Hate it or hate to admit it, but “immunity inequality” (as Bill and Melinda put it) is very real. At the time of writing, 78.6% of the UAE’s population was fully vaccinated, but countries such as Uganda and Uzbekistan? Only 1% and 5.3% respectively. However, passport privilege has existed long before vaccine passport privilege, and it continues to reek of hypocrisy for countless reasons.
That’s why the term ‘visa on arrival’ is music to the ears of so many. Not only does it bypass the tedious paperwork needed for the average tourist visa application, but it also allows everyone the joy of travelling on impulse. Sound appealing? Here’s a list of destinations where UAE residents can get a visa on arrival, just in time for the Eid al-Adha holiday ahead. Admittedly, it’s not an extensive list, but it has it all – history, gastronomy, culture, nature, and even naughty-looking nuts.
Head to: Baku
Stay at: Fairmont Baku
The capital of Azerbaijan is so much more than “the next Dubai”. In fact, its deeply historic Icheri Sheher begs to differ. Not only does this open-air museum host domed bathhouses, sandstone caravanserais, and storied mosques, but it’s also home to Maiden Tower and Palace of the Shirvanshahs – both listed in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Add Baku’s mild weather, a meal at museum-meets-restaurant Şirvanşah, a trip to Zaha Hadid’s iconic Heydar Aliyev Center, and the countless cafés and boutiques of Fountains Square to the mix, and you’re set.
Bonus: It takes only two hours, 55 minutes to fly to Baku.
Head to: Kazbegi
Stay at: Rooms Hotels Kazbegi
Most UAE residents never make it beyond Tbilisi – but should. In fact, a hectic capital city is hardly the place to take a time-out. We recommend enjoying Georgia’s cultural and geographical diversity by heading to Kazbegi, a small valley town steeped in ancient mythology and officially named Stepantsminda. Here await opportunities to stargaze, soak in hot springs, hike across gorges, and more. History buffs will love the 14th century Gergeti Trinity Church that is located at an elevation of 2,170 metres and boasts Mount Kazbek – a now-extinct volcano – as its backdrop.
Bonus: Georgia has been named one of the safest countries for mid-pandemic travel.
Head to: Vakkaru
Stay at: Vakkaru Maldives
Unlike most travel destinations, where you stay in the Maldives is downright crucial – it can make or break your trip. Enter: Vakkaru Maldives, where you will indulge in a level of luxury that you’d be embarrassed to acknowledge back in the real world. And while white-sand beaches and turquoise-blue waters are a given, this property stands out because of its location within Baa Atoll, the only UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Maldives. Elsewhere, a sense of personality comes courtesy of Assouline coffee table books, farm-to-table experiences, and efforts towards sourcing educational materials for the local school.
Bonus: Guests can take a speedboat to Thulhaadhoo – the only island where Maldivians still create traditional lacquer artefacts that once catered exclusively to nobility – to explore authentic culture and purchase souvenirs.
Head to: Praslin
Stay at: Raffles Seychelles
Legend has it that Praslin island is the real-life site of the mythological Garden of Eden. But there’s more. Not only is it the archipelago’s second largest island, but it’s also home to blush-inducing natural wonders. Anse Lazio – one of the world’s most beautiful beaches – happens to be located just around the corner from Raffles Seychelles, while the granite boulders of La Digue are a boat ride away. Most memorable, however, are the fabled Coco de Mer palms at Vallée De Mai nature park. These ancient 40-metre trees produce the world’s heaviest nuts, but it’s their suggestive shape (reminiscent of a woman’s nether regions, to put it politely) that makes them so unique.
Bonus: Creole cuisine is a unique blend of Indian spices, African flavours, and European cooking techniques, making it a tourist attraction in itself.