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The Middle East sits at the junction of Europe, Asia and Africa and represents an integral faction of the global economy. Many countries in the Middle East were militant about border closures at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, although some are beginning to reopen to international visitors.
Thinking about making a trip here in the near future? Here’s what you need to know.
In This Post
Bahrain — Open for visitors
Traveling to Bahrain
As of Sept. 4, U.S. travelers are once again permitted to receive a visa upon arrival. U.S. visitors do not need to bring a negative PCR COVID-19 test when entering Bahrain. However, all arriving passengers will be tested for COVID-19 at their own expense, at a cost of $80 (30 Bahraini dinars). Passengers may be required to take two tests, which would double the cost to the traveler. Any positive test results will result in quarantine at a government facility until a clean bill of health is received.
Travelers staying beyond 10 days in Bahrain must undergo a second test on their tenth day in the country.
Travelers arriving in Bahrain from Saudi Arabia via the King Fahd Causeway must undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing on arrival, at the expense of the traveler, and enter quarantine until results come out negative. Travelers can substitute the results of a negative PCR test conducted within 72 hours, uploaded via the BeAware Bahrain app.
Once in Bahrain
As of April 9, the Government of Bahrain has mandated that all individuals must wear face masks in all public venues or while using public transportation. Social distancing requirements are also in place. Anyone found violating the face mask regulation will be fined $53 (20 Bahraini dinars) on the spot.
Indoor dining is set to resume on Oct. 24, and some restaurants have been allowed to pre-book private dining opportunities for groups between 10 to 20 individuals. Restaurants and cafes have been allowed to resume outdoor dining service as long as they adhere to all mandatory health precautions.
Related: Where can Americans travel right now?
Anyone found breaking public health rules faces either a minimum of three months in jail, a fine ranging from 1,000 Bahraini Dinars ($2,645) to 10,000 dinars ($26,500), or a combination of both.
Grocery stores and commercial retail stores are open for business, but groups of more than five people congregating on roads, yards, public beaches, parks, and other public places are still prohibited, punishable with up to three years in jail, or a fine of $13,263 (5,000 Bahraini dinars). Private beaches are open with mandatory health precautions in place.
Iran — Closed
Iran’s borders remain closed to most countries as of the time of publication, including to U.S. citizens.
Despite its beauty and culture, Iran can be a tough destination for U.S. travelers to visit, even outside of COVID-19. U.S. citizens are at high risk from kidnapping, terrorism and arbitrary arrest and detention for U.S. citizens, according to the U.S. State Department, which has levied a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory on Iran for some time now.
Iraq — Closed
Iraqi borders remain closed for tourism as of September 2020. The U.S. State Department holds a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory on Iraq for concerns over terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict and limited embassy capacity to support U.S. citizens in addition to heightened COVID-19 risk.
Israel — Re-closed from COVID-19 resurgence
After a successful first go at flattening the curve, Israel has been hit hard again by another surge of coronavirus infections. The nation re-entered a three-week lockdown in mid-September, a bitter blow because the dates coincided with some of the biggest holidays in Jewish faith, and because the economy is suffering under shut-down restrictions.
Related: Etihad just made the first-ever known airline flight from the United Arab Emirates to Israel
Related: Israel re-enters quarantine
Jordan — Open, with restrictions
U.S. travelers can enter Jordan, but will be subject to significant restrictions, according to the U.S. embassy.
U.S. travelers entering Jordan must undergo mandatory home quarantine for a period of 14 days, according to this official government designation. During home quarantine, COVID-19 PCR testing will occur on the seventh and fourteenth days of quarantine.
In early October, the Jordanian government announced a nationwide curfew spanning 24 hours from midnight Friday until midnight Saturday each week. As with previous comprehensive curfews, the Government of Jordan forbids anyone from moving outside their home during this period. The lockdown only excludes essential workers scheduled for work shifts, such as contact tracing teams and medical staff. Furthermore, a second nightly curfew is in effect, from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. each night for people, and from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. for commercial establishments.
Restaurants and other businesses were permitted to reopen on Oct. 1, but are subject to the scheduled comprehensive curfew as well. Dine-in service is only available to customers who have installed the Aman.jo tracking app on their phones. Delivery services for food and public transportation remain available during non-curfew hours.
Social distancing regulations and mandatory mask requirements remain in place for business establishments, public transportation, and government facilities, and gatherings are limited to 20 people.
U.S. travelers entering Jordan must meet the following conditions to enter the country:
- Have valid health insurance that covers COVID-19 treatment for the entire period of their intended visit
- Complete and submit a passenger health declaration form found at gov.jo, including proof of a negative PCR test
- Pay $56 in advance for a second PCR test that will be conducted on arrival in Amman
- Receive a QR code 24 hours prior to boarding the flight
- Present proof of a negative PCR test before boarding the flight
- As of Oct. 7, travelers may now leave the airport after testing and go directly to their homes, to await test results by text message.
- Install the jo application on a mobile device
Travelers heading to and from the airport during curfew hours must carry their confirmed flight ticket. Airport taxis will continue to operate, and all travel between cities is banned during the scheduled curfews. U.S. citizens should be prepared for additional travel restrictions and health precautions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.
U.S. travelers who both test positive on arrival at the airport and have valid health insurance will be sent to a quarantine facility at the Dead Sea or a private hospital. If someone’s insurance does not cover the complete costs of hospital care for the duration of the illness, the Government of Jordan will return the traveler to their origin country.
Travelers should follow these procedures:
- Masks are required, and social distancing practices are in effect for public transportation. For taxis and app-based methods of transportation, passengers are required to sit in the back seat of the vehicle.
- Travelers violating Jordan’s entry requirements face a $14,000 fine.
- Individuals violating the social distancing and mask wearing order will be fined between $28 to $70
- Economic establishments will be fined between $141 to $288 for COVID-related violations, in addition to a mandatory closure of the establishment for 14 days if they fail to comply with the government’s social distancing and mask wearing orders.
- Fines for breaking the nightly or weekend comprehensive curfews will range between $705 to $1,410 for first time violations, and up to one-year imprisonment and additional fines for repeated offenses.
- A fine of up to $440 will be imposed against administrators of hospitals, health centers, or medical laboratories in the event of withholding confirmed COVID-19 infections from authorities.
Kuwait — Open, with restriction
U.S. travelers entering Kuwait will only be permitted in with either a valid visa or a residency permit. Visitor visas are not being issued upon arrival at the airport, nor are visas available electronically in advance; they can only be requested from a Kuwaiti embassy or consulate.
All passengers, including minors, are required to wear a mask and gloves upon arrival at the airport and must arrive at least four hours in advance of their scheduled flight.
Arriving passengers over the age of six must produce a negative PCR test result administered by a health clinic within 96 hours of boarding their flight to Kuwait. Results must be in English, and do not need to be translated. Furthermore, a random PCR test will be conducted on 10 percent of passengers of each flight upon arrival.
Travelers arriving must register through the Shlonik app prior to boarding the aircraft, and must quarantine at home for 14 days upon arrival in Kuwait.
Taxis are operating, and buses have implemented social distancing measures. Face masks are mandatory in all public spaces, and violators will be imprisoned for up to three months and/or fined up to $16,300.
Lebanon — Open, with restrictions
As of July 31, all travelers to Lebanon over the age of 12 must produce a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours of travel in order to enter the country. Upon arrival, travelers must opt either for a second PCR test within 72 hours of arrival at the traveler’s expense (about $50, collected by the airline), or else go into self-quarantine for 10 days. All travelers to Lebanon must complete a medical form issued by the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health before boarding their flight.
And the Ministry of Interior has restricted movement and activities in several villages in Lebanon through Oct. 12.
Masks are required at all times outdoors and in public spaces, and all violators will be fined $33 per each violation. Furthermore, there is a nightly curfew in place from 1 a.m. until local sunrise each night.
Oman — Open, with restrictions
Flights resumed to Oman on Oct. 1.
A mandatory PCR COVID-19 test is required when entering the Sultanate through Muscat International Airport (MCT), Salalah Airport (SLL), Sohar Airport (OHS), and Duqm Airport (DQM). Each test costs $65, and will be paid by the traveler. PCR tests must be pre-booked on the Tarassud+ mobile app before arrival in Oman. The application collects health and contact information as well as taking payment for PCR tests online.
If the test results are negative, passengers staying less than seven days may depart after the results are released. Passengers staying more than seven days must wear a wristband, and follow a 14-day quarantine either their residence in Oman, or at a hotel at their own expense. Proof of residence or a house lease might be required to show that the residence meets the requirements for home quarantine.
Residents returning to Oman may be required to download and register on the Tarassud+ phone app on IOS and Android and wear a tracking bracelet during the quarantine period. Tracking bracelets are provided by the Government of Oman for $13 apiece.
Masks are required in public, and violations will be fined $260 for non-compliance.
Palestine — Closed
Travelers are not permitted to enter the region unless they are citizens or residents of Israel.
Qatar — Closed for tourism
U.S. travelers are allowed to enter Qatar under specific circumstances, but not for tourism. Entering travelers must produce a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine upon arrival.
Saudi Arabia — Closed for tourism
U.S. travelers are only allowed to enter Saudi Arabia with current residence permits as well as valid entry/exit visas, or if they hold business or visit visas.
Face masks are mandatory in all public venues, and violations are subject to a fine of $2,666. Crowd sizes are limited to no more than 50. Grocery stores remain well stocked, and malls, shops, and private entities are open, though some may only offer limited services.
Travelers over the age of eight must produce a negative COVID-19 test to enter the country, with results obtained within 72 hours of arrival time. Upon arrival, travelers must quarantine for two days upon arrival.
All arriving passengers must complete a health disclaimer form and submit it to health personnel at the airport upon arrival. In addition, they must download and register on Tataman and Tawakkalna applications and assign a home location through the Tataman app within eight hours of arrival. Arrivals must complete a daily health assessment in the Tataman app as well as monitor possible COVID-19 symptoms.
Syria — Closed
U.S. travelers are not able to enter Syria at this time.
Turkey — Open
As of June 11, Turkey’s international borders are open for travelers from a number of countries, including the U.S. However, travelers should note a couple of precautions unrelated to COVID-19:
- The U.S. State Department’s travel advisory guide lists Turkey at Level 3: Reconsider Travel, due to concerns over terrorism and arbitrary detention, as well as ongoing conflict. Travelers are strongly advised to avoid the areas bordering Iraq and Syria due to terrorist activity.
- U.S. travelers will still need to apply for a visa before entering Turkey. You can do so via e-visa application, which takes about three minutes.
Negative PCR tests are not required for entry unless a traveler shows symptoms of illness at the time of arrival. Upon arrival, travelers will be asked to fill out a passenger information form and undergo medical screenings for infection, and anyone showing symptoms upon arrival will be tested for coronavirus. Anyone who tests positive will be referred to a Turkish hospital for quarantine and treatment.
Related: These are the US State Department travel advisories for July 2020
- Additional cautions for Turkey travelers include:
- Stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners.
- Avoid demonstrations and crowds.
- Stay at hotels with identifiable security measures.
- Monitor local media and adjust your plans based on new information.
Related: Turkey is open for tourists — here’s what you need to know
All travelers must wear masks in the airport and onboard flights inbound for Turkey, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Travelers who show signs of COVID-19 including but not limited to fever, runny nose, cough or respiratory distress will not be allowed to board flights or enter the country.
Face masks must be worn in public spaces at all times across all 81 provinces of Turkey, and violators will be fined.
However, the Turkish embassy’s website states that tourist travelers do not need to provide specific health documentation to enter or exit Turkey unless they are arriving for medical treatment.
Standing passengers will not be allowed in urban public transportation vehicles where physical distance rules cannot be applied. Live music is not permitted at restaurants and cafes after midnight.
Given the strict travel and transit restrictions in the Schengen Zone, U.S. citizens who wish to transit via the region must have onward tickets to the U.S. and meet the Schengen and U.K. exceptions as passengers in transit.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is comprised of seven emirates, similar to states. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the best-known emirates — the other five are Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi reopened to international visitors in early July after a three-month hiatus. All visitors 12 and older must present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 96 hours of departure time, and all test results must be presented either in English or Arabic in original, physical form. Digital copies will not be accepted. Travelers with severe and moderate disabilities may be exempted from the test requirement.
The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority of the UAE (NCEMA), as well as the official website of the UAE, has stated that anyone entering the UAE from another country must undergo a self-quarantine of 14 days. Violating home quarantine is punishable by law.
However, visitors entering Dubai are not required to quarantine if they can show that they are in recent clean health, according to local media source Gulf News. Travelers entering Abu Dhabi and other northern emirates must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of their test results.
Travelers should also expect to:
Upon arrival, another PCR test can still be administered at the discretion of local officials, even if all of the criteria above are met. Tested travelers must quarantine until they receive results, and passengers who test positive must undergo mandatory quarantine for a minimum of 14 days at a hotel or self-isolated private address, with successful follow-up test results before quarantine is complete. All expenses associated with quarantine are the responsibility of the traveler.
After you complete your quarantine, you must continue to comply with all preventative measures from the UAE health authorities.
Related: K9 sniffer dogs may screen you for signs of coronavirus in the UAE
Masks and gloves are required in public spaces, and everyone must practice appropriate social distancing in public areas. People who violate preventative measures can be fined up to $27,000 for the most severe infractions.
U.S. travelers do not need tourist visas to enter the UAE. But Dubai is the only port of entry offering tourist visas right now, so if you are traveling with non-U.S. nationals, be sure you don’t enter the country through Abu Dhabi or other destinations. Furthermore, the UAE government website states that travelers entering Abu Dhabi and other northern emirates must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of their test results.
According to the U.S. Embassy website, visitors who enter the UAE via Dubai can travel to Abu Dhabi by road if they present proof that they are COVID-free, dated within the past 48 hours of travel time. Non-Abu Dhabi residents who stay for six or more consecutive days must take an additional COVID-19 PCR test on the sixth day.
The U.S. State Department has maintained a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory on Yemen for some time, even before COVID-19 became a threat, due to issues with terrorism, civil unrest, health risks, kidnapping, armed conflict, and landmines. The embassy in Sana’a suspended operations in early 2015, and U.S. citizens in Yemen will not be able to rely on emergency services from the U.S. government.
All travelers entering on U.S. documents are required to have a visa from the Yemeni government before entering the country, and passports must have an additional six months’ validity from the date of departure.
The vast majority of border points are closed by land, sea and air. Anyone who is permitted to enter must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Featured photo by Shutterstock.
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