UAE residents in Balearic Islands frustrated by UK travel updates

British ministers moved Ibiza, Majorca and Minorca to the UK's amber travel list last week

IBIZA, SPAIN - JULY 28: Newly arrived tourists in the area outside Ibiza airport on July 28, 2020 in Ibiza, Spain. The United Kingdom, whose citizens comprise the largest share of foreign tourists in Spain, added Ibiza and other Spanish islands to its advice against non-essential travel to the country, citing a rise in coronavirus cases. The change follows the UK's decision to reimpose a 14-day isolation period for travelers returning from Spain. (Photo by Andres Iglesias/Getty Images)
Powered by automated translation

UAE residents who flew to Spain's Balearic Islands for an 11-day break before going on to the UK have said they are frustrated with the British government's decision to take the islands off its green travel list.

Travellers said they now have to pay for expensive PCR tests in the UK and face wasting up to 11 days of their annual leave in isolation.

Last week, British ministers moved Ibiza, Majorca and Minorca – where many UAE residents planned to visit – to its amber list.

Whether fully vaccinated or not, UAE residents who received a shot abroad will have to self-isolate on arrival in the UK and submit a negative PCR test to get out of isolation early.

Joanne Barker, 47, said her family of four had no choice but to spend hundreds of pounds on PCR tests to make the most of their short trip home.

It’s ridiculous that coming from a place as safe as the UAE causes so much difficulty for us
Joanne Barker, British citizen

"It will cost us an additional £800 [$1,100] in tests," she said.

“We chose the Balearics because it was on the green watch list.

“We flew from Abu Dhabi to Barcelona on Etihad and we had all our paperwork in order.

“We are all double jabbed and had a PCR test before departure. We landed in Palma, Majorca on July 10 and plan to leave on July 21.

“The announcement was made to take effect two days before our onward flight to the UK, so there is nothing we can do but suck up the extra tests and self-isolation at home in the UK.”

Ms Barker, a primary school teacher in Dubai, said the family contemplated travelling to another green-list country from the Balearics but, with few direct flights from the island, this would have cost them even more.

She said planning the trip left her in a constant state of anxiety and although she has tried to enjoy it, the changing protocols are always on her mind.

“It’s ridiculous that coming from a place as safe as the UAE causes so much difficulty for us as expats, with added stress and expense,” she said.

“My husband has to return on August 6, giving him barely any time out of isolation to see his family.

“I am a teacher and need to return for school by August 22 but will probably head back a week before as, again, the uncertainty is playing on my mind.”

The new rule comes into effect at 4am UK time on Monday.

People travelling from an amber-list country, without a vaccine administered in the UK, have the option to shorten the 11-day self-isolation period by paying for a private PCR test on day five through Britain's test to release scheme.

That can cost anywhere between £25 to £500.

Dawn Neville, 45, said the past few weeks trying to get home to see family have been a nightmare.

After having two flights to the UK cancelled, she and her husband decided on an 11-day stopover in the Mediterranean, only for that trip to be cancelled as well.

The couple then booked flights to Minorca and left Dubai on July 14.

“We booked Minorca hoping it would stay on the green watch list,” she said.

“Our daughter texted us an hour after we checked into our hotel to tell us it was turning amber from July 19.

“We spent all night and the following morning trying to travel somewhere on the green list but, as Minorca is an island, there are no direct flights and all flights would have to transit in an amber country.

“We decided we would have to stay. We have had to cancel all our plans in the UK for the first week of our holiday, which included moving our daughter into her second-year accommodation at university.”

She said the UK government had "no regard for expats" who just want to travel home to see elderly parents and loved ones.

And seeing people at events in the UK such as the G7 summit, the Euro 2020 final and Wimbledon, with no social distancing or masks “has been a kick in the teeth", she said.

In total, the couple will have to take five PCR tests each, at a cost of more than £500 for both of them.

“Originally, I was due to fly on July 8, with my husband joining me later in the UK," Ms Neville said.

“Now we are flying to the UK on July 25 but have to isolate for 11 days. But we are hoping to test to release on July 30.

“In total I’ve lost 22 days of my summer holidays that I could have spent with my daughter and my elderly parents.”

The UAE has been on the UK’s red list since January 29.

It means only Britons and Irish citizens living in the UAE, or those with residence rights, can enter the UK if travelling directly – but they must go into quarantine in a hotel on their arrival at a cost of £1,750.

Updated: July 19, 2021, 7:33 AM