Where can you fly to in the Middle East? Restrictions and options explained for Oman, Jordan, Lebanon and more
Find out which countries are welcoming travellers, which airports are open and when flights look set to restart
With travel restrictions changing on what seems like a daily basis, it can be difficult to keep up-to-date on where flights are operating and what rules are in place in each country.
In an effort to make things a little clearer for anyone planning travel, the International Air Transport Association has published a free interactive map that details what restrictions are in place and where.
In this region, Oman and Saudi Arabia are currently labelled by Iata as “totally restricted”, while the UAE, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon are listed as “partially restricted”. But what does this actually mean?
Using data from Iata's map coupled with regional information from civil aviation authorities and updates from local airlines, the below list will be updated to track how travel restrictions and passenger flight services in the region are set to change over the coming weeks.
UAE: Mandatory Covid-19 tests for travellers
Commercial passenger flights in and out of the UAE were suspended on March 24 but flights are now operating again. In Dubai, tourists are allowed to enter and residents across the country are allowed to leave, but permission must be sought to come back. Abu Dhabi Airport remains closed to tourists at this time with no visit visas or visas on arrival being issued.
All travellers – residents and tourists – must have negative Covid-19 test results before flying to the UAE. These must be from a reputable medial centre.
Emirates and Etihad are operating flights to and from several destinations across the UK, Europe, Asia and the United States. Both airlines have introduced strict new safety procedures. Flydubai and Air Arabia have also restarted flights.
All travellers, including Emiratis and UAE residents, currently need permission to return to the UAE from the Federal Authority For Identity and Citizenship or from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs. This doesn't apply to transit passengers who can fly via Dubai and Abu Dhabi without permission from authorities.
Face masks are compulsory in all airports and on flights and new PPE-filled vending machines have been installed at Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports for travellers to stock up on masks before flights.
Bahrain: Etihad resumes flights to Manama
Bahrain is currently closed to tourists, but residents and nationals can fly into the country.
There are no visas on arrival being issued for any nationalities. Entry is restricted to Bahraini citizens and residents, GCC citizens who do not require visas, diplomats, passengers holding a valid e-visa prior to boarding, military personnel, airline crew or holders of official, service, or UN passports. All other passengers will be denied entry to the Kingdom said Bahrain authorities on Wednesday, July 22.
Arriving passengers need to undergo testing procedures for Covid-19, the cost of which is Dh293 per person. People must also self-quarantine for 10 days from the date of arrival.
Etihad Airways resumed flights from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Bahrain International Airport on Friday, June 19. Emirates is also flying daily to Bahrain.
A disinfection programme is in place at Bahrain International Airport and some services, such as airport lounges, are closed. Duty-free, food and beverage outlets and foreign exchange services are open as normal.
Lebanon: Flights operating, Covid-19 testing mandatory
Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport reopened to commercial passenger flights on July 1. The airport is operating at a reduced capacity. Private flights have also resumed. Despite sustaining some damage on August 4, when Lebanon was rocked by a major explosion, flights continue to operate.
All passengers arriving in Lebanon must fill in a health declaration form and PCR-testing is now mandatory before flying into the country. All passengers will be tested for Covid-19 upon arrival, the cost of this is being covered by some airlines, but not by others so travellers should check with their airlines if they will have to pay. Travellers coming from countries where PCR testing is not available will be tested upon arrival and must take a second test at their own expense after 72 hours, in one of the laboratories accredited by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health.
Home quarantine rules are in place and face masks are mandatory in public places with steep fines for anyone flouting the rules.
Oman: Second cycle of restrictions
A two-week curfew has been reimposed in Oman from July 25 as case numbers of the coronavirus continue to rise.
Inter-region travel is banned during this period, as are large gatherings over the Eid Al Adha holiday. Restrictions cover all types of movements, with public places and shops closed daily from 7pm to 6am.
Travellers cannot currently fly into Oman as the country’s airports are closed to all commercial passenger traffic. This has been the case since March 29, when most air travel closed. Only repatriation services, humanitarian and cargo flights are operating. Anyone with an Omani residency can now return, but must contact authorities to clarify entry requirements which include having renewed any expired visas.
Airports in Oman have been enhancing hygiene standards and implementing social distancing policies in preparation for reopening.
Jordan: Reopening delayed until September
Commercial passenger flights to and from Jordan have been suspended since March 17. Only Jordanian nationals on repatriation flights and those coming on medical evacuation, UN or diplomatic flights can enter the country.
International flights were set to restart on Tuesday, August 4 and the country had implemented a traffic-light system allowing travellers to visit from green (low-risk) countries. These plans have now been delayed until at least Tuesday, September 1. When restrictions are lifted, it's expected that travellers from listed countries will not need to quarantine so long as they have undergone a Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to arrival.
The list of "safe countries" originally included Austria, Canada, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Greenland, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Monaco, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Thailand and Taiwan.
The list of countries is set to be updated every two weeks.
Egypt: Tourists welcome and visa exemptions
Egypt reopened airports on Wednesday, July 1. Travellers are not tested upon arrival but everyone arriving must complete a health declaration, have valid health insurance and undergo temperature screening.
Hygiene inspections were carried out at Egyptian airports and all aircraft sterilised before they were allowed to resume service.
The country is open to travellers from most countries, but passengers arriving from destinations where Covid-19 cases are high, may need to submit negative test results before being allowed entry to Egypt. Airlines will be able to advise travellers on this matter.
Tourist resorts at the Red Sea, Sharm El Sheikh and Matrouh have reopened and the government has waived the need for travellers heading to these regions to get tourist visas until October, 31, 2020. Those exempt, who are travelling to these destinations for up to 15 days, will get a stamp waiving the need for a tourist visa at the airport. Travellers should check if their passport qualifies for this exemption before booking.
There are also set to be discounts in place for tourists at several of the country’s museums and cultural landmarks in a bid to boost tourism in the country.
Saudi Arabia: International flights remain suspended
International commercial flights to and from Saudi Arabia are currently suspended and appear set to remain so. Only Saudi nationals are allowed to enter the country as part of the kingdom's return programme for those stranded overseas.
Special arrangements have been made for this year's scaled-back Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. These include the prohibition of entry into Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat without permits, touching the Holy Kaaba and the Black Stone and the removal of the mosque’s carpets to allow pilgrims to use their personal prayer rugs.
Domestic flights resumed across Saudi Arabia on Sunday, May 3. Passengers travelling domestically must purchase tickets electronically and should wear face masks and expect temperature scanning at the airport. Riyadh Airports Company has launched artificial intelligence- and machine learning-powered project to ensure social distancing is followed at King Khalid International airport.
Saudi Arabia has also announced that anyone currently in the country on an expired tourist visa due to the suspension of international flights will have their visa automatically extended. No new tourist visas are being issued until further notice.
Kuwait: Flights restarted but many countries banned
Commercial passenger flights to and from Kuwait were suspended on March 13 with only Kuwaiti nationals, their relatives and domestic workers allowed to enter the country with permission obtained from the state of Kuwait embassy. Foreign residents can apply to return to Kuwait as long as they have valid residency permits.
Commercial flights restarted to and from some destinations on Saturday, August 1. However, Kuwait has banned flights from 31 countries including China, India, Iran, Brazil, Lebanon, Spain, Singapore, the Philippines, Egypt and Sri Lanka.
All passengers arriving in Kuwait must show negative infection results via a Covid-19 health test taken in the last 72 hours. Passengers will be temperature scanned and random PCR tests will be conducted. All travellers must install the Shlonik app on their smartphone to allow authorities to trace their movements and ensure compliance with mandatory 14-day home quarantine rules.
Updated: August 5, 2020 03:00 PM