Many wish to travel despite the recommendations of the Canadian government. This is how I felt after my trip to Dubai.
My travel experience in the time of COVID-19
In order to give you the most complete experience possible, I took the time to explain each step of my trip. This is my own opinion: I have tried to keep an open mind on the management of the COVID-19 situation as much as possible.
During this trip, I paid attention to all my interractions , both with the people I met and during my visits. I also made sure to respect all the safety instructions of each country, airport, airline, hotels and airport lounges.
And of course, I complied with the mandatory 14-day quarantine when I returned to Canada.
First of all, a note on the European and Middle Eastern rules versus Canada.
The main difference is distancing: only one metre is required between people. Whereas in Canada, we are trying to enforce the two-metre rule. We immediately feel on top of each other at times, whether in lounges, flights, airports but also in tourist or shopping areas.
Another fact: we are counting on your duty as a citizen, it’s up to you to think about changing your mask, disinfecting your hands, respecting the distances, etc.
Montreal Airport - YUL
Jean-Maximilien has already given his point of view last September on how the COVID-19 situation is managed at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport.
I invite you to reread his article, since my opinion does not differ from his. You can also consult his experience at Vancouver International Airport.
Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL) has made many efforts to implement international recommendations and to enforce all measures for passengers in order to protect each other.
You’re always called to order: distance, hand gel, mask.
Of the five airports I visited, this is the one where I felt the safest from my arrival at the airport to my boarding gate.
Frankfurt Airport - FRA
Just a few days before my arrival, Germany had changed its regulations because of the growing number of COVID-19 cases. On November 8, Germany introduced a quarantine (10 days, shortened to 5 days following a negative test) for travellers returning from destinations considered high-risk.
- A mask is worn by all passengers
- Disinfectant gel is present everywhere
- Stickers are everywhere on the floor
- In the waiting rooms, one seat out of two is condemned
- When I was there, the distance could not be respected adequately depending on the terminal because of the traffic at the boarding gates. So I could see empty terminals (no risk there) as well as full ones (I was less comfortable). There was no one call people back to order.
- At customs, I was surprised to see that two customs officers were in the same semi-open box, which had a Plexiglas wall; they were not wearing any mask. This was not very professional and does not give people the best image of security when they arrive from abroad.
Dubai Airport - DXB
When I arrived at Dubai Airport, there was no reminder of distancing measures. Passengers walk in line through a maze of corridors for almost 10 minutes, go through escalators and porticoes, and finally reach the large customs hall.
At customs, we are automatically directed to the testing booth. Indeed, the new measures require that all foreigners must first present a negative PCR test result of COVID-19 that is less than 96 hours old. Only Germans and English, at the time, are exempted from the test before departure and can take it on arrival!
That’s when I realize that I might have travelled with some sick people from Germany.
When I arrive in Dubai, I insist on the fact that I have already taken my test, Frankfurt having been only a stopover for me. So I didn’t have to redo the test and was directed to a customs officer like many others.
Every agent wears a mask and a glass panel separates them from us. The process is fast, with virtually no waiting.
The officer inspects my document attesting to my negative result and does not ask any questions.
- We pass agents wearing masks and protective gowns who show us the way. Our temperature is checked.
- The process is fast, so that people do not become static and get out of the airport quickly.
- Only departing passengers are allowed to enter the terminal. Accompanying persons are not allowed in.
- Is it safe to walk behind each other for long minutes? I don’t think so, but I’ll let you make uo your own mind.
- A welcoming committee (families) is waiting for the passengers. Distances are not respected.
Paris Airport - CDG
I do not think that Europeans, and more specifically the French, are the most committed to compliance with COVID-19 measures compared to Canadians.
So, yes, it was easy for me to comply with the measures, the terminal wasn’t even at a third of its capacity. I almost found some places looked abandoned. But then again, if people could drop the mask, even just to wear it down under the nose, they did.
Air Canada’s measures are like this of Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (and I would add Emirates).
Since I flew business class on the outbound flight, distancing was easier. Especially since I was alone in my mini-cabin. Contact was made only with the flight attendants. The service is a little less present:
- we have to make our own bed
- agents don’t automatically refill the alcohol, you have to ask for it.
On the return flight from Toronto to Montreal, the aircraft was nearly full. Forget the distancing, although I was lucky: there was no one next to me! I was glad.
- They all wore white coats and minimized contact with us.
- A bag containing my kit as well as the CleanCare+ kit was given to me on my two flights. I even got it twice on the YUL-FRA flight!
- There was a meal served in business class in a box where everything was carefully packed.
- During the meal, passengers are asked to keep the mask under their chin and to put it back on when chewing.
My experience started off badly: I had to deal with a lot of passengers at my boarding gate. Despite the agents’ reminders to leave space, we were still clumped together. The plane was full. As I said, the experience varies according to the traffic!
I won’t do an article on this flight, Jean-Maximilien having already written one for the Business Class between Vancouver and Frankfurt (he had however been lucky enough to be on a nearly empty plane).
- The service from the crew was not at all attentive: it was messy. Even though the attendant seemed nice, I asked several times for a refill, and did not get one. I finally gave up.
- No wine or champagne, but large bottles distributed to keep for yourself (whether it’s water, juice or spirits!).
- No COVID-19 kit: only disinfecting wipes. And the kit in business class wasn’t the neatest.
- The meals are unprotected, unpacked and the last packed snack was… inedible.
- The attendants were not wearing gowns.
So, I didn’t like my flight, that’s true.
Emirates flight attendants do their utmost to ensure that everything is adhered to to the letter. The First Class experience means that you see less of the other passengers. You feel like you’re in your own bubble. After discussion with the stewardess who served me, she told me that it had only been three weeks since they had resumed flights.
In addition, I had the chance to travel with privileged conditions since before that, the flight experience was not as great, in order to reduce the risks of transmission.
- Attendants wear gowns and a protective visor in addition to their masks.
- The precautions taken by the attendants are homogeneous, you can feel the situation is very well managed.
Airport lounges I visited
Lufthansa Senator B in Frankfurt
I refer you once again to the article Jean-Maximilien wrote, since he visited it before me.
I would add that since the measures were tightened up in Germany, it was not possible to eat at the lounge. A bag was given to us if we wanted it when we left the lounge.
- One person was responsible for regular cleaning. They cleaned after every person who left their seat.
- The lounge is large enough to allow distance, I had two sofas all to myself. However, it may be more difficult in times of high attendance, as friends have told me.
Emirates Business and First Class Lounge in Dubai
The Emirates Lounges for Business and First Class travellers are large and very busy depending on the time of day.
- The first one offers several buffets in order to accommodate the passengers’ demands. Attendants managed the traffic when passengers started to come in.
- The second allows you to travel more safely since you only have to sit down and someone will come serve you at your table.
- Distances were respected in all cases.
- The tables were always cleaned and disinfectant gel was always present on the tables.
Salon Paul Maxence in Paris CDG
The Paul Maxence lounge is very pleasant. It’s a nice experience in France. Safety measures were less important.
- There was no gel on the tables for example. The access remains like a classic buffet where you can help yourself. It is important to remember to properly disinfect your hands before and after.
- The dishes were prepared individually in the form of verrines and protected with plastic on top.
My experience of visiting Dubai during COVID-19
The UAE authorities quickly took matters into their own hands. The crisis is well-managed.
We had decided to change our travel plans during our mini-tour of the world in March to stop there instead of Asia. Too late, the border was closed without delay. Public places had to close shops, restaurants, activities. Wearing the mask became mandatory both indoors and outdoors (including beaches). Curfews were decided and kept going until recently, as my guide told me.
City cleaning and sterilization teams are in constant activity wherever there is traffic in order to guarantee perfect sterilization.
Helicopters monitor the areas where there is activity to check that measures are respected by all (I saw some in the sky every day). If you don’t follow the rules, beware: the fines are very high!
Dubai reopened its borders to travellers on July 7, 2020, requiring them to comply with measures, such as the negative COVID-19 test taken up to 96 hours before boarding for Dubai.
Activities have resumed such as the reopening of restaurants and shops, as well as the possibility to go on excursions or do activities.
Each service provider has taken steps to ensure the safety of all and has had to review their operating capability to meet the imposed distancing measures.
My stays in the Marriott Bonvoy Hotels
I must say, I was impressed with the hotels in Dubai. Each of them has strict rules in place.
Here are the common safety measures I saw on my trip:
- temperature is taken with a scanner as soon as we enter the hotel
- the front desk has protective glass and disinfectant gel
- the mask had to be worn outdoors as well as indoors (however, I did not see this measure properly respected around beaches and swimming pools)
- reminder signs and disinfectant gel are placed at every strategic location
- there were restrictions on the number of people that could enter the elevators, usually with disinfectant gel inside the cabin or right outside.
- temperature-taking during meals at the hotel with a contactless thermometer: Executive Lounge, breakfast room, bars, etc.
- individually prepared and packaged dishes
- buffets that are no longer self-service: a member of staff serves your plate.
- the lounges offer ‘à la carte’ dishes, which they bring to the table.
- in the rooms, accessories are reduced to a minimum to facilitate the cleaning process
- QR codes are used to limit any paper menus and hotel flyers, which are common
- room service is on request rather than automatic for some (service maintained for Suites in general)
- some hotels automatically distribute hygiene kits containing masks, disinfectant wipes and gloves.
- a sticker system is put in place in order to know which device has been used
- a banner is put on some devices to maintain distance
- a reservation system is in place to clean the machines, but every person must disinfect themselves after use
My sightseeing tours
During the sightseeing tours with my guide, I noticed that the majority of the normally popular places were mostly empty. Whether at La Mer, Al Seef, the Etihad Museum or Dubai Frame, no problem distancing yourself!
In fact, tourists appear to have deserted Dubai. We only saw one tourist bus! I don’t even know if it was full. But the streets were empty.
Namely, small traders do not receive any government assistance. The situation is therefore very difficult for tourism at the moment. More than half of the shops were closed due to the lack of visitors.
Places to eat
In order to respect the measures in place, eating places have had to reduce their capacity , thereby affecting the atmosphere. Places make sure to put distance between tables, add disinfectant gel to every table, use QR codes (not always), or add Plexiglas if it’s impossible to keep a distance.
As a general rule, I found that people were taking off their mask very quickly when sitting down. It was not uncommon to see people ordering without their masks on. The mask was only put back on when people got up from their table.
The credit cards I used for this trip
For this trip to Dubai, I used 5 different credit cards:
|HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®||Most of my on-site purchases (no conversion fees for foreign currency transactions such as taxis or souvenirs)
My travel purchases from providers such as agencies/guides (6 points per dollar)
|Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card||My Marriott Bonvoy Hotel Spending (5 points per dollar)|
|American Express Cobalt™ Card||My spending in bars and restaurants (5 points per dollar)|
|National Bank World Elite Mastercard®||Taxes on my Emirates air ticket booked with Alaska Mileage Plan (in order to benefit from insurance)|
|TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card||Taxes on my Air Canada and Lufthansa ticket booked with Aeroplan (in order to benefit from insurance)|
I could also add the Alaska Airlines World Elite® Mastercard® which over the years has provided the miles to book my flight ticket on Emirates First.
Details relating to Covid-19 for Dubai
What happens if a person has fever? My guide told me that a strict protocol has been put in place.
Any person with symptoms or fever will be immediately isolated, assessed and tested. The person will have to isolate himself or herself for the duration of quarantine, at home or in a hotel if the results are positive.
The fact that your temperature gets taken everywhere makes you feel safe.
The majority of the places I visited during my stay were sterilized, stickered, plasticized. Whenever possible, paths were suggested. The people we meet in Dubai, be it hotel staff, taxi drivers, restaurant employees, guides, are very careful.
The problem often comes from customers. For example, after seeing people not wearing masks at the pool at my first hotel, W Dubai – The Palm I thought that the mask was only mandatory indoors. The next day, my guide explained that the place should have forced us to wear the mask, otherwise it could have faced heavy fines.
So I kept my mask on everywhere.
In conclusion, I can tell you that I found my experience in the Emirates very good and safe most of the time.
Before I left Dubai and returned to Canada, I did another COVID-19 test. When I arrived in the country, I respected the mandatory quarantine of 14 days (hopefully, soon, rapid tests will be able to reduce the duration)!