Traveling In A Pandemic: Dubai Edition

My experience of flying to and from Dubai in COVID times

The year 2020 was a disastrous year for international air travel. The coronavirus basically shut down the travel industry and grounded everyone in their countries. My travel plans for 2020 were cancelled and I was wondering when I would be able to fly “normal” again.

2021 has been better than 2020 if we’re being honest. We’re still in a pandemic but vaccines have been produced and administered to millions of people around the world and most these countries are slowly opening up.

With all that happening, I decided that I would be travelling again in 2021. It wasn’t going to be “normal” because there were new covid restrictions for travel to help protect both the airline and its passengers.

With all that said, here is how I planned everything with my good friend Omi as we travelled to Dubai together.

Pre-Game Preparations

So let me state for the record that this trip was planned months in advance. We started planning in February to officially fly in September.

We chose Dubai for our destination. Why Dubai? Because it was one of the few places which had “opened” up for travel. Plus it’s a big tourist destination site and it felt like an obvious choice.

The requirements for travelling to Dubai aren’t as stringent because Dubai is trying to attract as many tourists as possible and so the process is a bit easier than most places.

You can start the process via two ways: Do it by yourself or through a travel agent. I opted to do it my myself. The option to use a travel agent would mean that they would book your plane ticket for you as well as arrange for a hotel if you wanted. The cost would be a bit more but it would be more convenient.

Before you start the application process, you’ll need to have some things in hand:

  • A plane Ticket To Dubai (I bought my ticket directly from the Emirates website)
  • Documentation showing where you’ll be staying in Dubai (You can book a place to stay through Airbnb to cut costs. We opted for Booking.com and stayed in an apartment suite. Just print out the confirmations when you’re done)

Once you have those two items, you can start officially the e-visa process. All the requirements you need for travelling to Dubai can be found via the VFS website including visa fees and other document requirements.

The VFS is located around the airport area, at the Atlantic towers. Here’s a Google Maps link. You will need to be physically present to hand over all documentation as well as pay the visa fees. (Note: You’ll need to pay in cash)

Here’s a couple of cliff notes on the getting the e-Visa:

  • You’ll need to have your passport and 1 color passport size picture
  • You have to fill out this form, print it out and present to VFS
  • If you have travelled to Dubai, the US, or Schengen countries (Netherlands, Denmark etc) in the last 3 years, you’ll just need your passport, plane ticket information, and documentation on where you’re staying.
  • The visa fee will be determined by how long you’re planning on staying in Dubai. A Dubai tourist fee is about 580 GHC.

You can use this visa requirements site to check out all the other requirements you need especially if you don’t satisfy the second point above.

I did all the above, submitted my documents and paid the fee. I received my e-visa in less than 2 days via email.

Now I was ready to fly!

Almost.

Warm Up Game And Flight

Most of the covid restrictions come into play when preparing to board and fly. Most airlines have their own COVID policy but there’s lots of similarities across board.

For Emirates, I had to take a COVID test and get negative result within 72 hours of my flight day. Once you’ve gotten your covid test results, you’ll need to upload it to a site called Panabios, a website for covid tests uploads.

Panabios has a list of *approved labs (*approved here means that these labs will test for covid and automatically upload your test results for you)

Here’s the list to all the trusted labs: PanaBIOS | Trusted Testing

If you don’t perform your COVID test at any of the approved labs, you’ll have to upload the test results yourself online. It needs to be negative and within 72 hours of flying.

With all the tests done, you’re now almost ready to fly.

Before you get to the airport, make sure you have paper copies of everything including:

  • A receipt or confirmation of the location you’re staying in Dubai
  • Your negative COVID test results
  • Your Dubai E-visa
  • (Don’t forget your yellow card as your vaccine card just in case)

The check in procedure is largely the same as before. They’ll just cross check your covid test results when you’re boarding.

Now you are officially ready to take to the skies!

Have passport, will travel

Game Time! Flying To Dubai

It takes about 8 hours to Dubai and yes, you’ll have to wear your mask in the plane unless you’re drinking or eating.

Once you land in Dubai, you have to prepare for ANOTHER covid test at the airport. Ugh!

Thankfully, Dubai offers free rapid testing. Once you get off the plane, just follow the path to the baggage area and you’ll be directed to a place where they’ll do a quick swab in your nose. They’ll also scan your passport and ask for your contact details to deliver your results. You can provide your email or the number of a contact person you know in Dubai.

Once you’re done, you go collect your luggage.

You can purchase a SIM card after you’ve gotten your luggage from one of the telecom operators. I got a SIM card from Etisalat. They have various options to choose for a data plan. You can get data ranging from 2GB to about 12GB. I would go for the higher plan if you can afford it. Lots of places in Dubai have free wifi but it’s better to just use your own data.

Now you’re ready to leave the airport.

You can call an Uber from the airport (The Dubai airport offers Free Wifi FYI) or you can get use a taxi* outside the airport. Just ask for directions and someone will assist you.

(*Taxis in Dubai are well regulated. Almost all of them use GPS so you can give them your location and they’ll use the map to find it. They also have a price meter so you can see how much the trip will be costing you along the way)

Enjoying Dubai: It’s All Part Of The Plan

Before we left for Dubai, we had a plan of the various activities we wanted to do during our two week stay.

We used Notion to plan what activities to do on each day.

Planning Dubai activities with Notion

Sometimes we would improvise but this is what we mostly did during the trip to maximise our stay.

I’ll probably post the fun stuff with pictures in another blog post 😅

Coming Back Home

So after all the fun, it’s time to come back home (NOOOO!)

So what’s the process like coming back?

Just like the process of flying from Ghana, you need to take a COVID test 72 hours prior to your departure date. Luckily, the apartment suite where we stayed provided help with that. They helped booked a clinic which provides covid tests. We gave them a date and time and someone came to our room and administered the nose swab test. Fast and easy!

The clinic that administered the test wasn’t on the “approved list” on the Panabios website so that meant we would have to manually upload our covid test results when we get them back (which was in 12 hours)

You will also need to fill out a Ghana Health form online. Here’s the link: Fill form (ghs-hdf.org)

Something that you also need to do before you get on the plane is to pay for Ghana’s covid test. It’s $50 for citizens and $150 if you’re a non citizen (Which to me is ridiculous but that’s another story!)

Here’s the link for the website: Ghana — Covid Testing (myfrontierhealthcare.com)

If you don’t do that, you’ll have to pay when you get off the plane in Ghana. I wouldn’t advise that because the Dubai airport would ask you for the receipt of that test before you check in.

(I had an issue paying with my local bank card on the website. If you run into the same problems, try getting a friend to help pay for you just in case you run into issues)

Once you pay, you should get a receipt via email that you need to print out and show at the airport when checking in.

Here’s a summary of what you’ll need to have on hand when you go to the airport:

  • Ghana covid test print receipt
  • A copy of your negative COVID test results
  • A copy of the travel pass from the Panabios site (We weren’t asked to provide this but it helps to have on hand just in case)

Landing Back In Ghana

Once you go through check in at Dubai, you board the plane and you’re on your way home (😭😭😭😭)

When you land in Ghana, you’ll need to show the covid payment receipt and then you’ll be administered the rapid COVID test after queueing.

You’ll have to go to baggage area and get your stuff. Now here’s the “weird” part: You’ll need to check the Ghana Health Online website for your covid results (Link)

You’ll need to enter your passport number and check for the results. It won’t be instant but keep checking every 2 minutes or so.

When you get your results, you’ll need to go to a counter near the exit where an official will have to scan a covid test barcode that was placed on your passport and then will print out your results.

You’ll then need to show that result to someone at the exit before you get out of the airport. It’s a bit cumbersome and a bit unnecessary but 🤷🏽‍♂️

And now you’re done! Welcome back to Ghana.

And now you can plan for your next trip 😊

Epilogue: It’s All About The Benjamins (Accounting)

For all you people who want to get into details on budgeting, here’s some of the cost rundown:

  • Emirates Plane Ticket (Round Trip): 4,217.30 GHC
  • COVID Test (Before Flight To Dubai): 250 GHC (Done at Leding Lab in East Legon)
  • Dubai Tourist Visa Fee: 580 GHC
  • Apartment Suite Booking Fee in Dubai: $1,492 (2 weeks) — ( I paid $746 for half because we were split the cost for the suite between two people. We had Free wifi and cleaning service)
    Total in GHC: 4,476 GHC
  • Dubai Covid Test at the hotel: 250 GHC
  • Ghana’s COVID Test (Coming back to Ghana): 300 GHC

Total Cost: GHC 10,073.3

So there you have it. If you want to travel to Dubai for 2 weeks, you need to be prepared to spend about 10,000 GHC. You could probably cut your costs down if you opt for an Airbnb for lodging. Our suite location was near a popular place called “The Walk” in Dubai. You could probably get lower costs if you were elsewhere.

Also, these costs are just for travel, covid tests and lodging. You need to also budget for Ubers, Taxis and eating out while you’re there. Taxis tend to be more cheaper than Uber. And if you can, use the train system as well.

Hope this helps whoever is reading this 😊

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My personal writing space. (UX Designer | Blogger | Social Introvert) UX Design writing: josephkuuire.com

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Joseph-Albert Kuuire

Joseph-Albert Kuuire

My personal writing space. (UX Designer | Blogger | Social Introvert) UX Design writing: josephkuuire.com

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