NOTE: Updated 2 Jan 2021 hoping this post becomes irrelevant ASAP
2020 has been a pretty dull year for all of us. We spent most of our time of the year in attending zoom calls, figuring things out at home and hoping for a quicker release of vaccine. Like most of you, I also wanted to travel and work from somewhere nice. I made and cancelled many plans to Goa and Mountains (the two hot favourites). One of my college friend and his wife, Nakul & Divya, stayed in Dubai and we had been planning to visit them from the time they shifted there. I thought “now” is the best time and hence we took calculative risks and flew to Dubai. Below is a quick guide if you are also planning to visit Dubai during COVID:
Prerequisites before Travelling to Dubai
Visa and travel insurance: The only prerequisite for getting a VISA is a passport which is valid for at least 6 months. You can get a single entry 30-day tourist VISA from any travel agent by paying INR 6000 – 6500. I would suggest getting good travel insurance from the same travel agency (they will get you some good local travel insurance). It should cover the cost institutional quarantine should there be any need. It takes 3-4 days to get the VISA – you can apply for VISA a couple of weeks before your departure date.
Return tickets: A valid return ticket required. Don’t play any trick here – I saw many cases getting caught during my check-in process. Ticket rates are usually flat these days. I would still suggest booking a month in advance to get good rates. I got my return ticket in INR 19.5K (Air India)
COVID test: A negative RT PCR test report is required from ICMR approved labs. The timing of the test should not be more than 96 hours before departure. I got myself tested from Suburban Labs centre at the departure of Mumbai T2 airport and got the result within 8 hours (they promised within 24 hours). The report has to be wither signed and stamped or you should have the mail from the testing agency on your phone. I know cases where airlines did not allow boarding in absence of the same.
Hotel booking or invitation from the host: Not a must but I saw a couple of fellow passengers struggling with it. I would suggest having it to be safe.
Body temperature & Safe Arogya Setu: Airline scan your body temperature right before boarding and can very well deny boarding in case of temperature. Arogya Setu is checked while entering the departure terminal
Immigration at Dubai
It is much smoother than the Indian side. They simply check all your papers – reports, visa, insurance and invitation. Next, they will send you for RT-PCR COVID testing – it is not chargeable. They will ask for contact number (preferably local) stick some sticker on your passport – Don’t loose it. There was hardly any queue for testing. It took us approximately 45 to 60 minutes from deboarding to the luggage belt.
Note: You can check for your results of the test from QR code of the sticker pasted on your passport. The results are declared within 12-14 hours. If you are negative, then you are free to roam around with masks on. In case of the positive result, you will require to be home quarantined or institutional quarantined for 14 days. Thankfully we tested negative.
Prerequisites before Travelling from Dubai to India
Air Suvidha: The passengers are required to mandatorily fill Air Suvidha form at New Delhi Airport website (irrespective of entry airport) – https://www.newdelhiairport.in/airsuvidha/apho-registration. You can also apply for exemption if you have got negative COVID PCR test report.
COVID test: A RT PCR test report is not mandatory for boarding a flight to India. It will certainly help you in getting clearances depending on your port of entry. If you are coming to Maharashtra, it won’t matter – you will have to undergo a 7-day intuitional quarantine unless you fall in to exemption category (pregnancy, kid below 5 years of age, 65+ age or death in immediate family)