If you’re a British expat in Dubai, you will understand the weird and wonderful items we stock up on when visiting family and friends in the UK – or the items we ask visitors to bring to us!

Expat Life - What do British Mums in Dubai buy in the UK?


Calpol is at the top of most British Mum’s shopping lists when returning to the UK. In Dubai we don’t have access to calpol and even though we have plenty of other options, there is something about that pink bottle that we love to give to our kids when sick! I always buy several bottles but also a few of the calpol sachets as they are great for travelling or keeping in my bag for emergencies.

Stock Cubes

Oxo cubes are like gold dust in Dubai – I have never heard of anyone finding them in a store here, and so they are packed tightly in many British expat suitcases on their return flight. I also buy a few boxes of the Piccolo stock cubes in Boots as they are suitable for young children and come with a very low sodium content. On the subject of food, tea bags is also a firm favourite to bring back! I even stocked up on most of Henry’s weaning items from Amazon UK – munchkin plates and cups etc.

Birthday Cards

Birthday cards are very expensive in Dubai and most supermarkets only stock a small selection. I always come back to Dubai with around 30 birthday cards from Card Factory – I believe it is 10 cards for £1. Absolute bargain. Plus a selection of blank cards and thank you cards.


Children’s books are quite expensive in the UAE. I generally purchase the 3 for £5 books in Tesco or do a big order from The Works – 10 books for £10. Another bargain. I keep the books in a cupboard and give them to Henry throughout the year. Amazon UK is another great place for books and I often purchase a few special books from there for Christmas presents.

Children’s Games and Toys

Whenever I go home, whether it is February or July, I always buy Henry’s birthday and Christmas presents – even if that means I have to hide them for another 9 months. My husband continuously rolls his eyes at this but it saves a lot of money! TK Maxx is very good for children’s activity sets and books – I pick up a basket full of games in there on every trip to the UK. I also buy a few Orchard Toys activity sets from Amazon, as well as Shleich animals.

Fancy Dress

Dubai schools love a fun fancy dress day! I buy one or two outfits from Amazon UK and keep them for nursery dress up days throughout the year. Pumpkin outfit? Sorted. Dog costume? Got that too.

Beauty Products

Generally I buy a lot of my beauty products online from Selfridges as they take off the VAT and deliver directly to Dubai. However, there are a number of beauty brands that you either can’t buy in Dubai or they have exclusions for delivery to the UAE. Liz Earle is one of them, so I stock up on those items at home. I also always buy three bottles of the Garnier Summer Body Tanning Moisturiser for two reasons: 1. I have never found them in Dubai and 2. people at home seem to think that we should be naturally tanned from January – December. If only we didn’t have chores or a real life. We live in a holiday destination but it is not a holiday. What’s more, it is far too hot to sunbathe in 45 degrees in the height of summer, and quite often in winter it is too cold to go in the pool or sea. I know a lot of other parents stock up on sun cream in the UK too, although I just find the buy one get one free bargains from Life Pharmacy!

Children’s Skincare and Pharmacy Products

Boxes of children’s AquaFresh toothpaste are added to my basket as they contain a higher fluoride content, as well as Child’s Farm hair products. When Henry was a baby, I also stocked up on Ashton and Parsons teethings granules (which we used and he loved) and metanium cream (I never used it but it was good to have it in case it was needed).

Children’s Clothes

Clothes in Dubai are generally more expensive than the UK, therefore I always stock up on Henry’s clothes for the next year, from Zara, H&M and Gap. I buy a few sets of pyjamas and vests from George at Asda and socks or any other bits I find in Primark. I also buy any sports clothes for Henry at home – adidas tracksuits etc. I only ever buy Next clothes from the Next website in the UAE as they post directly from the UK but are actually cheaper as I believe they take off the VAT.

Baby Clothes

I stocked up on Henry’s plain white, cotton sleep suits from M&S and John Lewis, vests from George at Asda and a few sleep suits from Florence & Fred at Tesco.

Baby Items

You know you’re a British Mum in Dubai when you return with a suitcase full of Aldi nappies and it is completely normal. I also used to stock up on Hipp Organic as the price difference was worth it! I bought most of my baby items from the UK and had it shipped over when in hindsight, I could have ordered most of it from John Lewis and had it delivered here.

Designer Items

Obviously this is not a regular occurrence but if you are travelling to Dubai, you can pop into a designer shop at Heathrow, show them your boarding pass and they’ll take off the extra VAT.

That is about it. As you can tell, we like to bring a bit of the UK back home to Dubai. Alternatively, if I’m not travelling to the UK myself, my husband has a long shopping list – he just loves it! Also, while I haven’t done it *yet* I do know that some people like to fill their suitcases with cheese and ham – there is still time for me to try that one out.






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