Summer travel 2021: Our holiday checklist for flying in and out of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and UAE

From selecting insurance to finding a reliable PCR test clinic abroad, check out our summer holiday guide

In just five weeks, schools in the UAE will close for the summer break and many families will embark on a much-needed holiday abroad.

A growing number of destinations are easing quarantine and Covid-19 testing rules - particularly for people who are fully vaccinated.

But procedures remain tight in some countries, whether you're vaccinated or not, and there's a myriad of rules to bear in mind.

The National has put together a pre-departure checklist to help plan your break.

When do I need to take a PCR test?

First things first: travelling to most countries - and in many cases simply boarding a flight in the UAE - requires a negative PCR test.

It should have been taken no less than 72 hours before your flight, so make sure you plan ahead.

You should receive the test results in 24 hours, but it can take longer. Research your travel destination, as the authorities might require a certificate printed out, or for you to download a local tracing app.

UAE residents and citizens should download and activate the Al Hosn app, which is used at Abu Dhabi International Airport, and increasingly used for access to live events.

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Top travel destinations for 2021

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Are there packing and baggage restrictions?

It depends on the airline and destination.

Most airlines are operating with similar baggage allowances, but you can check in advance.

Should I get travel insurance?

Yes. Airlines such as Emirates airline or Etihad Airways offer passengers free travel insurance that covers Covid-19 treatment, but many do not.

Should you fall ill in a foreign country, you will want piece of mind that you are covered for a good level of treatment that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Global insurers such as Axa and major US providers including Cat 70 and John Hancock, have specific Covid-19 packages to cover all eventualities.

Insurance packages can be found for as little as $25 and cover tens of thousands of dollars worth of treatment.

Find a testing centre at your destination

It is important to be aware of any travel restrictions once you arrive at your destination. For example, can you travel from one city to another?

It is also important to be aware of where testing centres are located.

Unlike in the UAE, where every clinic now offers PCR tests at government-mandated prices - clinics cannot charge more than Dh150 - in many countries tests are limited to smaller private clinics.

The UAE-recognised Pure Health portal has a list of approved centres here.

Returning to the UAE will require a negative PCR test, so it is important to know where your nearest test centre is to make sure you get your result back in time for the flight.

Stay safe while travelling

Do not rely on airlines or airports to take care of your personal health and safety. Pack your own hand sanitiser and face masks.

Consider getting a sports-style face mask that wraps around your head, rather than your ears, for comfort during a long day of travel.

Travelling in and out of Dubai

If you are a Dubai resident departing from the emirate, you will need to take a PCR test only if it is mandated by the country you are travelling to.

Passengers heading to Dubai from any point of origin, including GCC countries, must present a negative Covid-19 test certificate at check-in. These should be taken no more than 72 hours before departure.

Antibody tests and home testing kits are not accepted.

At present, the emirate is not accepting passengers from several countries due to emerging variants of the virus.

Passengers will not be able to enter Dubai if they have been in, or transited through, South Africa or Nigeria in the past 14 days.

However, UAE nationals and members of diplomatic missions who are returning to the Emirates from those countries can enter Dubai. In this case, they must present a negative Covid-19 certificate on arrival.

While passengers can depart from Dubai to some Indian cities, flights from India to Dubai are currently suspended.

Only the following categories of passengers will be allowed entry to Dubai from India: members of diplomatic missions, holders of a UAE golden visa, UAE nationals, passengers exempted and/or granted permission to enter the UAE by the appropriate authorities, as well as passengers travelling on a business flight who have a valid Covid-19 PCR test certificate.

What if I am vaccinated?

Some countries have eased travel restrictions for passengers that are fully vaccinated, including Croatia, Barbados and Georgia.

In most cases, passengers who have received both doses only need to present proof of vaccination on arrival.

Typically, children who are travelling with vaccinated parents are subject to the same rules as vaccinated travellers, but it is advised to check the rules for each destination.

Unvaccinated passengers will have to take a PCR test and quarantine in some countries. Travellers should check the rules for each destination.

People living in the UAE who have been fully inoculated against Covid-19 can avoid paid hotel quarantine in Ireland.

Any traveller who has received two doses of the AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine will be allowed to self-quarantine at home or in alternative accommodation.

Passengers arriving in the country will still have to present a negative PCR test, whether vaccinated or not, taken 72 hours before landing in Ireland.

Georgia, which is a popular holiday destination for UAE residents, has relaxed travel rules for vaccinated passengers.

Citizens of all countries, except those that have been in India over the past 14 days, may enter Georgia if they have been fully vaccinated.

Can I travel to a country that has UAE on a red list?

It is possible for UAE passengers to travel to a country that has Emirates on its red list.

The UAE has been on the UK's red list for travel since mid-January – but travel is still possible.

The first option requires mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

As it stands, passengers travelling to the UK from the UAE are required, by law, to stay in a government-mandated hotel for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 (Dh9,000) per adult. The current fine for breaking the UK quarantine law is £10,000 (Dh52,000).

The other option is to travel via a country on the UK’s travel green list or common travel areas, such as Iceland or Portugal.

Although this is not generally advised, travellers could complete a 10-day stopover in one of these countries before departing for the UK.

Before travelling onward to the UK, you must book and pay for a Covid-19 test to take on or before day two after arrival, and complete a passenger locator form.

epa09227244 Travelers walk through a terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, USA, 25 May 2021. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is continuing COVID-19 pandemic safety protocols by adding touchless screening technology, keeping social distance guidelines and following the federal mandate that all travelers wear a face mask on aircraft and at airport facilities as travel is expected to surge this summer. The summer travel season traditionally begins Memorial Day weekend. There is a zero tolerance policy in prosecuting disruptive travelers, with the TSA reporting an increase of unruly passengers since the pandemic began.  EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Residents flying out of Abu Dhabi and the rest of UAE

Everyone leaving Abu Dhabi International Airport on an Etihad flight is required to take a PCR swab test, 48 or 72 hours before your flight, depending on where you are travelling to.

You must present a printed copy of the negative PCR test result on arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Download and activate the Al Hosn app to receive any required test results.

It is the responsibility of passengers to check the test and entry rules of their place of departure and final destination.

Etihad has introduced a ‘Verified to Fly’ service, making it simple for passengers to travel in and out of the city.

Verified to Fly is available from seven days before your flight.

How it works:

  • Visit 'manage my booking' and update your contact details
  • The airline will send you an email with the Covid-19 travel requirements for your destination
  • Reply to that email with the relevant documents and the team will check them within 12 hours
  • When you have been 'Verified to Fly', check-in online, download your boarding pass, then head straight to the Etihad Verified to Fly desks at the airport

UAE residents flying back to Abu Dhabi

All passengers with visas issued from other emirates can only enter the UAE through Abu Dhabi International Airport if travelling from the 'Green List' of countries issued by the Abu Dhabi government. Approved countries include Australia, the UK and Germany.

All UAE residents must update their details on uaeentry.ica.gov.ae prior to travelling to the UAE.

Passengers must take a PCR test no more than 72 hours before entering the city. Health authorities at the airport will also perform a free PCR test on arrival.

Passengers arriving at Abu Dhabi International Airport from ‘Non-Green List’ countries will be requested to sign a quarantine undertaking form at the airport.

As part of Abu Dhabi's Covid-19 guidelines, travellers must quarantine for 10 days at home or in a hotel.

Those coming from a country that UAE authorities deems high risk will be subject to quarantine at a government facility.

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