Recommended vaccinations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all travellers to Saudi Arabia:
Recommended vaccinations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for some travellers to Saudi Arabia:
Other diseases to consider while travelling to Saudi Arabia:
If you are looking for vaccination information for Hajj and Umrah, please head over to this page.
Saudi Arabia might be a challenging country for tourists to get to, but once there, it’s full of treasures waiting to be discovered. Famous for its oil wealth, rich Islamic culture, and stunning natural features, this Arabian destination holds much more than it’s often given credit for.
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and contains the cities of Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites of Muslim pilgrimage.
Saudi is a land of contrasts, from the undulating beauty of the Empty Quarter, the largest expanse of continuous desert in the world, to the glittering mega-malls of Jeddah, Dammam, and capital Riyadh. Cultural attractions include Jubba’s ancient, pre-Islamic rock art, the abandoned city of Madain Saleh, a Red Sea coast where resorts and diving locations are springing up, and the mountainous city of Taif, which was historically used as the Saudi royal family’s summer capital. An enormous, annual camel festival is a fascinating insight into the animal’s importance to Saudi history and culture. Saudis love to shop, and there is no dearth of shopping opportunities here, whether it’s the glitzy brands favoured by the nation’s elite, or sprawling souks overflowing with spices, incense and rich textiles.
While both public and private hospitals in Saudi Arabia are suitably modern and can provide you with the care that you need if you fall ill, quality of care may vary depending on the healthcare institution that you visit. Moreover, the price of healthcare in the country is steep and you may find yourself racking up thousands of dollars in bills if you seek treatment or are admitted to a hospital.
It is recommended therefore, that you get vaccinated against all vaccine-preventable illnesses that you may be at risk of before embarking on Hajj or Umrah. This will not only save you steep healthcare costs, it will also allow you to have a fulfilling pilgrimage that is uninterrupted by illness.
Outbreak of MERS
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS is a viral respiratory disease that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The disease has been reported in human beings as well as camels and is likely to have originated from animals.
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent MERS, so Saudi Arabia recommends that those above 65 years, those with chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, those with immune deficiency, malignancy and terminal illnesses, pregnant women and children below 12 years postpone the performance of the Hajj and Umrah for their own safety.
Since MERS is believed to be contracted upon contact with Arabian camels or dromedaries, contact with these camels should be avoided and any raw camel products such as camel milk must also not be consumed. Consumption of any type of raw milk or food that may be contaminated with animal secretions should also be avoided. Upon visiting farms, barns or markets where animals are housed or raw meat or animal products are being sold, make sure that you wash your hands with soap and water or disinfect them with alcohol gel.
The Saudi Ministry of Health also advises all pilgrims to comply with common public health guidelines to curb the spread of respiratory infectious disease. The guidelines are as follows:
- Wash hands with soap and water or sanitize with alcohol gel or disinfectant, especially after coughing and sneezing
- Use disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and dispose of them in a waste basket
- Try to avoid hand contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid direct contact with infected persons (people with symptoms such as cough, sneezing, expectoration, vomiting, and diarrhoea) and do not share any personal items with them
- Wear masks, especially in crowded places
- Maintain good personal hygiene
Dengue fever, a disease which is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, is endemic to the city of Mecca. The several million pilgrims who head to Mecca for Hajj or Umrah are therefore susceptible to contracting the infection if they get bitten by even a single infected mosquito.
Pilgrims are encouraged to take measures to prevent or avoid mosquito bites, especially when after dusk or before dawn, when they are journeying on foot outdoors or sleeping in tents. Below are some of the measures one can take to avoid getting bitten:
- Apply mosquito repellent that contains DEET on all exposed parts of your skin, especially if you are venturing outdoors after dusk and before dawn
- If possible, sleep in rooms which are air-conditioned or where windows and doors are protected with gauze that prevents the entry of mosquitos
- Cover your bed or sleeping area with a mosquito net, especially if you are sleeping outdoors
- Apply permethrin to any mosquito nets that you are using and treat your clothes with permethrin
- Wear loose long-sleeved shirts and long pants, especially when you venture outdoors after dusk and before dawn
All pilgrims are recommended to be updated on their routine immunisations before entering Saudi Arabia. These immunisations include Measles, Mumps and Rubella, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis, Hepatitis B and any others that may be included in their country’s immunisation schedule.
Being updated on these immunisations will keep pilgrims from contracting any vaccine-preventable diseases and drastically reduce the probability of any outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases within the pool of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims in Mecca.
If you are not sure which routine immunisations you have received, visit your GP or travel health professional to ensure that you are protected before you embark on your pilgrimage.
Note that in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, left-hand driving is practiced, unlike in Singapore. This means that pilgrims must be extremely vigilant while driving or crossing roads, as they may not look out for oncoming traffic on their left-hand side. Additionally, traffic is often heavy, especially during peak periods. Vigilance, the practice of road safety and safe driving are therefore key to remaining safe during your time in the country.
The temperatures in Saudi Arabia can skyrocket, especially during the summer period. While the average temperature the city of Mecca, during the time of the Hajj pilgrimage this year, is 42°C, temperatures can rise higher than 45 °C. Heat illnesses, such as heat stroke, are among the leading causes of morbidity during Hajj. Pilgrims should aim to stay hydrated during their time in the country, especially when they are performing the Hajj and Umrah, where they may be required to physically exert themselves. They should also wear loose clothing that is permitted for the pilgrimage and seek refuge from the heat of the sun when they can.
Young children and the elderly should be monitored constantly for any signs of heat illness and if any such symptoms do present themselves, they should be provided with medical attention immediately. Heat illness can prove to be fatal if left untreated.
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.