Archive for May, 2019

Points to remember when making payment | Hajj Advice

Important things to consider when making payments for your Hajj Package

It’s great that you have decided to go for Hajj and you now want to confirm and pay for your package. Before you make the payment for your Hajj Package, you need to remember the following important points in-order to protect your payments (as Hajj is no longer cheap and you are paying substantial money):

Ensure that payment is made through a cheque / pay order / online transfer

When making payments for your hajj package, it is always advisable to pay through the above-mentioned commonly used methods. This will ensure that you have a paper trail and proof of payment to the Hajj Group Organizer. Any other method that provides a paper trail (like paying through mobile wallets) can also work. But it is imperative that you can trace your transactions.

Make the payments only in favour of the Hajj Group Organizer

It is extremely important to remember that the account title (on your cheque, pay order etc) / account name (if making online transfer / digital wallet transfers) is of the Hajj Group Organizer that you will be traveling with,

For Hajj, never make payments in favour of any other company or individual! This point can not be stressed enough.

We at Ibadat.pk will always tell you the name of the verified Hajj Group Organizer that you are being booked on. Furthermore, wewill never ask you for payment of Hajj Packages.

You should also verify that the Hajj Organizer is registered with the Ministry of religious Affairs.  All Hajj Packages listed on our website are by verified Hajj Group Organizers. However, for your own satisfaction you can follow the method of verification (as defined in our in-depth article on how to verify Hajj Operators) and do it your self as well before finalizing your bookings.

Ask for a receipt / invoice of your payment or deposit

Always ask for an invoice of the amount of money that is paid by you. Remember, there can be circumstances where, invoice may not be available. In these cases, always get a signed and stamped copy of the cheque you are giving, as a proof of payment. In cases of online transfer or pay orders, paper trail is very visible  so these methods are generally safer.

Understand package facilities that you have paid for and get them in writing before you depart

It is important to understand each and every facility that you have paid for as part of the Hajj Package e.g,

  • If you have selected a separate room for your family then you will be paying a higher price for it. Before departing have it in writing, that you paid for a separate room, so that there are no misunderstandings later.
  • If you have paid for a 5 star hotel (for eg Hilton Madinah), then it is essential that you get the same hotel or a similar hotel (i.e. a 5 star hotel). Please try and understand that, there are some times unavoidable circumstances when the same hotel (as mentioned in your hajj packages) might become unavailable at the very last minute even though rooms have been booked by your Hajj Group Organizer  (In Saudi Arabia –  such unavoidable circumstances should not come as a surprise as they are relatively frequent). In these case you should be offered a similar category hotel (that is another 5 star hotel).

Verify the published /listed hajj package price (in Saudi Riyal) is the same as the amount you are paying

When we say published price of the package, we mean the price mentioned in your hajj forms filled out by the Hajj Group Organizers.

You should also review prices as published in promotional material like brochure’s, flyers etc. It is very important to note that price in Saudi Riyal is what needs to be verified. Due to the recent economic crisis in Pakistan and the quickly depreciating Pakistan Rupee, many Hajj Group Organizers have released packages in Saudi Riyals. Even if they have not, you need to take into account the dramatic fluctuations.

Please remember,  prices in Saudi Riyal will stay the same throughout the booking period (of a particular season eg Hajj 2019). However, PKR prices may fluctuate due to our unstable currency.

Hence, always look for the published price in SAR.

Rate of Exchange at the time of payment is applicable

It is not necessary that a person makes the whole payment at once. Depending on the policies of the particular Hajj Group Organizers, many potential hujjaj make payments of their Hajj Packages at different times. How-ever it is important to note that, if the rate of exchange fluctuates in the time between when you make the initial deposit and the time when you make your subsequent deposits, then the new exchange rate will become applicable on the remaining amount that needs to be paid.

Hence it is advised that potential Hujjaj make complete payments as soon as possible, to protect them selves from the fluctuations.

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Hotel Experiences and Reviews

Experiences of Pakistani Religious Travelers

This Section provides in depth experiences of Pakistani Hujjaj, Umrah Zaireen and Religious Tour Operators of choosing a hotels for Haj and Umrah. Our aim is to provide tips and ticks along with advice regarding choosing a particular hotel.

Hence this is not just a review section. Keeping in line with our aim to be the ultimate guide for religious tourism, we will primarily be basing content using the experience and expert advice of Tour Operators and experiences of previous Hujjaj / Umrah Zaireen.

The hotels we cover in this section are the hotels offered by our Umrah tour operators and Hajj Group Organizers listed on our platform Ibadat.pk.

Impact of Hotel when choosing an Umrah Package

Even though hotels are not the only element of a Umrah Package,  hotel stay can have a considerable impact on your religious journey. This is why, when making a decision, it is good to know the nitty gritty’s of particular properties like potential waiting times for elevators etc besides just the hotel price and star rating.

Impact of Hotel when choosing Hajj Package

For Hajj packages, hotel property should play an even smaller part in the package selection decision making process as Hajj Packages are comprised of many other elements like Maktab Categroy, which should be given more weight-age.

We hope that by reading about hotels in Makkah and hotels in Madinah – you will be able to make a more informed decision.

Please remember us in your prayers.


Hotels in Makkah

Hotels in Madinah

 

 

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Exchange Rate Fluctuation | Hajj Package Prices

The impact of exchange rate on Hajj Package Price

Pakistani Rupee in a State of Free Fall:

Rupee’s tumble has begun. The value of the US dollar against the rupee touched another all-time high for the second consecutive day, reaching approximately Rs148 in the inter-bank market (as of 12:30 Pm – 16 May 2019).

Fears of further devaluation as a result of the agreement with the IMF have depressed the currency market and the rupee may lose more against the greenback in the coming days,” Secretary General of Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan Zafar Paracha as reported by Dawn.

Exchnage Rate Impact on Hajj Package Price

Falling Rupee increases Hajj Package Prices:

Approximately, 85% to 90 % of the payments Hujjaj make for their packages is sent to Saudi Arabia by the operators to make arrangement (like hotel bookings, Maktab payments, food and transport arrangements etc). Only a very small portion of these payments are used for arrangements in Pakistan as these arrangements are limited to Hajj Training Programs, give aways and salaries for Hajj teams traveling from the country.

Due to this Hajj Package price calculation is actually done in Saudi Riyal and then converted in Pakistani Rupees. Hence even a minor depreciation in Pakistani Rupee’s value results in a directly proportional increase in hajj package price.

On average every 1 Rs rise in Saudi Riyal value, will result in package price rising by Rs 15,000  to Rs 50,000 (depending on the Hajj Package)

Flash Backs from Hajj 2018

For many Hajj Group Organizers, the current scenario is very much a flash back from last year’s Hajj.

in 2018, Hajj Operators were stuck in exactly the same situation, as when they released their Package last year the exchange rate was: SAR 1 = PKR 29. However when the booking were being made, it had crept up to SAR 1 = PK34.

Previous trend in the market has been such that Hajj Packages were released in Pakistani Rupees for easy understanding and communication of the package details. However since the Pakistani Government does not provide any protection to businesses in terms of shielding from currency fluctuations like offer financial products like currency futures / swaps etc – Hajj Group Organizers suffered huge exchange rate losses due to this in 2018.

Keeping in mind last years situation,  most of the Hajj Organizers have released Hajj Package Prices for 2019 in Saudi Riyal.

How can potential Hujjaj protect them selves from depreciating Rupee

Hajj Package prices are pegged in Saudi Riyal (SAR) and the prices provided in SAR would not change during on going bookings. However as stated previously if Pak Rupee depreciates, the package price will automatically rise.

Hence if you have decided to go for Hajj in 2019, then the best way to protect yourself from fluctuations is by :

  1. paying your Hajj Group organizer for your package as soon as possible Or
  2. if you want to take time in deciding the right Hajj Group Organizer or the right hajj package, you should convert some of your savings to Saudi Riyal in-order to shield your self from depreciating PKR

 

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How to verify Private Hajj Group Organizers

Verifying Hajj Organizers

When selecting the right private hajj package and Hajj Operator for the journey of your lifetime – it is paramount to verify that the Hajj Operator has a quota and is allowed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs to take private hajj groups.

It has to be stress again that one needs to be very cautious when selecting Hajj Operators so as to not fall into the trap of the companies who offers Hajj packages at low prices as they might be bogus companies pretending to be Hajj Group Organizers. There have been many instances in the past when unverified companies pretending to be Hajj group organizers have taken money from potential Hujjaj and run away.

Here at Ibadat.pk, we have only put up packages of verified the Hajj Group Organizers and you should as well before booking.

Verification process: HP Number (most important element)

Verification is the essential first step in choosing the right hajj package as there is always confusion around the legitimacy of private hajj package providers in Pakistan.

You have to make sure that the tour operators are registered by Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA). You can confirm this by looking at their HP number.

HP Number (Registration Number): Registered Private Hajj Operator is a company that has been provided quota by MORA and is authorized to take private Hajj Groups to Saudi Arabia. Any company that is registered with MORA will be issued a HP Number. This is the most important number needed for verification of the operator.

Note that some companies might provide you with Hajj Enrollment or DTS number to justify that they have a Hajj Quota. It is important to note is that there is a difference between being enrolled at the ministry of religious affairs and being registered at MORA. Both enrollment and DTS numbers are insignificant for verification of the Hajj Organizer.

  • Enrollment number: any company that wants to apply for Hajj Quota gets enrolled by MORA. Basically, being enrolled signifies that the company is on the waiting list and enrollment number provides the number on that list. There are approximately 2500 companies enrolled with Ministry of Religious Affairs but they don’t have Hajj Quota. Don’t get fooled by a 5-digit enrollment number that’s not the registration number.
  • DTS Number: DTS is a license granted by Department of Tourist Services that allows companies to work in the field of travel and tourism. It gives the capability to travel agencies / companies to collect and process sensitive documents like passports etc. But DTS license does not signify that the company has been granted Hajj Quota.

How to verify ?

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pakistan has introduced a short message service (SMS) for helping the pilgrims to save themselves from fictitious Hajj group organizing companies (HGOs). As per an official of the ministry, an intending pilgrim who is willing to perform the holy ritual via the Hajj Group Organizers (HGO) should send the first four digits of HGO’s enrolment numbers from mobile phone to 8331 to check and verify the HGO’s authenticity. You will get all details regarding the Hajj Group Organizer – including address, quota, CEO name etc.

The recently launched sms service is a great in for the help of intending Haj pilgrims.

Business to Business Sales of Hajj Packages

Having said this it is important to note that you might come across companies that selling Hajj Packages of actual registered organizers. These companies might be a part of the affiliated network or business to business network of Hajj Group Organizer. Basically, companies that are not registered to take Hujjaj but are selling Hajj packages of the actual registered Hajj Organizers.

This is called B2B (Business to Business Sales). In this case you have to be careful and When the agent sells on behalf of Registered Hajj Group Organizer, it is important to confirm the following before moving forward with the booking:

  • Name of the Hajj Group Organizer whose packages are being sold
  • Meet the actual Hajj Group Organizer before finalizing the package
  • Payment should always be made in the name of the registered Hajj Group Organizer
  • It is important to verify the facilities being offered by the Hajj Group Organizer and confirm if there are no miss commitments being made by the B2B agent
  • Important to verify that the hajj package price being paid by you is the same as the listed price offered by the registered Hajj Group Organizer.
    • B2B agents are not authorized to charge more than the listed price
    • B2B agents are not allowed to collect payments on behalf of Hajj Group Organizers

Note About Ibadat

Please note – we at ibadat.pk will never ask you to pay us for your packages. We are here to just facilitate the Hujjaj in selecting the right hajj package and choosing only trust worthy hajj group organizers. We are a package comparison platform. Hence we will always send you to meet the registered Hajj Group Organizer and pay directly to the Hajj Group Organizer.

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Private Hajj Organizer

How to select the right Private Hajj Group Organizer!

Selecting the right Hajj Group Organizer (HGO) is one of the fundamentals tasks in the process of choosing the right private hajj packages.

If you do not choose the right Hajj Operator, then one of the most important journeys of your life time can turn out to be tough.

What is meant by the right Hajj organizer

By right Private Hajj Operator we mean, the team that

  • Provides the facilities you need in a package
  • Will be there for you when you have any issues / questions
  • Can understand what you are looking for
  • Will assist you at the time if your need
  • And most importantly, the team that you are absolutely comfortable with!

The last point is very important in terms of the fact that, you should meet the team and the management before booking packages. You need to judge for yourself if you can travel with them easily. Your aim at Hajj is to do ibadat and fulfill your religious obligation and leave the worrying to your group leaders!

Furthermore, you should also note that some Hajj Groups are predominantly composed of follower from a particular sect of Islam. Note – this does not mean that the organizers of the Hajj Group discriminate against other sects or do not allow other sects to travel with them but by the virtue of their team, management and travelling Mufti (religious scholar), they attract a particular sect. Hence if you are a Sunni and not comfortable in a group that is dominated by Shiate Muslims or vice versa, you should rethink before booking.

It is very important to mention here that by the grace of Allah, at Hajj, in most Pakistani private Hajj Groups you will find that all sects peacefully co-exist and intermingle hence it is generally not an issue! Hence unless you a particularly finicky about sectarian issues then you should not worry about this.

What to look for in a Private Hajj Group Organizer

  1. First and for-most it is very important that you verify that the Hajj Group Organizer / tour operator has hajj quota. This point can not be stressed enough and it is so important that we have written a separate article for the verification process. Please read it carefully: how to verify a Hajj Group Organizer.
  2. Make sure that the group/tour operator you select have ample knowledge and the right information of the upcoming journey. In case they don’t know about package/Hajj procedure, don't take risk and change your tour operators.
  3. You must visit their office and confirm that they have a proper office. This will also provide you an insight on how their services will be.
  4. You must verify their previous experience by looking at photos, testimonials and other details from of previous Hajj.

Note that our team at Ibadat.pk goes through the painstaking job of verifying and finding the right Hajj Operators before listing their Hajj packages on our platform. We will always ask you to go and meet the Hajj operators and pay them directly so that you can assess for your self if they are the right team for you. Provided below is the synopsis of how we select the Hajj Operators. You can follow this as well.

How we at Ibadat.pk Select Hajj Group Organizers

We look at the following details and would request you to do the same before confirming your hajj bookings.

  1. How trustworthy is the Hajj Group Organizer?
    • Market Reputation
    • Recommendation from industry peers
    • Verification of Hajj Quota
  2. How are the services?
    • Testimonials from previous Hujjaj
    • Recommendation of Pervious Hujjaj
    • Attitude towards helping Hujjaj
    • Eagerness of resolving complaints of hujjaj
  3. Years of Experience (2-5 years minimum)
    • Some companies have new quota that was recently received (1 / 2 years ago) but they are managed by Groups with considerable experience. Such companies are acceptable.

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