Many reputable Hajj & Umrah tour operators have indicated that they are likely to avoid Umrah during Ramadan due to the complexities of the 15 day visa. This may create a vacuum for unscrupulous activity.
Below is a list of things to check when booking a pilgrimage package.
Many licenced tour operators will have sold out their Ramadan Umrah packages by April and as early as June/July for Hajj, we want to make sure that you make the right decisions when booking a Hajj Package and select a reputable tour operator.
Here is a list of things you can do to ensure you select the right tour operator and to avoid any issues:
1. Book with a Tour Operator who holds an ATOL. Air Travel Organisers Licence (ATOL). An ATOL ensures that your prepayments are protected and also provides for getting you back home if necessary in the event of the operator going bust. Check the Status of the tour operators ATOL at www.caa.co.uk or call 020 7453 6424.
2. Demand an ATOL Certificate. From October 2012, when you book an ATOL protected holiday, you should be given an ATOL Certificate by your travel company as soon as you pay over any money for the holiday – even if this is only a deposit.
3. Check that your travel agent/tour operator is accredited by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and deal directly with them. Those who are listed with the Ministry of Hajj have the allocated quotas and means to obtain the Hajj visa.
4. Visit the Tour Operator at their offices. Ask neighbouring shops to see how long they have been operating. If the tour operator has propped up over the last few weeks, the chances are that they may be in it for a quick profit, in which exercise caution. Reputable business will have been operating for many years and will have ATOL, IATA and MoH licences.
5. Check Companies House to see how long the business has been operating.
6. Website are cheap and easy to setup, do not rely on them. Always check the above accreditation and licences and visit the operator at their offices.
7. Get everything in writing and ask for and read the terms and conditions of the trip.
8. Make payments by a Credit Card – this will ensure a paper trail and protect any payments in the event of non-delivery of products or services. Make part payment and balance on receiving all the necessary travel documentations (Passport, Visa, Airline tickets, Hotel Vouchers etc).
9. Talk to your friends and relatives who may have knowledge or used the services of different tour operators and ask them for their recommendations.
10. If there is an issue try to resolve this with the tour operator in the first instance, if this fails contact your local trading standards. If there is an issue whilst in Saudi Arabia then you can contact the Ministry of Hajj who have offices located in and around Makkah and in Jeddah (see below).
11. DO NOT be swayed by last minute deals. If they look too good to be true they usually are.