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How Much Do We Spend on Balikbayan Box in Dubai?

How Much Do We Spend on Balikbayan Box in Dubai?

Most Filipino working overseas are quite upset (some are even violent) about the mandate of Bureau of Customs to randomly inspect and open balikbayan boxes which was said to be part of the agency’s anti-smuggling campaign. I know that this is actually not a new rule. They are randomly opening boxes even before and I guess they are just intensifying it now.

Update: Balikbayan boxes amounting below Php 10,000 will be tax-free.

I’m glad that the President asked BOC to stop this exercise for the meantime. To be honest, the rule doesn’t really make any sense. Why oh why will they open a balikbayan box and check its content? I think it makes more sense to invest on sophisticated scanner machines than manually open a box which was neatly and securely packed, and rummage through its content to find who knows what, and then seal it again. It doesn’t sound logical.

Bureau of Customs also mentioned that the contents of the box shouldn’t be more than USD 500. This made me think and I tried to calculate how much really we spend on these balikbayan boxes.


If you are a new OFW or if you’re planning to send one balikbayan box back home, this is what you should expect and save for.

Note: Of course, what we buy and pack inside our boxes might be different from one person to another. Some might have designer bags and few pairs of Jordan shoes in their box or some can just really be practical and send non-branded items. These differences will make an impact to the total value of your balikbayan box. The list below reflects the average amount that you can expect to be the value of your box.

Average time to fill up one regular balikbayan box is 3-6 months. Why? Most OFW purchase items only when they are on-sale and it doesn’t happen every week. Some stores will have it quarterly, others every two months or so. If OFW want to maximize their money’s buying potential, we have to wait for these promotions. So what do we usually buy? Few pieces of clothes (t-shirt, pants, shorts, dress, etc) Dhs 300 3 pairs of rubber shoes on sale Dhs 500 Toys for kids Dhs 200 2 packs bar soaps (4 pieces per pack) Dhs 20 2 bottles shampoo Dhs 40 2 bottles lotion Dhs 40 2 packs toothpaste (4 pieces per pack) Dhs 25 4 bottles perfume (the one from Karama) Dhs 320 4 bottles cologne Dhs 250 Dishwashing liquid (2 bottles in 1 pack) Dhs 15 2 Nescafe Red Mug Coffee Dhs 40 1 kilo/pack coffee creamer Dhs 25 1 pack Cooking oil (1.8 litre x 2) Dhs 20 Total: Dhs 1,795 By this time you will think that these items are enough and you can already seal your balikbayan box. But lo and behold, when you order that regular-size box and started filling it, there is still this almost few inches gap above the lid. You are now desperate and start thinking of giving away your old clothes or buying bulky blankets to fill-in the gap.

Alas! You made one last trip to the supermarket and bought 5kg of washing machine detergent that costs Dhs 50 and few more grocery items for another Dhs 100. Your total spend is now Dhs 1,945.

Add the cost of sending the regular box that is averagely priced at Dhs 150 to the Philippines (sea freight) and the total cost now is more than Dhs 2,000.

And that, my friend, is if you’re filling a regular-sized box. You can add few more hundreds or thousands dirhams if you choose the jumbo or mega-jumbo boxes.

I hope our officials will try to be more considerate to every OFW. We are not trying to cheat our government. These balikbayan boxes are our way of showing our love and appreciation to our loved-ones. Bureau of Customs should find other ways to catch these smuggling syndicates and should just leave the OFWs and their boxes alone.

With thanks to Lyn, the lady behind Filipina expat.




Have you recently sent a Balikbayan box to the Philippines? Tell us your stories by commenting below or writing to editor@pinoyindubai.com.

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