Forced By Covid Protocols NRIs Take Unheard-of Routes To Reach Gulf

The Non-resident of Indians (NRIs) from Telangana and across India in their efforts to resume jobs in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are having a tough time finding nations through which they can travel to the two countries. 

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The NRIs are going through a harrowing time finding cheap visas and hassle-free transit routes including faraway Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Republic and African countries. Saudi Arabia, UAE and other gulf countries have imposed a temporary ban on Indian travellers. However, passengers who are willing to follow 14 days of mandatory quarantine period in another country are exempted from the ban. Such a situation is leading NRIs, including many from Telangana, to use unheard and unknown transit routes. 

In the past, Saudi-based NRIs made their way through the UAE and Bahrain to bypass the problems related to international travel. But when these routes were closed, they immediately switched to the lengthy ways of Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka. As more and more routes are getting closed due to the Covid-19 surge in India, the NRIs are, presently, chalking out their travel plans through Southeast Europe or former Soviet Republicans in Central Asia. 

A group of Saudi-bound Telangana NRIs click a selfie during their 14-day stay in Siberia on their transit
Image Credits: Telangana Today

For NRIs, spending 14 days in Serbia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, and Ethiopia has become the norm before travelling to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

As per the travellers, Serbia is one of the most affordable nations, and most NRIs are taking advantage of the same. They spend around Rs 1.5 lakh on flights, accommodation, food and ticket to go to the Gulf countries. 

Mohammed Samiuddin and his brothers who work in the Gulf countries had come back to Jagtial, Telangana, when their mother contracted Covid-19. However, she succumbed to the coronavirus ultimately. 

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“Even though we were grieving over our mother’s death, we were also worried about our return to Saudi,” Mohammed told Telangana Today. “We made up our mind to travel to Armenia however, it did not work out. Therefore, we have chosen Serbia,” he said further. 

In KM Wasif’s case, he was among the last group of Indians permitted to enter the Maldives before the island country had barred Indian travellers. 

“I had tested positive in the Maldives and had to spend an additional 14 days, and the ticket for Riyadh from Male had become invalid as I couldn’t travel because of the infection,” explained the professional photographer from Hyderabad. 

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