One of the most frequently asked questions, and confusing areas of Islamic Law and customs that visitors to Dubai need to be aware of is around whether it is legal to drink alcohol in Dubai.
The rules in this regard significantly changed on 7 November 2020 under a federal law change.
- Consumption of alcohol is no longer a criminal offence and a license is no longer required for residents or tourists.
- A person still must be at least 21 years old to drink legally in the UAE and anyone caught selling alcohol to someone deemed underage will be punished.
- Alcohol can only be consumed privately or in licensed public places.
As you will no doubt still come across conflicting information in this regard, we have left all the previous alcohol licensing information on this page. We are lead to believe from federal news authority press releases there is now NO NEED FOR RESIDENTS OR TOURISTS TO PURCHASE A LICENSE FOR PRIVATE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION.
Read on to see where alcohol can be purchased and consumed and how much you should expect to pay.
Drinking Laws in Dubai for Tourists
- Licensing laws require venues serving alcohol to be attached to hotels or private clubs.
- It’s illegal to drink in the street or a public place or be under the influence of alcohol in a public space.
- The legal drinking age in Dubai is 21 years old.
So the basic premise – over 21’s should drink only in licensed venues and behave yourself!
Where can I find a licensed premises?
Nearly all hotels in Dubai serve alcohol from a bar or restaurant. There are a limited few which are designated “dry” or “Family” and will not have a bar on-site – if this is important to you, do check the details before booking a hotel in Dubai.
Clubs, such as sporting clubs and purpose-built entertainment venues such as Pier 7 in Dubai Marina also have alcohol serving licenses and serve as entertainment hubs around the city. Alcohol purchased must be consumed on the premises.
Drinking laws in Dubai for expatriates
Non-Muslim expatriates in the UAE are permitted to purchase alcohol from specialised stores if they purchase an alcohol license.
How do I get an Alcohol license in Dubai?
If you hold a residents visa, are aged over 21, earning at least 3,000AED per month and you are a non-Muslim, you can apply for an alcohol license which permits you to buy alcohol from licensed trading stores. These are inconspicuously signed but located all over the city, easy to locate on Google maps.
The license can be applied for at African + Eastern and MMI Liquor Stores, you will need copies of your passport, Visa and Emirates ID (you no longer need a tenancy agreement, labour contract and salary certificate), along with passport photos and an application fee of 270AED (there are also online options with both stores now).
The alcohol you can purchase in these stores is quite heavily taxed – so don’t be surprised if you are visiting friends in Dubai they ask you to stock up for them with your duty-free limit!
NB the law change announced on 7 November 2020 suggested this license for expatriates is no longer required. However, African + Eastern and MMI Liquor Stores have, at the point of writing, not been informed directly by their licensing authority that alcohol licenses are no longer required for home consumption purchases. We will update when more clarity is received.
Other Frequently Asked Questions & Rules to Know about Alcohol in Dubai
So let’s set the record straight on a number of issues surrounding the purchase and consumption of alcohol in Dubai & the UAE.
Can I take alcohol into Dubai with me from Duty Free?
Individuals are permitted to import 4 litres of alcohol – see customs guideline here
But I’ve heard of people going to jail for being drunk in Dubai, is this true?
What you will find is that there is normally another event that has lead to the individual being arrested, rather than drinking in itself. The police will then seek to add extra charges such as intoxication, or drinking without a license. The simple message, just don’t break the laws in the UAE and don’t get yourself heavily intoxicated.
Is there a drink-driving limit in Dubai?
Dubai has a zero-tolerance policy on driving whilst intoxicated, your blood alcohol limit is 0.00.
Can I get liquor from a store on a visitor visa?
This is a grey area of the law, as technically, you need a liquor license to drink in the UAE, regardless of what type of visa you are on. But it’s served in bars everywhere, right?
Recent steps have opened up to help cover this grey area for purchases you may want to make for “home” consumption, in your hotel room or staying with friends. Non-muslim visitors can also obtain a free 30-day tourist license from African & Eastern or MMI Liquor Stores.
Tourists need their original passport, fill out a short form and sign an official declaration to state that they are not a UAE resident, and will obey the UAE’s rules and regulations in regards to alcohol purchase and consumption. The store will take a copy and issue you with guidelines for responsible drinking in the UAE.
We understand this is now no longer required from 7 Novermber 2020
How much will an alcoholic drink cost me in Dubai?
This is highly variable by venue, but don’t be surprised if a pint of beer sets you back as much as 50AED/$13.50/ €12/£10.5. A small glass of wine costs approximate 40AED/$10.8/ €9.8/£8.4. The classier the venue and better the view the price will go up.
Alcohol in Dubai, on the whole, is pretty expensive as whilst permitted, it’s still discouraged through heavy excise taxes.
Where can I find cheaper booze in Dubai!?
It is popular with the expatriate population to also head to the Northern Emirates of Umm Al Quwain and Ras al Khaimah where alcohol is supplied in larger stores without the added taxes.
For tourists, keep your eyes peeled for happy hour specials, and if you are going to be in the country for a few days, consider purchasing “Cheers Dubai” by the Entertainer, this is an online coupon product that contains discounts at bars and restaurants all over town.
You may also want to check out our guide to Sundowner Venues in Dubai as many have happy hour offers.
Where to go out drinking in Dubai
Almost every large hotel – unless it is dry – will have a bar attached, otherwise a few key dining spots we recommend you try out:
- Around Dubai Marina – known for its alfresco options and sports bars
- Around Downtown Dubai – a popular tourist area though finding the drinking holes can be a challenge! We take you through our favourites from small hidden gastropubs to sky-high sleek lounges
- Rooftop drinks in Dubai – from the skyrises to sunset views over Dubai Creek, all our favourite licensed rooftop venues
But I saw alcohol on sale in the supermarket!
Look closely! what you will find is the “beer” on sale in the supermarket has zero % alcohol – if that’s your thing then go for it….
We hope this may have cleared up any concerns you have about drinking alcohol in Dubai and the UAE. Pop on back to our Essential Travel Information Page, or read more on exciting places to visit and things to do in Dubai on our Dubai Travel Blog
Please note, the information on this page is only advisory in nature. You should look to clarify laws for yourself and seek legal advice immediately should you run into any issues while drinking alcohol in Dubai & the UAE.