Dubai and Abu Dhabi are open for travelers. Should you go?
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How did a small sovereign state in the Arabian Desert become one of the world’s most aspirational vacation destinations? One way is by claiming over a hundred Guinness World Records. Among the records: One for the tallest building, the world’s largest indoor shopping mall, the biggest aquarium, the largest automated water fountain and the biggest indoor ski park.
Just for good measure, United Arab Emirates also boasts the world’s only seven-star hotel: The Burj Al Arab in Dubai. It’s also home to the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 and the Grand Mosque, amongst hundreds of other incredible sights. Oh and two of the three opulent Middle East carriers call the country home.
The UAE is a land of record-setting experiences.
Each year, more than 21 million travelers visit the seven emirates comprising the UAE. Dubai, the most populous and developed of the seven, singlehandedly accounts for more than 16 million of those visitors. In 2020, however, those numbers have dropped drastically after the UAE suspended most commercial passenger flights back in March in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, the emirates are welcoming travelers back — sort of. Here’s where you can go in the UAE, and what you need to know before you do.
Entering the UAE
The UAE reopened its borders to international visitors in early July, after a three-month hiatus. All visitors 12 and older must present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 96 hours of departure time, and all test results must be presented either in English or Arabic in original, physical form. Digital copies will not be accepted. Travelers with severe and moderate disabilities may be exempted from the test requirement.
You won’t find a curfew in place in Dubai, unlike many other countries that currently allow U.S. travelers to visit. However, you’ll undergo multiple health screenings to pass through immigration, according to the U.S. embassy.
Is quarantine mandatory for incoming travelers? Here’s what we know:
The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority of the UAE (NCEMA), as well as the official website of the UAE, has stated that anyone entering the UAE from another country undergo a self-quarantine of 14 days. Violating home quarantine is punishable by law.
However, visitors entering Dubai are not required to quarantine if they can show that they are in recent clean health, according to local media source Gulf News. Travelers entering Abu Dhabi and other northern emirates must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of their test results.
Arriving in Dubai
Travelers should also expect to:
- Pack a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours of departure time
- Undergo health screening procedures at airports and other ports of entry
- Download the COVID-19 DXB app onto their phones for monitoring
- Complete the acknowledgement form and submit to officials upon arrival in Dubai
Upon arrival, another PCR test can still be administered at the discretion of local officials, even if all of the criteria above are met. Tested travelers must quarantine until they receive results, and passengers who test positive must undergo mandatory quarantine for a minimum of 14 days at a hotel or self-isolated private address, with successful follow-up test results before quarantine is complete. All expenses associated with quarantine are the responsibility of the traveler.
After you complete your quarantine, you must continue to comply with all preventative measures from the UAE health authorities.
Masks and gloves are required in public spaces, and everyone must practice appropriate social distancing in public areas. People who violate preventative measures can be fined up to $27,000 for the most severe infractions.
Can you travel to Abu Dhabi?
U.S. travelers do not need tourist visas to enter the UAE. But Dubai is the only port of entry offering tourist visas right now, so if you are traveling with non-U.S. nationals, be sure you don’t enter the country through Abu Dhabi or other destinations. Furthermore, the UAE government website states that travelers entering Abu Dhabi and other northern emirates must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of their test results.
According to the U.S. Embassy website, visitors who enter the UAE via Dubai can travel to Abu Dhabi by road if they present proof that they are COVID-free, dated within the past 48 hours of travel time. Non-Abu Dhabi residents who stay for six or more consecutive days must take an additional COVID-19 PCR test on the sixth day.
Flights and hotels
In November, flights to Dubai are $787 from San Francisco round trip on Cathay Pacific in the Oneworld alliance.
Note that Hong Kong isn’t open for visitors from the U.S., so you can’t build in a stopover or visit the country en route to and from the UAE. But you are permitted to transit through the airport for a connecting flight if your itinerary is contained in a single booking; you meet the entry requirements of your final destination; your bags are checked through to the final destination; you have been issued your onward boarding pass(es) from the U.S. through to Dubai; and the connection time between flights is within 24 hours.
Round trip flights can also be found on other alliance around the $700 price point in economy:
- On Turkish Airlines from New York to Dubai for $740 round trip in October
- On SkyTeam carriers from New York to Abu Dhabi for $791 round trip in September/October
On points, you can travel to Dubai for 75,000 miles and $90 round trip on Delta:
Or 94,000 miles and $90 from Newark on United:
Award flights on AA miles cost 80,000 miles and anywhere from $84 to $560 in taxes and fees:
The UAE is full of great hotels — including the aforementioned seven-star hotel. If you end up having to quarantine and can choose your own hotel, the cheapest room at the Burj al Arab is a cool $31,889 for a 14-day stay in October. (But you can erase some of that cost with the right credit card.)
If you prefer to pay for your luxury with points, Hyatt and Hilton loyalists can rejoice in TPG’s favorite best-value points hotels in Dubai: The Hyatt Place Dubai Baniyas Square is a Category 1 just 10 minutes from the Dubai airport, and costs just $50 per night in cash or just 5,000 Hyatt points per night. At this rate, a 14-day quarantine stay would cost you just $919 for two people for two weeks, or 70,000 World of Hyatt points. Note that a number of the facilities including the dining room aren’t available right now, however.
Featured photo by Shutterstock.
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