Several countries have started to open up their borders to international travellers, and Dubai is among the first few to do so. It reopened to visitors on 1 August and since then, has seen a slow influx of people itching to get out and start to enjoy life again. Are you also thinking of packing your bags and heading out to Dubai? Here’s what you need to know about having a safe trip, and back.
What do you need to carry?
Other than your personal items such as clothes, accessories, shoes and bottles of suntan lotion, you must have valid health insurance and a negative COVID test conducted 48 hours before departure by a nationally recognised body. You will be required to show the certificate at check-in, fill-in a self-declaration health form and register on the COVID-19 DXB app before boarding your flight for Dubai.
If you show any symptoms, the airline has every right to stop you from boarding. Upon landing, you will be subject to a thermal screening and only when you test negative will you be allowed to proceed. If you show any symptoms or test positive, you will have to be quarantined at a chosen institutional facility at your own cost for 14 days.
What’s the COVID situation like in Dubai?
Dubai has always been all about the sun, the sand, shopping and the best hotels. Nothing’s changed post COVID-19. You still get it all. The only difference is that now it comes veiled in restrictions and guidelines that have been put in place for everyone’s safety.
While UAE ranks among these few countries with the lowest counts, the nation has had its own COVID-19 outbreaks, peaking in May and again in mid-September. But its low incidence rate compared to other urban places has been thanks to a swift lockdown early on and strict virus prevention measures.
Yes, masks are compulsory in public, except when you are exercising, eating or drinking, in a car with your family, or are alone. This includes being masked in taxis, which currently allow just two passengers unless you’ve booked a minivan via airport ground staff or on the Careem app. Masks are compulsory while traveling on Dubai Metro as well. And keeping a 2-meter social distance is mandatory.
The mask rule applies to all public areas in Dubai, including its theme parks, where the two-meter social distancing decree is enforced strictly while also ensuring every other seat is empty, unless occupied by family members.
Masks can feel irritating in the UAE heat, but they are the reason you can think of visiting a country with a low infection rate. It is only because of these safety checks and protocols that Dubai’s resorts have managed to re-open just as swiftly and safely. And as visitors, you must be ready to embrace them too. Or be willing to pay a hefty 3,000 dirham fine.
But will all this take the joy out of a typical Dubai holiday? Will it be relaxing or will the restrictions make the time there stifling?
Can’t take enough precautions
Most establishments used the time during the closure to plan for and introduce safety and precautionary measures for guests as well as the staff members. Senior members of the team have spent countless hours training their staff for travel after the lockdown, covering all possible Covid-related topics, just to ensure everyone understands the seriousness of the pandemic and the need to keep everyone safe.
Many resorts began operations by offering attractive staycation deals and pool day offers to bring in the domestic guests. Soon, international travellers followed and hotels and resorts began implementing planned procedures to the hilt, with some of them going even beyond. You might possibly feel things to be a little excessive at first, depending on what you’ve been used to so far.
You’ll find sanitizer dispensers everywhere and you are expected to use them whenever required. Don’t worry, you’ll soon get into the habit of it. Expect to face the temperature gun or get a complete thermal body scan check upon arrival at all establishments, whether it’s the resort, hotel, restaurant, mall or even the gym.
Perspex panels separate the resort check-in desk staff from guests and guests are encouraged to conduct contactless payments. Some resorts might also spray sanitizer on your luggage upon entry. Other places have also put in place a walk-through sanitizer tunnel to save you the effort of getting yourself and your luggage sanitized.
Getting used to the resort experience
Guest rooms now undergo additional cleansing, and nearly all resorts have removed all non-vital paper items to add a reassuring touch of safety.
Want to take a dip in the pool? You’ll find plastic-sealed towels waiting for you, while vigilant lifeguards ensure all social distancing norms are followed and prevent overcrowding and any gathering of strangers.
Get a taste of the new dining experience too. Many restaurants no longer offer you physical menus and instead you have QR codes that you can scan to get access to the online versions. Just ensure there is enough mobile data or the resort has good Wi-Fi. Some places have kept things simple and you will receive disposable or wipe-clean menus which work just fine. Remember, you have to keep sanitising your hands every time you come in contact with them.
Some establishments are going a step beyond these precautionary measures and offering free medical cover for COVID-19-related expenses to encourage people to travel during the pandemic, knowing that their safety is of utmost importance to the resorts of Dubai.
‘Comfortable, safe and looked after’
Yes, these are challenging times and travellers and resorts alike are finding ways to weather the storm. Resorts are changing their product offering and travellers need to adapt to this new normal in order to stay safe and comfortable.
It feels surreal at times, but trust us, it won’t take you long to take this new vacation mode into stride.