Abu Dhabi may be well known as a tax-free earnings haven for many of its international expatriate workers, but, make no mistake, there are many other taxes along the way!
In this Abu Dhabi tourist tax guide, we’ll explain what sort of taxes you can expect to pay as a visitor to the UAE, how the 5% VAT introduced in 2018 works, the 2023 tourism tax updates and refunds available to tourists.
You can read our complete guide to Abu Dhabi money matters here – including the average cost of food & hotels in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi Hotel Taxes
When you are booking a hotel online for Abu Dhabi, it is VERY likely you are being quoted the gross price for just the hotel room – BEFORE many taxes which are payable directly to the hotel.
The taxes on Abu Dhabi hotels have changed significantly over the years, but as of 1 September 2023, you can expect to pay:
- VAT 5% (should be included in the price you’re quoted)
- Property Service Charge 10%
- Tourism Fee 4% (reduced from 6%)
- Municipality Fee 4%
- Destination Fee abolished (was 15 AED per room, per night)
This can put the total cost of your quoted stay at nearly 20% more than the listed price on booking platforms.
If you are booking through an agency or a package tour, be very specific in asking whether these taxes have been included or excluded so there are no nasty shocks when you arrive at your accommodation in Abu Dhabi.
Visiting Dubai? Pop over here to learn about the slightly different local taxes that are applied to hotel stays in Dubai Emirate.
Dining Taxes in Abu Dhabi
When you are dining in a hotel restaurant, ordering room service or drinks at a bar, you can also expect the following charges to be added to your bill:
- Service Charge 10%
- Municipality fee 4%
- Tourism Fee 4%
- VAT 5%
In restaurants not attached to a hotel, you should expect to pay only the 5% VAT, which by law should be included in the listed price of a menu item.
You are not required as a restaurant customer to leave a tip in the UAE. Many customers will either round up or simply add 10-15% if they are happy with the service, but there’s not an expectation as you’d find in North America, for example.
In a food court fast food outlet in Abu Dhabi, you should expect to pay:
- Only the 5% VAT. This should be included in your quoted price.
Purchasing food in a supermarket
- All supermarket food is subject to the 5% VAT; there are no zero-rated food items.
What About Alcohol in Abu Dhabi? Is it taxed?
As you might know, alcohol IS available for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi from licensed outlets.
Alcohol incurs tax at the point it is imported, though you won’t see this tax broken down as a separate line item on your purchase, it’s built into the supplier’s cost. The only tax you will see as the consumer is VAT, which is included in the shelf price.
- NB a 30% alcohol tax was applicable for a few years in Abu Dhabi emirate, but this was abolished in 2023.
If you are consuming the drink in a bar or restaurant, VAT, municipality, tourism and service charges will apply as above.
Other Taxes and Excises in Abu Dhabi
Other items in Abu Dhabi and the UAE that you may not realise are additionally taxed include carbonated drinks, energy drinks, electronic smoking devices and tobacco products. The excise tax on these goods is 50 to 100%.
Abu Dhabi Tax Refund for Tourists Scheme
When VAT was first introduced in 2018, tourists still had to pay the full amount of VAT.
Since 18 November 2018, tourists only temporarily in the UAE can now apply for a VAT refund, operated by Planet, on behalf of the Federal Tax Authority. There are, of course, conditions:
- Goods must be purchased from a retailer who is participating in the ‘Tax Refund for Tourists Scheme’.
- Goods are not excluded from the Refund Scheme of the Federal Tax Authority.
- You must have the explicit intention to leave the UAE in 90 days from the date of supply, along with the purchased supplies.
- You must export the purchased goods out of the UAE within three months from the date of supply.
- The process of purchase and export of goods must be carried out according to the requirements and procedures determined by the Federal Tax Authority.
- You will receive 85% of the total VAT amount paid, minus a fee of 4.80 dirhams per Tax-Free tag
- Minimum spend 250 AED.
You can learn more about the Tax Refund for Tourists Scheme on the Planet website.
We hope this guide helps you better understand the taxes that will be applied during your time in Abu Dhabi emirate.
Before you go… Important things to consider when planning a trip to Abu Dhabi
- Pop into our essential planning information page; it includes everything you need to know about getting around Abu Dhabi, a handy guide on what to pack and top tips for first-timers on the dos and don’ts, laws, and customs in the UAE.
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!
- Discover the best places to stay in Abu Dhabi, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our hotel or tour recommendation links.Abu Dhabi Travel Planner