UAE flights: Stranded Indian, Pakistani expats now eye travel via Qatar

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File photo

Dubai - Fully vaccinated travellers from India are exempt from quarantine in Qatar if their PCR test result is negative, say travel agents


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Sun 18 Jul 2021, 5:45 PM

Last updated: Sun 18 Jul 2021, 8:05 PM

Desperate to return to their jobs and homes in the UAE, stranded expatriates in South Asian countries are now eyeing Qatar as a quarantine option as inbound travel suspension into the Emirates continues.

A handful of UAE-based travel agents, with operations in Doha, have launched package deals for stranded residents in India, Khaleej Times has learnt. Similar package deals are also being planned for residents in other countries that face inbound travel suspensions imposed by the UAE, including Pakistan, said travel agents.

On July 12, Qatar's Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced the re-opening of its borders to fully vaccinated international travellers. Passengers must have taken the vaccine at least 14 days before their travel date, said Qatar Tourism.

On-arrival visa for Indians, Pakistani nationals

Raheesh Babu, group COO of Musafir Travels, an online travel agency, explained: "Indian passport holders now enjoy on-arrival visa to Qatar. The passengers need to download the Qatari Ehteraz app and upload their information, including passport, PCR test result and hotel booking details. Once uploaded, passengers will receive pre-approval in seven to eight hours."

Babu said ever since Qatar has announced the revised list of regulation for its inbound travellers, the demand from stranded passengers have increased dramatically. "Also, we have an office in Qatar, so the operations for us are relatively easier," he added. Furthermore, given Qatar's proximity to the UAE and similar cultural inclination, UAE expatriates are more comfortable with the idea of quarantining in Qatar instead of countries like Armenia or Uzbekistan.

A senior official with Air India in the UAE told Khaleej Times: "India to Doha flights are performing very well. Doha has consistently remained a strong performer with no drop in the loads. Flights are operating mostly at full capacity."

Musafir has priced its India to Dubai via Doha package at Dh5,000 to Dh6,000, including air ticket prices and hotel stay. "We have had two Dubai-bound passengers already land in Doha," Babu stated. "There is an on-site RT-PCR test that needs to be done at the airport, which is priced at 300 Riyal (Dh298.1). It needs to be paid for by the passenger," he added.

How does it work?

According to the level of risk in each country, Qatar has classified countries in green, yellow, and red lists.

While India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are among the countries in the 'red' list, fully-vaccinated passengers can be exempt from quarantine as long as they have taken vaccines approved by the MoPH.

Recognized vaccines are Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca (Covishield), and Johnson and Johnson. "Those who have taken the Sinopharm vaccine get conditional entry into the country. This category of travellers will be subject to an antibody test on arrival and if the result is positive with antibodies, they are exempted from quarantine. Otherwise, the traveller must undergo applicable quarantine based on the country of departure and perform Covid-19 PCR tests upon arrival," said the Ministry of Public Health on its website.

Ten-day quarantine for minors with GCC visa

"Travellers must hold quarantine hotel booking at the time of check-in to a flight bound to Doha," it added. Furthermore, the MoHP clarified that vaccinated GCC nationals and visa holders who do not have a residence in Qatar, travelling with unvaccinated minors, should be subject to hotel quarantine based on the country classification — five days for green, seven days for yellow and 10 days for red list countries.

Some travel agents have also said the service is currently unavailable to those who do not have a visa validity of at least 20 days, those who have been outside the country (UAE) for more than six months and those who do not have GDRFA or ICA approval.

'Would rather wait and watch'

However, many other agencies are refraining from launching travel packages specifically for stranded expatriates as the inbound travel rules come across as complicated. "The lists of rules and regulations to travel to Qatar are complicated and contain several pros and cons," said Afi Ahmed, managing director of Smart Travels.

"In case a passenger gets stuck in Qatar due to whatsoever reason, it becomes our responsibility. I would rather wait for direct flights to re-open, which I hope will be soon," he added.

Rules for passengers arriving from Pakistan

Pakistani citizens can be granted a visa waiver for 30 days on their arrival in the State of Qatar, given the following conditions:

The passenger's passport must be valid for at least six months.

The passenger must have a confirmed return ticket.

The passenger must have a valid debit or credit card.

The visa will be granted for 30 days free of charge and is extendable for a similar period only once after confirming the return ticket.

Passengers should provide a confirmed hotel reservation.

Passengers arriving directly from Pakistan should have a certificate of vaccination against polio.

(Source: Qatar Airways)

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