United Arab Emirates opens up to vaccinated tourists

  (photo credit: UNSPLASH)
(photo credit: UNSPLASH)

After more than a year of closing and opening borders, uncertainty, and last-minute restrictions, the United Arab Emirates is finally opening the country to all vaccinated tourists. 

The move, which comes in an effort to rebuild the country’s tourism sector to pre-pandemic levels, was met with positive reactions from travelers. 

According to Emirates News Agency, the official state-run news, this recent decision to relax requirements applies to citizens of all countries. This includes those who have a visa to the UAE, as well as those traveling from previously-banned countries like India, Pakistan, and Nigeria. 

The United Arab Emirates government has noted that the new rules will come with a handful of requirements. 

Perhaps the most important rule is that the traveler must be vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine, which currently includes AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac, and Sinopharm. 

The United Arab Emirates is no stranger to such vaccines, as they had one of the world’s fastest vaccine rollouts alongside Israel, Bahrain, and the United Kingdom. At the moment, the United Arab Emirates is close to having 80% of its population fully vaccinated, with 90% of locals having at least one dose. 

Once travelers arrive in the country, they must take a mandatory Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at the airport. 

The new rules, which came into effect on August 30, are sure to boost the country’s economy, especially as the travel and tourism sector makes up more than 12 percent of the United Arab Emirates’ GDP. 

As the government noted, the new rules “... come as part of the country's strategy to create a balance between public health and the activities of vital sectors, and in support of the national efforts to achieve sustainable recovery and economic growth.” 

The United Arab Emirates are also gearing up to host one of the country’s biggest events: the Dubai Expo 2020. Although it was delayed by more than a year due to the pandemic, this world expo is set to open up in October and last until March of next year.

The Dubai Expo is estimated to bring in more than 25 million people over the course of 182 days, where each participating country will have their own pavilion and a chance to enjoy immersive experiences across a range of industries.

Besides the 2020 Expo, incoming tourists are treated to a multitude of things to do in the United Arab Emirates all year ‘round. It’s no wonder why the country had almost 17 million visitors in 2019!

For starters, the tallest building in the world — as well as a major tourist attraction in its own right — is located in the UAE. The 828-meter Burj Khalifa fits everything in its grand size, from a colossal shopping mall on the ground floor to apartments, offices, a luxury hotel, and even an observation deck. 

Even though the Burj Khalifa may get the majority of visitors, an equally stunning attraction is located just meters away. The famous singing fountains of Dubai symbolize the beauty and wealth of the country, and are a must-see for any visitor — especially during the evening! 

Although its ‘next-door neighbor’ is the tallest building in the world, travelers can bet that the singing fountains are equally impressive: the height of the fountain jets can reach up to 150 meters during a show! The powerful acoustic system plays songs in multiple languages, and there are about 20 ‘performances’ per day (without repetition!). Like many other projects in Dubai, the singing fountain was one of the most expensive fountains in the world, coming in at a cost of $218 million USD.

Although everyone has heard of the Louvre in France, what many might not know is that it has a satellite museum in the United Arab Emirates! Indeed, the Louvre Abu Dhabi (as it’s called) contains more than 8,000 square meters of galleries and is the largest art museum in the Arabian Peninsula. 

Similar to its big sister in Paris, the Louvre in Abu Dhabi has a gorgeously-constructed facade. All eight layers are decorated in the form of patterned ornaments that let in light and leave distinctive shadows on the walls and floor. 

Another interesting fact about the museum is its layout: similar to the winding streets of a typical medina (market), travelers are treated to 55 different buildings in the Louvre, of which 23 are art galleries. The galleries located are presented in chronological order, starting from prehistoric times and going up to modern art.

Last but certainly not least, those traveling with families or small children are bound to love Atlantis. This hotel is one of the most well-known symbols of Dubai thanks to its distinct shape, Aquaventure water park, and an aquarium that’s home to more than 65,000 marine animals. 

Although the pandemic is far from over, countries such as the United Arab Emirates are opening their borders and welcoming tourists once again.