Dubai and Abu Dhabi are open for travelers. Should you go?

Sep 10, 2020

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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated for clarity on quarantine guidelines since publication.

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.

A panoramic view of the Dubai city skyline with the Burj Khalifa shown in the center. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. (Image by dblight/Getty Images)
A panoramic view of the Dubai city skyline with the Burj Khalifa shown in the center. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. (Image by dblight/Getty Images)

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.

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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.

In This Post

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.

Related: Getting a test is easier now, but you still aren’t guaranteed a result in time

Upon arrival

429620146 Dubai skyline with beautiful city close to it's busiest highway on traffic S By shutterlk
Photo by shutterlk/Shutterstock.

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.

Quarantine requirements

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:

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.

Related: K9 sniffer dogs may screen you for signs of coronavirus in the UAE

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?

UAE elite aerobatic flying team "Al Fursan" escorts an Etihad A380 aircraft as they fly over the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, ahead of the final race of the Formula One Grand Prix season, on December 1, 2019. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)
UAE elite aerobatic flying team “Al Fursan” escorts an Etihad A380 aircraft as they fly over the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, ahead of the final race of the Formula One Grand Prix season, on December 1, 2019. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP) (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)


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 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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