Many private drivers shuttling pilgrims between Jeddah and Makkah ahead of haj are charging prices that are 10 to 20 times higher than the fares they charge on regular days, especially for illegal expats and permitless pilgrims who risk traveling to Makkah ahead of time to avoid inspections.
Salem Al-Beishi, a driver with a four-wheel jeep, said he has taken a month’s leave from his regular job during the Haj season for years since he makes huge profits. Al-Beishi said transport prices soar thanks to high demand and tighter restrictions.
“I charge SR50 to SR200 to take pilgrims between Makkah and Jeddah, but this price might increase as we approach the day of Arafat,” said Abdullah Al-Zahrani from Al-Baha.
Drivers determine prices after enquiring about where travelers are staying in Makkah and whether or not they are residents.
“Passengers with residency visas issued from Makkah pay the lowest prices, while anyone from outside of Makkah will pay SR50, SR70 or SR100 extra if they don’t have a visa,” he said.
Al-Zahrani said drivers often take mountainous routes to avoid inspections, which could take three times as long as traveling on ordinary roads.
Saleh Yamani, a Yemeni worker in his 30s, said he wanted to enter Makkah before Haj to find a job opportunity ahead of Arafat.
He said he made a deal with a driver to pay SR100 extra because his residency visa had expired and he had not had it renewed. Imad Mohyi Al-Din, an Egyptian who works as a sales rep at a private sector company, said he has to allow a bigger budget for transportation between Makkah and Jeddah because drivers have hiked prices.
“This happens every year since there are no price control mechanisms to determine how much drivers should charge,” he said. ARAB NEWS