Seeing airport security throw away your things can be frustrating. But you can save yourself a lot of hassle by understanding all the rules and packing your luggage correctly. Airports have rules in place as to what you can and cannot pack in your checked in luggage as well as your cabin baggage when you travel.
UAE airport safety: Banned and permitted things to carry in your luggage
If you are planning to travel out of the UAE, it can be difficult to remember what items you can and should not bring onto airplanes or into your checked in luggage.
Choosing your bag
All bags brought into UAE airports must have at least one flat surface. Round and irregular shaped parcels will not be accepted at check in. Your bag also shouldn’t have a long strap.
You can check in rectangular luggage, a handbag with a flat bottom or any box, as long as it is sealed properly. If your bag doesn’t have at least one flat surface or is irregularly shaped and oversized, it will be immediately rejected at check-in.
Checked in luggage
According to Dubai Airports, a maximum two pieces of baggage are allowed for international travel, with the total weight not exceeding 32 kg. However, this definitely varies by airline and fare type. Always make sure you check with your airline before you fly. Baggage larger than 90 cm long, 75 cm high and 60 cm wide, or that does not have a single flat surface, will need to be checked in at the oversized baggage counter as it won’t be accepted on the standard size luggage scanning belt.
Usually airlines accept two pieces of hand luggage. A shoulder bag such as a purse, laptop bag and backpack, as well as a small cabin bag. Cabin baggage should have a maximum length of 56 cm, width of 45 cm and depth of 25 cm including all handles, side pockets and wheels.
In a carry on:
These days the restriction on liquids is universal, although enforcement of the rules may vary from country to country.
In UAE airports, all liquids should be packed inside a clear, re-sealable plastic bag, within your hand baggage. The item can’t be more than 100 ml and the total of all your items can’t exceed one litre.
Exceptions: Medication, baby milk and foods and special dietary requirements to be used during the trip.
In a checked in bag:
Packing liquids can be done in any quantities into checked in bags. Airport security doesn’t impose any limits on liquids on checked bags. If you do pack liquids into your checked baggage, the only concern is making sure the bottles and containers don’t open up and leak into your suitcase.
Tip: Unscrew the tops of your bottles and cover with saran wrap before screwing the top back on. This helps prevent spillages.
According to Abu Dhabi Customs, each traveller is permitted to bring a maximum of 4 litres of alcohol or one carton of hops when travelling into the UAE.
The UAE keeps a close eye on money laundering and suspicious financial activities, as a result passengers traveling are supposed to declare whether they have large sums of cash on them.
The rule in the UAE is that cash, currencies and travelers cheques cannot altogether exceed Dh100,000 as long as the passenger’s age is over 18 years old.
According to UAE government you can in fact import a certain limit of food for non-commercial purposes. These include no more than:
• 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.
The UAE government advises tourists to be extra cautious about bringing in certain types of medicines into the UAE. Some medicines from other countries could contain substances that are banned in the UAE, which could lead to the arrest of those carrying them.
If you are visiting the UAE with medicine that may be banned you should carry the doctor’s prescription, and ensure that the quantity of tablets justify normal use during your scheduled duration of stay. It would be advisable to get a certificate from the your embassy.
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 to search your medicine’s name.
Top 20 medicines that are banned in the UAE
Concentration of poppy straw
What are banned items to have in any luggage?
- All kinds of narcotic drugs, including hashish, cocaine, heroin, poppy seeds and hallucination pills.
- Goods intended to be imported from boycotted countries.
- Goods from Israeli origin or bearing Israeli trademarks or logos.
- Crude ivory and rhinoceros horn.
- Gambling tools and machineries.
- Three layers fishing nets.
- Original engravings, prints, lithographs, sculpture and statues in any material.
- Used, reconditioned and inlaid tyres.
- Radiation polluted substances.
- Printed publications, oil paintings, photographs, pictures, cards, books, magazines, stone sculptures and mannequins which contradict Islamic teachings, decencies, or deliberately implying immorality or turmoil.
- Any other goods, the importation of which is prohibited under the authority of UAE customs laws or any other laws in the country.
- Forged and duplicate currency.
- Cooked and home-made foods.
What is allowed when you travel?
- Passenger’s personal belongings are permitted entry and shall be exempted from customs fees.
- Still and moving image video cameras with their appropriate tapes, films and accessories.
- Cash money, currencies and travelers cheques altogether less than Dh100,000 and the passenger’s age shall not be less than 18 years old.
- Radio systems, combined broadcasting apparatus, CD and DVD players with agreeable quantities.
- Agreeable quantities of projectors for displaying slides and films including accessories.
- Mobile telephone
- Portable TV sets
- Computers including laptops
- Baby strollers
- Portable music equipment
- Sports equipment
- Portable typing sets
- Portable calculators
- Disabled wheelchairs and cars
Source: Dubai Customs
Carry on vs. Checked in
According to Emirates Airlines, batteries that are spare or loose, including lithium metal or lithium ion cells or batteries, for portable electronic devices must be carried in carry-on baggage only.
Articles which have the primary purpose as a power source, such as power banks, are considered as spare batteries. These batteries must be individually protected to avoid short-circuit. Each passenger is limited to a maximum of 20 spare batteries.
Batteries, exceeding 100 watt hours or 2 grams lithium content
Lithium batteries, spare or loose with a watt-hour rating exceeding 100 watt hours but not exceeding 160 watt hours for consumer electronic devices, Portable Medical Electronic Devices (PMED) or with a lithium content exceeding two grams but not exceeding eight grams for PMED only require special permission from the airline. A maximum of two spare batteries are allowed in carry-on baggage only. These batteries must be individually protected to prevent short circuit.
E-cigarettes, including e-cigars, e-pipes, Electric Portable Incense (perfume) burner or other personal vaporizers that contain batteries must be individually protected to prevent accidental activation. They cannot be placed in your checked in luggage. Can only be travelled with on a carry on.
Personal motorised vehicles
For safety reasons, airports in the UAE will not accept personal motorised vehicles such as hover boards, Segways and smart or self-balancing wheels on flights. UAE Airports, for example, prohibits the carriage of all such devices – with or without batteries – as checked–in or carry–on baggage. This regulation still applies even if you’re connecting in the UAE from an airline that has accepted them.
Gas cartridges, small, non-flammable
Gas cartridges that are small and non-flammable and containing carbon dioxide or other gases require special permissions from each airlines and not more than one device per customer.
Smart bags: Do or Don’t?
Whether you’re flying with Emirates or any other airline, bear in mind that if you are flying to the United States, smart luggage has been banned since January 2018.
A number of other airlines have banned smart bags from the hold unless the lithium battery can be removed. Smart bags use lithium batteries to run GPS tracking systems, phone chargers and electronic locks, which have been linked to causing fires on planes. Passengers can carry the bag into the cabin if it’s small and the battery can be switched off.