A friend of mine wants to gift someone he is going to meet in Dubai next month a bottle of alcohol. I suggested he buys it from a duty-free shop in order to avoid the restrictions of having it in the luggage (if there was any) but what about passing through customs in Dubai? My friend will be flying from the UK.

The intended recipient is a Christian Arab who is a permanent resident of Dubai.


2 Answers 2


This Passenger Customs Guide https://www.dubaicustoms.gov.ae/en/eServices/ServicesForTravellers/Documents/TravelersGuide09En.pdf states:

“... the following items are exempted from customs duties and shall be allowed entry:

a. Gifts whose value does not exceed AED 3000.

b. A total number of 400 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 500 grams of tobacco (minced or pressed for pipes) or minced/pressed tobacco for smoking, tumbâk (pure tobacco) or water pipe tobacco.

c. The amount of alcoholic beverage shall not exceed 4 litres or 2 cartons of beer, each consisting of 24 cans not exceeding 355 ml for each can.”

Further on it mentions that the exemption does not apply to passengers under 18 years old.

So one bottle of alcohol can be legally imported, or it can be bought on arrival as the answer by Giacomo Catenazzi states. Before doing so, it would be wise to check whether the intended recipient has the necessary licence to consume it https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/united-arab-emirates/local-laws-and-customs I’d also suggest being careful about where the gift is handed over.


You can buy it, and there is a duty free shop (with alcohol) just before the exit of the airport at baggage claim hall), after immigration, just to confirm that you can buy it.

My commentary: I do not think it is the best gift (especially if bought in a duty-free). It is nearly as just giving money. Nothing personalized or something you think. Also it is not the best way to show respect to a guest country (and Dubai is much more liberal, but if your friend lives in an nearby emirate (less permissive) [a lot of people working in Dubai live in another emirate], it is not nice.

If you want to gift him something alcoholic, check something he could miss from UK (so something seldom, or in any case not from the well known brands you see everywhere). Food items that you cannot find easily in UAE is another option.

  • 10
    This. Duty-free is a silly game playing on people's irrational aversion to paying taxes while being willing to pay ridiculously inflated prices to a private business. Sep 30, 2019 at 22:18
  • 4
    @R.. Or a way to spend the foreign currency before leaving the country! ;-)
    – csabinho
    Sep 30, 2019 at 23:47
  • @R.. - I regularly buy duty-free scotch on my way home to the UK, for 3 reasons… 1) it's cheaper than in UK shops 2) You can't buy it outside the airport & carry it through unless you risk putting it in your checked luggage & 3) There's no similar facility once you land in the UK.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 1, 2019 at 17:15

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