The Emirate of Dubai has reopened to international travellers, including Canadians, as of July 7. In this post, I wanted to compile all the information on Dubai’s reopening efforts, including some of the more creative measures it’s offering to encourage safe and responsible tourism.
While the United Arab Emirates experienced an early outbreak of COVID-19, it has done a respectable job of containing its transmissions: as of the time of writing, there are about 250 new cases per day being reported across all of the UAE.
It’s important to note that only the Emirate of Dubai (which encompasses the city and its surrounding areas) within the UAE has reopened as of now; the rest of the country, including its capital, Abu Dhabi, remains closed to foreign visitors. However, Abu Dhabi has indicated its plans to reopen in the near future as well, so we’ll update this article when the time comes.
Disclaimer: Information may change on a day-by-day basis. While we make every effort to keep these guide up-to-date, the decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. It would be best to contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry requirements before travelling.
In This Post
- Are Canadians Allowed to Travel?
- Is Dubai Opening Its Borders to Canadian Travellers?
- Do You Have to Test for COVID-19 to Enter Dubai?
- Do You Have to Quarantine Upon Arrival in Dubai?
- What Measures Is Dubai Offering to Encourage Tourism?
- What Can You Expect if You Travel to Dubai?
- Which Airlines Are Operating Flights to Dubai?
Are Canadians Allowed to Travel?
Canadians may travel internationally; however, there are several factors to consider that may strongly discourage you from doing so.
The Government of Canada continues to advise that Canadians avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada. This means that consular assistance may be limited and that you may face difficulty returning home in the event of sudden flight cancellations or local movement restrictions.
As a result of the government advisory, travel insurance policies will not cover medical treatment abroad related to COVID-19. If you contract COVID-19 while abroad and incur medical expenses that are not covered by the local government, it will be at your own expense.
Furthermore, until at least August 31, 2020, Canadian residents, with a few exemptions, will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon returning to the country from abroad, and will need to make the necessary arrangements for doing so (ensuring a suitable place of quarantine, arranging for food deliveries, requesting additional time off work, etc.)
The decision to travel in spite of all these considerations remains your prerogative.
Source: Government of Canada
Is Dubai Opening Its Borders to Canadian Travellers?
As a relatively decentralized nation-state, the United Arab Emirates’s seven individual emirates each have their own authority to open up their borders to foreign travellers.
As the emirate most dependent on commerce and tourism, Dubai has taken the first step of reopening its borders to any air travellers who would be able to enter Dubai under normal circumstances as of July 7, 2020.
Since Canadians can normally enter the United Arab Emirates without arranging a visa in advance (only a free visa on arrival is required, which is essentially just a stamp on your passport), this means that Canadians are indeed free to enter Dubai, as long as they are travelling by air.
Source: Government of Dubai
Do You Have to Test for COVID-19 to Enter Dubai?
Yes, tourists must complete a COVID-19 PCR test (nasal or throat swab test) within 96 hours of embarking on their trip, and present proof of the negative test as part of the new entry requirements.
When Dubai first reopened on July 7, Canadian travellers also had the option of undergoing a PCR test at Dubai Airport and self-isolating until the test results were complete. However, as of August 1, 2020, all passengers travelling to Dubai (including those merely connecting through Dubai) will need to bring proof of a negative PCR test within 96 hours of embarking on their trip.
(Since Dubai has opened its borders to all nationalities, there is a list of select high-risk countries whose residents must also complete a PCR test upon arrival as of August 1; fortunately, Canada is not on this list.)
In addition to the testing requirement, the following measures are also required of every traveller headed to Dubai:
Downloading the COVID-19 DXB Smart App upon arrival in Dubai
Upon check-in, either declaring that you will bear any costs of medical treatment should you contract COVID-19 while in Dubai, or showing proof of valid health insurance with COVID-19 coverage (this may come with your Emirates ticket, as we’ll discuss below)
Completing a Health Declaration Form and submitting it upon check-in
Completing a Quarantine Undertaking Form and submitting it to health authorities upon arrival in Dubai
Do You Have to Quarantine Upon Arrival in Dubai?
As long as you’re able to present proof of a negative PCR test within the past 96 hours and do not show symptoms upon your arrival, there is no requirement to quarantine.
If a traveller tests positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, whether because they failed to provide proof of a negative test or because they are suspected to have COVID-19 symptoms after thermal screenings, they will need to register their details on the COVID-19 DXB Smart app and self-isolate at an institutional facility provided by the government for 14 days – either at their own expense or at the expense of their valid travel insurance.
Source: Government of Dubai
What Measures Is Dubai Offering to Encourage Tourism?
Dubai is taking some extraordinary steps to stimulate tourism at this challenging time, chiefly through its state-owned airline Emirates, which has become the first airline in the world to offer a blanket travel insurance policy to cover COVID-19-related medical expenses for anyone who travels on an Emirates ticket.
The initiative is known as Emirates COVID-19 Assistance, and is in effect between July 23 and October 31, 2020. Insurance is underwritten by NEXtCARE, a leading insurance provider in the Middle East and part of Allianz Partners’ global network.
For the first 31 days after departure on the first flight on an Emirates ticket, travellers who test positive for COVID-19 while abroad will be covered for repatriation assistance, assistance with medical and hospital costs (up to €150,000 per covered person), and assistance with quarantine accommodation costs in an approved designated facility (up to €100 per day for a maximum of 14 days).
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should contact the Emirates COVID-19 Assistance service as soon as possible before accepting any medical costs. However, testing costs and any costs incurred in the traveller’s home country are not included.
For any travellers headed to Dubai over the coming months, Emirates’s industry-leading insurance package likely represents the best option for travel insurance, given that most Canadian travel insurance providers are either excluding COVID-19-related expenses or declining all coverage due to the Government of Canada’s travel advisory.
Emirates COVID-19 Assistance will provide coverage for Dubai-bound travellers, but also anyone transiting through Dubai en route to a final destination elsewhere in Emirates’s network.
It’s important to note, however, that the insurance is only offered on tickets issued by Emirates, whether booked with cash or Emirates Skywards miles. Tickets issued by other airlines, as would be the case if you redeemed Alaska miles for Emirates flights, would not be eligible.
What Can You Expect if You Travel to Dubai?
Normal life has largely resumed in Dubai, with the standard precautions in place and mandatory mask-wearing in public (enforceable by fines) for most of the population.
Combined with the relentless outdoor heat, it’s quite likely that you’d spend most of your time in Dubai’s indoor shopping malls and entertainment venues, hence an even greater need to take precautions.
Dubai’s major attractions are all open to visitors. The Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates reopened in late April, the Gold Souk in late May, and the Burj Khalifa in early June.
From recent TripAdvisor reviews, most facilities remain open with a few small changes (such as waiter service at breakfast instead of the buffet); meanwhile, I certainly can’t think of many more social distancing-friendly luxury getaways than the desert oasis of Al Maha on the outskirts of town.
Which Airlines Are Operating Flights to Dubai?
Emirates is currently operating a five-times-weekly service between Toronto and Dubai, which will likely be of greatest interest to Canadian travellers. Round-trip fares are not unreasonable at around $1,200 in economy class.
Other airlines, such as KLM, Lufthansa, and Turkish Airlines are offering cheaper one-stop itineraries from Canada to Dubai, and Canadians would indeed be allowed to transit through the intermediate city along the way.
However, remember that only booking with Emirates will allow you to take advantage of the Emirates COVID-19 Assistance travel insurance policy for the first 31 days of your trip. If you book with another airline, it’d be a good idea to purchase separate global travel insurance that specifically covers COVID-19 medical treatment, such as the Safe Travels International Cost Saver plan by Trawick International.
If you choose to redeem miles for business class or First Class, remember that only by redeeming Emirates Skywards miles do you qualify for the embedded travel insurance.
Onboard service has also been reduced slightly: although the usual wide selection of food and drink will continued be offered, crew interaction will be drastically reduced, and of course, the Emirates A380 First Class shower and bar are closed until further notice.
Meanwhile, Air Canada will resume their thrice-weekly Toronto–Dubai direct service in early September, giving Canadian travellers another option to plan around, especially if the requirement for 14-day mandatory quarantine upon return is relaxed by then.
Unfortunately, new Aeroplan partner Etihad Airways isn’t a very useful option for getting to Dubai at the moment, until the UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi also reopens to foreign travellers. That should hopefully happen soon, which would open up more attractive avenues for flying to the UAE – and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Etihad follows suit in offering embedded travel insurance when travelling with them as well.
With an economy heavily reliant on international trade, commerce, and tourism, Dubai is looking to welcome back foreign travellers, including Canadians, as soon as possible after successfully keeping their local COVID-19 transmission under control.
Through a few characteristically headline-baiting initiatives from its state-owned airline, Emirates, Dubai hopes to provide travellers with as safe and streamlined of an experience as possible. We’ll now look towards the other emirates, including Etihad Airways’s home of Abu Dhabi, to see if the rest of the UAE is about to follow suit as well.