Your Guide to Exhibiting in Dubai

Posted 30/08/2018
Your Guide to Exhibiting in Dubai

Dubai is an ultra-modern city brimming with lavish shopping malls, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and technological wonders.

It’s also an incredible place to do business – which brings us to why you’re here.

Exhibiting in Dubai is a gateway to big business opportunities. As a global centre for finance, logistics, trade, tourism and more, companies looking to win new business here are in a prime location.

But trade show success relies on more than a plane ticket. You need to prepare for your exhibition in Dubai, taking into consideration the country’s Middle Eastern values, culture, rules and regulations.

To help you, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to exhibiting in Dubai.


First things first – your booth. How will you get it to Dubai? You have a few options. You could send it via sea freight and this can take up to forty-five days (or longer if you encounter issues at customs).

Or you could send it by air freight which can take around three-to-five working days. This is a much more expensive option – around six times more expensive than sea freight. So, if it’s a couple of months before the trade show date, using sea freight to ship your booth is substantially cheaper.

Exhibitions often offer in-country booth support. You may find that it’s possible to get your booth custom built on site in Dubai. All you have to do is send over your designs and pay for the service.

If you choose to ship your booth in advance, avoiding problems at customs will save you time and anguish. Dubai has strict regulations about what you can ship into the city. Prohibited items are:

  • Cooked or homemade food
  • Narcotics
  • Original prints, statues or sculptures
  • Printed material (books, photographs, leaflets etc) that go against Islamic teachings

There are also items that you’ll need to declare on arrival or provide relevant documentation when you ship to Dubai:

  • Cash above AED 100,000
  • Medicine (if a staff member requires prescribed medicines, they’ll need to acquire a prescription letter from their doctor and the medicine must be in its original packaging)
  • Films, books, CDs or photographs
  • Knives
  • Plants

You can view the full list of Dubai’s customs regulations here.


Take advantage of Dubai’s top hotels where work and play collide.

For example, The Conrad caters for a myriad of business needs – from laminating documents for your presentations to using the hotel’s international courier.

If you require a meeting room for your pre-show brief or client sessions, the JW Marriott Marquis has thirty-two fully equipped meetings rooms on offer, in addition to a 24-hour business centre.

Or consider booking in at Raffles, which provides complimentary WIFI throughout the hotel, your very own private butler and an on-site library.

Most hotels in Dubai are luxurious, so expect a wide range of relaxation and dining facilities wherever your staff stay.

Trade Shows and Venues

Dubai is a hot spot for exhibitions, home to many renowned venues and trade shows.

Dubai Festival City hosts a plethora of conferences. As does the JW Marriott Hotel within its Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Dubai World Trade Centre is a hub for exhibitions in the city. This year, Index Dubai (furniture and retail trade show), SFF (food festival for gourmet professionals) and Yummex Middle East (manufacturing and packaging for the bakery and snack food industry) will be held there.

You might have heard of Intersec and Cityscape on the grapevine – two very famous international trade shows. Intersec will be presenting over 1,300 exhibitors in 2019 from the security to smart home industries. While Cityscape is a three-day event scheduled for October this year and will showcase products and services from a myriad of companies.

There’s an exhibition for everyone in Dubai. From the Big 5 Construction Show to the Arab Health exhibition, there are opportunities for all businesses to showcase their best products and services in this incredibly diverse city.


There used to be no VAT in Dubai. But earlier this year following an oil slump, the United Arab Emirates introduced International Monetary Fund VAT.

Now a 5% levy is imposed on the majority of goods and services.

You’re also liable to pay import duties on all shipments which will be individually assessed.

You might be eligible for a duty fee refund on certain exhibition items if they’re registered with customs on a Temporary Admission Basis.


There’s no doubt that Dubai is a westernised city. But 76% of the people living there are Islamic, and Islam’s religious laws are woven into the fabric of Dubai’s culture.  

Therefore, to save your trade show team from offending local prospects or incurring hefty fines, you must teach them about bad behaviour and how to avoid it. Here are some pointers.


  • Shaking Hands

It’s polite to shake hands with a business prospect. But if it’s a woman, you need to wait for them to extend their hand first. In Islam, women can’t shake hands with members of the opposite sex. If a woman doesn’t offer to shake hands, it’s a clear indicator of their position.

  • Flashy Behaviour

You can’t cause a ruckus in Dubai. To fit in and appease your peers, keep a calm composure, even when presenting. You might have to rethink planned presentations if they’re on the showy side.

  • Using the Right Hand

The wrong way is using your left hand when interacting with objects or people. The right way… you guessed it. Instruct your staff on this important rule for when they’re exchanging business cards, shaking hands or offering freebies.

  • Conversation

Keep the conversation about business. Don’t discuss religion, politics or the government to Dubai dwellers.

  • Business Attire

Dubai has a conservative dress code. Women need to wear high necklines and keep their shoulders and legs (past the knee) covered.

Local exhibitors and attendees will be in formal wear – dark coloured suits are preferred.

Bonus Round

Before you leave, digest these need-to-know additional rules for plain-sailing trading in Dubai.

  1. The local currency is AED which stands for Arab Emirate Dirham.
  2. Jaywalking – the act of a pedestrian walking across a road with traffic – is illegal and you will be fined if caught doing this.
  3. The official language in Dubai is Arabic. But in the business community, English is widely used.
  4. For locals, it’s common to be thirty minutes late to a meeting or event. So if you’re entertaining clients, don’t expect them to be on time.
  5. If you’re visiting from these countries, you don’t need to purchase a 30-day visa. You’ll be given a free Standard Visit visa on arrival that lasts for thirty days.  
  6. If you need to purchase a prepaid sim card, you’ll need your passport and a valid Standard Visit visa.
  7. Dubai has two-pin European plugs sockets.

Rewards For Those Who Plan Ahead

By reading this article, you’ve equipped yourself with the necessary knowledge to make exhibiting in Dubai a painless process.

Over to you – how will you outshine the competition at a trade show in Dubai? Read our latest guide, The 5 E’s of Face-to-Face Engagement, to nail your exhibition performance and capture more leads.

Posted 30/08/2018