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Can you visit Mecca in Saudi Arabia as a tourist?
iVisa
5 min read
Updated on May 14, 2024

Mecca, also known as Makkah, located in western Saudi Arabia, is the holiest city in Islam​.

More than three million Muslims visit this city during the month of Dhul-Hijjah every year for the Hajj pilgrimage, and many others also make smaller pilgrimages or perform Umrah during other times of the year.

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While Mecca is open to tourists, it's important to know that it's limited to Muslim travelers only, and there are other rules and restrictions you must know about before you go. Let's dive in.

Can I travel to Mecca as a tourist?

The simple answer is no, unless you're Muslim.

Non-Muslims are strictly prohibited from entering the holy city of Mecca and certain parts of Medina. Signs indicating these boundaries are clearly signposted, and it's crucial to respect these restrictions.

Rules and restrictions for visiting Mecca as a Muslim tourist

Embarking on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the heart of the Islamic world, is a profoundly spiritual journey that every Muslim aspires to undertake at least once in their lifetime.

Here are the essential rules and restrictions for visiting Mecca as a Muslim tourist, ensuring your spiritual journey is both fulfilling and in complete harmony with the sacred regulations of this holy city:

  • Pilgrimage eligibility: The pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj, is obligatory for all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey. Additionally, the Umrah, a smaller pilgrimage, can be performed at any time of the year but is not obligatory.

  • Visa requirements: Pilgrims must obtain a specific visa for Hajj or Umrah from Saudi Arabian embassies or consulates. These visas are issued by Islamic lunar months, with Hajj visas available only during particular periods. Our platform simplifies this process, offering updated information and assistance with your visa application.

  • Respect for local customs and dress code: Visitors to Mecca are expected to adhere to Islamic principles of conduct and dress modestly. For men, this includes wearing the Ihram during the Hajj, while women should wear clothes that cover the body appropriately and avoid perfume and makeup during the rituals.

  • Health requirements: Pilgrims must meet certain health criteria to protect themselves and others during their journey. This includes vaccinations, particularly for meningitis, and the Saudi government may require COVID-19 vaccinations. Check the latest info on the government website.

  • Environmental awareness: The Saudi authorities encourage pilgrims to maintain cleanliness and environmental awareness throughout their journey. Littering or damaging the natural and urban environment of the sacred sites is strictly prohibited.

  • Safety and security: Given the large crowds, especially during Hajj, it's essential to follow all safety guidelines provided by the authorities. This includes staying with your group, following the designated ritual routes, and securing personal belongings.

  • Women: Women can register for Hajj without a male guardian if they go in a group with other women.

  • Photographs: You are not allowed to take photos (still or video, even with your phone) at the Holy Mosque in Mecca or the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. If you break this rule, your device may be taken away.

There may be other rules that you must adhere to, so make sure to stay updated and informed throughout the process of traveling to Mecca.

How does the Saudi government check if you're Muslim to visit Mecca?

Saudi Arabia's government restricts entry to Mecca to Muslims only. Proof of your religious beliefs will be checked upon entry, and anyone not showing proof of being Muslim will be denied access.

This check can include:

  • You may be asked to present documentation from an imam (Muslim religious leader)
  • You may be asked to submit your documentation from your imam upon booking your trip (especially important if you're a converted Muslim traveler)
  • You may be asked to say the Shahada and be asked about your knowledge of Islam
  • Some countries offer ID cards that include the holder's religion, which is accepted as proof

What happens when non-Muslims try to enter Mecca?

While it's not only incredibly disrespectful, it's also not a good idea as you're trespassing and breaking Saudi Arabian laws.

The penalty for non-Muslims attempting to enter is deportation from the country and a possible fine​​. This rule applies whether you're trying to enter the city by plane, car, bus, or train​​.

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Do you need a visa to visit Mecca in Saudi Arabia?

The visa requirements depend on your nationality, even if you can proof you're Muslim. The various visas include:

  • Saudi Arabia Tourist eVisa: This electronic visa allows Muslim travelers from certain nationalities to visit the country for their Umrah pilgrimage. However, some restrictions apply, such as being unable to take holy water home.

  • Saudi Arabia Tourist Visa (paper visa): If you're not eligible for the eVisa, you must apply for a traditional Tourist Visa from the nearest Saudi Embassy or Consulate.

  • Saudi Arabia Umrah Visa: This is a special visa for Umrah pilgrims. While it involves more required documents, you have more freedom within the Umrah privileges.

  • Saudi Arabia Hajj Visa: This is a special visa for Hajj pilgrims. A trip and accompanying visa must be booked through a government-approved travel agency.

Hajj visas are assigned to countries on a quota basis according to the number of Muslims that live there. In recent years, additional restrictions have been placed on those who have previously been to Mecca to avoid overcrowding.

  • [Saudi Arabia Electronic Visa Waiver]: At the time of writing, this visa waiver was only available to travelers from the United Kingdom, and allows Muslims to perform Umrah.

More questions about traveling to Mecca in Saudi Arabia?

If you want to learn more about the Saudi Arabia visas or have questions about the application process, we’re here to help. Our dedicated online team of customer service agents is available via online chat to assist with any questions, or you can contact us on WhatsApp.

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