This article is reviewed regularly by Wego’s editorial team to ensure that the content is up to date & accurate.

Updated 4 August 2021

As the pandemic ebbs and flows around the world, travel bans and flight suspensions are persistently updated for countries globally. Keeping up with the latest COVID-19 related progressions, UAE has been updating its travel restrictions constantly. While the country remains open for most visitors, it also maintains a list of countries banned from travelling to the Emirates.

This restriction has UAE expats over a barrel, as they face possible visa expiration and are on the brink of being stranded. Here’s what they can do to be able to facilitate their travel to the United Arab Emirates.

New exemptions for flights to UAE for stranded residents

Starting 5 August 2021, as announced by the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA), a new category of exemption to travel to the Emirates has been made for UAE residents travelling from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Nigeria and Uganda.

Expats are required to have valid residency visas and must have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in the UAE. The second vaccine dose must have been administered at least 14 days prior to travel and the expat must hold a certificate that proves this.

Additionally, vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers from key sectors are allowed entry as well. These include:

  • Health workers employed in the UAE such as doctors, nurses and technicians.
  • Teachers at universities, colleges, schools and educational institutes.
  • Students
  • Humanitarian cases
  • Employees of federal and local government agencies
  • Patients undergoing medical treatment in the UAE

Exemptions announced previously for passengers from the six above-mentioned countries are still in place.

Transit passengers can also resume travelling provided they have taken a PCR test no later than 72 hours from the time of departure. The UAE’s airports will allocate special lounges for transit passengers.


Entry requirements for newly exempt UAE residents

  1. The newly exempt category of UAE residents must obtain approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) through the ICA website. If they reside in Dubai, they’ll need to get pre-entry approval from General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA)
  2. They must hold a negative result from a PCR test taken no later than 48 hours from the time of departure. The results must have a QR code.
  3. A rapid test will be conducted before they board the flight.
  4. They must also undergo a PCR test on landing in the UAE.

Can non-exempt residents and expats travel to UAE?

With India and Pakistan having the most returning expats, the new exemption paves way for a large number of residents to head back to the Emirates. On the other hand, residents from non-exempt countries, such as Afghanistan or South Africa for instance, face inbound travel restrictions imposed by the UAE, leaving expats at risk of being stranded without valid visas.

With no end in sight, more stranded expatriates are opting for what is now becoming a popular choice, a ‘quarantine holiday’. Travellers are quarantining in a third country with simple pre-travel protocols from where they will then be allowed to enter the United Arab Emirates.


Third-country quarantine destinations


Armenia has become the most popular quarantine destination for stranded travellers wishing to enter UAE ever since restrictions on the entry of non-Armenian citizens were lifted. Due to this relaxation of entry regulations, close proximity, relatively cheaper travel expenses and availability of flights, Armenia has become a sought after place for quarantining before entering most Gulf countries.

Vaccination, testing and quarantine requirements

According to the latest guidelines, upon entering Armenia, travellers will be asked to provide either

  • A negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate generated within 72 hours prior to arrival, or
  • Certification of complete vaccination against COVID-19 with the second dosage administered at least 14 days before entry

The certificate should be in Armenian, Russian or English printed on the official letterhead and should contain the following information:

  • all contacts and the name of the head of the medical institution where the test/vaccination was taken,
  • the name, surname, date of birth, and passport number of the examined/vaccinated person,
  • the result of the test/the vaccine manufacturing name and the product’s serial number, the dates of the first and the second dosages, signed by the head of the medical institution with its seal․

If either of the above mentioned certificates is provided, travellers are not required to quarantine or self-isolate.

Infants upto 1-year old (0-11 months 29 days) are exempted from presenting both these certificates.

Travellers entering without the negative test certificate will be tested upon arrival at the airport and are required to self-quarantine or isolate until receiving test results. If they test positive, they are required to remain in self-isolation for 14 days and undergo further treatment. If the result is negative, they may discontinue isolation.

Travel expenses

The average cost of travel via Armenia is AED 6,000 per traveller. Those who want a four to five-star travel experience may require at least AED 8,000 per head. However, one thing to keep in mind is that with so many reasons to stop at Armenia, the high traveller demand has made it difficult to find hotel rooms in Yerevan.


As international travel resumed, Uzbekistan became the second most sought after third-country quarantine destination. The major advantage is that travellers are allowed entry irrespective of being from a red-list country. When coupled with relative proximity to the Emirates and cheaper costs, Uzbekistan becomes an attractive choice for most travellers.

Vaccination, testing and quarantine requirements

According to the latest guidelines, anyone, irrespective of vaccination status, arriving in Uzbekistan on a direct flight or rail must provide a negative COVID-19 PCR certificate tested no more than 72 hours before their arrival into the country.

People travelling or arriving from any red-list or yellow-list country are subject to a mandatory 14 day self-isolation in a home quarantine at the place of residence or in a hotel. Uzbekistan does not insist on 14-day quarantine if the traveller has been in a green-list country for the past 14 days and can provide proof of being COVID-19 negative.

Any person showing symptoms including high fever, coughing or respiratory difficulties will be required to undergo a test for COVID-19 and may be isolated at a government facility (or approved hotel with medical and security controls in place) at their own cost.

Travel expenses

The average cost of travel via Uzbekistan is AED 8,000 per traveller.


While the world continues to experience the COVID-19 pandemic, Seychelles remains open to visitors. This archipelago of 115 islands is a popular choice amongst travellers who want a true ‘quarantine holiday’.

Travellers coming from all permitted countries need not quarantine in Seychelles if they can provide proof of a negative test.

While expats who have been in South Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Brazil within the last 14 days might prefer a different destination as they are barred from entry, this island country is still very much sought after for its relaxing holiday experience and its lenient entry restrictions.

Vaccination, testing and quarantine requirements

According to the latest guidelines, all visitors, including children and infants, arriving in Seychelles must provide a negative COVID-19 PCR certificate tested no more than 72 hours before their arrival into the country, irrespective of vaccination status. Visitors are however strongly encouraged to be fully immunized before travel.

People travelling or arriving from any permitted country need not quarantine on the proviso of providing proof of being COVID-19 negative.

Online Health Travel Authorization (HTA) is required prior to boarding flights to Seychelles. Visitors must submit their negative PCR test results, flight and accommodation details for HTA before
departure. Visitors must submit their applications for approval through the designated platform. Upon checking in, all visitors must show approved Health Travel Authorisation (HTA) to their respective airlines for verification.

Travel expenses

The average cost of travel via Seychelles is AED 6,000 – AED 8,000 per traveller.


Despite Qatar being considered as popular quarantine destination, it can be complicated for people travelling with unvaccinated children and other family members, as a trip to Qatar can incur a high travel cost.

Vaccination, testing and quarantine requirements

Qatar has grouped inbound travellers into a categorization of red, yellow, and green list countries that determines the length of quarantine and testing for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.

All passengers (including citizens, residents, and GCC residents) entering Qatar, regardless of age or vaccination status, must have a pre-travel COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of arrival in Qatar taken at an approved center.

Effective 2 August, those coming from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka are required to undergo mandatory quarantine. Those vaccinated/recovering from COVID-19 in Qatar are subject to a two-day hotel quarantine and are allowed to leave the hotel on the second day if the result of their PCR test is negative. Others are subject to a hotel quarantine for 10 days. Moreover, unvaccinated children are not allowed entry. Stringent regulations such as these deter travellers from going to Qatar.

Travel expenses

The average cost of travel via Qatar is at least AED 10,000 per person.


The Maldives reopened its borders to tourists of all nationalities on 15th July 2020 and has since been welcoming of international travel.

When the government announced that there will be no major incoming travel restrictions to the country, expats saw the opportunity to travel to the Maldives on their way to their UAE journey. Despite the relatively expensive travel costs, the unique travel experience, no quarantine requirements and the extremely relaxed entry regulations make the Maldives a popular choice for a true ‘holiday quarantine’.

Vaccination, testing and quarantine requirements

According to the latest guidelines, all inbound tourists to the Maldives, including those who have completed the prescribed dose(s) of COVID-19 vaccines and recovered from COVID-19, should hold a negative result for a nucleic acid test (PCR test) taken at most 72 hours before departure from the first embarkation point.

Furthermore, the following measures are to be ensured effective from 26th July 2021 for all inbound tourists while check-in to Tourist Guesthouses in local islands:

  • To strictly ensure that the tourists (excluding children and infants who are not eligible for vaccination) have completed the recommended dose(s) of a COVID-19 Vaccine approved by the World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing or the Maldives Food and Drug Authority. At least 14 days must have passed after the recommended doses(s) were administered before checking in to Tourist Guesthouses in local islands. Those tourists who have not completed the recommended dose(s) of a COVID-19 Vaccine shall be accommodated in Tourist Guesthouses in local islands upon fulfilment of the below criteria by the Tourist Guesthouse island
  1.  At least 60% of the Tourist Guesthouse island population eligible for vaccination have been administered the vaccine and 14 days have passed.
  2. At least 95% of staff in all tourist facilities of the Tourist Guesthouse island have been administered the vaccine and 14 days have passed.
  3. At least 90% of the resident population of the Tourist Guesthouse island who are 65 years & above have been administered the vaccine and 14 days have passed.
  • Should hold a negative result for a nucleic acid test (PCR test) for COVID-19, within 72 hours prior to check-out from the respective Tourist Guesthouses in local islands.

Travel expenses

The average cost of travel via the Maldives is AED 10,000 per traveller due to the high demand.

Which is the right destination for you?

Passengers book tickets for the destination based on their requirements and we would advise you to do so too. If you would want to go on a vacation to the quarantine destination and have a more relaxing experience, Maldives and Seychelles are the most preferred destinations. But if one has to work from home, central Asian countries like Armenia and Uzbekistan are preferred.