Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid-19: Indian expat travels to Dubai via Istanbul before Turkey clamps down on South Asian travellers

SM Ayaz Zakir/Dubai
Filed on July 1, 2021

(AP file)

Turkey, too, is off the wish-list, as the nation bars passengers from Asian subcontinent.

Asim Sheikh (name changed on request), an Indian expatriate who flew from Mumbai to Dubai via Istanbul, Turkey, last week, amid the travel ban since April 24 owing to a spike in Covid-19 cases back home due to the fresh and lethal second wave shared his travel experience with 'Khaleej Times'.

As direct flights from South Asia, except India, have been suspended since May 13, Turkey emerged as a hotspot for quarantine centres for travellers from a host of Asian countries.

However, in the past couple of weeks, Turkey has barred passengers from many South Asian countries because of the raging viral outbreak.

Indians, who are UAE residents and are stuck back home due to the travel ban, are trying to explore various routes to reach their home-away-from home to safeguard their jobs, businesses and career prospects.

The UAE authorities have allowed several countries as a base for a 14-day mandatory quarantine period ahead of their return to the emirates.

For instance, Aasim, who is a healthcare professional working at a hospital in Chennai and a resident visa holder of UAE, was in dire need to reach Dubai to meet his parents.

He got desperate and found Turkey as a viable option to arrive in Dubai.

“I was in touch with many travel agents to reach Dubai. A few of them suggested Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and neighbouring Central Asian countries as viable options because of the reasonable cost of living, but I felt Turkey to be a better option,” Aasim added.

Chennai to Istanbul

Many flights operate from Indian cities to Turkey via Doha, Qatar.

Aasim flew from Chennai to Istanbul via Doha on Qatar Airways for Dh1,730. There were many co-passengers with him for other destinations in Europe and North America.

A negative PCR test report, a one-way ticket and a visa for Turkey has to be produced at the airport in Chennai to board the flight.

A Turkish 30-day e-visa for an Indian national costs about Dh250.

Passengers have to produce a return air ticket, a negative PCR report and a valid visa at the airport in Istanbul.

Aasim along with his co-passengers were taken to a government-run quarantine facility by bus. “The facility was clean and hygienic. A government-run institution was converted into a quarantine facility for transit passengers and also for Turkish nationals. It was absolutely free, thanks to Turkish Government’s welfare schemes,” he said.

A mobile SIM card can be brought at the airport in Istanbul, but Aasim said that the quarantine facility was equipped with high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity.

Travellers are free to visit tourist spots in Turkey on completion of their 14-day-quarantine period. “I was allowed to spend a few more days in the country, but left for Dubai as I was waiting to meet my mother after two years,” he added.

Istanbul to Dubai/Abu Dhabi

Documents to be produced at the airport on the way to Dubai or Abu Dhabi include an air ticket, a negative PCR test report and an approval from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai or the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship in Abu Dhabi.

Aasim arrived in Dubai by Anadolujet, a subsidiary of Turkish Airlines. “I paid Dh625 for the one-way ticket to Dubai,” he said.

Aasim, who had left India on June 10, underwent a PCR test at the Dubai International Airport (DXB) upon his arrival on June 26 and a 24-hour mandatory quarantine at his residence in the emirate.

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