Customs Guide to Dubai and UAE – what you need to know when you move

by | Monday 17th June 2024

Moving to Dubai or the broader United Arab Emirates (UAE) involves navigating a complex web of customs regulations. It’s not simply a case of packing everything up, placing it in a shipping container and hoping for the best. Whether you’re relocating for work, starting a new chapter with your family or setting up a business, understanding the customs regulations for international removals and shipping is key. In this guide, we have taken a look at the customs process in Dubai and the UAE, delving into items that are prohibited and restricted.

Shipping Personal Belongings and Household Goods to Dubai and the UAE

ship arriving in Dubai UAE

There are a lot of fantastic places to live in Dubai and the UAE, but it doesn’t matter where you are heading to, you will have to navigate the customs process. Shipping personal belongings and household goods from the UK to the UAE requires a clear understanding of the region’s customs regulations.

There are several regulations that apply. For example, you have a duty free allowance, which means that personal effects and used household items can typically be imported duty free if they are for personal use. This only applies if the items are not used and they are not intended for resale. If you are importing new items, they may be subject to customs duties, which are usually at a rate of 5% of their market value.

Another thing to remember when you move from the UK to Dubai and the UAE, is that you will need to provide the correct documentation for your personal belongings. You will need a copy of the passport of the person receiving the goods, a valid UAE residence visa, a detailed inventory of all items – including descriptions, quantities and values – and shipping documents detailing the shipment.

Prohibited Items at Dubai and UAE Customs

Of course, not everything can be shipped to Dubai and the UAE, and there are strict rules surrounding prohibited items.

Narcotics and Controlled Drugs

All forms of illegal drugs – including cannabis, cocaine and heroin – are prohibited. Some prescription medications and ‘over the counter drugs’ containing narcotic substances are also banned, unless you have prior approval and documentation.

Firearms and Ammunition

Firearms, ammunition and explosives are strictly prohibited unless prior approval is obtained from authorities in the UAE.

Gambling Devices

All forms of gambling equipment, including playing cards and gambling related literature, cannot be imported into the UAE.

Swine and Swine Products

All pork products and by-products are prohibited in Dubai and the UAE.

Items Offensive to Islamic Morals and Values

Whereas a lot of the prohibited and restricted items are the same as you would find in many other countries around the world, Dubai and the UAE has a unique addition. Items that are deemed to be offensive to Islamic morals and values are also prohibited. This includes pornographic materials and items deemed offensive to Islamic teachings, and religious content that may be offensive to Islamic beliefs or the moral values of the UAE.

Radios and Telecommunications Equipment

Though they are not banned, there are restrictions on radios and telecommunications.

Radios, satellite phones and telecommunications equipment not approved by the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) cannot be brought into Dubai and the UAE. This also includes unauthorised satellite and communication equipment.

Counterfeit Goods

Fake or counterfeit goods are not allowed, including fake currency and imitation branded products.

Ivory and Endangered Animal Products

Items made from ivory or other materials derived from endangered species cannot be taken to Dubai and the broader UAE.

Weapons and Sharp Objects

Swords, knives – this doesn’t include kitchen knives – and other sharp objects cannot be imported, unless they are part of a collection and you have prior approval from authorities.

Some Chemicals and Hazardous Materials

Hazardous chemicals and materials that could pose a threat to health and safety.

Dubai and the UAE’s Restricted Items

Duty Free Dubai International Airport UAE

In addition to the prohibited items listed above, there are several categories of goods that are restricted. These often require special permits or approvals if you plan to import them.

Alcohol and Tobacco

Alcohol can be imported but is subject to duty and requires a permit, and quantities are limited.

It’s a similar case for tobacco products, which are also restricted and subject to duties.

Prescription Medicine

The UAE has strict regulations regarding the importation of prescription medication. Some medications that are commonly used and prescribed in the UK and USA are controlled substances in the UAE, and therefore they may require special permissions.

You will need documentation for prescription medicine when you move to Dubai. This includes a copy of the prescription from a licensed medical practitioner, a detailed medical report explaining the necessity of the medication, and prior approval from the UAE Ministry of Health.

There are also limitations on the quantity of prescription medicine that can be brought into Dubai and the UAE. For example, only a three month supply of prescription medicine is typically allowed, and medication must be in its original packaging with clear labelling.


Pets require import permits, veterinary health certificates and proof of up-to-date vaccinations before they can enter Dubai and the UAE.

Cultural Artefacts and Antiques

The importation of antiques and cultural artefacts may require special permits and approvals, which vary depending on the specific item in question.

Tips for a Smooth Dubai and UAE Customs Experience

  • Work with a Professional – There’s a lot that goes into a move to Dubai and the UAE, which is why it’s important to consider hiring a professional moving company, one that specialises in international removals. Choose an international removals company, such as United International Removals, that can provide assistance with paperwork, regulations and navigating the customs process.
  • Stay Informed and Educated – Though you are sure to have done some research, it’s important to remember that customs regulations can change. So, stay informed about the latest rules and requirements, and regularly check to confirm what you can bring to the UAE. The UAE Federal Customs Authority will have updates, changes and key things to consider.
  • Understand Duty Free Allowances – Personal effects and used household items are usually duty free when you move to Dubai and the UAE, as long as they are for personal use and not for resale. You can bring in gifts worth up to AED 3,000 without paying customs duties. You can also bring up to 4 litres of alcohol or 24 cans of beer, and 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 500g of tobacco duty free.
  • Double Check and Prepare Documentation – You will need a fair amount of documentation when you move to Dubai and the UAE, all of which must be accurate.

Ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of entry, and make sure that you have a valid visa for entry into the UAE. For unaccompanied luggage, you will need to prepare a detailed inventory list. It’s also important to carry prescriptions and medical documentation for any medications.

  • Plan Ahead – A lot of people make the mistake of leaving their planning to the last minute, but it’s beneficial to plan ahead when you are moving to the UAE. Start the customs process well in advance of your move to avoid any last minute issues or delays. If there is a problem with customs, starting early will give you enough time to sort out the issue without it having too much of an impact on the rest of your international move.

By understanding Dubai and the UAE’s customs regulations and preparing accordingly, you can ensure a smooth and straightforward experience. This means enlisting the help of a professional removals team, which is where we come in. At United International Removals, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience of navigating the customs process. With our expertise, getting your belongings to Dubai is simple. Get in touch to find out more.

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