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Dubai and Abu Dhabi requiring covonavirus test certificates for entry, transfer AND EXIT

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In what appears to be an extremely harsh measure, given the position of Dubai and Abu Dhabi as tourist destinations and transit hubs, the UAE has announced that no-one will be allowed to board a flight to Dubai or Abu Dhabi if they are not in possession of a coronavirus negative test result.

The rule also applies to transit passengers who are simply passing through Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Dubai requiring coronavirus test

The test must be taken no earlier than 96 hours before your arrival into the UAE.  It is important to remember that NHS coronavirus tests are unlikely to be accepted, since all you receive is a short text message or email which can be easily faked.  You would presumably need a full certificate issued by a private laboratory. Children under 12 are exempt.

More worryingly, it appears that you will also need a coronavirus certificate in order to LEAVE the UAE for the UK and the EU.  This means that you will need to break off from your holiday to visit a private clinic in the UAE in the 96 hours before you return home and pay for another test.  The clinic must be on an airline-approved list.

A local media report I saw said that the exit test was only meant for UAE residents. The airports, Etihad and Emirates are insisting on a certificate from all travellers, however.

The Emirates website has more information here and the Etihad version is here.  The restriction applies to all flights from 1st August.

Comments (90)

  • Spursdebs says:

    Shape of things to come, some countries will be asking for Covid tests and we will all get used to it. Just like the countries who ask for yellow fever, malaria etc. People can choose if they want to go to countries that require tests or go elsewhere.


    • Colin says:

      Yes it’s going to become as common as certain destinations requiring a visa. If it’s too much of an inconvenience then people are going to have to adapt and go somewhere else on holiday. It shouldn’t be as difficult as people will inevitably make out.

    • Anna says:

      Agreed, however I and many others will not be booking anything which might be cancelled 72 hours before departure (and possibly not covered by insurance) in the event one or more of us tests positive, and tourism operators will know this. So in the long term it will be a major dilemma for individual destinations until a vaccine becomes available.

      • Colin says:

        People are going to have to make decisions about what sort of cancellation rush they’re willing to take. If things go wrong, they can’t then cry about it.

      • Spursdebs says:

        I won’t be rushing to get the first vaccines, I’m not an anti vaxer I have flu jab every year, but not so sure on anything that’s been rushed out. If it means I can’t go somewhere well I’m sure there will be other places that will happily accept me and my money.

        • Colin says:

          I wouldn’t be surprised if most countries worth visiting ask for a vaccination certificate before being allowed in once a vaccine becomes widely available. Who knows really though. It’s all speculation at the moment.

        • Rhys says:

          It will depend on the vaccine. The Oxford Vaccine is based on a viral vector that has been in development for years, and has been repurposed and passed key safety trials before the pandemic even started. Much like the flu vaccine, all Oxford have done is change the internal virus – the delivery mechanism stays the same…

          • Colin says:

            Here’s a good article on it:


            I can certainly understand people not wanting to take an American vaccine that Trump May try to rush through before the November election….

          • Jonathan says:

            I’m in the Oxford trial & 99% certain I had the Covid vaccine rather than the placebo. It made me feel fairly ropey for 36 hours which seems to be common but they’ve now given it to over 5,000 people with no serious side effects. I really wouldn’t worry about it, as Rhys says, it’s a relatively old technique.

          • Colin says:

            “ I’m in the Oxford trial & 99% certain I had the Covid vaccine rather than the placebo. It made me feel fairly ropey for 36 hours which seems to be common but they’ve now given it to over 5,000 people with no serious side effects. I really wouldn’t worry about it, as Rhys says, it’s a relatively old technique.”

            Interesting. Hopefully there won’t be misinformation posted by mental people on the internet about the trial (spoiler alert: there will be)

          • Rob says:

            The side effects are already noted in the research published to date. Unfortunately it isn’t a walk in the park which is awkward as it will require young people – who are unlikely to suffer if they catch it – to take a hit by getting the vaccine.

          • Rhys says:

            No different to other vaccines. I remember feeling a little woozy the evening of my MenACWY vaccine as a student – but it only lasts 24-48 hours or so.

          • Colin says:

            “ No different to other vaccines. I remember feeling a little woozy the evening of my MenACWY vaccine as a student – but it only lasts 24-48 hours or so.”

            Yes I was warned that I might have flu like symptoms are taking jabs when I went to Vietnam last year. I got a very bad cold and soiled myself in my sleep whilst staying in a hotel a few days later (not in Vietnam, as the jabs need to be taken 2 or 3 weeks before the trip).

    • pauldb says:

      One other ray of hope is that we may get simplified quick and cheap testing in the next few months: pregnancy-style tests done with saliva. These may not have the same accuracy as PCR tests but could still be seen as sufficiently risk-reducing.

      e.g. (I’m not particularly promoting Avacta – there are several reagents being tested by Cytiva and others.)

  • Andrew Steele says:

    The HFP article is somewhat unclear.
    Only tests administered by a UAE approved test centre are valid. So no use getting an NHS, PHE, or private test unless the centre is on the approved list. There are around a dozen test centres in the UK that are recognised. Book a place online at

    All this information is available via the UAE government and Emirates websites.

    • Rob says:

      The UK didn’t have a list on the Emirates website yesterday, although it was there for selected other countries.

    • Tim says:

      I’m pretty sure the “purehealth” list is a ‘financially beneficial arrangement’ for both purehealth who are based here and the labs they have linked up with overseas.
      As far as “UAE Government” lists go I would be trusting what EK have on their website – see my post further down.
      Having said that – if one of those places is local and convenient to you, the 542dhs fee is cheaper than any private lab I’ve found within reasonable proximity to where I need to get tested.

  • Greg says:

    Seems like common sense to me. If every country in the world did the same I am guessing it would help in solving th eproblems this virus is causin. Wouldn’t it ?

  • Lady London says:

    That’s bye- bye Qatar for a while then.

  • TomD says:

    I’m out in Dubai at the moment. Got the announcement requiring a test to fly yesterday from Emirates. My understanding from the text I received was that a negative Covid-19 test is a requirement to board an Emirates flight.
    Emirates has just announced free Covid-19 global insurance for all passengers – up to EUR 150,000, for 31 days from the date of the flight. My assumption is that the two are probably linked. They need to reduce the risk to offer the cover. The trade off is that when I arrived I got a free test and had to quarantine until a negative result was given. From Saturday you will have to pay for a test in the UK but it seems you won’t get the free test on arrival but also won’t be restricted to the hotel room until given the all clear

  • Tim says:

    As an expat living in Dubai hoping to travel to see family in UK in August here’s what I’ve got from EK today.
    1) An SMS result from NHS will be accepted in London (and I assume other UK airports). Now, quite how you go about getting an NHS test without declaring you have symptoms (if you’re not a key worker) is another question.
    2) Therefore, ignore – any private test will do. I will also now look at the viability of purchased home test kits; Lloyds pharmacy etc
    3) SMS/App result will be accepted at DXB i.e. printed certificate is not required.

    What I can also say is that a test out here is 370dhs (£78) whereas the cheapest private test clinic I’ve found near where I will be (Cardiff) is double that at £145.

    The global insurance by EK does not cover testing away from Dubai – only expenses if you travel overseas from Dubai and contract Covid-19.

    My gut tells me that the test to leave Dubai, which specifically mentions “to UK and Europe”, is basically another ‘expat tax’. It makes no sense to force someone to have a test to travel to a country that doesn’t require a test for entry. However, they know that after lockdown most travellers will be expats (I don’t get why a tourist would choose to come here in July or August) heading back to Europe to see family and escape the heat so make hay whilst the sun shines. Once it gets to prime tourist season from late Sept/early Oct I imagine that test will put a lot of tourists off coming and will be removed.

    So to sum up, I’m annoyed that we have to have a pointless test just to leave here. And it’s an expensive pain in the ass that you (seemingly) can’t get an NHS test without declaring symptoms. For me travelling alone after 5 months+ away from my family I’ll take this £200ish hit this time. But it will certainly start to add up for couples or families with teenage children considering travel and will rightly put many off.

    • Tim says:

      For clarity, I don’t object to having to pay for a test. It is just a pain not being able to use, from what friends and family a tell me, are very quiet, under utilised NHS drive through facilities.
      If I could drive up to one, pay a nominal fee (£50???) for a symptom-free test, that would make things an awful lot easier than trying to track down a private test centre and then play roulette trying to get one of their time slots 96 hours before departure!!

    • Chris says:

      Hi Tim,

      One thing I would point out here is that the chat messages i’ve had with Pure Health seem adamant that it’s the check in agent who checks the test result, otherwise you’re denied boarding at origin (in my case LHR). My worry is their interpretation that an SMS doesn’t suffice.

      The window for testing is also more complicated than it first appears. My original flight next Wednesday 5th LHR-DXB is not too much of an issue, but it would need the lab test taken on Monday 3rd. The Feltham lab – as listed on the UAE approved sites for the UK – says they need upto 48 hours to produce the result so the appointment time must exceed 48 hours from check in closing time in order to guarantee getting the result in time, whilst simultaneously being within 96 hours of landing in the UAE (72 hours according to Etihad).

      I have no idea what that means if your flight is due to depart on a Tuesday. Meeting both criteria presumably becomes impossible if the lab can not do tests on a weekend. I am a solo traveller, going mainly for work, and i’m flexible but I feel really sorry for families that don’t have the same flexibility, and live miles away from an accredited laboratory – it’s a tough ask on them.

      Sorry I’ve copied the above from a Flyertalk post I made on the EK forum but hope that my roundabout discussions with Pure Health, the Feltham lab etc are at least useful to some people on here.

      • Polly says:

        V useful, thanks, esp if not open on weekends…what a nightmare

  • Sukes says:

    Has anyone experience of invoking with Etihad Holidays clause 6.14 of their T&Cs (published Jan 2020) due to Covid? “You have the right to cancel your confirmed holiday before departure without paying a cancellation fee in the event of “unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances….Your right to cancel in these circumstances will only apply where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against travel to your destination or its immediate vicinity. For the purposes of this clause, “unavoidable and extraordinary circumstances” means warfare, acts of terrorism, significant risks to human health such as the outbreak of serious disease at the travel destination or natural disasters….Please note that clause 6.14 only applies to customers who are resident in the United Kingdom/European Union.”

  • kumar says:

    DO kids under 12 need the test?