not to get what you have paid for or you have been promised. Many things can happen that totally outside the control of an agent. So try to see such situation from both sides.