Dubai: Seeing airport security throw away your things can be frustrating. But you can save yourself a lot of hassle by understanding all the rules and packing your luggage correctly. Airports have rules in place as to what you can and cannot pack in your checked in luggage as well as your cabin baggage when you travel.
If you are planning to travel out of the UAE, it can be difficult to remember what items you can and should not bring onto airplanes or into your checked in luggage.
Choosing your bag
All bags brought into UAE airports must have at least one flat surface. Round and irregular shaped parcels will not be accepted at check in. Your bag also shouldn’t have a long strap.
You can check in rectangular luggage, a handbag with a flat bottom or any box, as long as it is sealed properly. If your bag doesn’t have at least one flat surface or is irregularly shaped and oversized, it will be immediately rejected at check-in.
Checked in luggage
According to Dubai Airports, a maximum two pieces of baggage are allowed for international travel, with the total weight not exceeding 32 kg. However, this definitely varies by airline and fare type. Always make sure you check with your airline before you fly. Baggage larger than 90 cm long, 75 cm high and 60 cm wide, or that does not have a single flat surface, will need to be checked in at the oversized baggage counter as it won’t be accepted on the standard size luggage scanning belt.
Usually airlines accept two pieces of hand luggage. A shoulder bag such as a purse, laptop bag and backpack, as well as a small cabin bag. Cabin baggage should have a maximum length of 56 cm, width of 45 cm and depth of 25 cm including all handles, side pockets and wheels.
In a carry on:
These days the restriction on liquids is universal, although enforcement of the rules may vary from country to country.
In UAE airports, all liquids should be packed inside a clear, re-sealable plastic bag, within your hand baggage. The item can’t be more than 100 ml and the total of all your items can’t exceed one litre.
Exceptions: Medication, baby milk and foods and special dietary requirements to be used during the trip.
In a checked in bag:
Packing liquids can be done in any quantities into checked in bags. Airport security doesn’t impose any limits on liquids on checked bags. If you do pack liquids into your checked baggage, the only concern is making sure the bottles and containers don’t open up and leak into your suitcase.
Tip: Unscrew the tops of your bottles and cover with saran wrap before screwing the top back on. This helps prevent spillages.
According to Abu Dhabi Customs, each traveller is permitted to bring a maximum of 4 litres of alcohol or one carton of hops when travelling into the UAE.
The UAE keeps a close eye on money laundering and suspicious financial activities, as a result passengers traveling are supposed to declare whether they have large sums of cash on them.
“All incoming and outgoing passengers, who are 18 years and above, should declare the money they possess — whether in cash, cheques or precious jewellery — if they are worth more than Dh60,000,” Dubai Customs said on August 29.
Any cash possessed by passengers, who are less than 18 years old, will be added to what their guardians carry, the authority said.
You can declare cash and goods easily online. Dubai Customs’ ‘iDeclare’ smart application simplifies the Customs clearance process for passengers by enabling self-declaration of their must-declare commercial goods, personal effects, or cash either pre, or post-arrival at the airport, reducing the time needed for that to less than four minutes.
Exemptions for gifts
In August the authority clarified, “The exempted goods include personal gifts with a value of maximum Dh3,000, cigarettes (maximum 400 cigarettes), cigars (maximum 50 cigars) and tobacco (maximum 500 grams). Anything above these values is subject to customs duties.”
In order to be exempted from paying customs duties, gifts should be for personal and not commercial purposes and this can be decided based on the value and the quantity of the goods carried onboard.
According to UAE government you can in fact import a certain limit of food for non-commercial purposes. These include no more than:
• 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.
The UAE government advises tourists to be extra cautious about bringing in certain types of medicines into the UAE. Some medicines from other countries could contain substances that are banned in the UAE, which could lead to the arrest of those carrying them.
Dubai Customs said it has arrangements with the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) to allow passengers to carry medications prescribed for more than three months. However, passengers have to meet certain criteria.
“Passengers should have a prescription from an official hospital or a doctor that clearly mentions the medication and the health status of the passenger. Medications should be kept in their original containers and packaging and expiry dates should be clear on them.”
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 to search your medicine’s name.
Top 20 medicines that are banned in the UAE
Concentration of poppy straw
What are banned items to have in any luggage?
- All kinds of narcotic drugs, including hashish, cocaine, heroin, poppy seeds and hallucination pills.
- Betel leaves (paan) and Naswar
- Goods intended to be imported from boycotted countries.
- Crude ivory and rhinoceros horn.
- Gambling tools and machineries.
- Three layers fishing nets.
- Original engravings, prints, lithographs, sculpture and statues in any material.
- Used, reconditioned and inlaid tyres.
- Radiation polluted substances.
- Printed publications, oil paintings, photographs, pictures, cards, books, magazines, stone sculptures and mannequins which contradict Islamic teachings, decencies, or deliberately implying immorality or turmoil.
- Any other goods, the importation of which is prohibited under the authority of UAE customs laws or any other laws in the country.
- Forged and duplicate currency.
- Cooked and home-made foods.
- Frozen poultry and birds
What is allowed when you travel?
- Passenger’s personal belongings are permitted entry and shall be exempted from customs fees.
- Still and moving image video cameras with their appropriate tapes, films and accessories for personal use.
- Cash money, currencies and travelers cheques altogether less than Dh60,000 and the passenger’s age shall not be less than 18 years old.
- Radio systems, combined broadcasting apparatus, CD and DVD players with agreeable quantities for personal use
- Mobile telephone
- Portable TV sets
- Computers including laptops
- Baby strollers
- Portable music equipment
- Personal sports equipment
- Portable typing sets
- Portable calculators
- Disabled wheelchairs and cars
Source: Dubai Customs
For certain categories of items, or depending on quantities, you may have to get permits from specific departments before flying in.
- Live animals, plants, seedlings, seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides: Ministry of Climate Change and Environment
- Weapons, ammunition, explosives, and fireworks: Ministry of Defense / Armed Forces / Ministry of Interior
- Medicines, drugs, and medical equipment, devices, and tools: Ministry of Health and Prevention
- Media publications and products: Ministry of Culture and Youth
- Nuclear energy products: Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation
- New vehicle tires: Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology
- Transmission and wireless devices: Telecommunications And Digital Government Regulatory Authority
- Alcoholic drinks: Ministry of Interior (Dubai Police)
- Cosmetics and personal care products: Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology
- Raw diamonds: Kimberley Office UAE
- Tobacco processed cigarettes: Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology
In general, customs duties charged is 5 per cent on the value of the goods, plus VAT as may be applicable. However, in the UAE, alcoholic, carbonated, and sweetened beverages products have a 50 per cent duty, and e-smoking devices (tools and liquids used in them) and tobacco products are charged a 100 per cent customs duty.
Carry on vs. Checked in
According to Emirates Airlines, batteries that are spare or loose, including lithium metal or lithium ion cells or batteries, for portable electronic devices must be carried in carry-on baggage only.
Articles which have the primary purpose as a power source, such as power banks, are considered as spare batteries. These batteries must be individually protected to avoid short-circuit. Each passenger is limited to a maximum of 20 spare batteries.
Batteries, exceeding 100 watt hours or 2 grams lithium content
Lithium batteries, spare or loose with a watt-hour rating exceeding 100 watt hours but not exceeding 160 watt hours for consumer electronic devices, Portable Medical Electronic Devices (PMED) or with a lithium content exceeding two grams but not exceeding eight grams for PMED only require special permission from the airline. A maximum of two spare batteries are allowed in carry-on baggage only. These batteries must be individually protected to prevent short circuit.
E-cigarettes, including e-cigars, e-pipes, Electric Portable Incense (perfume) burner or other personal vaporizers that contain batteries must be individually protected to prevent accidental activation. They cannot be placed in your checked in luggage. Can only be travelled with on a carry on.
Personal motorised vehicles
For safety reasons, airports in the UAE will not accept personal motorised vehicles such as hover boards, Segways and smart or self-balancing wheels on flights. UAE Airports, for example, prohibits the carriage of all such devices – with or without batteries - as checked–in or carry–on baggage. This regulation still applies even if you’re connecting in the UAE from an airline that has accepted them.
Gas cartridges, small, non-flammable
Gas cartridges that are small and non-flammable and containing carbon dioxide or other gases require special permissions from each airlines and not more than one device per customer.
Smart bags: Do or Don’t?
Whether you’re flying with Emirates or any other airline, bear in mind that if you are flying to the United States, smart luggage has been banned since January 2018.
A number of other airlines have banned smart bags from the hold unless the lithium battery can be removed. Smart bags use lithium batteries to run GPS tracking systems, phone chargers and electronic locks, which have been linked to causing fires on planes. Passengers can carry the bag into the cabin if it’s small and the battery can be switched off.
Source: Emirates Airlines
Penalties and prison
The UAE Federal Customs Authority mentions that the penalty for smuggling could be either fines or imprisonment from 1 month to 3 years, or both fines and prison time, or the confiscation of items and tools used in smuggling, depending on the type of the smuggling crime and smuggled items.
*This information are based on archives and official websites. Please check with the relevant airport and airline before flying to confirm what is allowed and not.