Q: So, a bunch of people go to Dubai to go shopping for things like gold. They say everything’s tax-free and everything’s for sale. No taxes? What’s up with that?

A: Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, isn’t really all tax-free. But, there are several “tax-free zones” in the city that help boost the economy and make for some great bargain shopping for the many servicemembers and civilians who transit on their way to and from the Gulf.

Originally, the “economic free zones” were designed to spur investments and commercial developments. But instead, they’ve become more known for people buying consumer goods and, of course, gold.

The zones in Dubai include the “Internet and Media Cities,” the International Financial Center, the Maritime City, the Jebel Ali Free Zone, and — most popular with travelers, of course — the Airport Free Zone. The airport zone can be fairly ridiculous … you can even buy a tax-free Mercedes. And, of course, if you live in Dubai, your income is not taxed, so you’ve got even more to spend.

Frequent travelers, however, are sounding more and more alarms about the airport. Transiting there, they say, is a nightmare mish-mash of people sprawled sleeping all over the floor, crowded security checkpoints, and bad service.

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