One of the most frequently asked questions and confusing areas of Islamic Law and local customs that visitors to Dubai need to be aware of is whether it is legal to drink alcohol in Dubai.
The short answer – for non-Muslims – is YES, you can drink alcohol in Dubai.
The rules in this regard significantly changed on 7 November 2020 under a federal law change, and a further change was announced by Dubai lawmakers on 1 January 2023.
UAE Alcohol rule changes since November 2020:
- Consumption of alcohol is no longer a criminal offense and a license fee is no longer required for residents or tourists.
- A person still must be at least 21 years old to buy alcohol 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.
Dubai Alcohol Rules Changes January 2023
The Government of Dubai announced that for the next 12 months, the alcohol sales excise (municipality tax) of 30% levied on all alcohol purchases (for personal consumption and the food and beverage industry – i.e. bars and restaurants) will be removed. We are more than 12 months after this change now in 2024, and the tax hasn’t returned, yet…
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 – Can You Drink Alcohol in Dubai?
- Drinking laws in Dubai for expatriates
- How much will an alcoholic drink cost me in Dubai?
Drinking Laws in Dubai for Tourists – Can You Drink Alcohol in Dubai?
- 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 licensed premises?
Nearly all hotels in Dubai serve alcohol from a bar or restaurant. There are a limited few that 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 obtain an alcohol license (now free).
How do I get an Alcohol license in Dubai?
If you hold a residents visa, are aged over 21, and are a non-Muslim, you can apply for an alcohol license which permits you to buy alcohol from licensed trading stores. The 270AED application fee for this annual license has been removed, you now only need your Emirates ID.
The need to pay a license application fee has been removed, but it can still take 4 weeks for a license to be issued for residents, valid for 12 months. Note that applying for a license no longer requires the presentation of a tenancy agreement, labour contract, and salary certificate.
The license can be applied for at African + Eastern and MMI Liquor Stores. These stores are inconspicuously signed but located all over the city, easy to locate on Google Maps.
As a tourist, you now only need your passport with evidence of your tourist visa entry stamp to obtain an instant temporary 30-day license from African + Eastern and MMI Liquor Stores.
NB the Federal law change announced on 7 November 2020 suggested this license for expatriates is no longer required – this is certainly the case in Abu Dhabi. However, in Dubai, African + Eastern and MMI Liquor Stores have confirmed a license is still needed, it is now just free to apply for.
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 or two cartons of beer (24 x 355ml max) – see current customs guideline here.
Does Emirates serve alcohol?
Yes, the premium Dubai carrier Emirates serves alcoholic beverages on board all their aircraft complimentary. The quality of your beverages naturally improves as you move up the cabins!
Can I get alcohol in Dubai as a Muslim?
Strictly speaking and under the letter of local laws, no. In reality, you are unlikely to be challenged when making your purchase.
What is the Dubai Drinking Age?
You must be over the age of 21 to buy alcohol in Dubai.
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 is, 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 used to be a grey area of the law, as technically, you needed a liquor license to drink in the UAE, regardless of what type of visa you are on, but tourists didn’t have the documentation that was required.
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 regard to alcohol purchase and consumption. The store will take a copy and issue you guidelines for responsible drinking in the UAE.
How much will an alcoholic drink cost me in Dubai?
We are yet to fully test this since the rules change – watch this space as we find it hard to believe suppliers will pass on the total 30% saving (particularly when they still have stock to use up that they have paid excise on already).
Prior to the change, you could easily expect, at most bars, a pint of beer to set you back as much as AED50/$13.60/ €12.80/£11.35. A small glass of wine costs approximately AED40/$10.90/ €10.3/£9.
The classier the venue and the better the view, the price will go up. Let’s see if this gets 30% cheaper in 2023!
The bottom line: Alcohol in Dubai, on the whole, is pretty expensive but the removal of the municipality tax should make this aspect of visiting Dubai more affordable.
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.
Check with hotel chains if they have a loyalty program. Even if you’re not staying at a particular hotel, you can still enjoy member discounts such as More Craving at all Marriott hotels and their associated bars and restaurants.
You may also want to check out our guide to Sundowner Venues in Dubai, as many have happy hour offers in the early evening.
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 more challenging than you’d think! 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….
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.
Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai
- Pop into our essential planning information page, it includes everything you need to know about getting around Dubai, a handy guide on what to pack, and top tips for first-timers on the do’s and don’ts, laws, and customs to be aware of.
- Check out this incredible list of 150+ places you should visit when you’re in Dubai.
- Pick up a Dubai Pass from iVenture or a Go City Dubai Pass to save up to 50% on top Dubai attractions.
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!!!
- Discover the best areas to stay in Dubai, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
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