Traveling in Haramain High Speed Train to Makkah and Madinah? What to Expect? (Part 2)

In this story, we will continue to share our experience related to the Haramain High-Speed train services.

General Terms and Conditions / Guidelines

The HHR website provides very detailed guidelines on Do’s and Don’ts. We recommend that all passengers read this rather than finding out later and being disappointed.

https://sar.hhr.sa/web/portal/travel/guidelines/general-terms#

Trolley and Helper

Caution! At the train station, you will find the helpers along with the trolley. In Makkah and Madinah train stations, these services come with a fee. If you want to have a trolley and push yourself, you must pay 5SAR per trolley. If you want a trolley with a helper, you must pay 17SAR per trolley. These are official fees that you pay to the Ground Handling company. We noticed that the trolleys are kept inside the train station. We found helpers demanding money from 20SAR to 50SAR outside the official fees. One of the helpers had an argument when we paid him less.

Everyone is different, and so are their pockets. With rising prices, saving money to reach there is a big deal. The whole trip seems like people want to make money from taxi drivers, helpers, train tickets, local food, pharmacy shops, grocery markets, etc. It is very sad that it felt like we lost the soul and respect for the pilgrims. Everyone is operating a business and looking for maximum profit and pilgrims no longer matter.

Waiting Area

Heading up the mountain! The train station has a somewhat unusual setup. After passing through the check-in gate, where you scan the QR code, passengers are sent to the 1st floor. This floor is where passengers wait until their boarding begins. When boarding opens, passengers must take the same elevator or escalator to come down (back to where they started) to head towards the train platform. If you are traveling with family, including senior citizens and children, along with baggage, this can become overly burdensome, involving too much walking, going up and down, and leading to fatigue.

At one instance, when we arrived in Madinah after completing our train journey, we encountered a huge line of people waiting to use the restroom. We heard complaints about there being only one small bathroom available for the entire setup. Nonetheless, we spent another 20 minutes in line to use the facility.

Boarding Announcement

Great! The announcement system is very nice. Announcements are made when boarding opens for a specific train number. Boarding usually opens 30 minutes before departure. If you are traveling with kids and senior citizens, give yourselves enough time to go up to the first floor and back down to the train platform. If you have hired a helper with a trolley, make sure they stay around and don’t disappear.

Just sharing our experience, where we hired a helper with a trolley. We arrived early at the train station, so he had us wait until boarding began. However, the helper disappeared when boarding was called. Ten minutes passed, and he still hadn’t shown up. I went to the official desk, where I had paid the money, asking for another helper, and all of a sudden, he came running. We were then stopped at the gate for baggage inspection. They had us go back and forth from the security gate to the baggage check facility. There was no empathy shown towards senior citizens either. We were about to miss our train. We had to make the senior citizens hurry to catch the train.

First Train, then Taxi

Inconvenient and Expensive! The Makkah and Madinah Haramain High-Speed train stations are 15–20 minutes from the mosque (haram). Once pilgrims complete their train journey, they have to take a taxi. We encountered various people there vying for business. Some are official taxis, while others are locals from Saudi Arabia. We found them asking fares between 60SAR to 200SAR.

In my case, we spent 100 SAR on a taxi from our Makkah hotel to the Makkah train station. Then, it was 172 SAR per passenger for the train ticket from Makkah to Madinah. Then 150 SAR on a taxi from the Madinah train station to our hotel in Madinah. I believe we spent more money and time to experience this train journey with the family, including senior citizens and kids. Going through the baggage sizing and handling process was another hurdle and inconvenience.

We loved the fact that the new Jeddah International Airport terminal is connected to the Haramain High-Speed Train Station. This makes the pilgrim’s journey more convenient and easy.

Convenient or Inconvenient?

Blank! (You Decide it). Undoubtedly, the technology used is world-class infrastructure, and more importantly, it works. However, there are some significant drawbacks, such as expensive train fares, peculiar restrictions on baggage size, high taxi fares to get to the train station, waiting areas on the first floor, untrained helpers, gate agents, and more. An ordinary person still cannot afford this experience and convenience.

After taking multiple trips and facing numerous difficulties, I decided to cancel my remaining trips on the High-Speed train and opted for a private car to the airport. It cost me less money and about the same amount of time to reach my destination (considering that you have to arrive early at the train station and go through all the hops), no stress of pushing baggage and getting stopped at the check-in gate, paying for a trolley, helpers, taxi, etc. With a private car or bus, you just sit back, relax, and reach your destination without any arguments.

Expensive?

Expensive! In my opinion, the whole experience is very expensive. The economy train ticket was about 178 SAR per person, easily adding up to 712 SAR for 4 people. Then, you must spend on taxi fares both ways (about 100 SAR each). Trolley, helper, and baggage fees are separate. There was also a lot of inconvenience associated with the whole experience.

Conclusion

World-class infrastructure needs much work to make things affordable, convenient, and a great experience.

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Aakif Shaikh, CISSP, CEH, CHFI, CISA, GWAPT

Over 18 years of experience in a wide variety of technical domains within information security including information assurance, compliance, and risk management.