Instagram stars flee UK lockdown for holidays in Dubai

The great Dubai decamp! Why thousands of UK tourists are flouting lockdown rules to take advantage of the Emirate’s fine dining, water parks and luxury malls – after getting a FREE Covid test on arrival

  • Brits who foresaw Boris Johnson’s lockdown announcement on Monday having last laugh in the balmy Emirate
  • Those who jetted out from tier 4 areas flouted rules but are unlikely to be questioned on return to the UK
  • Holidaymakers are basking in winter sunshine, with free Covid tests on offer at Dubai International Airport 
  • Dubai Tourism has reassured tourists with Covid safety measures but major attractions – including luxury restaurants, hotels and bars are all open as normal with social distancing and digital check-in in place
  • Indoor ski resort, shopping malls and Wadi Rum waterpark are all also operating – while many of the world’s other major tourist attractions have been forced to close or operate at vastly reduced levels
  • A ticket to Dubai next week costs from as little as £357 with Emirates but the Government is clear people should not travel abroad without being legally permitted to do so eg for essential work purposes. 

While much of the UK is now shut down for both business and pleasure – with no end to the latest lockdown looking likely until Spring – those with money, time and an appetite for glamour appear to have long since hot-footed it to the Middle East’s glitziest holiday playground. 

When Boris announced he was putting the nation into a third, super-strict lockdown shortly after 8pm on Monday 5th January, he effectively slammed shut suitcases for the next six weeks – but plenty seem to have escaped to Dubai at the 11th hour to enjoy much more relaxed Covid rules. Instagram has been awash in recent days with families and reality TV stars showing off the fun they’re having on their sunny new year breaks.   

Indeed, tourists who travelled after the PM put parts of the country into tier 4 on Sunday 20th December appear to have very much got away with flouting the rules, and are unlikely to face much scrutiny upon their return. 

The sun-drenched emirate has worked hard to reassure tourists that it’s very much business as usual with five-star hotels, restaurants and bars all operating at near normal levels, and attractions such as the Wadi Rum water park and indoor ski slope, Ski Dubai, still very much taking bookings from visiting tourists. 

While other holiday destinations require a negative Covid test before you fly out of the UK – costing around £149 per person – Dubai has offered them on landing at the airport for free for those who arrive without the necessary paperwork, offering a saving of around £600 per family compared to many other countries. 

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Exodus to the Middle East: thousands of British tourists are currently basking under Middle Eastern sunshine, after escaping before PM Boris Johnson announced the latest national lockdown on Monday 5th January – and many flouting the rules before that by dashing for the sun while in tier 4


While Covid restrictions are certainly in place, those waking up in Dubai are currently enjoying a very different set of rules. The emirate’s famously luxurious dining scene – which includes the likes of Nobu, The Ivy and Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Kitchen – continues to thrive, with partitioning screens and masks enforced, but no-one required to wear them while seated. 

Table numbers are remarkably generous too, the UAE’s governors set the limit at eight people in October and it remains in place. Hotels, including the striking six-star Burj Al Arab, have introduced digital check-ins, masks in public areas and temperature checks.  

Dubai’s most famous tourist attractions, the Wadi Rum waterpark has social distancing and safety measures including hand sanitiser in place but remains open, as does Ski Dubai, the emirate’s indoor snow park. 

Beaches are open, and shopping malls including the biggest, The Dubai Mall, simply require masks and social distancing, ensuring holidaying Brits are free to splash their cash. 

Wadi Rum waterpark, Dubai’s leading water attraction, has Covid measures in place but is allowing theme park lovers to largely attend as normal

The holiday destination is enjoying business almost as usual with restaurants including Nobu (pictured) offering tables to up to eight people and no masks required when seated

Ski Dubai: No chance of the Alps this winter but Dubai’s impressive snow resort is open with social distancing measures in place

A raft of reality stars shared images of themselves enjoying NYE in Dubai, with Hayley Hughes sharing this photo – many managed to escape tier 4 by travelling to the emirate on business, promoting companies they work for while out there

While tier 4 restrictions would in theory have stopped holidaymakers from travelling to Dubai unless they fitted into the Government’s strict rules on international travel – business or family emergencies – tiers one to three were more relaxed, giving thousands the green light to board flights.  

However, it’s clear that tier 4 relied on self-policing, so many could have flouted the rules to make a last-gasp break for the sun. 

Britons flying out in recent weeks will have had to provide evidence of a negative Covid test for 96 hours before travel, and if they can’t produce paper evidence at Dubai International Airport, they would have been given a free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on arrival. Children under 12 were not required to offer evidence that they were Covid free. 

Instagram influencers who count social media as their full-time job may well have been able to make the 7-hour flight by classing the trip as business; many sharing images over the festive period have been publishing sponsored posts promoting companies they work with.  


While those stuck in lockdown under freezing January skies might wish for those currently enjoying the Dubai sunshine to not enjoy an easy return to the UK, the likelihood is they’ll be just fine. Those who test positive while in the emirate must isolate for ten days. 

Current UK guidance suggests there’s no need for an immediate return, although the Government has suggested that it could bring in new rules that would require a negative Covid test to land on UK soil. 

Let’s shop: The Dubai Mall, famous for couture brands, has enforced masks and social distancing but all non-essential retail outlets remain very much open

Britons flying out in recent weeks will have had to provide evidence of a negative Covid test for the four days before travel, and if they can’t they would have been given a free PCR test on arrival


The Government has been unflinching in suggesting that even leaving your home during the current lockdown is against guidance. The site currently reads: ‘In England you must not leave home including to travel abroad, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so, such as for essential work purposes.’

That said, flights haven’t stopped. A family of two adults and three children could board a flight to Dubai International Airport tomorrow, although economy tickets with Middle Eastern airline Emirates currently cost around £2,200 each. Next week the prices tumble significantly, with a return ticket costing as little as £357 per person. 

British Airways told MailOnline that it’s keen to keep links open but only for people permitted to travel: ‘We are reviewing our flight schedule​ following the announcement of new national lockdown restrictions. Our focus is on keeping crucial air links open – transporting vital goods and ensuring people who are permitted to travel can continue to do so safely. ​As always, if a customer’s flight is cancelled we offer a range of options including a full refund.​’

It’s unclear how much people are being scrutinised over their reasons for travel when they arrive at UK airports for departures. Upon arrival in Dubai, visitors must still provide evidence that they’re Covid-free via a test in the UK or a PCR test at the airport. 


New Year’s Eve saw a throng of reality stars see in 2021 from the Middle East, with Olivia Bowen, Chloe Ferry, and Georgia Steele posting photos of themselves mask-free as they danced into the new year. 

Yesterday, Geordie Shore star Ferry posted a bikini snap of herself posing on a boat in front of one of the more luxurious hotels in Dubai, Atlantis, The Palm. 

Last week, TOWIE star James Lock, who has 903,000 followers on Instagram, posted photos of himself jetting off in first class to the UAE, and has shared several glamorous images of himself since with girlfriend Yazmin Oukhellou both enjoying lavish dinners and slaving away at his laptop, working on his business Level Up Lifestyle. 

TOWIE star James Lock flew first class to the emirate last week, and has been sharing photos of his trip with his 903,000 followers, James and girlfriend Yazmin Oukhellou pose for a snap while dining out

Former Geordie Shore star Chloe Ferry shared this photo on the beach at night with the shimmering Dubai skyline behind her


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