Dubai travel: Am I allowed to visit, are hotels and restaurants open and what rules are in place?

Joanna Whitehead and Qin Xie
·5-min read
The towering Burj Al Arab hotel, overlooking Dubai marina (istock)
The towering Burj Al Arab hotel, overlooking Dubai marina (istock)

With year-round sunshine and just a few days of annual rainfall, it’s no wonder Dubai is such a hit with British holidaymakers – 1.2 million Brits visited in 2019.

Now that Dubai has started issuing tourist visas again, leisure visitors can finally return to the Emirate.

And with the UAE being added to the UK government’s travel corridors list, there’s no longer a requirement to self-isolate on your return.

Here’s all the information you need to know.

Am I allowed to travel to Dubai from the UK?

The Foreign Office (FCDO) issued a blanket warning against all non-essential international travel in March, but this was lifted for a number of destinations on 4 July.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has now been added to the exemption list while Dubai has been accepting international tourists since 7 July.

How could I get there?

British Airways and Emirates are currently the only airlines operating direct flights from the UK to Dubai.

The Independent found direct return flights from the UK with British Airways, for travelling in November, from just under £350.

However, you can find cheaper options by adding a stop over. Gulf Air offers return flights from £290, for example, with a stop in Bahrain, which has also just been added to the UK’s travel corridors list, meaning you won’t have to quarantine on return if you transit there.

Alternatively, package holiday deals are available. Virgin Holidays is offering a package holiday departing London Heathrow on 7 December, flying direct to Dubai and staying at the Hilton Dubai Creek for seven nights, from £729pp B&B including transfers.

Will they let me in when I arrive?

Different Emirates in the UAE have different entry requirements.

Visitors to Dubai will be required to complete a Health Declaration Form and a Quarantine Form, which must be printed, completed and handed to Dubai Health Authority staff upon arrival. Visitors will also have to download and register their details on the Covid-19 DXB App.

In addition, visitors must have international health insurance before travelling and must show that they have had a negative PCR Covid-19 test taken a maximum of 96 hours before their arrival. It must be a PCR swab test and other tests, including antibodies test, are not accepted.

Additional testing may be required at Dubai airport and those who test positive in Dubai will be required to self-isolate in a government-mandated facility on their own expense.

All visitors to Dubai must adhere to public health measures issued by the Dubai authorities, including any requirements to quarantine.

Your passport should also be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into the UAE.

Further details of the restrictions can be found here.

Will I have to quarantine when I arrive?

If you test positive for Covid-19, yes. Guidance from the Dubai government states that it is mandatory for tourists who test positive to register their details on the Covid-19 DXB app and isolate themselves “at an institutional facility provided by the government for 14 days at their own expense”.

Dubai’s national carriers, Emirates and FlyDubai, both include coronavirus cover as part of the ticket prices. In this case, your quarantine expenses will be covered by the airline.

Otherwise no.

Will I have to quarantine when I come home?

The UAE is on the UK’s travel corridors list as of 4am on Saturday 14 November. It means you won’t have to self-isolate after returning from Dubai after that.

Can I travel within the United Arab Emirates?

Yes, but there are additional restrictions in place.

Abu Dhabi, for example, is requiring all visitors to quarantine for 14 days on arrival. They also need to show a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of arrival if travelling by road. Tourist visas on arrival are currently not being issued at the Abu Dhabi airport. If you’re leaving Abu Dhabi for the UK or the EU, you also need to take a PCR test within 96 hours before your departure.

Sharjah is requiring those wishing to enter the emirate to provide negative results of a Covid-19 test taken within 96 hours of arrival. They must then take another test once in Sharjah and self-isolate until their tests come back negative. All visitors must have adequate health insurance to cover adequate tests and if they test positive on arrival, they will need to quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.

Are hotels open?

Dubai skyline by nightistock
Dubai skyline by nightistock

Yes, hotels opened in Dubai in May with social distancing regulations in place, such as socially distanced sunbeds.

Are restaurants, shops and attractions open?

Most shops, restaurants and attractions have now reopened. Major shopping malls, such as the Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and the Dubai Outlet Mall reopened in April.

Public and private hotel beaches, major parks, cinemas, museums and top attractions such as Atlantis Aquaventure and The Green Planet are all open.

If you’re travelling for an event, the FCDO has advised that you should check with the organisers whether it’s still happening – some events have restarted, however.

What rules are in place?

Face masks are mandatory everywhere outside your hotel room, even on the beach. Failure to wear a face mask carries a AED3,000 (£650) fine, with the same amount applicable for anyone not adhering to social distancing guidelines of two metres. Non-compliance runs the risk of being “named and shamed” with mug shots posted in local media.

There may also be temperature checks in place.

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