Covid-19: Pakistani expat travels to UAE after quarantine in Kyrgyzstan

Dubai - Working from home was not an option for Fayaz, and Bishkek came across as a scenic, affordable quarantine destination.

By SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Wed 30 Jun 2021, 3:25 AM

Fayaz Munir, a Pakistani expatriate who recently flew from Islamabad to Dubai via Kyrgyzstan, a central Asian country, amid the travel ban since May 13 owing to a spike in Covid-19 cases in his native country, shared his travel experience with Khaleej Times.

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“Kyrgyzstan, which is known for its cold climate, has splendid natural beauty. It's one of the best countries to spend time in quarantine,” Fayaz said.

Many UAE residents from South Asia such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal are stuck in their native countries due to the travel suspension.

The travel suspensions from India and the other South Asian nations came into effect from April 24 and May 13, respectively.

These residents are exploring options to return to Dubai via a few Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), including Kyrgyzstan.

The UAE authorities have allowed these countries for a 14-day mandatory quarantine period before residents can head back to their home-away-home and workplaces.

For instance, Fayaz, who works as a senior accountant and lives at Al Warqa, was in dire need to reach Dubai in a bid to hold on to his job.

Work-from-native Pakistan was not an option for Fayaz.

He got desperate and found Kyrgyzstan as a viable option.

“I contacted many travel agents to reach Dubai. I received feedback from them, but found Kyrgyzstan to be a viable option because of the reasonable cost of living,” Fayaz added.

Islamabad to Bishkek

Fayaz flew from Islamabad to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, on June 11, 2021, along with a few co-passengers from Pakistan on their way to Dubai.

He paid Dh1,600 for the one-way ticket to Bishkek for a two-hour flight.

“Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines operate flights from Islamabad to Kyrgyzstan, but the tickets are expensive and travel time increases to over 10 hours because of prolonged layovers,” he said.

Fayaz applied for a Kyrgyzstan visa online by paying Dh700.

He said that the e-visa can be obtained online by paying up to Dh700 depending on the processing time. He had to produce a visa copy, a PCR report, an air ticket to Dubai and hotel booking details at Islamabad and Bishkek airports.

An air ticket from Bishkek to Dubai costs around Dh1,000.

Fayaz advised travellers to keep Kyrgyzstani Som and US Dollars handy since both these currencies are accepted in the central Asian nation.

A taxi fare from Bishkek airport to the city centre costs around Dh22.

A local mobile number can be obtained from the airport at Dh25 and with unlimited Internet connectivity.

Plenty of accommodation options are available in Kyrgyzstan.

He said there are plenty of accommodation options in Kyrgyzstan. “I booked a hotel for Dh1,000 for 14 days. However, there are clean hygienic backpackers’ accommodation for as low as Dh250 for 14 days,” he added.

Bishkek, he said, has many South Asian eateries which serve food at affordable prices. “Many Indians, Pakistani and Bangladeshi students are pursuing their postgraduate degree in management and there are several eateries catering to them. You may need to spend around Dh400 on food during the 14-day quarantine,” he added.

Bishkek to Dubai

Fayaz pointed out that after the mandatory 14-day quarantine is over, a UAE resident from a South Asian nation should request for an entry permit from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) online to arrive in Dubai or the Federal Identity and Citizen and Citizenship (ICA) to fly back to Abu Dhabi.

Besides, a green status on the Al Hosn mobile app is mandatory.

A PCR test in Bishkek costs around Dh65.

“The laboratories in Bishkek don’t have a digital facility. As a result, only a stamped copy of the PCR test report is available,” he added.

Documents to be produced at the Bishkek airport on the way to Dubai or Abu Dhabi include an air ticket, a negative PCR test report or an approval from the GDRFA or the ICA.

Fayaz said UAE residents from South Asia, who would like to opt for Kyrgyzstan as a quarantine destination, need to keep a digital translator handy as locals communicate largely in Kyrgyz or Russian.

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