FM: Important travel updates regarding transit and flight options

The Estonian foreign ministry and Estonian foreign representations continue to work with travel agents and transport companies to find and mediate options for Estonians to return home; while the Estonian border remains open to Estonian citizens and residents, it may soon be logistically impossible to get back to Estonia before the global crisis is over.

If you cannot remain in a foreign country, the ministry recommends returning to Estonia as soon as possible. You should first immediately contact a travel agency or transport company to check the availability of regular flights or flights organised by travel agencies. If these options are not available and you are in trouble abroad, please contact the nearest Estonian embassy or call the foreign ministry at +372 5301 9999. 

If you are currently abroad and you are able to safely remain in another country for the duration of the crisis, there is no need for you to return to Estonia. However, you must make sure you do not breach the terms of your visa or any other conditions for being in the country in question. Unfortunately, it is very difficult at present to predict when the crisis will pass and what restrictions may (still) be in place in a few months’ time. 

Important consular information from Estonia’s foreign representations (it’s also recommended keeping an eye on the websites of representations, which are continuously updated):

Information applicable to all those returning to Estonia: due to the strict transit rules that have been introduced by certain countries, airlines may require you to provide proof that Estonia is your final destination. Take any such documentary evidence with you (tickets et al.), preferably printed out. If you encounter any problems, let the Estonian foreign ministry know by calling +372 5301 9999.

If you are in the United States with an ESTA: If you are in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, you must be aware that you cannot stay in the United States beyond the initial 90 days. Therefore, the foreign ministry recommends returning to Europe at the earliest opportunity. In special cases (for example, if you are hospitalised or your flight is cancelled due to weather conditions), you can submit an application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant of satisfactory departure and extend your stay by 30 days. You can find the contacts for your nearest office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services online. You can also read more on staying in the United States in the foreign ministry’s frequently asked questions section.

As of today, transit through the United Arab Emirates is no longer possible: Yesterday afternoon, the United Arab Emirates announced that all passenger air traffic (incoming and outbound regular flights and transit) would be suspended between 24 March at 11:59 PM until 7 April at 11:59 PM. Therefore, it is longer possible to change planes in any of the UAE airports, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai. There are no restrictions for foreign nationals leaving the UAE; however, it is currently possible only with evacuation flights. Only citizens of the UAE and diplomatic passport holders are currently allowed entry to the UAE. Tourists or Estonian citizens who are permanent residents of the UAE but are currently abroad will not be able to enter the country.

If you return via Thailand: Thailand changed its earlier decision and until 31 March (inclusive), transit passengers are exempt from being required to show a medical certificate and health insurance on the condition that they remain in a designated airport area for less than 24 hours. Transit passengers now need to present a “fit to fly” certificate. Unlike Thailand’s previous decision, the certificate does not need to include test results for COVID-19; however, it is crucial that the document is titled “Fit to fly medical certificate”, is signed by a doctor and is in English or the official language of the issuing country. No documents are required for people already in Thailand and wishing to leave the country.

If you return from Thailand: From 26 March, a state of emergency is in force in Thailand and while still pending official confirmation, a number of restrictions on movement will be introduced. This is likely to have a significant effect on domestic transport links and travelling between provinces; public places are also likely to be closed. Specific restrictions will be confirmed and are liable to changes. The foreign ministry advises everyone about to fly home in the coming days to go to the city of your departure early.

If you are in Australia and you need to return to Estonia in the short term: By today, several common transit countries have closed their airports and returning to Estonia on a regular flight has become difficult. According to the foreign ministry’s information, Qatar Airways is flying to Europe; please contact the company directly or through a travel agent. If this is impossible and you are stranded in Australia, you can contact the Estonian embassy in Canberra.

If you are in India and you need to return to Estonia in the short term: As the international airports of India are currently closed and only some special flights continue to operate, it is  recommended getting in touch with your airline or travel agent at the earliest opportunity if you have not already done so. The Estonian embassy in New Delhi is issuing written confirmations to ensure that Estonian citizens reach the airport. Please contact the embassy and add your name, date of birth, passport number, the car/bus number and, if possible, the name of the driver. You must previously consult the airline or travel agency about whether a doctor’s “fit to fly” certificate is needed. More information online.

If you return via Lithuania: Lithuania has extended the transit window for Estonian citizens until 12:00 PM on 13 April; however, personal means of transport (private cars and taxis) are no longer permitted. Since all cases of transit need to be agreed upon in advance with the Lithuanian authorities, please contact the Estonian embassy in Vilnius immediately, emailing your name, contact telephone number / email address and travel document number.

If you return via Latvia: The foreign ministry recommends the following options to come to Estonia from Latvia: a) take the train from Riga to Lugazhin (near Valka), departures at 10:34 AM and 6:15 PM (the first option would allow you to change to a Valga-Tallinn train the same day); b) take a taxi to the Estonian border in Ikla or Valka and ask someone (friends or family) to come and pick you up; c) rent a car in Riga and return it to the care hire company in Tallinn. Estonian citizens and residents, including hauliers, arriving in and passing through Latvia must fill out a form and present it to the Latvian Border Guard (the forms can be obtained from the Border Guard).

If you return via France: EU citizens can continue to return home via France. From the website of the Estonian embassy in Paris, you can print out a certificate that facilitates transit. You must also present a return ticket.

If you return via Denmark: Copenhagen’s Kastrup and Billund airports remain open. A possible link between Estonia and Denmark is with Lufthansa via Frankfurt; however, please refer to the Lufthansa website for latest updates.

LOT has announced it would suspend air traffic until 11 April.

Turkish Airlines flies between Tallinn and Istanbul tomorrow 26 March. Starting from 27 March, international air traffic will be almost completely suspended and only five connections from Turkey will remain open: Hong Kong, Moscow, Addis Ababa, New York, and Washington, DC More information online.

To discuss your options for returning home, the ministry recommends contacting an airline or travel agency first, as they will have the latest information to hand.

Evacuation flights in cooperation with other European Union states are organised from locations where regular flights are practically no longer possible. However, it’s impossible to guarantee they would take place. The foreign ministry continues its efforts to make sure that Estonian citizens and residents stranded in more distant locations without any other options for returning can get on possible evacuation flights. You must keep in mind that none of these flights are free: the cost varies and depends on the number of passengers on each flight.

Additional flights of which the Estonian foreign ministry is aware, should regular flights be unavailable:

Tomorrow, 26 March at 12:15 PM, Atlantic Travel flies from Stockholm to Riga. Estonian citizens can now register for the flight, please contact the company directly +37167220505. More information online.

On Friday, 27 March at 10:20 AM, Nordica is organising a new flight from Malaga to Tallinn for all Estonian citizens and residents still stranded in Spain. The plane has a stopover in Brussels at 2:45 PM, where it is also possible to board the plane. Tickets can be bought online.

On Friday, 27 March at 10:00 AM, a special flight departs from Saigon, Vietnam, making a stopover in Bangkok and a then heading for Kaunas. Registration is open until 26 March. We also ask you to contact the Estonian embassy in Vilnius by 26 March, especially those in need of transport from Kaunas to Estonia.

Information about new rules and restrictions that have been introduced in other countries in the last 24 hours:

  • Additional strict restrictions on movement or measures have been imposed in Ireland.
  • In Thailand, tomorrow, 26 March, a state of emergency will be imposed, and while still pending official confirmation, a number of restrictions on movement will be introduced.
  • Transit through Lithuania for foreign nationals returning home is currently possible until 13 April at 11:59 PM. Lithuania is extending border checks with Latvia and Poland until 13 April.
  • Additional strict restrictions on movement or measures have been introduced in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Moldova, Cyprus, Egypt and Ethiopia.
  • Whereas previously the Czech Republic did not permit citizens and residents to leave the country, it now excluded shuttle migrants commuting across the Austrian and German border. On their return to the Czech Republic, they must self-isolate for two weeks.
  • In India, a national curfew was imposed until 14 April.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina is closing all international airports from 30 March and foreign nationals are not allowed to enter the country. This does not apply to the international transport of goods.

If you are stranded abroad, cannot safely remain in the country and cannot find any other options for returning, please get in touch with the foreign ministry by calling +372 5301 9999 (24h).

For the latest developments in Estonia, follow our special blog on coronavirus.

Cover: An aircraft of the Estonian airline, Nordica. Photo by Filip Danielczyk, shared under the CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

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