You may not bring certain items into the UAE; restrictions apply on other items. Read about the banned and prohibited items and customs duty.
The customs have existed in the UAE for more than one hundred years (as per FCA website). Going through several phases, the customs took the institutional shape in the age of the late Sheikhs H. H. Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and H. H. Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
In the first half of 2002, the UAE Cabinet approved 2 decrees 617/7 of 2001G and 157/12 of 2002G assigning the then Ministry of Finance and Industry to hire an international consulting office to offer recommendations on creating a federal customs authority and authorising the ministry to follow up on the execution of the procedures and measures needed.
Federal Customs Authority (FCA) draws the customs policies, supervises the execution of customs-related laws and legislations and represents the UAE at home and abroad. Local customs departments do the executive work and draw the customs policies for each emirate in compliance with the GCC Common Customs Law (PDF).
The UAE has topped the world in the Efficiency of Customs Procedures Index as per the Global Competitiveness Yearbook 2017 published by IMD World Competitiveness Center. The index gauges the efficiency of customs authorities of 63 countries around the world. It is determined by surveying an audience of businessmen and institutions about their experience with the customs authorities’ services in the area of shipping. The rankings are based on efficiency of resource management and 346 other indicators.
Customs offices are located at the UAE airports, seaports and entry/exit points on the land borders. Refer to the list of Customs offices in the UAE (PDF) as per Federal Customs Authority.
The UAE is very strict in dealing with the import of banned items and the illegal import of restricted items into the UAE.
A broad list of banned items includes (not limited to):
Certain goods such as animals, medicines and weapons can be imported/exported only after receiving necessary permits from the competent authorities. Some of the restricted goods are:
Pets and domestic animals
You can import cats and dogs into the UAE after receiving permit from Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.
You will need to provide your pet's vaccination card, health certificate, his passport and details about this microchip.
Some pets might need to test for rabies before entering the UAE.
For more information, check with the UAE-based airlines about specific rules regarding the permitted pets.
You can import, export, release and seek transit of horses and import live animals, birds and ornamental fish into the UAE after receiving permit from Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.
You can import seeds, tubers, outdoor seedlings and honeybees into the UAE after receiving permit from Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.
According to Ministerial Resolution No. 14 of 2016 pertaining to control on imported food for non-commercial purposes, you can bring in a maximum of:
You cannot import cooked duck eggs (called balut) without permission from the Customs authorities. If you are importing the eggs, you will need to present a health certificate indicating the production and expiry dates of the eggs and that the eggs have been produced in farms that are free from salmonella and bird flu.
Medicines and drugs
Tourists are required to be cautious about medicines they carry from their home countries. Some medicines may contain substances that are banned in the UAE, leading to the arrest of those carrying them.
Hence, people should not only carry the doctor's prescription, but also ensure that the quantity of tablets justify normal use during their scheduled duration of stay. They are also advised to get a certificate from the respective embassies.
For bringing bulk quantity of medicines (containing banned substances) to the UAE, prior permission from the Ministry of Health and Prevention is needed. Refer to the related news article in Gulf News.
Customs authorities in the UAE regularly update the list of medicines banned in the UAE. People visiting the UAE must check their websites before travelling.
Read about controlled medicines in the health section.
There is zero tolerance for drug-related offences; whether controlled drugs or recreational drugs. Herbal/natural products such as tobacco, poppy/opium seeds/powder, betel leaves and some herbal highs are illegal in the UAE.
The penalties for trading, trafficking, smuggling, possessing drugs and presence of drugs in the blood stream even in residual amounts are severe.
Importing medicine for personal use
According to the website of Ministry of Health and Prevention, UAE nationals and residents can obtain a permission to import medicine for personal use. The imported medicine should not exceed the personal need of a period of 3 months for non-controlled medicines and one month for controlled and semi-controlled medicines.
Refer to the procedure of customs authority on the official portal of Abu Dhabi and the website of Dubai Customs.
Publications including artwork (whether physical or electronic) that contradict Islamic values are banned. Your personal items may be scrutinised to check if you are carrying one of these. If found, your material may be censored or confiscated and you be may fined, jailed and/or deported.
Weapons, ammunition, body protection and related equipment (like cleaning kits, gun belts, etc.), however small the quantity and whatever the purpose, all require permission from Ministry of Interior before entering or transiting the UAE.
Equipment like satellite phones, listening or recording devices, radio transmitters, powerful cameras or binoculars, may require a licence from Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority for use in the UAE.
Passengers travelling out of or entering the UAE with more than AED 100,000 in cash or an amount equivalent to this in any other currencies or other financial instruments will have to declare it at the customs.
Passengers arriving in or departing from European Union countries with 10,000 euros or more in cash need to disclose the amount to the customs officer.
Passengers' personal belongings are permitted entry and shall be exempted from customs fees if the passenger meets the following conditions:
The UAE levies import and export duties on commercial goods depending on:
Cigarettes and alcohol
You can import cigarettes and alcohol if:
You can enjoy the benefits of duty-free shopping at Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah airports. Read about the duty free allowances at:
Find out guides on prohibited and restricted goods in the UAE:
Watch the UAE travellers' video guide.
According to the website of Abu Dhabi, the rate of customs duty is five per cent of the value of goods plus Cost Freight Insurance. It is 50 per cent on alcohol and 100 per cent on cigarettes.
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