Travel from the UAE to the UK: Latest news as the UK updates traffic light system for summer 2021

WT Writer
May 9, 2021

Many residents of the United Arab Emirates are hoping to travel from the UAE to the UK this summer – so here’s what you need to know about the current and upcoming flight restrictions, Covid-19 test requirements, and quarantine or self-isolation rules.

With cancelled flights, Covid-19 testing, and mandatory quarantine measures in place, travel has been difficult over the last 18 months. For residents of the UAE hoping to go to the UK – be it England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – evolving rules and regulations on both sides have made this a challenge.

On May 7, 2021, the UK announced an update to the traffic travel rules from certain countries. Currently, there is a travel ban across the entire UK – with some exemptions such as essential work-related travel, and it looks like it’s going to remain this way.

As of May 17, only 12 countries will be green listed – the UAE will remain on the red list.

Of course, each emirate has its own rules when it comes to international travel, too – with capital Abu Dhabi enforcing more restrictions (at the time of writing) than neighbouring emirates such as Dubai.

So if you’re hoping to fly from the UAE to the UK this summer, here’s what you need to know.

Travelling from the UAE to the UK – what are the current rules?

busy heathrow airport
There is currently a travel ban in the UK, meaning no more busy airports at present. Credit | Pixabay

Currently, the UAE has been deemed a red list country by the UK, meaning leisure travel is ‘banned’ to this region. Unless you are a resident or citizen of the UK, you will be rejected entry. If you are, you will have to undertake mandatory quarantine.

The UK Gov website clearly states: “If you have been in or through any of the countries [UAE included] […] in the previous 10 days, you will be refused entry to the UK. If you are a British or Irish National, or you have residence rights in the UK, you will be able to enter. You must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.”

It was announced on May 7 that the UAE will remain on the red list. Only 12 countries are green listed see below.

Here’s how it breaks down in each country:

UAE to England

Regardless of the destination of your outbound flight, anyone arriving in England must quarantine 10 days and take two coronavirus test while in quarantine. Those travelling from the UAE and other red list countries will undertake this in a government-approved hotel.

UAE to Scotland

The UK government website,, states: “You should only travel to Scotland if you have an essential reason to do so. At the moment, holidays are not a legal reason to travel. If you do have an essential reason to travel from abroad, it is likely you will need to isolate yourself in a hotel or at home in Scotland for at least 10 days after you arrive. What you need to do depends on whether your journey is directly to Scotland or not.”

UAE to Wales states: “From 15 February, [2021] all people who have been in a red list country in the previous 10 days will not be allowed into Wales. If you are returning to the UK from red list country, you must arrive through one of the designated ports of entry to the UK in England or Scotland. You must then isolate for 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel. Please see the guidance on border rules for more information.”

UAE to Northern Ireland states: “Anyone intending to travel directly, or via another country, to Northern Ireland from outside the Common Travel Area, including British and Irish nationals returning home, must:

[1] Provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to three days before departure.
[2] Provide your journey and contact details by completing the UK online Passenger Locator Form.
[3] Self-isolate for 10 days.”

Find out more from the UK government website here.

How does the UK’s traffic light system work?

Covid-19 face mask, gloves and PPE
Covid-19 restrictions means a traffic light system for travel will be implemented. Credit | Pixabay

Countries are divided into three categories:

RED – are countries from which leisure travel is banned. Entering the UK after travelling from or through these countries, such as the UAE, you will be refused entry unless you are a citizen or you hold a valid residency. In which case, travellers must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.

AMBER – Those travelling from countries categorised as amber will need to pass a Covid-19 test before departure and then will conduct a 10-day home quarantine once they arrive. A further two PCR tests must then be taken – on day two and day eight of isolation. Alternatively, travellers can pay to ‘Test to Release’ meaning they can test on day five, and end isolation early so long as results are negative.

GREEN – Travellers from green listed countries will not be required to quarantine on arrival in the UK. This is so long as they have can present a negative Covid-19 test on arrival and fill in a Passenger Locator Form. This will need to be completed online, 48 hours before arrival in the UK. You’ll need to show your form when you check in to travel or board any plane, train or ferry to the UK.

Which countries are on the UK’s green list, as of May 7?


New Zealand




Faroe Islands


Falkland Islands

Israel and Jerusalem

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira

When are travel updates due from the UK Prime Minister?

Boris Johnson, the UK’s Prime Minister, has outlined dates across the year when travel rules and regulations will be updated.

May 17: News from the May 7 briefing will be actioned from May 17.

June 28: Travel restrictions will be reviewed once again. Changes will be assessed based on international and domestic circumstances.

July 31: A further review of the UK’s travel restrictions will take place.

These are subject to change as the situation develops.

What are the current rules when travelling from the UK to the UAE?

coronavirus PCR test tube
Do you need a PCR test to travel to the UAE? What you need to know. Credit | Pixabay

Of course, travellers will be keen to understand the rules once they arrive back in the UAE. Here are the current rules for citizens and residents…

Travelling to Abu Dhabi

The official government portal of the UAE, states that, as of January 2021, the following international travel rules apply when entering Abu Dhabi: “Only UAE nationals, residents with a valid residence visa, and those who are eligible for a visa on arrival can enter the UAE through Abu Dhabi’s airports. All other types of visas remain suspended. If you are travelling to Abu Dhabi, you must follow these additional rules:

[1] Take the PCR test 72 hours before your flight, if you are flying from the United Kingdom
[2] Download the ALHOSN UAE app on your mobile phones before you travel to Abu Dhabi
[3] Undergo a thermal screening and another COVID-19 PCR testing on arrival at Abu Dhabi airport.”

Unless travelling from a green-listed country – under which the UK doesn’t currently fall – then the following rules will apply: “You need to quarantine if you have travelled from countries that are not listed […] at home or at a hotel for 10 days.

“If you have arrived from a country that the UAE authorities deem are high-risk, then you will be subject to quarantine at a government facility. You will be provided with a medically approved wristband for the duration of your quarantine, after you clear immigration. In this case, you will need to do the RT-PCR test on day 8.”

Travelling to Dubai

Expatriate residents of the UAE and tourists must present a negative result of a PCR test at the departure airport, which needs to have been conducted within 96 hours before travelling to Dubai. If negative, no quarantine or isolation is required,

However, the UAE government website states: “Some residents might be tested again on arrival at Dubai’s airport. If you are required to take another test on arrival, you must remain in quarantine at your residence until you receive the test result. If the test result is positive, you must stay in isolation and follow the instructions of Dubai Health Authority. If the test result is negative, you do not need to quarantine yourself.”

Travelling to Sharjah

Visitors and expatriate resident of the UAE must present a negative PCR test result at the departure airport, which was conducted within 96 hours of travel.

The website states: “Residents and visitors must take an RT-PCR test upon arrival at Sharjah’s airport and quarantine themselves until they receive the results. If the result is positive, you must stay in isolation for 14 days and follow the instructions of the Ministry of Health and Prevention.”

Find out more from the UAE government website here.