UAE summer travel: residents weigh up holiday plans amid uncertainty over travel rules in UK and Europe

The expense of hotel quarantine and mandatory PCR tests mean many are reluctant to fly overseas

UAE residents hoping to head to Europe for the summer say travel restrictions have put their holidays on hold.

Uncertainty around changing Covid-19 rules, coupled with the expense of hotel quarantine and mandatory PCR testing in some countries, is impacting peoples' travel plans.

Families who spoke to The National said they would have to spend thousands of dirhams extra for destinations such as the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe.

PCR tests in Europe can cost up to 190 euros (Dh830) per person - in contrast to Dubai and Abu Dhabi where they are capped at Dh150 and Dh65 respectively.

My husband has limited annual leave and if we do travel to the UK we can't really afford to spend time or money on hotel quarantine

As such, many residents are choosing to stay put this summer.

Julia Young, 38, reluctantly decided against travelling to the UK to introduce her six-month-old baby to her family.

“My husband and I have discussed it back and forth numerous times and we have now decided to just do a staycation somewhere in the UAE instead,” she said.

“It’s not really what we want to do as we’d love our family and friends to meet our daughter, she’s the first grandchild on both sides of the family, but the cons of travelling outweigh the pros right now.

“My husband has limited annual leave and if we do travel to the UK we can’t really afford to spend time or money on hotel quarantine.”

The couple, who are both fully vaccinated and come from the UK, have been in the UAE since the summer of 2019 and are yet to visit their families back home.

Ms Young said they did toy with the idea of doing a 10-day stopover in another country before making their onward journey to the UK, but said it was too risky as the "government could change the rules last minute" and they could get stuck somewhere.

Travel rules from UAE to UK

The UAE is currently on the UK’s red list, meaning stricter measures are in place for people travelling from the emirates.

You cannot enter the UK unless you are British, Irish or you have the right to live in Britain.

Everyone who arrives in England direct from the UAE must isolate in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days from the point of their arrival, which will be treated as day 0.

Before you leave the UK, you will need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken in the three days before you depart. You must also complete a passenger locator form.

Travel and vaccine rules for Europe

More than a dozen travel corridors have now opened for passengers from the UAE, including Greece, Italy and the Seychelles.

The agreements allow vaccinated passengers to travel between both destinations without the need to quarantine on arrival.

However, some destinations in Europe that many UAE residents call home still require self-isolation, hotel quarantine or mandatory PCR testing, making travel plans a little more complicated.

Trish Finn, 60, from Ireland, received her Sinopharm vaccine at the beginning of the year.

She was hoping to travel home for the summer, but in April the Irish government announced it would only allow travellers inoculated from an approved list of four Covid-19 vaccines to avoid hotel quarantine.

Any traveller who has received two doses of the vaccines developed by AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Janssen will be allowed to quarantine at home, saving €1,875 ($2,255) on the cost of a hotel stay.

“I have my Pfizer vaccine booked in for July 2,” Ms Finn said.

“That way I can eventually get home for a trip this summer. I need both doses and an additional week to pass between my second dose and date of departure from UAE, so I’ll likely be looking to fly home to Ireland in late August.

“I need to pay for a PCR test before I fly and book a second one in advance for when I arrive in Ireland.

“It’s been a whirlwind trying to arrange travel plans and I have to book last minute, but I have no choice.”

Ireland's Covid-19 rules for UAE travellers

Those who have taken one of the approved vaccines can isolate at home for 10 days and must take a PCR test between day five and seven. This test needs to be pre-booked before entering Ireland.

If the test comes back negative, the isolation period can end early. If people do not have an approved vaccine, they must quarantine for 14 days at a designated facility.

This period can be extended if people test positive and are still symptomatic at the end of the 14-day period. They may leave after 10 days if they get a negative PCR test result.

UK removal from Abu Dhabi green list

Earlier this week, Abu Dhabi removed the UK from its Green List, meaning travellers arriving from Britain now have to quarantine on arrival in the UAE capital.

The news left Abu Dhabi resident Kelly Al Muhairi’s summer holiday plans in limbo.

"I’m going to wait it out and see what happens,” said the 43-year-old mother-of-two from Wales.

"I don’t want to waste money staying in hotel quarantine for two weeks [in the UK], or travel to an amber country, then have to spend two weeks stuck indoors at home to then return to quarantine in Abu Dhabi."

For Swedish resident Marie-Louise Mahfouz, 40, her annual summer trip home is going ahead.

A ban on entry to the Scandinavian nation is in effect for non-essential travel from most countries outside of Europe.

However, if you are a Swedish citizen living in the UAE you can travel home. There is no statutory requirement for a negative Covid-19 test in order to be granted entry to Sweden for its citizens.

“We’re planning to go away as we always do to spend time with family. We will travel on July 12 to August 23,” said Ms Mahfouz.

“Sweden has more of a relaxed attitude and is in the process of opening up. Plus, as Swedish nationals we do not need a PCR test to enter from Dubai.

“We will be flying back via Geneva in Switzerland as we have family there, but as of now, everything looks fine."

French resident and mother-of-three Emilie Jacob said she will be staying in the UAE this summer.

As much as I would love to visit my family in France and friends in the UK, we have decided against it for now

With a young baby and two small children, she said travelling would be a challenge.

Vaccinated travellers from the UAE can travel freely to France for a holiday and won’t need to spend seven days in quarantine after arrival.

However, they will need to have a negative Covid-19 PCR test result or negative rapid antigen test.

Unvaccinated travellers can only travel to France if they have an essential reason and must show a negative Covid-19 test result and undergo seven days of self-quarantine.

“This year my husband and I have been going back and forth for six months about whether to go away or not for the summer,”  said Ms Jacob.

“As much as I would love to visit my family in France and friends in the UK, we have decided against it for now.”

She said the risk of one member of the family catching Covid-19 while abroad would not be worth it and said in the UAE they are lucky to have “so much to do and so many places to go”.