NAT 200318 DUBAI TOURISTS1-1584539868646
File picture of tourists at the Dubai Museum area. Picture used for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: UAE tourists, who are planning of extending their stay in the country, told Gulf News some travel agencies are taking advantage of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation by hiking the price of visa extension unreasonably.

Filipino expat Nadia (name changed upon request) said she has already paid Dh950 for a 30-day extension of her daughter’s tourist visa but the travel agency (in Satwa), where she got the visa, called her on Wednesday and asked for an additional Dh450.

“The travel agency said the price of the visa from the supplier has increased and I need to pay Dh450 more. It used to be only Dh950 (inclusive of the mark-up of the agency) but now it’s Dh1,400 for a one-month visa extension inside the country,” Nadia said.

“I asked the PRO of the agency and he told me the price in the (immigration) system has not changed. So, why did the agency hike the fee?,” asked Nadia.

Another tourist who came to visit Dubai last month was advised by a travel agency in Karama that the visa extension has recently increased to Dh1,350 (from Dh950) for a 30-day extension.

Paul, 29, who came to Dubai in the hope of landing a job, said: “I have no choice but to pay more. I can not return to my home country because of the COVID-19 scare.”

A staff at a travel and tour company in Satwa who spoke to Gulf News on condition of anonymity said she was also surprised her company hiked the cost of visa extension recently.

NAT 200318 MPQ-1584539872888
A travel agency in Satwa Image Credit: Supplied

“Our old price was only Dh1,050 for a 30-day tourist visa extension but our boss advised us we are now selling it at Dh,1350. No reason was given except the cost from the supplier has also increased,” the staff said.

“On the other hand, because of the current volatile situation, our company is afraid many tourists might overstay – because they feel safer here – and we will be the one who will pay the immigration penalty. This can be a justification for the high price – to accumulate a sort of buffer fund,” she added.

Meanwhile, Malou Prado, managing director of MPQ Travel & Tourism, told Gulf News tourists have another option.

“We know the situation is very fluid and some tourists would prefer to extend their stay in the UAE. Instead of getting a 30-day extension, they can apply for a 90-day tourist visa,” she told Gulf News.

NAT 200318 MALOU-1584539870462
Malou Prado, managing director and owner of MPQ Tourism Image Credit: Supplied

“We have actually reduced the price to Dh2,200 from Dh2,300 for a 90-day tourist visa for those who will not leave the country,” Prado added.

“Previously, we offered an A-to-A (airport to airport) visa run for only Dh1,400, inclusive of air ticket and a fresh 90-day tourist visa. But now tourists can no longer go out for a visa run. But they still have the option to get a fresh visa, albeit at a higher price, inside the country,” she further explained.

Prado said they have seen a surge in the number of clients who have applied for a 90-day inside-the-country visa renewal.

“I guess people feel safer staying here – we have a better health and disease monitoring system as over 127,000 people have been given free COVID-19 testing. We just hope and pray things will go back to normal soon,” she added.