Dubai is known for its vibrant lifestyle and for being chosen by more and more people for amazing holidays. But one of the most important things to know is about the alcohol law in Dubai.
Like other Muslim countries, alcohol consumption in the UAE is strictly regulated, and if you break the law you could end up in prison. Let’s see if you can drink alcohol in Dubai and everything you need to know about it!
Can tourists drink alcohol in Dubai?
Dubai is quite used to tourism and an international lifestyle, also due to the large number of expatriates who live and work here.
Hence, the law is quite tolerant of non-Muslim tourists and foreigners ordering a drink at one of Dubai’s many bars. But at the same time, the authorities are very strict about anyone who drinks alcohol in public, or is clearly drunk.
The basic requirements to be able to drink alcohol in Dubai are:
- Be at least 21 years old;
- Drinking in a licensed venue, such as a hotel bar or club;
And these are the things not to do when drinking alcohol in Dubai:
- It is illegal to drink on the street or in any public place;
- It is illegal to be drunk in a public place;
- It is illegal to drive after drinking;
Drivers must not drink. Tolerance is zero and is considered a serious criminal offense. You risk up to AED 30,000 in fines (approximately USD 8,000) and up to 3 years in prison!
Be careful: these rules are valid in Dubai and practically also in Abu Dhabi and other emirates, with the exception of the emirate of Sharjah. Drinking alcohol in Sharjah is strictly prohibited, and this applies to everyone, including tourists and foreigners. Also, the possession of alcohol is prohibited in Sharjah, so do not bring bottles of alcohol with you if you intend to visit this emirate.
Can I buy alcohol in Dubai’s supermarkets or liquor stores?
Here the matter becomes more complex!
Given the rather high prices of drinks in Dubai (expect to pay something like 45 AED, about 12 USD, for a 33cl beer), you might want to buy some alcohol at the supermarket.
Okay, bad news number one: supermarkets in Dubai don’t sell alcohol.
Alcohol in Dubai is sold in special liquor stores, licensed and controlled by the government. There are two brands of liquor stores in Dubai: AFRICAN + EASTERN and MMI Liquor Store.
These brands have various stores in Dubai, you can easily find the one closest to you on Google Maps.
Now, bad news number two: you need a license to buy alcohol in Dubai. But don’t worry too much, it’s pretty easy to get one.
Non-Muslim visitors who want to buy a few bottles of beer (or wine, or spirits, of course) to consume at home or in their hotel room can do so by applying for a temporary alcohol license.
The temporary alcohol license for tourists is valid for 30 days, can be requested directly in one of the AFRICAN + EASTERN or MMI liquor stores at the time of purchase, and can be renewed if necessary.
The requirements for the Dubai alcohol license for tourists are:
- Be at least 21 years old;
- You should not be a resident of Dubai (or anywhere else in the UAE);
- You should show the original passport, with the entry visa;
- You should fill out a short form and sign an official declaration stating that you meet the requirements, and that you will comply with UAE laws and regulations regarding the consumption and purchase of alcohol.
The license will be issued to you immediately, and then you can buy whatever you want.
Dubai Alcohol License for Residents and Expats
If you are a non-Muslim expat residing in the UAE, you need an alcohol license to purchase alcohol in Dubai.
As of 2019 the application process for the Dubai Alcohol License for Residents has been simplified, and it is no longer required to prove that you have a minimum income and a rental agreement.
As of August 2020, a new system has been implemented which replaces the old “red card”. Now it is no longer required to present a copy of the passport, the passport photo and the visa, but only the Emirates ID.
The application for the Dubai Alcohol License can be made directly in the African + Eastern or MMI stores. The issue of the license is not immediate, in fact it takes from 2 to 3 weeks, because the request is forwarded to the Dubai Police for approval.
The basic requirements to obtain a Dubai Alcohol License for UAE Residents are:
- Be at least 21 years old;
- Submit a copy of your valid Emirates ID;
- Pay the license fee of AED 270;
The Dubai Alcohol License for Residents is valid for 1 year and is renewable.
The Dubai Police may refuse your application for the Alcohol License. This usually happens when there are problems verifying your Non-Muslim status, or if you have a criminal record or pending court case in the UAE.
Remember that you can apply for a Dubai Alcohol License for Residents only if you are a Dubai resident.
If you are a resident of another emirate (your residence visa was issued by another emirate, for example Abu Dhabi, or Sharjah or RAK) your license application will be sent for approval to the police of that emirate, and you will need to have a NOC by the police of your emirate of residence.
Abu Dhabi Alcohol License for Residents
As of the end of September 2020, an Alcohol License will no longer be required to purchase alcohol in Abu Dhabi.
Other Useful Things to Know for your Trip to the UAE
Great, now that you have become an expert on shopping and drinking alcohol in Dubai, you may need to find out more interesting tips for your trip to the UAE:
- Here you can find other useful information to organize your trip and a complete guide to all the things to see and do in Dubai!
- Remember to pack a good travel insurance, in this guide I’ll explain why it is important.
- If you are interested in exploring the amazing surroundings of Dubai and the other emirates then you may need to rent a car, in this guide you will find tips for the best and cheapest car rentals.
- If you want to save up to 60% on Dubai attraction tickets, check out the Dubai Unlimited Pass, the tourist card that allows you to fully enjoy Dubai!