Jeddah: NRIs from Telangana and elsewhere in the country, desperate to get back to their jobs in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are going through a harrowing time identifying countries through which they can transit to the two nations.
The Non-Resident Indians are having a tough time finding cheap and visa hassle-free transit routes that include faraway Eastern European, former Soviet Republic and African countries. The entry of travellers from India has been prohibited by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and some other gulf nations. However, passengers who spend 14 days in a third country are exempted. This is forcing NRIs, including many from Telangana, use transit routes that they have never heard of.
Earlier, Saudi-based NRIs made their way through the UAE and Bahrain, and when that route was closed, they switched to Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka. With all these routes being closed amid tightening of rules following Covid-19 surge in India, the NRIs are now chalking out their travel plans through Southeast Europe and former Soviet Republics in Central Asia.
Serbia, Armenia, Uzbekistan and Ethiopia have suddenly become the most sought-after countries for NRIs to spend 14 days before they travel to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Travellers say Serbia is one of the most affordable countries, and many NRIs are quick to make most of it. They spend Rs 1.5 lakh on flights that include accommodation, food and ticket to the final destination in the Gulf.
Mohammed Samiuddin, 49, and his brothers, all working in the Gulf, had returned to Jagitial when his mother contracted Covid. Their mother, however, succumbed to the virus subsequently. “Even as we were grieving over our mother’s death, we were also worried about our return to Saudi,” he said.
“We decided to travel to Armenia, but it did not work out. So we have chosen Serbia,” he told ‘Telangana Today’ over the phone from Belgrade.
KM Wasif, a professional photographer and native of Hyderabad, was among the last groups of Indians allowed into the Maldives before the island nation shut its doors to travellers from India.
“I tested positive in the Maldives and had to spend another 14 days, and the ticket for Riyadh from Male turned invalid as I couldn’t travel due to the infection,” he said.
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