Transportation - Get In
Unless you're a national of Saudi Arabia or neighbouring GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates), everyone requires visa to enter Saudi Arabia. The diplomatic missions of Saudi Arabia issue special visas for those making the pilgrimage to Mecca, either Hajj or Umrah. Most pilgrims opt to use a specialist travel agency, which will handle the considerable paperwork for them. As usual in Saudi Arabia, women must travel together with a male guardian (Mahram), unless they are over 45, travelling with a group and have their guardian's signed consent.
Hajj visas are allocated on a quota system, based on the number of Muslims in a country. In some cases, those who have previously done Hajj have had additional restrictions placed on their next Hajj, in an effort to discourage overcrowding while still accommodating those who have not yet made the pilgrimage. Umrah visas can be obtained at any time of the year except during the Hajj season. If the applicant is not a national of a Muslim-majority country or was not born a Muslim, s/he must present a certificate notarized by an Islamic center testifying that s/he is a Muslim. Usually, your mosque will be able to arrange this or at least point the way.
King Abdulaziz International Airport , in Jeddah is the gateway to Mecca. All regional airliners serve the airport throughout the year. The same airport can be used when coming for Umrah.
The Hajj Terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport is used only during the Hajj season, and is served mostly by charter flights arranged by regional commercial airliners, although there are some scheduled services as well.
Another option is Ta’if Regional Airport in Taif which can also be used to get into Mecca; however only a few airlines operate here, particularly those of neighboring Gulf countries.
There is an excellent modern multi-lane highway from Jeddah named Highway # 40. The distance is around 100km and the journey takes an hour. During the Hajj pilgrimage season it is jammed with buses full of pilgrims. At any other time, traffic is extremely light for the size of the road.
A few miles outside of Mecca, there is a cutoff referred to as the "Christian bypass". Turn along this highway to drive another 50 miles out of the way to reach the lovely mountain town of Taif. Taif, at 5000 feet elevation, was the former summer palace of the Saudi Kings. If you remain on the main highway, there is a police checkpoint just after the exit, where non-Muslims are kept out of the holy city.
Taxis can be hailed anywhere in Jeddah for Mecca around SR250 during normal season or about SR 350 during Hajj and winters. At Jeddah Airport, you can also share a taxi with other pilgrims if you want to which would half the trip charges per person.
SAPTCO runs services to Mecca from throughout the country, although most pilgrims when coming for Umrah or Hajj, arrive on privately chartered buses or cars from Jeddah.
There are two terminals: the main terminal outside city limits is open to all, but the city center terminal at the Haram al Sharif, used mainly by buses to Jeddah, is restricted to Muslims only. One way trip cost SR15 and trip takes 1 hour. Buses leave throughout the day after interval time of 1-2 hours starting from early in the morning at 6 until midnight at 12.
Transportation - Get Around
Local buses, taxis, and micro-buses are widely available in Mecca and are inexpensive. The 18 km (11 mi) Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro opened in November 2010. A total of 5 metro lines are planned to carry pilgrims to the religious sites.