The past year has been tragic for the travel industry. The global pandemic has halted air travel, borders are closed and travel restrictions remain in place in several destinations.
Despite this, it seems that people are more confident about travelling in 2021, according to a recent survey. The Global Rescue's Traveller Sentiment and Safety Survey found 78 per cent of respondents are "much less" or "less" concerned about travel safety this year compared to 2020.
With Eid Al Fitr on the horizon, and some travel restrictions having eased, many people are considering going somewhere during the break, which begins on May 11.
UAE authorities have advised people not to travel unless they are vaccinated and there are some countries only accepting travellers who've had both shots of their Covid-19 vaccine. But there are others where entry requirements can be as simple as passing a thermal scanner or showing a negative PCR test result.
13 places within six hours of the UAE where travellers are welcome:
- Sri Lanka*
Of course, some people are not quite ready to travel and given we're still in the midst of a global pandemic, that's entirely logical. If you're staying put this Eid, here are 23 staycation deals across the country that offer a change of scenery without the need to get on a plane.
If you are thinking of flying, familiarise yourself with all the documents needed for your destination. It also pays to do your research on Covid-19 case levels in countries that are open to tourists, and to find out more about local policies on mask-wearing, social distancing and other safety precautions.
Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi require travellers to show negative PCR test results when landing in the UAE, although there are exemptions in place for children.
Recent updates to Abu Dhabi's arrivals policy mean that UAE residents returning to the capital need only quarantine for five days, instead of 10, if they are fully vaccinated. Travellers who are not yet vaccinated need to self-isolate for 10 days unless flying into the UAE from a country on Abu Dhabi's Green List.
If you've decided that it's time to travel, here are 13 destinations with short flight times accepting UAE travellers, that make them a viable choice for a quick getaway.
Why? If you're craving fresh air, rich history and endless adventure, then landlocked Armenia is a good pick, and the fact it's a fairly wallet-friendly destination is an added bonus.
In Yerevan, wander neoclassical squares lined with cafeterias and wide boulevards under the shadow of Mount Ararat. Take a cable-car tour, visit the national parks, go boating on Lake Sevan and spend time at the museums and memorials to learn more about the country’s haunting history.
How long does it take to get there? It's a short three-hour flight from Dubai to Yerevan and low-cost airline flydubai will get you there for a little over Dh1,000 this Eid.
What do I need to do before travelling? Travellers need to show a negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate issued no more than 72 hours prior to arrival.
Anything else I need to know? Shops, cafes and public attractions are open, but with social distancing and capacity limits in place. Abu Dhabi residents will have to self-isolate or spend some time in Dubai before returning home after travelling to Armenia, as it's not currently on the Green List.
Why? The Mediterranean island is welcoming tourists again. Brimming with timeless archaeological sites, glorious coastal cities and pristine beaches, an Eid escape to Cyprus could be the change of scenery you need.
How long does it take to get there? Flying from Dubai with Emirates, travellers are looking at a flight time of around four hours. Fares over Eid are from Dh2,615.
What do I need to do before travelling? The UAE is currently listed as Red by Cypriot authorities, which means travellers need to take a Covid-19 test 72 hours before travelling, and another one on arrival. So long as your second test is negative, you won't need to quarantine. All travellers must apply for permission to enter at least 24 hours before travelling, via the Cyprus Flight Pass.
Anything else I need to know? Cyprus is currently under restrictions that are set to run until at least Sunday, which may take some of the fun out of a trip to the country. During this time, guests cannot be outside their place of residence after 9pm, restaurants, tavernas, cafes and bars are only open for delivery, and entertainment places such as theatres, amphitheatres and cinemas are closed.
Cyprus is also not currently on Abu Dhabi’s Green List, so if you’re returning to the capital, you’ll have to factor in quarantine when you get home.
Why? Sand-covered tombs, ancient pyramids, the River Nile and bustling souqs await in Egypt where Eid celebrations are not to be missed. The coastal cities offer a laid-back escape with marine life worth exploring.
How to get there? Several airlines operate between the UAE and Egypt, with direct options to Alexandria and Cairo. Go with Air Arabia from Sharjah, with fares to Alexandria from Dh1,300. Etihad operates from Abu Dhabi to Cairo with Eid fares from Dh1,305, and from Dubai, there's a choice of Emirates and Egyptair, with starting fares from Dh1,552.
Flight times average around three-and-a-half hours to the Egyptian capital.
What do I need to do before travelling? Travellers landing in Cairo need to show negative PCR test results issued no more than 72 hours before departure, however children under 6 are exempt.
If you’re flying directly to Hurghada, Marsa Alam, Sharm El Sheikh or Taba you can take a test on arrival. It will cost you $30, but you’ll then need to quarantine in your hotel room until negative results are issued.
All travellers to Egypt must also fill in an health declaration form that will be distributed to passengers via their airline.
Anything else I need to know? Hotels are open and operating, but many have reduced capacity during the pandemic. There's no curfew in place, but most restaurants and cafes close by 10pm, and there's no more than six people are allowed at one table.
From Sunday, passengers landing in Dubai from Egypt must show a printed copy of a negative Covid-19 PCR test that includes a QR code and has been taken at a certified lab no more than 72 hours prior to the departure of their inbound flight.
Why? Just before the pandemic hit, Georgia was having something of a moment. People were flocking to the country for its mountain scenery, ancient cities and rich culture, not to mention delicious cuisine.
Now that it has reopened to tourists, an Eid escape to the Caucasus country could be on the cards.
May to June is one of the best times to visit, especially if you’re planning to explore the lowlands around Tbilisi as you’ll avoid the summer highs and the freezing cold of winter.
How to get there? Your best bet for getting to Georgia this Eid weekend is to fly from Dubai. Low-cost airline flydubai has fares to Tbilisi from Dh1,695 and you can expect a flight time of three-and-a-half hours, ideal for a short break.
What do I need to do before travelling? Georgia is only open to travellers from select destinations, which includes the UAE. All visitors need to either have a Covid-19 PCR test taken no later than 72 hours prior to arriving in Georgia, or hold a Covid-19 vaccination certificate with both doses completed. Visitors must also complete this application form.
Anything else I need to know? Travellers entering the country with a negative PCR test result instead of a Covid-19 vaccine certificate will need to take another test on the day, at their own expense.
Georgia has a nationwide curfew in place that also applies to travellers, meaning you cannot be out of your accommodation from 9pm until 5am. Georgia is not on Abu Dhabi’s Green List.
Why? Greece offers something for everyone, and has reopened with no quarantine. The country serves up archaeological wonders in ancient Athens, white sugar cube-style hotels on its famed and lesser-known islands, and culinary experiences loaded with the freshest seafood, flaky pastries, local cheeses and olive oils.
How long does it take to get there? From the UAE, you can fly direct to the Greek capital in under five hours. Etihad has flights to Athens on sale with fares from Dh995 return, while Emirates flies from Dubai with Eid fares from Dh2,665. If you want to venture to Santorini, Milos, Mykonos or one of the countless other Greek islands, there are options for domestic flights or ferry crossings.
What do I need to do before travelling? You are required to take a Covid-19 PCR test and complete a Passenger Locator Form at least 24 hours before departing the UAE.
All travellers over the age of 5 must have a Covid-19 test result, except those who have a certificate of vaccination completed at least 14 days before their arrival in Greece.
Anything else I need to know? There are plans for restrictions in Greece to be further relaxed on Friday, May14, but until then tourists will have to follow the same rules as locals, meaning that restaurants, cafes and bars are off limits, except for takeaways.
Greece is not currently listed on Abu Dhabi’s Green List, so travellers flying to the capital will have to factor in quarantine upon return.
Why? The UAE is on Kenya's quarantine exemption list, meaning that the country's national parks, coastlines and mountain ranges are open for visits. May is rainy season in Kenya, and some wildlife lodges and parks are off limits, so do your research before you book.
The best park to visit at this time of year is the Masai Mara, where, despite the weather, travelling in low season brings beautifully green scenery, less crowds and the chance to spot newborn animals.
How long does it take to get there? It's just over five hours from Dubai to Nairobi, and Emirates has fares from Dh1,805. From there, it's a 45-minute flight to the Mara.
What do I need to do before travelling? All travellers must complete an online Covid-19 health form before arriving in Kenya. You can find it here. This will produce a QR code, which you'll have to show to airport officials.
Travellers also need a negative Covid-19 test result, taken no more than 96 hours before arriving in Kenya. Strict health checks are being carried out at the airport and anyone showing signs of Covid-19 may be required to quarantine.
Anything else I need to know? There's a national curfew in place from 8pm to 4am, but if you're staying in a wildlife lodge in the middle of the Masai Mara you wouldn't want to be out after dark anyway.
Quarantine exists for travellers flying into Abu Dhabi from Kenya.
Why? Tropical islands, swaying palm trees, crystal clear waters and pristine shorelines – the Maldives ticks pretty much every bucket list requirement when it comes to holidays.
The country also has year-round perfect weather and a one-resort-per-island set-up which makes it a good pick for a socially distanced stay.
How long does it take to get there? It’s just over four hours to Male, the capital of the Maldives, from the UAE. From there, your journey time depends on where you are staying – some resorts are accessible via a short speedboat ride, others involve longer seaplane trips.
Most resorts will arrange transfers for you, although these will often be at an additional cost.
Emirates has flights from Dubai to Male from D3,436 over Eid, and from Abu Dhabi you can fly with Etihad with return fares from Dh3,373.
What do I need to do before travelling? All tourists flying to the Maldives need a negative PCR test result, taken no more than 96 hours before travel (for travellers coming from India the time frame is 72 hours and there are also restrictions on where Indian tourists can check in).
The latest update from the Maldives Ministry of Tourism confirms that all travellers, including those who have had one or both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, must also show PCR test results and only babies below 1 are exempt.
Travellers must submit their test result and a Travellers Health Declaration form has to be completed 24 hours before travel. If you want to split your stay between more than one resort, you need to apply for permission from the Ministry of Tourism, at least 48 hours in advance.
Anything else I need to know? Most of the islands are open for tourism, but visitors are not allowed to explore Male – the capital is the site of the highest number of Covid-19 cases and remains largely off-limits.
Some resorts are testing travellers on arrival, with guests then being asked to quarantine inside their villa or hotel suite until the results come through.
Many resorts also offer PCR testing so that you can easily take a test to return to the UAE.
Finally, the Maldives isn’t on the Abu Dhabi Green List, so quarantine applies for residents returning to the capital.
Why? Some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, boulder-strewn landscapes, giant tortoises and Unesco heritage sites are just a few reasons to travel to the Seychelles. Not to mention pristine marine life for snorkelling and scuba-diving enthusiasts.
May is also a shoulder month – making it one of the best times to visit the island for sunny days with less humidity and cooling breezes.
How to get there? There are good connections from the UAE to the Seychellois capital of Mahe with a flying time of four-and-a-half hours. From Abu Dhabi, go with Etihad with fares over the Eid weekend from Dh3,297. From Dubai, Emirates will get you there for Dh3,436.
What do I need to do before travelling? Negative PCR tests taken a maximum of 72 hours before departure are necessary for all visitors, including infants and children, and travellers must have valid health insurance to cover potential Covid-19 related costs (isolation, quarantine and treatment).
No visa is required for entry into the Seychelles, but all travellers must apply for permission to visit through the Health Travel Authorisation platform at seychelles.govtas.com. Visitors will not be allowed to board a flight without this.
Travellers coming from South Africa, Brazil, India, Pakistan or Bangladesh cannot enter the Seychelles at this time.
Anything else I need to know? Vaccination isn’t mandatory, but authorities are strongly advising travellers to receive a Covid-19 jab before visiting.
Some resorts offer PCR testing for travellers to make it easier to get tested before returning to the UAE.
Sadly for Abu Dhabi residents, the Seychelles doesn’t feature on the Green List.
Update: On May 10, UAE authorities announced travellers would no longer be allowed to fly into the country from Sri Lanka from May 12. This means Sri Lanka is effectively no longer an option for those seeking an Eid holiday.
Why? For wildlife spotting, local cuisine, tea plantation-covered hills or stunning beaches, Sri Lanka has you covered.
The tear-dropped shaped island has reopened to tourists, albeit with some restrictions in place. Travellers must stay in government-approved hotels and can only visit approved tourist sites and landmarks.
If Sri Lanka has been a long-time favourite, then a visit now is going to look a little different, but choose your hotel wisely and you can still enjoy the country's beaches, the Indian Ocean and lots more.
How to get there? Limited seats are available over the Eid holidays, but if you’re quick you can find flights with flydubai from Dh1,585 or from Abu Dhabi via Etihad with prices from Dh1,774.
It’s a four-and-a-half-hour journey to Colombo.
What do I need to do before travelling? All visitors need to apply for their visa before flying to Sri Lanka. This can be done here.
A PCR test must be taken no more than 96 hours before travelling. Pre-payment for PCR tests – priced at $40 per test – is also requested before travel, and the number of tests needed will depend on the numbers of days guests will stay in the country. All visitors will take at least one test on arrival at their Sri Lankan hotel.
Compulsory insurance costs $12, and includes a month of cover for Covid-19-related treatment.
Anything else do I need to know? Sri Lanka’s bio-bubble plan is a unique set-up that allows travellers to visit the country, follow some quarantine-style regulations and still see some of the destination.
For the first 14 days of any trip, travellers can only stay at a Safe and Secure Level 1 approved hotel, but there's no minimum stay and guests can use all of the hotel facilities. They can also spend time in more than one approved hotel.
Tourists can visit approved landmarks and sites under the safety of a bio-bubble, which hotels will help to arrange. Some of the country’s most-visited attractions, including Yala National Park, Sigiriya fortress and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, are welcoming all tourists. The full list of places you can explore as part of your bio-bubble can be found here.
Quarantine is in place for Abu Dhabi residents who have travelled to Sri Lanka.
Why? The land where East meets West has reopened to travellers, although some restrictions on movements remain in place.
If you do decide to visit, expect a historically rich country packed with delicious cuisine, mountain peaks and stunning coastlines, not to mention the thriving metropolis of Istanbul – the world’s only megacity straddling two continents.
How long does it take to get there? Four-and-a-half hours will get you to Istanbul’s new airport from the UAE. Fly with Emirates from Dubai for Dh1,682 or go with the UAE’s national airline – Etihad’s return fares to Istanbul over Eid are from Dh985.
What do I need to do before travelling? Travellers need to fill in an information form at least 72 hour before flying to Turkey. You can find it here.
All passengers aged 6 years and above also need to show negative Covid-19 test results, which must have been taken no more than three days before arriving in Turkey.
Anything else I need to know? Until Monday, May 17, a nationwide curfew will be in place from 7pm until 5am, however this will not affect tourists. Foreign travellers will be able to move around freely, so long as they carry their passports.
In hotels, restaurants and bars can operate normally during this time, but all other eateries in Turkey will only be open for delivery and takeaway services, and local shops may be closed.
Turkey is not currently on Abu Dhabi’s Green List.
Why? If it’s outdoor scenery and mountain peaks that you crave, then landlocked Tajikistan should be on your visit list.
More than 90 per cent of the Central Asian country is mountainous, making it a trekkers' paradise.
It’s also still very much off-the-beaten path, so avoiding crowds is easy. Azure blue lakes and age-old mountain towns filled with friendly villagers await, while the capital Dushanbe has a vibe all of its own.
How to get there? Flydubai, Emirates and Somon Air fly from Dubai to Dushanbe with a flight time of exactly three hours. Fares over the Eid weekend are cheapest with the Tajik airline, with return tickets from Dh1,947.
What do I need to do before travelling? All international travellers arriving in Tajikistan must provide confirmation of a negative PCR test, issued within 72 hours of arrival.
Test results are verified before passengers are allowed to board flights to Dushanbe and again upon arrival. Travellers must also apply for a Tajik visa before being able to enter the country.
Anything else I need to know? There are no local restrictions or localised lockdowns in place, however you must wear a face covering in public spaces, including in vehicles.
Tajikistan is currently on the Abu Dhabi Green list, which means no quarantine period for anyone flying back into the UAE.
Why? Perhaps the most-visited country in Central Asia, Uzbekistan is beautiful in May having fully shaken off the winter but not yet sweltering in summer temperatures.
Tourists flock here to see Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, and immerse themselves in the Silk Road history.
The capital Tashkent offers beautiful parks, ornate metro stations and the old town of Chorsu, which has a bustling market and some ancient mosques and mausoleums.
How to get there? Uzbekistan Airways operates from Tashkent to Dubai with fares from Dh1,155 over Eid. It’s also a nice, short journey, with flight times of just over three hours.
What do I need to do before travelling? Visa-free travel is available for UAE citizens and residents, but you will need a negative PCR test result in either English or Russian that’s been issued no more than 72 hours before flying to Tashkent. Children under 2 do not need a test.
All visitors must also register with Uzbek authorities on arrival in the country.
Anything else I need to know? The country’s tourism ministry has been working to safely reopen travel and there’s a list of approved hotels, attractions and landmarks deemed safe for visiting listed here.
Uzbekistan is on the Abu Dhabi Green list, so there’s no quarantine period for anyone flying back into the UAE.
Why? The country boasts epic beaches, island-hopping safaris, awesome diving and a capital thriving with history, and the Zanzibar archipelago is a worthy contender when it comes to planning a change of scenery.
May is the end of the rainy season, so you can expect a few showers but nothing worth postponing for.
Many travellers opt to add a trip to the Tanzanian mainland to a Zanzibar itinerary – flights leave airstrips in the Serengeti every day, arriving back in Zanzibar before night-time.
At this time of the year, you’ll want to head to Moru Kopjes and the Seronera Valley to catch sight of the migrating herds.
How do I get there? Flydubai is operating direct flights from Dubai to Zanzibar island with Eid fares from Dh2,702 for the five-and-a-half-hour flight.
What do I need to do before I travel? Tanzania doesn’t require guests to have a PCR test before arriving, so make sure you're fine with this before booking a flight.
All travellers must have valid travel insurance covering Covid-19 treatment for the duration of the visit, and should expect temperature scans in place at the airport. Anything else I need to know? Face masks are mandatory in public places and tourist facilities are operating under new protocols that include reduced capacity and social distancing measures.
If you need a PCR test to return, the Ministry of Health Zanzibar has an online system on which you can register to take a test, with results delivered electronically within 72 hours.
Tanzania is not currently on Abu Dhabi's Green List meaning you will have to quarantine upon return.