June 01, 2017 Abu Muneer Ismail Davids

Your transport for Hajj is paid for by the one draft cheque you had to give at the airport upon arrival. You will receive a bus coupon book. It is stapled inside your passport and you don’t need to worry about it as it is all managed by the authorities.

So you do not have to worry about finding a bus or taxi as these are arranged for you by the Hajj ministry and your group leader and agent have no control over the time and quality of the bus. 

If for some reason you need to find transport to go somewhere, like looking for a lost bag, then you can use the SAPTCO public bus service or taxis.

The yellow coloured taxis are referred to as taxis, whereas the white coloured taxis are referred to as limousines. Their prices may vary somewhat, with the yellow taxis being marginally cheaper, as they are not always air-conditioned. The condition of the yellow taxis leaves a lot to be desired, let alone the way they drive. If you are a nervous passenger, never sit in front in the taxi.

Distances between places:      

Jeddah to Makkah = 72km/45miles

Jeddah to Madinah = 424km/264miles

Makkah to Madinah = 447km/278miles

Makkah (Haram) to Mina = 8km/5miles

Makkah to Arafat = 22km/14miles

Arafat to Muzdalifah = 9km/6miles

Muzdalifah to Mina = 6km/4miles

The distances given are approximate distances from Muzdalifah to the jamr'at, and from Mina to the Haram. The boundaries of Mina and Makkah are right next to each other.

The actual layout is as follows: 

Makkah Þ Mina Þ Valley of Muhassir Þ Muzdalifah Þ Vally of Uranah Þ Arafat

According to Saudi law, one must have a valid Saudi driver's licence to drive in Saudi Arabia. It is therefore not advisable to even chance it as you will be breaking the law, although there are many car rental places around that will rent you a car. You may “get away” with an international driver's licence for a short time.

If you plan to drive, keep in mind that driving is on the right side of the road and not on the left as in the United Kingdom and some other places.

During Hajj your agent/group normally arranges your transport for you (except on the 10th of Dhul-Hijja, when you need to go from Mina to Makkah to perform Tawaaf-al-Ifadah).  All packages include transport, as it is the government assigned buses. Some packages have private buses, and this may cost you extra. The agent or the Hajj office may hold on to all the coupons for you.

You can get a refund for all unused coupons. This can be done at the airport upon your departure. There is normally a desk outside the Hajj office where you need to complete some forms and in turn collect your money from the bank at the airport. You have to do it in person, as it requires your signature.

Various bus systems have been tried to expedite the flow of traffic. The most recent being a rotation of the same buses; meaning that instead of sending two buses to take 100 people to Arafat, one bus will make two trips. This means longer waiting time, but less time in traffic.

Most taxis do not “go by the meter”. You have to negotiate the price. So before you venture off, get an idea from somebody about the approximate distances and cost. These prices are negotiable with the driver. However, at the airports the taxis are more controlled and they have fixed prices, and you may have to pay first.

If you need an English-speaking driver, you have a better chance with the limousines (white taxis). The Saudi government has introduced a law that will 'force' all taxi companies to ensure that all drivers to be Saudi only. So, you may be stuck with a non-English speaking driver who does not know where he is going and you can't explain where to go. Whatever you do, don't pay upfront.

You can get a taxi for as low as SR10 per person from Makkah to Jeddah. The bus costs about SR10-15. Then again, if you take a limousine from Makkah to Jeddah by yourself, it could cost you as much as SR150 and up to SR250 during peak time. A taxi from Jeddah to Madinah could cost you from about 50 to SR400, depending on the type of car and the number of passengers. As you can see there is a big variation, so be careful!

If you are a small group of six to eight people, you can also hire a big car (GMC), referred to as a "Jimms". The prices vary a great deal, so you need to do some skilful negotiating with the driver.

Be prepared for a big hike in taxi charges during the busy periods of Hajj. A trip that normally costs about SR10 may now cost you as much as 30 to SR50. An individual once paid SR200 for a trip that normally cost SR10. He was desperate and the driver knew that. During Hajj, there may be times when you will be that desperate.

If you are travelling by taxi from one place to another during Hajj, agree on the price up-front and do not pay the driver until he has reached the agreed destination. If the driver insists on being paid first, then get another taxi. If you pay first, chances are you could get dropped at the first traffic jam.