UAE Customs Regulations

Written by meg campbell
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UAE Customs Regulations
The UAE has some strict customs regulations. (spiritualité et modernité image by Emir OBOLAN from

The UAE, or United Arab Emirates, is located in the Middle East and bordered by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the Persian Gulf. It's comprised of seven emirates, each of which has its own ruler. The federal government of the UAE is a constitutional republic, led by an elected president and council of ministers. According to the U.S. State Department, "Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country's customs, laws and practices." As such, some of the UAE's customs regulations are very strict.

Allowable Imports

All luggage must be cleared at its first point of entry, regardless of its origin. Travellers are able to import a certain amount of goods without penalty or duty, the amounts of which vary from one emirate, or "Sheikdom" to the next. Allowable duty-free goods include up to 400 cigarettes and/or cigars and 2kg of tobacco--as long as it's not snuff or chewing tobacco. Perfume and other personal use gifts valued up to AED 3,000 are also allowed. Alcohol allowances vary by emirate; in all emirates, non-Muslim travellers may import up to 4l of alcohol.

Prohibited Imports

The importation of live or dead birds or any products derived from birds is forbidden from all Asian countries as well as from Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia and any other country affected by Avian Bird Flu. Travelers going to Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Dubai and Sharjah cannot bring in fruits and vegetables that come from regions infected by cholera. Cultivated pearls are not allowed into either of Abu Dhabi or Fujairah. Uncooked but edible seafood is banned from entrance into both Dubai and Sharjah.


The UAE takes a hard-line position against narcotics; convicted drug traffickers are eligible for the death penalty. The U.S. State Department states that "possession of even trace amounts of illegal drugs has resulted in sentences of four years imprisonment for foreign citizens transiting the UAE." Further, the UAE classifies certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs available in the U.S. as narcotics and therefore illegal to possess. Travellers with any of the drugs on the banned list (see Resources) must travel with a doctor's prescription. Poppy seeds in any form are also explicitly banned; prosecution and prison sentences of up to 15 years are not uncommon for those possessing even the smallest amounts.

Firearms and Weapons

Technically, local authorities in the UAE will issue a weapons permit to a traveller who requires it. The permit must be received prior to travel to the UAE. The authorities will confiscate all firearms and other weapons, including parts of weapons, ammunition and military or police equipment such as handcuffs, if they're found in a civilian airport. According to the U.S. State Department, "Americans have been arrested and jailed for transporting... weapons... without the express written authorisation of the UAE government, even though airline and U.S. authorities allowed shipment on a U.S.-originating flight."


Dogs and cats that are at least four years old and pet birds of any age can be brought into the UAE as cargo if accompanied by an import permit issued by the UAE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, vaccination documentation and a certificate of good health issued by a vet. Seeing-eye dogs are allowed to travel in the aeroplane cabin on routes between the UAE and the U.S. or Canada. Some dog breeds are banned from entering the country. Penalties for non-compliance are stiff; pets are either deported to their country of origin or destroyed, and all related fees are payable by the passenger in charge of the pet.

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