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Tips and advice for tax free shopping in Dubai


When it comes to retail therapy, Dubai knows a thing or two. The UAE city is renowned for its lavish spending habits and enormous shopping malls.

You’ll find it all on a shopping holiday to Dubai, from traditional markets and souks to exclusive designer boutiques.

But what are the rules when it comes to paying tax on your shopping purchases?

We’ve penned this helpful guide to tax free shopping in Dubai to help you work out if a bargain really is a bargain…

Dubai duty free rules

Dubai Airport is home to a spectacular duty free store where you’ll find alcohol, tobacco, confectionary, perfume, cosmetics and plenty more.

Purchases you make in Dubai’s duty-free store are exempt from tax. However, there are limits to what you can and can’t bring into the UK before paying tax.

Duty free allowances for British holidaymakers

The duty-free limits for alcohol are as follows:

16 litres of beer 14 litres of wine (not sparkling)

OR

1 litre of sprits (over 22% abv) 2 litres of fortified wine, sparking wine or alcohol (up to 22% abv)

However, this last allowance can also be split, allowing you to take part fortified wine and part spirits.

As for tobacco, you won’t have to pay tax (duty) on one of the following: 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. Anything over this amount must be declared.

Shopping in Dubai, what can I take back?

Holidays to Dubai are perfect for those who like to shop till they drop.

You only need to head to the extravagant Dubai Mall (over 1200 stores) or the Mall of the Emirates (over 700 stores) to see the city’s lavish shopping habits. However, there is a limit to what you can and can’t bring back to the UK before paying tax.

If you’re thinking of shelling out for that designer pair of shoes, remember that you’re allowed goods up to the value of £390 (per item).

If an item you’ve bought abroad exceeds that amount, you’ll have to pay duty or tax on the full value of that item. This is measured at 2.5% on anything up to the value of £630. Anything over this is calculated by customs.

Dubai Mall

Do you have to pay VAT on purchases in Dubai?

Currently the Dubai tax system doesn’t include value added tax. However, changes in legislation are being discussed.

At present, shoppers do not have to pay VAT to the Dubai government but a 5% rate is in the process of being drafted in.

Declaring items brought on a Dubai holiday

If you feel you’ve exceeded your tax free limit, you’ll have to declare these on returning back to the UK.

You can do this simply by walking through the ‘goods to declare’ exit and speaking to customs officers.

Failure to declare any items can result in prosecution or a fine, so it’s worth checking if you have exceeded your duty free allowance.

Luxury shopping meets traditional marketplaces

Remember, Dubai holidays are perfect for picking up a bargain or a rare find, be that in one of the city’s malls or souks. Here are our top three tips for a successful spending spree.

Haggle in the markets

Haggling is commonplace across the Middle East. If you want to pay what the locals pay, you’ll have to master the art of haggling. Have a price in your mind, negotiate and be prepared to walk away.

Calculate the exchange rate using your phone

There are numerous apps available for smart phones that can calculate the exchange rate between AED (United Arab Emirates Dirham and GBP (British Pound). Download before your trip to work out if you’re getting the best deal.

Only take back what you can fit in your luggage

While it may be tempting to spend your money on large traditional ornaments or a Persian rug, you may have to pay high shipping costs to get it back to the UK. Be realistic, if you’re going to splash out, pay for a bigger baggage allowance.

Looking for Dubai package holidays ? Browse our site for a range of 4 and 5 star Dubai hotels and flights. Alternatively, check out our blog for more guides.

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