Alcohol in Dubai is a topic that many tourists are interested in. Contrary to misconceptions, alcohol is part of Dubai’s social fabric, albeit in a regulated manner. Despite being a Muslim emirate, Dubai has a more liberal approach towards alcohol compared to its neighbours. However, it is not that simple. To stay out of trouble, it is essential to understand the nuances of the Dubai alcohol laws and the do’s and don’ts of drinking alcohol in the city.
Is alcohol permitted in Dubai? Do they sell and serve alcohol in Dubai? Can tourists drink alcohol? How to buy alcohol in the city? I am sure you have these and other burning questions now and I am here to answer them all. In this article, I will tell you from my first-hand experience about Dubai’s drinking rules and laws, drinking age, alcohol prices, liquor shops, designated drinking places and much more. So, if you like a glass of wine to go with your meal or a pint of beer to accompany a sports match, keep reading.
Is alcohol legal in Dubai
Yes, alcohol is legal and available in Dubai. The city allows non-Muslims the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol, but it’s strictly regulated. For instance, alcohol is only sold in licensed venues. Moreover, residents and tourists need to have an alcohol licence to purchase and consume alcohol legally in their homes. You can read more about it next.
Can tourists buy and drink alcohol in Dubai
Yes, tourists can buy and drink alcohol in Dubai. Tourists are allowed to purchase and consume alcohol in licensed venues and designated areas. In recent years, Dubai has also made it possible for tourists to purchase alcohol from liquor stores.
However, tourists should be mindful of the Dubai drinking laws that I will talk about below.
Understanding Dubai alcohol laws
Dubai’s drinking laws and rules are rooted in the principles of respect and responsibility. The city believes in allowing personal freedoms, including the consumption of alcohol, as long as it doesn’t disrupt public order or offend local customs and values.
What you should know about if you want to buy or consume alcohol:
- Dubai legal drinking age
- Designated places for buying and drinking alcohol
- Prohibited places for drinking alcohol
- Dubai alcohol licence
- Bringing alcohol to Dubai
- Dubai alcohol penalties and fines
In a nutshell, while tourists and residents can enjoy a drink or two in Dubai, it’s important to remember that the city’s liberal stance on alcohol is linked to responsible drinking behaviour. Now, I will explain the aspects mentioned above in more detail.
What is the legal drinking age in Dubai
The legal drinking age in Dubai is 21 years. This means that anyone under 21 is not allowed to purchase or consume alcohol in the city. This rule applies to both residents and tourists.
It’s worth noting that the legal drinking age is strictly enforced in Dubai. Licensed venues and liquor stores are required to check the age of customers (if in doubt), and there are severe penalties for those who sell alcohol to underage individuals. The fines start at AED 5,000, so do not risk it.
What are the designated areas for drinking alcohol
In Dubai, alcohol can only be consumed in designated areas. They include:
- Licensed venues such as hotels, bars and restaurants (these venues have the necessary permits to sell and serve alcohol)
- Residents and tourists who have a valid alcohol licence can also consume alcohol in their homes
At these places, you can enjoy your glass of Chardonnay, a beer, a cocktail or any other alcoholic beverages just like in the rest of the Western world.
Is it permitted to drink alcohol in public places
Remember that Dubai’s drinking laws strictly prohibit the consumption of alcohol in public places. This includes streets, parks, beaches and other public areas. The city believes in maintaining public order, and public drunkenness is seen as a violation of this principle. Those who violate this rule can face severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment. If you come to Dubai as a tourist please remember this to avoid any trouble.
I’ve seen moderately drunk people in the streets returning home from the restaurants. Of course, they are not detained or questioned by the police. You should not worry about that at all. However, those who abuse public order or are loud will definitely be in trouble.
What are the penalties and fines for violating Dubai’s drinking rules?
The penalties for violating Dubai’s drinking rules can be severe. This includes, for example, fines from AED 5,000 to AED 25,000, imprisonment for 6 months or even deportation in some cases. For instance, driving under the influence can result in a jail term, a hefty fine and the suspension of your driving licence.
Similarly, public drunkenness, consuming alcohol in public places or selling alcohol to underage individuals can result in heavy penalties. The exact penalty varies depending on the nature and severity of the violation. Remember that there are many surveillance cameras around the city, so violations of the rules can be easily traced.
How to buy alcohol in Dubai
To buy alcohol in Dubai, you need to visit a licensed venue. Alcohol rules in Dubai allow selling spirits, wines and other drinks in several ways. Depending on the method you either need or do not need a special alcohol licence:
- Licensed hotels, bars and restaurants (consumption on-site): You can enjoy a wide range of your favourite drinks, including wines, vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, cognac, champagne and many more. Moreover, you will be spoilt for choice with cocktails. No Dubai alcohol licence is required from you!
- Licensed liquor shops: You can buy alcohol only in special liquor stores in Dubai, which include two main chains: African + Eastern and MMI (Maritime and Mercantile International). African + Eastern has 20+ conveniently located branches throughout the city. The list and addresses of stores can be found on the official website. MMI (Maritime and Mercantile International) also has 20+ branches, and you can find their addresses on the official website via the link. Dubai alcohol licence is required from you!
- Dubai alcohol delivery: You can now also use alcohol delivery services in Dubai offered by Legal Home Delivery. It is a collaboration of the two Dubai liquor shops mentioned above. Dubai alcohol licence is required from you!
Have Fun Dubai’s Tip: Can I buy alcohol in Dubai supermarkets? If you are wondering about it, the answer is no. You will not find any shelves with alcoholic drinks in Dubai supermarkets, it is simply forbidden. Instead,you will need to visit one of the specialised liquor stores, such as African + Eastern and MMI.
What is a Dubai alcohol licence
To buy alcohol in Dubai from a shop, you need a special licence, which is available to both residents and tourists but has a different validity. From January 1, 2023, the licence to buy alcohol in the city is free.
To get an alcohol licence in Dubai you need:
- To be aged 21 or over
- To be a non-Muslim
- Have a valid passport or ID
How to get an alcohol licence in Dubai
I recommend following these simple steps to apply for a Dubai liquor licence :
- Visit any of the African + Eastern or MMI (Maritime and Mercantile International) branches (addresses provided via the kinks above) or apply online on their website.
- If you are a resident, show your UAE ID to the store employee to complete the form. Physical licences are issued within 2-3 weeks.
- If you are a tourist, show your passport with a visa to the store employee to complete the form. The alcohol licence is issued immediately and is valid for 30 days.
Can you buy alcohol online
Yes, you can buy alcohol online in Dubai. Several liquor store chains, including African + Eastern and MMI, offer an online shopping service called Legal Home Delivery. You can browse their selection, place your order and have it delivered to your home.
However, as mentioned above you need to have an alcohol licence to buy alcohol online.
Can you buy alcohol in Dubai Airport
Yes, you can buy alcohol in Dubai Airports. Both airports have Duty-Free shops where you can buy a wide range of alcoholic beverages. You can make your purchase upon arrival or departure.
Can I bring alcohol to Dubai
Yes, you can bring alcohol to Dubai. However, there are restrictions on the amount of alcohol you can bring. Currently, you’re allowed to bring up to 4 litres of alcohol or 48 cans of beer (each not exceeding 355 ml).
By the way, after going through the passport control on arrival, all your carry-on luggage will be scanned. The same concerns your checked luggage offloaded from the aircraft.
Alcohol prices in Dubai
Is alcohol in Dubai expensive? I know, you might be particularly excited about this question. Well, the prices of alcoholic drinks in Dubai are generally higher compared to many Western countries. This is mainly due to the taxes imposed on alcoholic beverages. Moreover, almost all alcoholic beverages in Dubai are imported.
However, there are some positive changes. Currently, the 30% municipality tax on alcohol is lifted. This resulted in some alcohol price decreases in both liquor shops and restaurants as of 2023.
Here is a list of average alcohol prices in Dubai:
- Pint of beer: AED 35 to 50
- Glass of wine: AED 40 to 90
- Shot of vodka: AED 40 to 60
- Cocktails: AED 50 to 200
- Shot of whiskey: AED 60 to 80
- Shot of rum: AED 45 to 80
- Glass of cognac or brandy: AED 45 to 80
- Glass of tequila: AED 45 to 85
Tips for safe and responsible alcohol drinking in Dubai
While Dubai allows the consumption of alcohol, it’s important to drink responsibly and respect the city’s laws and customs. As a reminder, here are a few of my tips for safe and responsible drinking in Dubai:
- Always carry your alcohol licence when buying alcohol.
- Respect the legal drinking age. Selling or giving alcohol to underage individuals in Dubai is a severe offence.
- Stick to licensed venues or your home for drinking. Public consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited.
- Avoid public drunkenness. If you consumed alcohol in a cafe, restaurant or any other licensed venue, go straight home or to your accommodation
- Never drink and drive in Dubai. The city has zero tolerance for drunk driving.
Prepare for your Dubai trip
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