UAE airports have duty-free shops in the arrivals and departure areas. Allowances can be slightly different at other UAE airports, but visitors over the age of 18 arriving at Dubai International Airport are allowed to bring in the following duty-free:
- 4L of wine or spirits or 48 cans of beer (non-Muslims only)
- 400 cigarettes plus 50 cigars plus 500g of loose tobacco
- Gifts up to the value of Dhs3000
As well as bans on narcotics, firearms and other weaponry, travellers are not allowed to enter the UAE with:
- Materials (eg books) that insult Islam or contradict its teachings
- Israeli products
- Pork products
- Alcohol (if you cross into the UAE by land)
- Many medications
The UAE currently lists 70 medications as illegal and banned from entry into the country. Many of them (such as some painkillers with codeine as an ingredient) are legal as over-the-counter or prescription drugs in other countries, so it pays to check carefully before travel. A full list of banned medications is available from the UAE Ministry of Health at www.mohap.gov.ae/en/AwarenessCenter/Pages/UnauthorizedMedicines.aspx.
For controlled but not banned medications, the UAE has introduced a pre-approval entry form for importing drugs for personal use. It can be found at www.mohap.gov.ae/en/services/Pages/361.aspx. Approval generally takes around five days.
All travellers' passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival.
Although you cannot enter the UAE with an Israeli or Qatari passport, an Israeli or Qatari entry stamp in any other nationality's passport shouldn't cause problems.
Free visas on arrival (either 30-day or 90-day depending on country) are available for passport-holders of 60 nations.
- Free 30-day single-entry tourist visas are available on arrival for 20 countries including Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, UK and USA. These visas have a further nine-day grace period (making 39 days in total) before you are charged for overstaying, though rumours abound that the grace period will soon be removed.
- Free 90-day multiple-entry tourist visas are available on arrival for an additional 40 nationalities including passport-holders from nearly all European countries, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras and Uruguay.
- If you are a passport-holder of any of these countries, simply proceed straight to the immigration desk or border post and get your passport stamped.
- Otherwise, if you are entering on a sponsored visa, you’ll need to go to the clearly marked visa-collection counter at the airport when you arrive.
- Israeli passport-holders and Qatari passport-holders are not currently granted visas to enter the UAE.
- Citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia only need a valid passport to enter the UAE and stay indefinitely.
- Overstaying a tourist visa costs Dhs340 for the first day and Dhs100 for each additional day, payable at immigration on exiting the country.
Sponsored Tourist Visas
- If you are a citizen of a country that does not receive a visa on arrival, you must arrange a tourist visa through a sponsor before you arrive.
- Sponsors could include your UAE hotel or tour operator, but by far the easiest way to arrange a sponsored tourist visa is to fly into the country using either Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways or Fly Dubai, which will all arrange visas for their passengers (see their websites for details and the application process).
- A four-day transit visa costs Dhs50, a 30-day single-entry sponsored tourist visa costs Dhs350 and a 60-day multiple-entry sponsored tourist visa costs Dhs650.
- No sponsored tourist visa is extendable.
Thirty-day tourist visa extensions are possible for 20 nationalities through the local immigration office of the emirate you arrived in, but applying for an extension can be an expensive and convoluted process. Most visitors from nationalities permitted to extend their visa simply do a visa-run to Oman instead; exiting the country and then turning around to re-enter the UAE on a new free on-arrival tourist visa. There is no limit to the number of times you can do this.
The 20 nationalities permitted to do this are citizens of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, UK, Ukraine, Uruguay and USA.
For those who don't want to drive themselves to and from the border, Go Tours offers daily, year-round visa-run trips from Dubai. The trip takes around five hours with comfortable minivan transport and an experienced English-speaking driver. As well as the trip cost, each passenger must bring Dhs85 to pay for the UAE exit fee and Oman visa fee. Go Tours' website is also the most up-to-date source on Emirati visa-extension information.