The latest Dubai travel rules and restrictions

With year-round sunshine and just a few days of annual rainfall, it’s no wonder Dubai is such a hit with British holidaymakers – 1.2 million Britons visited in 2019.

After ending lockdown in 2020, Dubai reopened its borders to visitors with tourist visas being issued again as of July last year..

In November the United Arab Emirates (UAE) became one of the few destinations on the UK government’s travel corridors list, meaning British visitors would not need to self-isolate on their return.

But quarantine-free status was lost from 4am on 12 January, in response to what British government sources called “a significant acceleration” in infections being imported to the UK from Dubai.

Arrivals to all four nations of the UK  from all the UAE emirates must self-isolate – though people living in England can take a Covid test after five days and, if it is negative, end quarantine..

Here’s what you need to know.

Am I allowed to travel to Dubai from the UK?

Dubai, and the rest of the UAE, is currently on the Foreign Office’s (FCDO) no-go list. The governmen warns against “all but essential travel to the UAE, based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks”.

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Anyone going there with a standard travel insurance policy will find it is invalidated. 

In addition travel restrictions in place in your area do not permit holidays at home or abroad.

England entered a national lockdown on 5 January, which is expected to last until at least February. An end date has not been confirmed yet, but will be reviewed on 19 February and will be partly based on how well the vaccine roll out has progressed. During this time, international travel should only be for essential reasons such as work.

Scotland also entered lockdown on 5 January with restrictions, applicable to areas that were previously in level 4, expected to last until the end of January. International travel is illegal unless for an essential reason.

Wales has been in lockdown with level 4 restrictions in place since 20 December 2020. This is currently scheduled to end on 31 January 2021. Travel of any kind, including abroad, should only be for essential reasons.

Northern Ireland entered lockdown on Boxing Day. It’s expected to last until 6 February although there will be a review on 21 January.  Travel, international or otherwise, should only be for essential reasons during this time.

How can I get there?

British Airways and Emirates are currently the only airlines operating direct flights from the UK to Dubai. BA serves Heathrow airport. This is the main gateway for Emirates, which also serves Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow from Dubai.

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The Independent found direct return flights from the UK with Emirates from £349 in February.

However, you can find cheaper options by adding a stop over. 

Will they let me in when I arrive?

Different emirates in the UAE have different entry requirements so make sure you double check if you’re flying into another emirate to reach Dubai.

Dubai’s borders are open.

Visitors will be required to complete a Health Declaration Form and a Quarantine Form, which must be printed, completed and handed to Dubai Health Authority staff upon arrival. Visitors will also have to download and register their details on the Covid-19 DXB App according to the FCDO.

In addition, visitors must have international health insurance before travelling. 

Your passport should also be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into the UAE.

Do I need to take a PCR swab test for Covid?

Yes. Visitors have two options – they can take a PCR swab test for Covid within 96 hours of departure or on arrival in Dubai. It must be a PCR swab test and other tests, including antibody test, are not accepted.

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Those taking a test before they travel are required to show printed negative results on their arrival. Those taking a test on arrival will need to quarantine until their results come back negative, which typically takes 12 hours but can be longer.

Additional testing may be required at Dubai airport and those who test positive in Dubai will be required to self-isolate in a government-mandated facility on their own expense.

All visitors to Dubai must adhere to public health measures issued by the Dubai authorities, including any requirements to quarantine.

Further details of the restrictions can be found here.

Other emirates have different rules and restrictions, so make sure you double check if you’re planning to go elsewhere.

Will I have to quarantine when I arrive?

If you test positive for Covid-19, yes. Guidance from the Dubai government states that it is mandatory for tourists who test positive to register their details on the Covid-19 DXB app and isolate themselves “at an institutional facility provided by the government for 14 days at their own expense”. 

Dubai’s national carriers, Emirates and FlyDubai, both include coronavirus cover as part of the ticket prices. In this case, your quarantine expenses will be covered by the airline.

Otherwise no.

Will I have to quarantine when I come home?

Yes. The UAE has lost its status on the UK’s travel corridors list. You will need to self-isolate after returning from Dubai to any of the UK nations. In addition, Scotland has introduced retrospective quarantine.

Any Scottish residents who have been in Dubai since 3 January are also being asked to isolate for 10 days from the date they arrived back in the country.

What about the rest of the UAE?

There are additional restrictions in place.

Abu Dhabi, for example, is requiring all visitors to quarantine for 14 days on arrival. They also need to show a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of arrival if travelling by road. Tourist visas on arrival are currently not being issued at the Abu Dhabi airport. If you’re leaving Abu Dhabi for the UK or the EU, you also need to take a PCR test within 96 hours before your departure.

Sharjah is requiring those wishing to enter the emirate to provide negative results of a Covid-19 test taken within 96 hours of arrival. They must then take another test once in Sharjah and self-isolate until their tests come back negative. All visitors must have adequate health insurance to cover adequate tests and if they test positive on arrival, they will need to quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.

Are hotels open?

Yes, hotels opened in Dubai in May 2020 with social distancing regulations in place, such as socially distanced sunbeds.

Are restaurants, shops and attractions open?

Most shops, restaurants and attractions have now reopened. Major shopping malls, such as the Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and the Dubai Outlet Mall reopened in April 2020.

Public and private hotel beaches, major parks, cinemas, museums and top attractions such as Atlantis Aquaventure and The Green Planet are all open.

If you’re travelling for an event, the FCDO has advised that you should check with the organisers whether it’s still happening – some events have restarted, however. 

What rules are in place?

Face masks are mandatory everywhere outside your hotel room, even on the beach. You can however take off your mask for eating, drinking, swimming and exercising.

Failure to wear a face mask carries a AED3,000 (£650) fine, with the same amount applicable for anyone not adhering to social distancing guidelines of two metres. 

There may also be temperature checks in place at restaurants and other indoor venues.

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