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What (Not) to Bring: Customs Regulations in the UAE

When you are planning your relocation to the UAE, you have probably wondered if you will have to pay any duty on your imported household goods or if there are any prohibited items that are not allowed in the country. Our article on customs regulations has the answers.

The luggage that you bring with you when you arrive in the UAE is duty-free. There are several regulations you should keep in mind, however, about the amount of certain items you may bring with you, as well as items that are restricted or even completely prohibited.

Duty-Free Items: Know Your Limits

You won’t be charged duty on the following items:

If you bring in any of these items in commercial quantities, you will have to pay duty on them.

*Please note that passengers must be at least 21 years of age (18 in Abu Dhabi) to carry alcohol into the country. If you wish to bring cigarettes with you, you must be at least 18 years old.

Alert the Authorities: Items to Declare

Certain items must be declared to the customs authorities upon arrival for inspection, even though not all of them are subject to duty and taxes:

There is no limit on how much cash you can bring with you, but cash, traveler’s checks, jewelry, or precious metals amounting to more than 100,000 AED must be declared to customs at the airport by filling out the appropriate form.

If you will be arriving at Abu Dhabi International Airport, you can check this map to see where the cash disclosure desks are located, or read more about what you must declare on the website of the General Directorate of Customs in Abu Dhabi. If you will be flying into Dubai International Airport, the Dubai Customs website has more information on the procedure for declaring the items listed above at the airport.

Prior Approval Necessary: Restricted Items           

Bringing some items with you to the UAE is restricted, including:

Items in this list must be approved by the responsible ministry before they can be brought into the country.

Leave It Behind! Prohibited Items

There is a long list of prohibited items. Trying to import any of these, either on your person or in your cargo shipment, could result in fines and/or imprisonment.

Here is a list of prohibited items:

The UAE has a very strict, zero-tolerance drug policy. Foreigners have been imprisoned for possessing even very small amounts of drugs. It is especially important that you check that the medications you take are allowed in the UAE. Just because a drug is legal — either over-the-counter or as a prescription drug — in your home country, doesn’t mean it is legal in the UAE. For example, medicines containing codeine or similar narcotic-like ingredients are classified as controlled substances in the UAE and are illegal to have in your possession.

You can bring up to a twelve months’ supply of prescription medicine with you into the country, but make sure that you have a letter from your doctor or the original prescription. Some medications can only be brought into the UAE with special permission from the Drug Control Department of the UAE Ministry of Health, even if they are perfectly legal in your home country. The same regulations apply to medicine you bring with you on your person and medications you have shipped to you through the mail. You can contact the Drug Control Department at or check the Ministry of Health’s website for the latest updates. Alternatively, try getting in touch with your nearest UAE embassy or consulate.

For more information on restricted and prohibited items, please visit the website of the UAE Federal Customs Authority.

How to Ship & Import Your Household Goods

Your personal effects and household goods are eligible for duty-free customs clearance if they are in used condition and if the quantity of goods to be imported reasonably corresponds to the size of your household. There is, however, no set limit to the volume of household goods you may bring with you.

You must submit the following items to the Federal Customs Authority in the UAE for your goods to clear customs:

*If you don’t have your residence visa yet, you can submit a letter from the company sponsoring you in the UAE. You will then need to make a deposit of 5% of the assessed value of your goods to the customs office, which will be refunded as soon as you can show them your residence visa. If you don’t submit your residence visa within 59 days of the arrival of your household goods, the money will no longer be refunded.

In addition to the restricted and prohibited items mentioned earlier in this article, you must not include any of the following items in your shipment without prior approval:

If any prohibited items are found in your shipment, they may be destroyed without your consent. You may also face a hefty fine and/or imprisonment.

To speed up the inspection process, it’s a good idea to pack all your printed and multimedia items separately, and to clearly label them. These items include books, CDs, movies, software, pictures, etc.

Your household goods must arrive in the UAE within six months of when you receive your residence visa, else you must pay a duty fee of 5% of the estimated value of the goods. If you ship new items to the UAE when you move there, they will also be taxed at a rate of 5% of their estimated value.

When your shipment arrives in the UAE, you must be present for the customs clearance. If you fail to pay any duty that is owed, your items will be impounded for 30 days, with a possible extension of up to 90 days. After this time your goods will be auctioned off.

If you would like to bring your car with you, please see our article on importing your car to the UAE.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

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