Summer escapes: 10 destinations welcoming UAE travellers

From Kenyan safaris to beach holidays in Europe and Indian Ocean retreats, there are plenty of options on offer

Mykonos, Greece. Unsplash/Jeet Dhanoa
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Planning a summer holiday is not as straightforward as it used to be, but if you are itching to get away, there are a number of destinations around the world that are currently welcoming travellers from the UAE. Here are 10 summer holiday ideas, with options for travellers who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated.


The Roman amphitheatre at Kourion. Unsplash / Tania Mousinho

Cyprus is only a four-hour flight away and Emirates operates five weekly services to the Mediterranean island, making it a great option for shorter, last-minute trips.

The country is perhaps best known for its food and beaches, but is also home to a wealth of archeological sites, charming villages and a mountainous region that will offer much-welcome respite should you wish to fully escape the summer heat. There are currently no movement restrictions on the island, meaning you can enjoy its many attractions freely.

The UAE is categorised as a “red” country by the Cypriot authorities, meaning travellers from the UAE must take one PCR test prior to travel and then a second on arrival at the airport in Cyprus, at a cost of €30 (Dh130). You must then self-isolate until your results come through, which generally takes about a day.

Fully vaccinated travellers from the UAE can travel to Cyprus without having to quarantine or self isolate. The island recognises all vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency, as well as Sputnik and Sinopharm. All travellers to Cyprus, vaccinated or otherwise, must complete an online Cyprus Flight Pass form within 48 hours of their departure from the UAE.

In spaces where a large number of people might congregate, such as wedding venues, theatres, cinemas, shopping malls and museums, you may be asked to show your Cyprus Flight Pass as part of random checks by authorised officers, so it’s worth keeping either a physical or digital copy on hand at all times. Checks will not take place in more open areas, such as parks, picnic sites, beaches, archaeological sites, theme parks, children’s play areas and outdoor restaurants.

Emirates flies to Larnaca. It's a four-hour trip, with fares from Dh2,125 ($578)


Mdina in Malta. Courtesy David Alfons

At a mere 27 kilometres long, Malta is tiny. But it has been inhabited by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, French, British and, perhaps most visibly, the Knights of St John, resulting in a rich history that begs to be explored.

Made up of five islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino, plus two uninhabited islets in the Mediterranean Sea – the southern European country lies halfway between Gibraltar and Egypt’s Alexandria.

Its capital, Valletta, may be the smallest national capital in the European Union, but it’s also a Unesco World Heritage Site, and home to museums, 16th-century mansions, fortresses, narrow streets, boutique hotels, bars and restaurants, as well as the Upper Barrakka Gardens, a serene spot overlooking the Grand Harbour.

Malta has reopened to tourists with a traffic-light system in place and is currently on Abu Dhabi’s Green List. The UAE is dubbed amber by Maltese authorities, meaning that travellers can visit if they have a negative PCR test result taken no more than 72 hours before travel. All travellers also need to complete a public health passenger locator form before flying to Malta.

Emirates flies to Malta. It’s an eight-hour trip, with fares from Dh2,450


Zanzibar reopened its borders to tourists in May. Courtesy Camilla Frederiksen

A longstanding favourite with UAE travellers, Zanzibar has only grown in popularity since it reopened its borders to tourists in May.

Whether you want to spend your days exploring Stone Town's 19th-century Unesco-listed architecture, while away the hours on a semi-deserted beach, or get up close to nature at the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre or Mnarani Marine Turtles Conservation Pond, this archipelago has much to offer. August is Zanzibar’s driest month, with temperatures reaching about 26ºC, making it a cool escape from the UAE’s summer climes.

All travellers above the age of 5 are required to present a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours of arrival in Zanzibar. They must also fill in a Traveller’s Surveillance Form before arriving and must hold valid insurance for the entirety of their stay.

If you’re looking for a bargain, The Residence Zanzibar is currently offering 45 per cent off room rates, plus a 25 per cent discount on food and beverages and 50 per cent off spa services. The property consists of 66 stand-alone villas, each with a private swimming pool, and is located 55 minutes from Stone Town.

Flydubai operates daily flights to Zanzibar. It's a five hour-and-30-minute trip, with fares from Dh2,005


Karadordev Park in Belgrade. Courtesy Dusan Pokusevski

A travel corridor between the UAE and Serbia means vaccinated travellers can fly between the two countries without having to quarantine, as long as they can show proof from a recognised authority that they have received their final shot of any Covid-19 vaccine.

Unvaccinated travellers can enter the country if they can show a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of arrival, or a certificate showing that they have recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months.

This landlocked country in the heart of the Balkans remains relatively under the radar, so is ideal for those looking to steer clear of the madding crowds this summer. Temperatures average at around 30ºC in August. Flydubai currently offers daily direct flights to Belgrade with a flying time just under five-and-a-half hours.

Nestled between the Danube and Sava rivers and dubbed the White City, Belgrade is cool but gritty, with an intriguing mix of Socialist-era blocks and art nouveau architecture. Skadarska offers a taste of bohemian Belgrade, with its cobbled streets and galleries, while Savamala has been transformed into the city’s creative hub.

Those looking for a more active holiday can head to the south-east corner of the city, where, in the Avala Mountain and National Park, hiking trails and stunning views abound. Alternatively, take a stroll around Kalemegdan Park, which is set within the walls of a Roman fortress.

Flydubai operates daily flights to Belgrade. It's a five-and-a-half hour trip, with fares from Dh2,100


Mykonos, the fun-loving island of Greece

When Greece announced it was reopening its borders to tourists on May 14, the country’s tourism minister tweeted: "Greece is offering what people need. Calm and care-free moments on the road towards normality.”

Greece’s sun-drenched beaches, multi-faceted islands and exceptional cuisine will offer all the calm, care-free moments you need this summer, while its myriad historic sites, signature blue-and-white buildings and thriving local fashion scene will also entice.

As a result, Greece will be a no-brainer for many UAE travellers this summer, so expect popular tourist hot spots to be be busy over the coming months. Many visitors will head straight to the country’s islands – from fun-loving Mykonos to low-key Paros or honeymooner-favourite Santorini. Less-visited islands such as Kefalonia, Andros or Antiparos might be a better option for those still keen to avoid crowds. For those opting to stay in Athens, the historic neighbourhoods of Plaka and Monastiraki await, or, for a quieter experience, you can head to the suburbs of Kifisia or Vouliagmeni.

UAE travellers arriving in Greece are required to present either a negative PCR test, taken no more than 72 hours before arrival, or a negative antigen certificate taken no more than 48 hours before arrival. The UAE and Greece have established a travel corridor, meaning fully vaccinated travellers, including those with the Sinopharm vaccine, do not have to present a PCR test, as long as their second jab was taken at least 14 days prior to arrival. Travellers will also not need to quarantine when returning to Abu Dhabi.

All visitors must fill in a Passenger Locator Form at least one day before travelling and may be subject to random testing at the airport.

Flight time from the UAE to Athens is just over five hours. Emirates offers flights from Dubai with fares from Dh2,595; Etihad offers flights from Abu Dhabi for Dh1,768; Aegean Airlines and Wizz Air also fly between the two capitals


Baku's imposing Flame Towers. Courtesy Gerhard Reus

Azerbaijan is welcoming tourists from a select number of countries, including the UAE. Visitors must either show proof that they have been fully vaccinated, or present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival in the country. The country is on Abu Dhabi’s Green List, meaning travellers do not need to quarantine upon their return.

Known as the City of Winds, Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, is a true amalgamation of old and new and east and west. Its medieval, Unesco-listed old city, known locally as Icherisheher, sits adjacent to the imposing, ultra-modern Flame Towers and the distinctive Zaha Hadid-designed Heydar Aliyev Centre.

Home to twisting alleyways, artists' workshops, traditional markets and authentic restaurants, the old city is encircled by 12th-century walls, while the newer parts of the city offer a delightful blend of Gothic, baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau architecture, as well as grand boulevards lined with designer shops. The city is clean, orderly and extremely pedestrian friendly. With a flight time of less than three hours, this is the perfect spot for a last-minute city break or an impromptu shopping trip with friends.

Flydubai operates daily flights to Baku. It's about a three-hour trip, with fares from Dh1,350; Azerbaijan Airlines also operates direct flights between the two countries


Aerial View Of Sea And Mountains, Petite Case Noyale, Mauritius. Getty Images

If you’re looking for a summer holiday that involves staying put in a stunning resort, Mauritius is your best bet. The Indian Ocean island is reopening its borders on July 15, with a two-phased approach. In the initial phase, from July 15 to September 30, it will welcome vaccinated travellers to enjoy holidays within 14 “resort bubbles”.

Guests will have to stay within their resorts, unless they are remaining on the island for longer than 14 days. Those staying for more than two weeks will be able to go out and explore the island after taking a PCR test on day 14 of their holiday.

Even though they must be vaccinated, all visitors must also show a negative PCR test upon arrival in Mauritius, taken between five and seven days before they travel. They will then have to take additional tests on days seven and 14 of their resort holiday, as applicable.

The 14 approved resort bubbles offer something for everyone. Those looking for an intimate, secluded, romantic stay can head to the luxurious Constance Prince Maurice, which is part of The Leading Hotels of the World and designed in accordance with feng shui principles. For a more active affair, Long Beach Mauritius is located on the island’s famed Belle Mare beach and offers diving, kayaking, snorkelling, water skiing, windsurfing, a climbing wall, tennis courts, group fitness classes and a gym. For those looking for a more budget-friendly holiday, the three-star Tropical Attitude and two-star Cocotiers Hotel Mauritius are also on the approved list.

Emirates operates two flights per week to Mauritius. It's a six-and-a-half-hour trip, with prices starting from Dh4,375


The Maldives was one of the first destinations in the world to start welcoming back tourists. Dnata

If you haven’t been vaccinated but an Indian Ocean island retreat appeals, the Maldives is a firm favourite. It was one of the first destinations to reopen to tourists and has so far been very successful in keeping visitors safe.

The archipelago’s “one island, one resort” concept means that social distancing occurs by default, making this an ideal option for people still keen to avoid too much social interaction.

The destination offers countless resorts, at varying price points, but if you want to be a pioneer, head to the Kuda Villingili, which opened in June. It’s a quick speedboat ride from Male, so you don’t have to worry about catching a sea plane, offers one of the best surf spots in the world, as well as one of the longest swimming pools in the Maldives, and is decorated with eco-friendly fittings and furniture, including carpets made from recycled plastic bottles.

All visitors, including those that have been vaccinated, must present a negative PCR test upon arrival in Male, taken no more than 96 hours before their departure.

Etihad flies to Male daily, with fares from Dh3,585; Emirates operates daily flights, with fares from Dh3,695; flydubai flights to Male start from Dh3,370. Flying time is four hours and 10 minutes


KATA BEACH, PHUKET, THAILAND - 2017/11/21: A beachgoer watches parasailing off the beach in Phuket. Tourists can take short parasailing flights from the beach out toward the small island, Koh Pu, and back again.  Phuket attracts more than 5 million tourists each year who flock there for it's picturesque beaches. (Photo by Craig Ferguson/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Thailand's largest, and arguably most famous island is open for business. Year-round sunshine, endless sandy beaches, the blue waters of the Andaman Sea and top-class Thai cuisine have long made Phuket a much-loved holiday destination.

Head to the southernmost tip of the island, Laem Chao, for breathtaking scenery and sunsets; stroll around old Phuket town to take in the traditional Sino-Portuguese architecture; wander through the Wat Chai Tharam temple; or decamp to one of the beaches on the northern coast, which are typically less crowded than those in the south.

On July 1, the southern Thai province removed all restrictions on fully vaccinated travellers. This applies to all vaccines, including Sinopharm. PCR tests are still compulsory before travelling, and need to be taken no more than 72 hours before departing for Phuket. Visitors will also need to complete subsequent PCR tests on days six and 12 of their holiday.

Travellers must also complete and submit a Certificate of Entry form before they travel. Finally, Covid-19 travel insurance with coverage for at least $100,000 is required, with policies offered by airlines not accepted.

Non-vaccinated travellers from non-red-zone countries, which includes the UAE, can also travel to Phuket, but must stay in a local quarantine hotel for 14 days upon arrival.

Etihad flies to Phuket three times a week, with fares from Dh1,795; Emirates operates four times a week, with fares from Dh1,995. Flying time is six hours and 30 minutes


African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at a waterhole - remote camera. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya.

If a safari has been a longstanding feature on your bucket list, now could be a good time to make that wish come true. UAE travellers, vaccinated or otherwise, are not required to quarantine upon arrival in Kenya. They do need to present a negative Covid-19 test, fill in a passenger locator form before flying and then submit daily health information via the online Jitenge platform. A national curfew is currently in place from 10pm to 4am.

Head to the Masai Mara for safari lodges where social distancing is a given and wildlife experiences are infinitely more enjoyable now that there are fewer crowds. At this time of year, the rolling savannahs are teeming with wildlife, from giraffes and zebras to elephants, lions and cheetahs. Time your trip well and you may even see one of the world’s most spectacular wildlife phenomena – the Great Migration.

If you have a particular penchant for elephants, head to Amboseli National Park in the south of the country, where you’ll get prime wildlife spotting experiences against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak.

If you want to combine your wildlife spotting with a bit of beach time, head to Mombasa or the Unesco-listed Lamu Town, where you can spend hours exploring evocative backstreets that are brimming with Portuguese, Swahili, Omani and Zanzibari influences.

Emirates flies to Nairobi, with fares from Dh1,785; Etihad fares start from Dh1,090. Flying time is five hours

Updated: July 07, 2021, 9:28 AM