Page update - Sep 29, 2023
Customs laws in the UAE vary from emirate to emirate, as each emirate has the right to set its own rules. Fortunately, all the 7 emirates have the same law regarding export of gifts by tourists. Let's talk in detail about what you can and cannot take out of the UAE. What unpleasant surprises tourists may face when bringing home gifts and souvenirs?
The information on this page was updated in September 2023. Customs laws have changed slightly over the past year, see details below in this review.
In December 2022, Dubai Customs released some interesting statistics.
In the first three quarters of 2022, they conducted 415,000 random passenger checks at the airports. That's about 1 check per 40 passengers. Conducted 445 seizures of prohibited items, that's about 1 seizure per 1,000 checks. This is a very low rate.
Conclusions. Dubai customs officers love inspections, so prepare yourself. But they clearly don't pick on passengers. There is no need to be afraid of customs officers and inspections.
Naturally, you cannot take through customs any items prohibited by the general UAE legislation: weapons, drugs, gambling items, products of pornographic and erotic content, radioactive materials.
If at entry into the UAE customs officers did not notice a tourist's suitcase with a deck of playing cards, it may still be found on departure, and the owner may be fined. But this happens very-very rarely, as the customs officers usually do not check belongings seriously at the exit.
The wording of the UAE export regulations is very simple: "Free export, but large sums of money, large quantities of gold and jewelry require proof of origin".
That is, you can take out anything you want (within the general laws) and in almost any quantity if it is not forbidden as we have written on the list in previous paragraph. If you have a large amount of money with you, you need to prove its origin legally.
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The phrase "large amount" in the UAE refers to the amount of 60,000 UAE dirhams or more. In this case a tourist must declare money or valuables on entry and exit.
Previously, the amount was 40,000, from 2011 increased to 100,000. But in September 2020, a new figure appeared in the official documents - 60,000. And the figure appeared without any announcements. You can check the official Passenger Customs Guide.
The rule is as follows: "If the value of cash, traveler's checks and other securities, precious metals and stones, jewelry exceeds 60,000 dirhams, a declaration is required".
Please note that children are NOT allowed to bring in or take out money and valuables.
The declaration will require proof of the lawful origin of the money and valuables. This whole system is designed to prevent you from taking "black" money out of the country.
If you brought money and valuables with you to the UAE, haven't spent and are now taking them back, you should have declared them to customs on entry. If there is an entry declaration, there will be no problem.
If you withdrew money from a bank or ATM, received a transfer or some other legal way. Then you need a document proving this fact.
If there is nothing to show. Then there will be big problems.
The conclusion is! If you bring a lot of money or valuables for a large amount, then be sure to declare them at entry, so that then you can easily take out them or items you bought for them.
On arrival to your home country, you will surely face the restriction of import to your home country. Don't forget to check the information about this restriction and limits.
Read about what tourists bring with them back home from the UAE on our page "What to bring from the Arab Emirates".
Pay attention to spices, because customs officers may easily confuse spices with some prohibited substances. We advise you to buy spices in factory packaging, otherwise you risk being suspected. Similarly with bakhoor (Arabic homemade incense), it can be mistaken for something illegal. Try to buy bakhoor in a package that says it is exactly bakhoor.
Also khanjar (Arabian dagger) is recognized as a cold weapon according to the law of most countries in the world. Be careful.
And of course we must remind that all countries have limits on importing food products. In the US, UK, EU the restrictions and limits are strict. Don't forget to check the information about this restriction and limits.
The laws of the UAE do not prohibit this. BUT! The law of your home country may ban imports. Don't forget to make sure the shell is empty, that there is no hermit crab left inside, otherwise it is a transporting of life organisms, and these are already different laws and rules.
Also among the shells, corals can be found. And this, again, is the transportation of organisms, and these are already different laws and rules.
And most importantly! Think! Are these seashells really necessary? Indeed, with a probability of 99.99%, they will simply lie at home somewhere in a bedside table or chest of drawers. You don't even remember them. Why take the risk?
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Since November 2018 the system of VAT refunds for tourists has been working. Refunds can be made at Planet machines at the exit of the country or in some malls. Naturally, you must bring receipts and the goods for which you receive a refund. For details on how to get your money back, read the review "VAT refund in the UAE".
- Take out the local currency (dirham coins and banknotes) freely and in any quantities. But it will be very difficult to change them at home, unless you keep them for your collection. Exchange all extra dirhams for dollars, pounds or euros when leaving the country. Read our article "Currency Exchange in the UAE";
- If you have a NOL transport card with money in the account, you can get that money back. See our article "The NOL Card" for details.
- The rules for bringing items into the UAE are not as liberal as the rules for taking them out. Read our article "What you can and not bring into the UAE";
Have fun shopping in the UAE, and read our helpful pages about the country (see list of pages below).
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