UAE Covid-19 travel rules and guidelines
COVID-19 has resulted in a flurry of regulations, restrictions, and bans of various activities, from flying out to camping overnight. Here in the United Arab Emirates, each emirate has enforced varying rules in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease, and to bring numbers down. As the holiday season approaches, many are planning on taking a vacation within the country’s borders, avoiding airports and international travel. However, each emirate does have different rules and restrictions in place because of COVID-19. Depending on where you reside, it’s important to keep a few things in mind when planning a vacation within the country.
Disclaimer – Rules are subject to change (article dated Dec, 2020). Please consult with information on Government website.
The rules for Abu Dhabi have stayed similar, with regular testing being required for those who are planning to stay in the emirate for more than eight days. Earlier, the emirate required a PCR test with a negative result that was done 48 hours prior to arrival, and individuals would then have to get tested again on the sixth day of their stay. Recently, the emirate announced a change in the rules – people who are coming to visit must take a PCR test before arriving, take a test four days after their arrival, and one eight days after their arrival (if they are planning to stay for eight days or more). The rule was implemented last month, and is applicable to all those who enter the emirate – either via plane or by road, from the other emirates. The rigorous testing ensures that the numbers are closely watched, thereby allowing government officials to keep an eye on any potential COVID-19 hotspots and take preventative action. Residents who are looking to spend a weekend away in Abu Dhabi should get tested at any government-approved centre, and carry the necessary paperwork, as a checkpoint has been placed at Abu Dhabi’s border.
An additional requirement to look into is the issuing of tourist visas for Abu Dhabi – currently, only those with resident visas, UAE citizenships, or those who are eligible for a visa on arrival will be able to enter the country through the capital(following the COVID guidelines). The other thing to note is the requirement of 14 day quarantine on arrival.
Additionally you can always enter Abu Dhabi from other emirates by road with a PCR test, if you’ve spent 14 complete days in UAE where day of arrival is not counted.
Dubai’s rules for travelling are much more relaxed, requiring a negative PCR test upon arrival. Unlike the country’s capital, Dubai is open for tourists, and has been for the past few months. The emirate continues to issue tourist visas, and has placed COVID-19 measures in an attempt to keep numbers down while still remaining open. In the latest update, Dubai has exempted all passengers from GCC countries from the pre-flight COVID-19 tests, which was earlier mandatory. Now, the update dictates that passengers have to undergo a PCR test on arrival alone, and are not required to have a negative certificate to board the flight. However, this rule only applies to those coming via flights, and is not applicable to those travelling by road. Passengers who try to enter Dubai through the Hatta border should take a PCR test, 96 hours from the time of departure.
In terms of activities, Dubai still offers a range of services and events to attend, albeit with a few conditions attached. Restaurants, for example, must adhere to social distancing rules in terms of seating, so tables and chairs are spread out. Movie theatres are running, but at limited capacity. In terms of public places like theme parks or water parks, they are still open but will take in a limited number of guests. Wearing a mask outdoors is absolutely necessary, as is following social distancing norms to the best of one’s ability. Hefty fines are in place for individuals and businesses that flout COVID-19 rules, in order to provide further incentive to stay safe and stay protected.
New guidelines were announced for travellers that would come through the ports of Sharjah, in September. The requirement for an approval from ICA was lifted, but the Sharjah government still required a negative PCR test result before boarding, and the test should have been conducted within 96 hours before the date of travel. Another PCR test must be conducted when you arrive at Sharjah’s port. Passengers are also required to download the Al HOSN app on their mobile phones; the app is used to allow authorities to monitor the passenger’s health while they quarantine, if they test positive for COVID-19.
Sharjah has reopened their borders to welcome tourists, visitors, entrepreneurs, and businesspeople, allowing travel to the emirate as long as all COVID-19 requirements for entry are met. This includes international health insurance and a negative PCR test report. Visitors are also required to fill a health disclosure form, and must self-isolate till the results of the PCR test is known. Once they test negative, however, guests are welcome to enjoy Sharjah’s sights and landmarks, albeit while following COVID-19 protocols, including wearing a mask while outdoors, and maintaining proper social distancing.
Umm Al Quwain
Residents or tourists who are visiting this northern emirate will be pleased to hear of the more relaxed rules and regulations within the emirate’s boundaries. Shopping malls and boutique stores have reopened for visitors, along with public beaches and hotel beaches. The emirate continues to be a great spot for residents and citizens looking for a domestic vacation, now that travel has become risky. Restaurants, too, have opened for dine-in customers, and hotels have opened to a limited capacity, while public transport within the emirate, too, continues to operate while implementing stringent COVID-19 measures.
The emirate of Fujairah has slightly different laws, with hotels and beaches staying open, but camping being banned by the government, in an attempt to curb the rising numbers. The ban on camping is relatively recent. As the weather turns for the better, residents have begun to flock to the emirate for its scenic spots, as Fujairah is renowned for its comfortable camping spots and stunning views. The camping ban was an anti-COVID measure that was set up as the holidays approach. However, Fujairah’s hotels and beaches are still open to the public (in limited capacity), and it is still possible to enjoy Fujairah’s scenic views, albeit from a hotel room, and not a tent.
Fines and penalties are being placed against violators, with any tent, camp, or caravan being removed by the authorities. Restrictions are being placed in terms of crowd control as well, with stringent measures being put in to limit gatherings of people, especially during the holidays. Gatherings have been banned, and concerts that last for more than three to four hours cannot be held, without prior approval – according to a statement released by the emirate’s government.
Ras Al Khaimah
Following the ban in Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, too, instilled a ban to the establishment of all camps in wildlife reserves, in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. The ban was implemented based on the recommendation of the Emergency, Crisis, and Disaster Team of Ras Al Khaimah, in light of significant public demand for temporary campsites and ranches thanks to the pleasant winter weather.
Residents and tourists that were looking forward to visiting the emirate are still welcome to do so, as public beaches and malls in Ras Al Khaimah have been reopened – malls will be allowed to operate at a reduced capacity, while those who wish to visit the beach must wear a mask at all times and follow proper social distancing protocol.
The hotels at Ras Al Khaimah, too, are open for public use, and follow strict COVID-19 measures, including constant sanitation and maintaining appropriate social distancing measures, particularly at the hotel’s facilities (including restaurants, bars, and spas). The emirate offers free COVID-19 PCR tests to all international visitors. All international tourists that are in the emirate for one night or more are entitled to the free test, and need only book an appointment at one of the government-approved COVID testing facilities – the RAK Medical Centre, and the RAK hospital.
To check into a hotel at Ras Al Khaimah, you’re required to have a confirmed booking, along with a signed health declaration form. Visitors that are flying in to Ras Al Khaimah must quarantine at the hotel until the PCR test results are received, and all guests are asked to respect the hotel’s COVID-19 guidelines and regulations.
The emirate of Ajman has slightly more lax restrictions, with the emirate recently announcing that hotels can resume holding wedding celebrations with up to 200 guests, further easing COVID-19 restrictions. The Ajman Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Team agreed to allow celebrations and weddings to continue, opening up halls, hotels, and houses in the emirate. The team released a statement saying that the number of guests cannot exceed 200 in public venues, and cannot exceed 50 guests, for events that are held at home. Of course, COVID-19 restrictions like social distancing and wearing a mask at all times still apply, with the added rule of four people being seated at a table, and no more. Thanks to vigorous testing across the emirates, the team at Ajman felt safe to be able to slightly ease restrictions, as the numbers are being closely monitored.
COVID-19 has resulted in a flurry of restrictions, regulations, and protocol changes across the world, and even within the UAE. Each emirate has instilled different practices, with some emirates open for tourists, and others being more guarded and wary of incoming visitors. It can get complicated, particularly for international visitors that may not be aware of how each emirate is governed by different rules, rather than by singular federal laws. Flying in to Dubai, Sharjah, or Abu Dhabi require vastly different things, and even travelling within the country can get quite tricky as the laws shift across the emirates’ borders. When planning a trip to the UAE, it’s important to match up your itinerary with current COVID-19 guidelines in each emirate, and to plan your stay accordingly. At the end of it all, the highest priority is to stay safe.
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