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Traveling to Dubai. Any experience?

John C. Cole

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Hi. I'm new here.

A fellow DP recommended I join after having researched work in the UAE, and come up fairly empty handed.

I'm traveling to Dubai in a little while, and I'm wondering if anyone's had any experience crossing customs with gear, or shooting in the UAE with - or without - permits.


Customs: I'll have 10-12 cases. One case will have wireless rf audio tx/rx's. I have a Carnet and a letter from the private organization hosting me. I'd love to know what kind of paperwork other people used to get through customs easily. I've contacted the National Media Center, and have been on their website, and I see they have forms for wireless audio, as well as for bringing production "tools/equipment" into the country. I'm in convo with them now, but they've been a bit slow so far, and hard to reach.


Permits: I'll mostly be shooting at a private Golf Club. I've been told one doesn't need a permit to shoot on private property as long as they have a letter of invitation (which I have). I've also been told one does need a permit.


I hope to shoot 2-3 days of local scenics/b-roll. Dubai, the desert near Al Ain. I expect I won't be able to do that without permits. I'm limiting my permit applications to public places since other private property permits are very expensive. I've reached out to local production companies to seek assistance, but my production found their prices too expensive. Twofour54 in Abu Dhabi said they only assist members, and that I should just seek permits after I land...


The Golf Club has referred me to a local driver/tour guide who seems comfortable getting me around with my camera to film my scenics when off the property of the golf club.


Outside of the club, I am finding that the permit process asks for very specific addresses where I hope to shoot, and of course, I was hoping to drive around, find a public place with a good view and roll camera (like I've done everywhere else in the world where I've shot)...


My questions are:

1. Does anyone have experience getting through customs with lots of gear? How did you find the border crossing? Did you have wireless? Was your Carnet enough?

2. Does anyone have experience shooting around Dubai or Al Ain ( just b-roll, no lights/audio/drones)? How easy did you find it to shoot there? AND did you find that you could secure your own permits driver/guide, or did you find the local production companies/fixers were an absolute must?


Thank you!

I'm glad/grateful to have found this board.

John Cole (and if someone can tell me how to drop the "C." in my user name, I'd appreciate that, too.)


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I shot a commercial in Dubai about 10 years ago. I wasn't party to the permit applications, so I have no idea how difficult it was. We did have a fixer, an English guy who lived there, and he in turn had a couple of local guys helping him. They turned out to be off-duty police officers. Everyone was very kind and courteous, but I did get the feeling that without the fixers, we would have been subject to a lot more scrutiny from the authorities.

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  • Sustaining Member

I shot a portion of Star Trek Beyond in Dubai in 2015. We shipped a lot of gear and had a freight forwarder handle all of our shipping. Everything was manifested as a temporary import. We worked there for about a month and had no issues. Im sure we had permits for everything. Good luck!



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Why do you ask, Mei? Have you been there?

I don't think a work visa is necessary since I'm not taking a job there - I'm freelance, and my employer in this case is from out of the country as well... I'll only be there for a week.

Do you have a different experience?



Edited by John C. Cole
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A brief google suggests you need one to work freelance so keep a low profile.

Bear in mind that the Dubai police tend to put you in a cell and ask questions later. Not direct experience but No. 2 son works there and has colleagues who have been banged up as the innocent party in minor road accidents even where no-one was injured.
Edited by Mark Dunn
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  • 1 month later...


Been there done that- here’s what I experienced: Great people, friendly customs, not a lot of police presence felt. I had no work visa.

I had a Carnet, no permits, and was only questioned once on a public beach. Spent most of the week on private property, but 1 day in Dubai, and 1 day in the desert. I was respectful and conservative, but got my shots- scenics in both places; out the car window, on sticks, etc. no problems.

Research (google) suggested hiring fixer (2k/day with car PLUS permit fees). Hiring a fixer seemed the safest bet, but it was too spendy for us. If I go back, I’ll fill out the permit paperwork in advance and choose a few locations before I go... Every place I contacted in advance recommended something different (from no carnets to no permits, to only shoot if you’re with a local fixer). Consulate said I didn’t need anything, embassy said I’d need way more than I had.

In the end, the Carnet was the thing to have. The rest is probably a good idea if you have the time and/or money to do it. Permit process was very slow- they never got back to me, so if you go that route, start early.

Overall - great, hospitable place; I trust my shots will reflect that.

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My experience in Dubai/Abu Dhabi did not involved filming. But did have a lot of equipment. That was handled by the host company, however Lufthansa lost displaced my luggage. A week later it showed up at the hotel. Very expensive hotel, mind.


Since my visit was to industrial places, I didn't 'see' the beach, or other tourist attractions. Ok... the indoor ski slope...


Abu Dhabi is different. A bit more conservative.


The host would drive like a maniac, but the driver that was assigned to us for most of our travel around Dubai was 'very careful'. He was from India. The only nightlife I saw was the hotel bar/restaurant. Again differences can be found between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.


These days I'd tend to find out and get appropriate permits. Can one get away with not doing that... sure you did it. But then, I wouldn't recommend doing that in LA these days... despite people getting away with it.

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  • 5 months later...

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