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, Ruler of Dubai.
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.
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, with businessmen accounting for 33.3 percent of the audience and the rest is based on 346 indicators..
Restricted items in the UAE
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 for 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:
- 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.
Filipinos are warned against importing cooked duck eggs (called balut) without permission from the Customs authorities. The person importing eggs should present a health certificate indicating the production and expiry dates of the eggs and that the eggs have been produced in farms 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. The ministry advises that unlicensed, controlled medicines can be imported into the UAE only through hospitals and not by individuals.
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. While some herbal/natural products such as tobacco, poppy/opium seeds/powder, betel leaves might be legal in your home countries, please be aware that these items are illegal in the UAE.
In addition, 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.
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 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:
- value of gifts, perfumes and personal luggage does not exceed AED 3,000
- luggage and gifts must be of limited quantity and not in commercial ones
- passenger should not be a frequent traveller with goods on a regular basis, or a member of the respective conveyance crew
The UAE levies import and export duties on commercial goods depending on:
- which emirate the business is registered in
- whether the business is registered on the mainland or in a free zone
- nature of goods being moved
- the source and destination of the goods being moved
- trade agreements between the UAE and the other country
- any other applicable laws.
Cigarettes and alcohol
You can import cigarettes and alcohol if:
- you are above 18 years of age for carrying allowable cigarettes or alcoholic beverages into the country
- the amount of alcoholic beverages and beers does not exceed 4 litres or 2 cartons of beer (each consisting of 24 cans, not exceeding 355 ml for each can or its equivalent)
- the number of cigarettes does not exceed 400; its value does not exceed AED 2000
- value of cigars in possession of passengers does not exceed AED 3000
You can enjoy the benefits of duty-free shopping at Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah airports. Read about the duty free allowances at: