Here's our guide to what you can and can't get in Dubai, which brands are here, where to go shopping and help with food shopping.
31 July 2013| Last updated on 22 May 2017
In years gone by, it was difficult to get particular items here but now due to the boom in retail over those years, you can get most things here and gone are the days of suitcases filled with Paxo Sage & Onion stuffing!
Dubai has many, many large hyper and super markets that are known internationally such as Carrefour, Geant, Waitrose & Hyperpanda but also has many home grown names too such as LuLu’s, Spinneys, Park & Shop, Union Co-op, Aswaaq and Choitrams. Marks & Spencers also has a limited food department. There are also lots of smaller grocery chains like Al Maya Lal’s, 24-7, Zoom and hundreds of tiny “corner” shops- lots of which deliver. You’re never too far from a supermarket in Dubai!
The shops have cottoned on over the years and now cater to most nationalities. You will find an abundance of UK, US and South African products and brands as well as local brands. There are specialist food sections with Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican products in most supermarkets as well as wide variety of fruit and veg- both local and imported.
Every now and again there can be supply chain issues with stores’ deliveries- virtually everything is imported- so there can be times when a super market is “out” of a certain product- it’ll be on a ship or plane somewhere- they usually get it back in stock pretty quick or another chain would have it- our forum is handy for finding something you can’t see in your local store- the eyes of many!
Also a common misconception is that pork is not available in Dubai- it is. A supermarket has to have a special licence to sell pork, as it has to be kept completely separate from other food stuffs- both in storage, handling and sale. Not every supermarket sells it though but you will find it in Spinneys, Park & Shop, Al Maya Lal’s, Waitrose and Choitram’s. It will be in a separate area of the store with a sign saying “For Non- Muslims” only.
Food cost here is higher than the UK but cheaper than Australia. As most items are imported you pay a premium for that. More and more major food brands have gone to local production e.g. in Saudi or Egypt, so look for those products to make a saving. Heinz have a tomato sauce bottling plant in Saudi, for example. Buy fruit and veg that has been grown in the region and you can make a saving there too.
Holidays are provided for in the supermarkets so you will see Easter, Hallowe’en, Christmas products and more.
There will always be the odd thing you miss that you can’t get here but on the whole with a few slight tweaks to your cooking habits and a bit of experimentation with unfamiliar brands you’ll be fine. You will also be amazed at the things that are available here that you’ve never seen before- vegetables, spices, herbs etc. so treat it as a culinary adventure!
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As with food, nearly all major brands are represented in the market and the beauty and toiletry industries are big business here. There are also products that are especially made for the region too. All the supermarkets have toiletry sections and some also have cosmetic sections. Boots has branches here and Sephora, as well as local stores Paris Gallery & Areej. Debenhams, Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdales are all here with beauty halls. Dubai Airport has an amazing and well stocked beauty hall too.
The main issue some people seem to have is that their particular brand of deodorant is not available- so if yours is from a lesser known brand and you can’t live without it- double check with the manufacturer whether it is sold in Dubai before you come. Some products also have different brand names in the Middle East e.g. Rexona is Sure- so check that out too. It all depends whether the store is buying from the US supplier or the UK supplier, for example.
You may have to adapt from the usual toiletries that you buy if they are not available or also you may find they don’t work the same for you here in the heat. You may want to start using more products with higher SPF factors for example or your usual deodorant can’t cope with the heat here! If you have specific products that you need- bring extras with you, see if you can order them online or ask your local store if they are planning to or willing to stock them- if the demand is high enough they may start to sell them.
Dubai is a shopping haven so you will have no problem at all with clothes! If you can’t find them in the shops you can have them made! Most major UK and US brands are here with more arriving every year.
Admittedly some of them don’t have the wider or full ranges of stock as they buy selected items for this market but as long as you don’t need something too specialised you’ll be ok. You can buy everything from the casual-est of jeans to the glitziest of ball gowns.
Common hard to find things seem to be women’s formal work suits, men’s evening suits, petite ranges, over size 41/ UK size 8 shoe- don’t worry though more and more stores are now delivering to the UAE- even stores and brands that are already here so you can order away online.
Clothing from international brands is more expensive here as they are all operated on the franchise system so have to allow mark ups for their costs but they do have great sales and discount weekends too so keep your eyes open for them.
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Fashions do follow the seasons here and you can still buy winter clothes here for travelling to colder climes- you can even get thermal underwear! Even though it’s hot outside everywhere has AC so you tend to wear what you would normally wear in your home country but just a little lighter. Some ACs can feel a bit artic though, in the cinemas for example so it’s good to have a pashmina or cardi on hand. Summer temps can reach 50 degrees C so whatever you wear you are going to be hot. Winter temps can go down to 12 degrees C so you may wear a light coat or cardi and it does rain occasionally so an umbrella stashed away for these rare instances is a good call.