Apr 28, 2014

UAE tops Arab countries for visa-free travel


Abu Dhabi: The UAE will top Arab countries for visa-free travel and enter the top 40 internationally when formalities are completed for Emiratis to enjoy visa-free access to the Schengen states, according to the travel restriction index.
The European Parliament has recently voted overwhelmingly to allow visa-free travel for UAE citizens to countries in the Schengen area.
The EU’s endorsement of the visa waiver status for UAE citizens will start with the setting up of a joint working team of the UAE and EU, which will implement the decision as soon as possible, WAM reported.
A new ruling by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday exempted citizens of 13 European countries from a pre-entry visa to the UAE, bringing up the number of exempt countries to 47.
With citizens of the other 15 European member states already being exempt, the announcement means that all citizens of the European Union holding an ordinary passport will be allowed to enter the UAE without having to previously apply for a visa. The ruling comes into effect from March 22.
Once the UAE is fully granted visa-free access to the Schengen countries, its citizens will enjoy visa-free travel to more than 100 countries around the world.
Kuwait, which currently enjoys visa-free access to 77 countries, will come second in the Arab world, to be followed by Qatar in third place, with access to 71 countries, Bahrain in fourth place with access to 69, Saudi Arabia in fifth with access to 64 countries and Oman in sixth place with access to 63 countries, according to the global ranking index compiled every year since 2006 by Henley & Partners, the international residence and citizenship consultancy.
Speaking in Berlin on the sidelines of ITB 2014, the world’s largest tourism trade fair, Helal Saeed Al Merri, Director-General of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), said: “This is a very positive announcement from the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and one which will have a significant impact on the attractiveness of UAE as a destination for tourists from the 13 countries included today in the exemption. European countries have traditionally featured prominently in our top 20 source markets for visitors and the lifting of visa restrictions provides for easier travel arrangements from across the continent.”
The 13 countries that come under the new exemption are Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, Estonia, Malta, Cyprus, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria.
At present, the citizens of 34 countries including the United States, Canada and 15 European countries enjoy visa-free access to the UAE.

UAE’s first legal VoIP


DUBAI: Cheap calls to India, Pakistan and other Asian countries, using voice over internet Protocol (VoIP) are being peddled in Dubai for as low as 40 fils per minute by a company.
Five sells Dh20 and Dh50 international VoIP cards and is distributing leaflets about the service in Dubai. It also has a toll-free number with a call centre in Ajman to handle customer queries.
Five also offers cheap calls to other Asian countries including Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh for 60 fils to 80 fils per minute and to the Philippines for 95 fils per minute.
An Indian call centre staff of Five said their cards are available in Lulu supermarkets and even some etisalat business centres.
The agent claims they have the green light from UAE authorities and their staff attend to customers from a call centre based in Ajman.
The unbranded VoIP call cards are similar to phone credit scratch cards and come with a PIN number.
“It’s really simple and easy to use,” said the agent.
An etisalat spokesperson has neither confirmed nor denied its links to “Five”. Industry officials, however, said the generic VoIP service was never formally announced, but is licensed in the UAE.
A spokesperson for du, the UAE’s second licensed telecom operator, said: “I can confirm to you that this is not our product.”
VoIP has been in place for at least a decade across the globe, but the UAE has been late in harnessing it due to restrictions.
In March 2010, etisalat launched its first legal VoIP solution. The service was limited to business customers, allowing enterprises to outsource the management of their telephone network.
At Gitex in October 2011, etisalat launched its ePlus app, which allows subscribers to make calls via VoIP, and access social media, internet messenger, as well as the latest music, games and apps.