Dubai: Planning to travel to the UAE? If you are thinking of bringing in an exotic plant, or some authentic traditional food items in your luggage, think again. Common traditional items like the paan or betel leaves, popular in the subcontinent, or the balut, which is much-loved Filipino delicacy, are listed as prohibited or restricted items, according to the UAE’s customs regulations. There is also a limit to how much cash you can bring in, without the need to declare it to the customs authorities at the airport.
So, if you want to have a hassle-free, quick customs clearance when you arrive in the UAE, here is all you need to know.
When trying to understand customs regulations, it would be easy to categorise what you can or cannot bring into three categories:
1. Items which are allowed, within a certain quantity
2. Items which are allowed, but need to be declared at the customs at the airport
3. Items which are prohibited or banned
No customs duty
The UAE’s Federal Customs Authority provides the following limits on bringing in materials without paying customs duties:
• Gifts that are not worth more than Dh3,000.
• 400 cigarettes and 50 cigars maximum. In case of excess quantity, such quantity shall be subject to the prescribed duties.
• A maximum of 500 grams of minced tobacco for smoking or pipes or chopped tobacco or molasses tobacco. In case of excess quantity, such quantity shall be subject to the prescribed duties.
• Alcoholic beverages of no more than 4 liters, or 2 packages of beer. More quantities shall be confiscated.
Terms for exemption from duties
The Federal Customs Authority, in its ‘Traveller’s guide’ provides the following terms which need to be met for the items to be duty free:
• Luggage and gifts should be of personal nature and non-commercial quantities.
• Passenger shall not be a client of customs, or who is doing business with the material in possession.
• No cigarettes and alcoholic beverages shall be brought in by those under 18 years.
What you should declare
Passenger/s are obligated to declare the following items to the customs officers upon arrival:
1. Radios, tasers, self-defense gear, and bladed weapons such as knives and swords.
2. Domestic animals and endangered species protected under CITES Convention (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), including animal hides and stuffed animals.
3. Cash money (inclusive of currencies and traveller cheques) exceeding Dh60,000 and/or its equivalent in other currencies.
5. Gifts of value exceeding Dh3,000.
6. Weapons, ammunition and military equipment.
7. Medicines of all kinds, even if for personal use.
8. Fireworks and explosives.
9. Trees, plants and soil.
10. All classified narcotics.
Failing and/or refraining from declaring them shall be deemed as a violation subject to legal action, according to the Dubai Customs website.
‘Prohibited goods’, according to the Dubai Customs website, are any goods that are prohibited from being imported or exported under the provisions of the Common Customs Law or any other regulation or law applicable in the UAE. ‘Restricted goods’, on the other hand, are those goods that have restrictions on import and export under the provisions of the Common Customs Law or any other regulation or law applicable in the UAE, and may only be released subject to the approval of the competent authority
Some prohibited items listed by Dubai Customs and the Federal Customs Authority include:
• All kinds of narcotic drugs – hashish, opium, heroine, morphine, cocaine, papaver and its hull and seeds, Khat, cannabis and any other grains of similar effect.
• Counterfeit and fake currencies UAE Central Bank.
• Gambling tools, machineries and devices of all kinds.
• Any publication, oil painting, photographs, pictures, cards, books, magazines or stone sculptures, which contradict Islamic teachings, decencies or deliberately imply immorality or cause turmoil.
• Crude Ivory (elephant ivory) and Rhinoceros’s horn.
• Nylon fishing nets.
• Live swine.
• Used, reconditioned and inlaid tires.
• Radiation and nuclear fallout contaminated substances.
• Items that contradict Islamic faith and public morals.
• Paan and betel leaves.
When do I need to disclose the amount of cash I am carrying?
Federal Law No. 4 of 2003 regarding the Criminalisation of Money Laundering and the resolutions of the UAE Central Bank.
Passengers, above the age of 18 years, coming in to the UAE should disclose the amounts of cash in their possession in excess of an amount of Dh60,000, or the equivalent in other currencies as well as traveller's checks, according to the Federal Customs Authority. You would need to fill in the disclosure form, in such a case, at the customs office at the airport.
Those under the age of 18 are not allowed to enter cash amounts over the limit in the declaration form. The cash amounts in their possession will be added to their accompanying guardians, according to the Federal Customs Authority.
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:
• 20 kg of yoghurt
• 50 litres of oil (including olive oil)
• 10 kg of various types of vegetables and fruits
• 100 kg dates
• 10 kg sweets and bread
• 30 kg of grains, cereals and red meat
• 10 kg of fish and seafood
• 500 gm of caviar
• 11 kg of eggs
• 20 kg for honey and sugar products
• 5 kg for herbs and spices including vinegar, orange blossom water and rose water
• 500 gm of saffron
• 10 kg of special-purpose food such as children's food is allowed
• 20 litres of drinks and syrups including water
• 5 kg of juice concentrates
• 25 kg of canned food.
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.
What can I carry in my handbag?
Now that you are well-aware of the prohibited and restricted items, based on the UAE’s customs authorities, what are the items that you can bring in, without facing any customs hurdles?
According to Dubai Airports (DXB) website – www.dubaiairports.ae – new baggage rules have been introduced to help improve baggage services for all passengers at DXB.
1. Bags must have at least one flat surface.
2. If you want to carry liquids, aerosols or gels in your hand baggage, here is what you need to know:
• Items should be packed inside one clear, re-sealable plastic bag, within your hand baggage.
• Each item cannot be more than 100ml and the total cannot exceed one litre.
• Exemptions will be made for medication, baby milk/foods and special dietary requirements to be used during your trip.
1. Generally two pieces of baggage are allowed for international travel, with the total weight not exceeding 32kg. However this may vary by airline and fare type. Check with your airline before you fly.
2. Baggage larger than 90cm long, 75cm high and 60cm wide, or that does not have a single flat surface, will need to be checked in at the oversized baggage counter, which may take additional time.
Dubai Police also issued an advisory on what to avoid carrying in your checked in bag, for a fast and hassle-free travel:
• Smart balance wheels
• Large metallic ietms
• Compressed gas cylinders
• Car spare parts
• Flammable liquids
• Power banks
• Lithium batters
• Torch lights
• Liquids in large quantities
• large amounts of gold, precious items or cash
Dubai Airports shared some simple tips that can help you have a hassle-free and quick customs clearance:
• Pack personal belongings in your hand luggage.
• Keep a laptop where it can be easily reached: you’ll need to place it in a separate security tray at the security scan.
• Always remove old baggage tags. They may cause the baggage system to reject the bag they’re attached to.
• Avoid using cardboard boxes. They need to be processed manually, which takes longer. And they’re not as durable. Don’t forget travel insurance.