An Indian resident in Dubai who was one of the first passengers to return to the UAE shares his tips and warnings for fellow travellers.
Paul Samuel, 28, travelled to India in May when his father died after contracting Covid-19.
The UAE had imposed a ban on regular passenger flights to India and Mr Samuel knew that returning to his job and home would not be easy. But he was able to catch the first Emirates flight back from Kerala to Dubai on Thursday, after the UAE eased restrictions on six countries.
Mr Samuel urged people to triple check documents, make sure residents apply for approval and ensure the proper Covid-19 tests are taken.
"Go to the airport early so that if there is any confusion with documents or a queue for the rapid PCR test, they have time in hand," Mr Samuel said.
“In my case, there was some confusion about the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs approval, because Indian authorities wanted us to have applied for it on August 5. But I had applied for it earlier."
He said he took three Covid-19 tests, one 48 hours before travel because he was fully vaccinated, another rapid test at the airport, and a third after landing in Dubai.
“It was the first flight so there were just 20 to 25 passengers. It was empty.
“When I reached Dubai, the process was seamless and everything was easy at immigration. They did a Covid-19 test and sent me home where I waited to get my result.”
The service consultant told his fellow travellers to be at the airport at least four and a half hours before the flight.
Thousands of residents from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal are expected to travel back to the Emirates in the coming weeks.
Many residents had travelled because of emergencies or deaths in the family, and were eager to return to their homes in the UAE.
A ban on flights from India to the UAE began on April 25 after a surge in Covid-19 cases in India and the emergence of the fast-spreading Delta variant.
“There is no need to be anxious about travelling back as it’s a smooth process,” Mr Samuel said.
“Make sure you have your travel documents and extra copies in hand when you reach the airport.
"When getting a PCR test done abroad, inform the hospital you will be travelling and tell them you need the QR code."
Through the three months that Mr Samuel was stuck in India, he was unable to work, but said his organisation was extremely supportive and even considered getting him back to the UAE on a chartered flight.
"They never pressured me and and understood the situation,” he said.
Mr Samuel had booked a one-way flight to India when he travelled in May.
He constantly monitored news and flight options, and as soon as the ban was lifted, was able to get a seat on a direct Emirates flight for Dh881 while other options were priced above Dh6,500.
“I was constantly looking at flight information and had also considered flying to the UAE via [other] countries,” he said.
In the past, he paid close to Dh2,000 for a return flight from UAE to Kerala.
Fully vaccinated UAE visa holders are eligible to return, as long as they received their vaccines from clinics in the UAE. Unvaccinated residents can return if they are school pupils, teachers, university students, lecturers, medical workers, or people who work for federal or local government.