Why contact a Hajj Service Provider?:
Because you can't perform Hajj without them. In order to provide for pilgrims' safety, the Saudi government has policies to control pilgrim arrivals. Pilgrims are required to register and travel with an agent from their home country, who will work with local authorities to meet their needs for transportation, food, sleeping quarters, spiritual guidance, etc. during the pilgrimage. Contact the agency corresponding to your region of the world; you can't get a Hajj visa any other way.
Licensed Agents vs. Sub-Agents:
According to the Ministry of Hajj, there are two types of agents: authorized licensed agents, and sub-agents. Authorized licensed agents hold their own permits from the Saudi government authorities and are directly accountable to them. Sub-agents merely get groups of pilgrims together and submit the paperwork through one of the licensed agents. The Ministry of Hajj recommends that pilgrims choose a fully authorized agent, so that recourse is available if there are any problems.
Worldwide Lists of Hajj Travel Agencies:
Muslims interested in travelling for Hajj should contact their local Saudi embassy. The Ministry of Hajj provides current travel agent listings for over 50 individual countries, including the United States. These lists are not expected to change drastically over the next three years, as the Ministry has issued a ban on the approval of any new agencies until 2010. These agency listings are maintained by the Ministry of Hajj, which will suspend or remove any agencies that do not meet performance standards.
Sometimes the best way to decide on a travel agent is to get recommendations from others. These websites offer a forum for people to share information about their Hajj experiences, both good and bad.
What To Look For:
How can you tell if a certain travel agency will provide what they promise? What sort of questions should you ask prior to your booking? HajjBuddy has a list of top 10 questions to ask a potential Hajj agency.