The UK has updated its green, amber and red travel lists with the new rules set to come into play from July 19.
Changes include the addition of Bulgaria, Croatia, Hong Kong and Taiwan to the green list and green watch list, meaning no quarantine will be required for any travellers arriving in the UK from these countries.
The amendments also open up some new route options for UAE citizens and residents hoping to fly to the UK this summer.
The UAE remains on the UK’s red list and will do so until at least the next update. This means that travellers flying there from Dubai or Abu Dhabi must complete hotel quarantine at costs of up to £1,750 ($2,424).
If travellers spend 11 days in an amber or green country before flying to the UK, hotel quarantine can be avoided. International visitors coming from amber countries will still need to isolate in the UK, but can do so at home. This rule will remain in place after Monday, despite quarantine rules being dropped on this date for NHS-vaccinated UK residents returning from amber countries.
Travellers from countries on the green list do not need to quarantine, making it the easiest option for UAE citizens and residents hoping to avoid isolation in the UK.
Two of the recent additions to the green list and green watch list, Hong Kong and Taiwan, remain largely closed for travellers. But both Bulgaria and Croatia are welcoming visitors from the UAE, giving alternative options of places to spend 11 days and then travel onwards to the UK quarantine-free.
If you’re considering this option, here’s what you need to know.
Green-listed Bulgaria is open to UAE travellers
With Black Sea beaches, green mountains and cities thriving with art, culture and cafes, Bulgaria is a great pick for a summer escape.
In Sofia, the country’s charming capital, the soaring peak of Mount Vitosha looms overhead. This is Sofia's very own mountain playground and, in the summer, it's the place to go to enjoy bright sunny days, amazing views of the city and picnics at altitude.
Sofia has a surprisingly laid-back vibe for a capital city and plenty to see and do, including open-air markets, ancient ruins, golden-dome topped churches and Ottoman mosques.
Away from the capital, Bulgaria’s wild landscape is perfect for those seeking nature and adventure with no less than seven mountain ranges spanning the country.
What are the entry rules? Bulgaria is allowing travellers into the country under a traffic light classification.
The UAE is currently listed as an "orange zone" destination, meaning that travel is open for those who have been fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19, and to those who have a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours, or a negative rapid antigen test performed no more than 48 hours before travel.
What vaccines is Bulgaria accepting? Bulgaria recognises all vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation, which includes Sinopharm. Travellers must have received a final jab at least 14 days before travel.
Getting there and away: It is only five and a half hours from Dubai to Sofia. Flydubai has one-way fares from Dh785 ($213).
From Sofia, you can fly direct to the UK with several airlines including Ryanair, easyJet, Wizz Air and British Airways. To London, it is a three-and-a-half-hour journey and you can find low-cost fares from under Dh100.
Anything else I need to know? Bulgaria remains under an emergency epidemic status until at least Saturday, July 31, which means there are restrictions in place, including mandatory face mask-wearing, social-distancing measures and capacity limits in restaurants and hotels.
There is no listing on Abu Dhabi's Green List for Bulgaria, so factor in quarantine upon return if you're arriving in the capital.
Croatia: UK green watch list and welcoming tourists
Island-dusted Croatia is a hit with visitors thanks to its balmy Mediterranean climate, bright blue waters and golden sandy beaches.
The Dalmatian Coast is ripe for island hopping, and being on the water is part of everyday life. Inland, there are ancient walled villages and stone buildings to explore, not to mention a rich history thanks to millennia of competing kingdoms, empires and dictatorships.
For those who like life on the high side, the Dinaric Alps stretches from Italy to Albania cutting right through Croatia and offering craggy peaks, caves, canyons, biking, hiking, zip-lining and more.
What are the entry rules? Croatia is open to travellers from the UAE who can prove they have pre-booked accommodation in a hotel or other form of tourist accommodation.
Tourists who want to visit the country without having to quarantine must either be vaccinated or have a negative PCR test result no older than 72 hours or a rapid antigen test result no older than 48 hours before being allowed to enter the country.
What vaccines is Croatia accepting? Croatia recognises all vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation, which includes Sinopharm. Travellers must have received a final jab at least 14 days before travel and vaccines are recognised for 210 days from the date they were given.
Getting there and away: To Zagreb, fly from Dubai via Belgrade, Istanbul or Paris with flydubai, KLM, Air France and Lufthansa. There are also indirect flights available to Dubrovnik, Zadar and Split.
From Abu Dhabi, Wizz Air and Etihad fly to several destinations in Croatia with one stop required. If you only want to factor in one flight, go with flydubai to Tivat in Montenegro, and then continue onwards to Croatia — the border is just 20 minutes from the airport.
From Croatia to the UK, there are several direct flights available including with Ryanair, Croatia Airlines and British Airways, with journey times of around two and a half hours.
Anything else I need to know? Croatia still has some restrictions in place to help reduce the spread of Covid-19, including mandatory face mask-wearing indoors and on public transport, and limits on the number of people who can gather in one place.
Croatia is not on Abu Dhabi’s Green List, so travellers returning to the capital will have to quarantine.