Here’s our complete guide on drinking in Dubai and the UAE laws that are in place you must follow
26 July 2018| Last updated on 26 July 2018
As an expat living in Dubai and the UAE, it is important to know the local laws regarding alcohol, to avoid being fined or even jailed.
One of the most common questions we hear is why can’t you drink alcohol in Dubai? The simple answer to that is: yes you can.
As long as you abide by the laws in place while doing so.
We frequently see residents take advantage of the ability to drink in Dubai, resulting in them being arrested or worse after having too much. Generally, the two main UAE laws expats tend to forget is the requirement of a valid alcohol licence and the fact you shouldn’t be drunk in public. Ever.
To help make sure you’re fully clued-up on Dubai’s drinking laws and regulations, here’s our complete guide to consuming alcohol in Dubai.
What is the UAE’s laws on drinking alcohol in Dubai?
The consumption of alcohol by Muslims is strictly prohibited and publishable as per Islamic law in the UAE. Any Muslim found consuming alcohol drinks in the UAE will be found to have committed a punishable offense under Article 1 of UAE Federal Law no. 3 of 1987.
Why don’t Muslims drink alcohol?
Alcohol for Muslims is considered ‘haraam’, forbidden – and thus they don’t eat foods with ethanol, don’t wear perfumes containing alcoholic ingredients and they stay away from all forms of intoxicating substances, which includes alcohol and drugs.
Dubai’s Alcoholic Beverage Control of 1972
Despite the overall UAE Federal Law that is in place, some emirates of the UAE – like Dubai – have internal regulations, such as the Alcoholic Beverage Control of 1972.
This specific regulation applies only in Dubai, which states that it is illegal for any person to consume alcoholic drinks in Dubai without a valid alcohol licence.
Non-Muslims in Dubai are able to obtain an alcohol licence for personal use.
A Dubai alcohol licence allows the holder to purchase permitted quantities of liquor and alcohol in Dubai from legal vendors for consumption within their house only.
To find out how to get your own alcohol licence in Dubai, you can find our complete guide here.
Having a drinking licence in Dubai means you can NOT do the following:
- Serve alcohol to other parties who don’t have a licence
- Take alcohol to another person’s home who doesn’t have a licence
- Leave the premises of your house while under the influence of alcohol
- Drive while under the influence of alcohol – never, ever do this
Liquor licences in Dubai are only issued to non-Muslims who are UAE residents. Dubai’s alcohol licence is not available to non-residents, but tourists are able to buy and drink alcohol in licenced venues, like hotels, restaurants and clubs.
Can you drink in public in Dubai?
No, you can’t. UAE laws forbid any drinking in public, and it is a punishable offence under the same law to be under the influence of alcohol in public.
Perhaps you’re wondering how that works… As an expatriate resident in Dubai, with an alcohol licence, you are permitted to consume alcohol at home and in licensed hotels, restaurants and bars.
However, once you leave the vicinity of your home or the venue, it becomes illegal to be drunk in public in Dubai.
Expatriates living here must take extra caution when in a public place while under the influence, be it in a taxi, using public transport or walking home on a street.
If for whatever reason your behaviour requires the intervention of Dubai Police and you’re found to cause offence, you will be penalised as per the UAE’s law.
There have been cases of expatriates over the years who have indeed, fallen foul of the law in this regard – and as a result, have been fined, arrested and even deported.
What is the penalty for drinking without an alcohol licence in Dubai?
A person caught drunk or drinking without an alcohol licence includes imprisonment for a period of six months, or a fine of AED 5,000 or both.
Where can you buy alcohol in Dubai?
There are licensed restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels across the city that serve alcohol to those above the legal drinking age.
Dubai’s licencing laws require that venues wishing to serve alcohol must be attached to a hotel, so often is the case. However, there are a few private clubs that are opening in parts of the city that are standalone venues, and not attached to a hotel.
There are also designated stores from where licence-holders can purchase alcohol in Dubai, like African & Eastern and MMI.
Many expatriates also travel to the Barracuda resort in Umm Al Quwain, or Eurostar Cellar in Ghantoot, as prices tend to be slightly cheaper from these places in comparison to buying from a local alcohol store in Dubai.
What is the legal drinking age in Dubai?
In Dubai, the legal drinking age is 21 years old. Persons who are aged 21 years or older are able to consume alcohol in Dubai so long as they are non-Muslim, and hold a valid alcohol licence.
The drinking age of 21 years also applies to Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Al Ain and Fujairah.
In Abu Dhabi, the legal drinking age for alcohol is 18 years old in private, but a Ministry of Tourism by-law prevents hotels from serving alcohol to those under the age of 21 in the capital.
Drinking alcohol at all in Sharjah is illegal.
Can you drink and drive in Dubai?
Absolutely not. Dubai and the UAE has a zero-tolerance policy in place regarding drunk driving.
Driving under the influence of alcohol in the UAE is a crime, and drivers caught driving under the influence in Dubai may:
- receive a maximum fine of AED 20,000
- receive a jail term to be decided by the court
- receive 23 black points on their driver’s licence
- have their vehicle confiscated for 60 days
- may have their driving licence suspended for a period not less than 3 months, and not exceeding 2 years as per the court’s decision
How much is an alcoholic drink in Dubai?
The average cost of an alcohol drink in Dubai can vary from place to place.
Some expats may be shocked to find an increase in price, in comparison to what you may pay back home, as Dubai charges high-end prices for alcohol.
With your Dubai alcohol-licence, you will find it’s better to purchase liquor for your home from the licensed stores here; they often have deals and offers in place, sometimes removing tax.
However, these are still considered expensive in comparison to Dubai Duty Free.
The cost of alcohol in Dubai restaurants and bars
The most expensive prices you’ll find for alcohol in Dubai will be while out and about; it is normal to pay on average around AED 50 – AED 70 for a drink in a club, bar or restaurant.
To put it simply, don’t be shocked to find you’ve paid the equivalent of £10, $13 or €11 for an alcoholic drink in Dubai while out dining or in a bar.
A bottle of wine, on average, starts around AED 300, a bottle of champagne around AED 1,500 and a bottle of spirits can be upwards of around AED 1,000 or more.
Advice for saving money while drinking in Dubai
- Keep your eye out for happy hours and BOGOF offers
- Enjoy ladies nights at different venues – you’ll find free drinks or an allowance for ladies in most places on different nights in the week
- Head to Friday brunch; it costs more per person, but you can make your money back with food and drink easily
- Buy alcohol while passing through Dubai International Airport at Dubai Duty Free
- Sign-up for memberships like Privilee, Cheers by The Entertainer, U by Emaar and Moonshine
- Watch out for discounts with credit card providers and Emirates memberships
- Drive to Barracuda in Umm Al Quwain or Eurostar Cellar in Ghantoot for cheaper prices – make a weekend of it!
Can you drink alcohol in Dubai during Ramadan?
We’d personally recommend against doing so, as the Holy Month of Ramadan is a sacred time on the Islamic calendar and is observed in Dubai and the UAE.
If needs must, yes you are able to find some places serving alcohol during Ramadan.
In fact, over the past few years, more and more establishments are being allowed to serve alcohol and food during the Holy Month of Ramadan as it nears towards tourism season in the country.
If you do find yourself drinking during the Holy Month – we urge you to take extra, extra care so as not to cause offence to someone.
What is the duty-free limit on arrival in Dubai?
If you frequently travel to and from Dubai for work or to see family, it is a good opportunity to purchase alcohol in Dubai at the airport at lower prices – so long as you do have an alcohol-licence to take it to your home as a resident.
Dubai’s Duty Free allowance, per person, is:
- A maximum of 4 litres of alcohol, OR
- 2 cartons of beer (each consisting of 24 cans, not exceeding 355ml for each can or its equivalent
You can find out more information about what you can bring into Dubai while travelling here.
Please note, any passenger in transit through the UAE or landing in Dubai that is under the influence of alcohol may also be arrested.
We know how easy it is to take advantage of Emirates’ free alcohol on board, but we urge you not to get carried away.