Can I visit Dubai? The latest travel advice as the red list hangs over holiday hopes

The Government has announced the traffic light system that will replace the UK’s current blanket

The Government has announced the traffic light system that will replace the UK’s current blanket travel ban, but holidays to Dubai look set to remain firmly in the red for the foreseeable future. 

Dubai’s borders have been open since July 2020. However, its quarantine-free status for UK travellers ended in January after the UAE was added to the UK’s “red list” of countries. Travellers returning from the UAE, including Dubai, are now subject to 10 days of hotel quarantine at a cost of up to £1,750.

According to Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, 16.73 million tourists visited the emirate in 2019. This dropped by 67 per cent to 5.51 million visitors in 2020 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

It may have garnered some unsavoury attention as a base for social media influencers in recent months, but there is no doubt that Dubai wants holidaymakers back – and soon, if its swift vaccination programme is anything to go by.

Here’s the latest advice for when we can travel there again.

Will I have to take a test on arrival?

Yes. The Foreign Office (FCDO) states that all tourists, visitors and residents travelling from or through the UK to Dubai must present evidence of a negative Covid-19 PCR swab test, taken no more than 72 hours before departure, at check in. 

All arrivals will have their temperature taken with thermal screening devices. You may be required to undertake a further PCR test when you arrive. The UK is not currently on the list of countries from which travellers must take a test on arrival, but things can change quickly. Those who do test positive on arrival will have to quarantine for at least 10 days at their own expense (unless their carrier is Emirates or FlyDubai – more on this below). Children under the age of 12 and passengers who have a moderate or severe disability do not have to take PCR tests. 

Visitors from the UK to Dubai are required to complete a Health Declaration Form and a Quarantine Form. All arrivals are required to download the COVID-19 DXB app for contact-tracing purposes.

Will I have to take a test on departure?

Yes. People departing Dubai airport need to show a negative test if the country they are travelling to requires it, and the UK does. PCR and (Rapid Antigen) tests are available at Dubai’s airport. Passengers to the UK are also required to complete a passenger locator form. Airlines can deny boarding if the passenger is showing symptoms of Covid-19.

Will I need to quarantine?

Not in Dubai, unless you test positive during an additional test at Dubai airport. If you do test positive, you will have to quarantine for 10 days in the place you are intending to stay or in a government-mandated facility. If you have booked to fly with Emirates and FlyDubai, coronavirus cover is included in the ticket prices, so quarantine expenses would be covered by the airline.

As it stands, you will also need to quarantine on return to the UK. The UAE is currently on the red list of countries. And since February 15,  people returning to the UK from Dubai (or anywhere in the UAE) are subject to a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel at a cost of up to £1,750 per person. Travellers must foot this bill, which includes the hotel, transport and Covid tests on day two and eight of quarantine. 

Are flights operating?

Emirates restarted one-way passenger flights from London Heathrow and Manchester to Dubai on February 2 for people with legal permission to travel. As the country has been red-listed by the UK, there are no direct flights coming in from Dubai.

How’s Dubai’s vaccination drive going?

Very well. The UAE has been vaccinating residents and citizens since December. It expects half of its population to have received a first dose by mid-March.

Will my insurance be valid if I go?

Standard travel insurance won’t be valid as travel to Dubai from the UK is banned. When restrictions lift, visitors must have international health insurance. Customers who have bought flights with Emirates or FlyDubai from December 1 will benefit from additional multi-risk travel insurance provided by AIG Travel. This includes cover for Covid-19 and overseas medical expenses. Passports need to be valid for six months.

Face masks and other social distancing measures

The two-metre social distancing rule is compulsory and you must wear a mask at all times when outside your hotel room or private accommodation, except while you are exercising, eating, drinking or are in a car with someone in your group. Children under the age of six, those over 60, people with cognitive, intellectual or sensory disorders that hamper their ability to breathe or communicate and people who require supplemental oxygen or have severe respiratory conditions are exempt. There’s a AED3,000 (£650) fine if you’re caught flouting the rules. 

For more information visit the Foreign Office website.