This is everything that you need to know about alcohol in Saudi Arabia
5 August 2018| Last updated on 9 September 2020
Saudi Arabia is known to be a very conservative country with strict rules regarding alcohol, drugs and even mixing of genders.
Therefore, it should be no surprise that alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia, much to the dismay of non-Muslims visiting and living in Saudi Arabia.
Here is everything you should know about alcohol in Saudi Arabia, and why alcohol in the Kingdom is banned:
Are you allowed to consume alcohol in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia is a very conservative, Islamic country and is home to what is considered the holiest city in Islam – Mecca. Because of this, the Kingdom has always followed the Islamic laws very strictly and enforced it on their people.
Alcohol is completely banned in Saudi Arabia. This includes consuming, importing, brewing and selling alcohol. Officially, there is no way that you are able to get hold of alcohol in Saudi Arabia. It has been reported before that people have even been arrested for just smelling like alcohol.
Locals and expats often travel to Saudi’s neighbouring country Bahrain if they want to drink or go clubbing. It is however illegal to bring any alcohol over the border or to cross the border while being intoxicated.
Why is alcohol banned in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and home to Mecca, a city that is seen as the holiest site in the Islamic culture.
Saudi Arabian citizens also follow very strict interpretations of the Quran, in which it says that Muslims shouldn’t go and pray while intoxicated.
What is the punishment if you are caught with alcohol in Saudi Arabia?
People who have previously been caught with alcohol in their possession have been sentenced to lashes as well as a prison sentence. Deportation is sometimes also part of the package but isn’t necessarily always the case.
The sentence for selling alcohol is higher than just having it in your possession, but if you are caught selling alcohol to Saudi nationals, you can get sentenced 500 lashes, if not more.
Expats who are caught transporting alcohol faces the same punishment as mentioned above. They are however not as tough on Saudi nationals. If a local is caught with alcohol in their possession, it is often just confiscated by the police, after which the national is free to go.
Image Credit: @KSACustomes
Can you find alcohol in Saudi Arabia?
As with most things illegal, where there is a will, there is a way. Despite it being illegal, alcohol is quite readily available in Saudi Arabia – you just need to know where to go look. Alcohol is especially available in the western compounds although, the types of liquor that is available is often not branded, but rather home brewed liquor.
Different ways through which expats find alcohol in Saudi Arabia are brewing it themselves, at some embassy parties and on the black market. We have also heard rumours of informal bars being available at some of the western compounds, but have no confirmed information on this.
Can tourists drink alcohol in Saudi Arabia?
Tourists unfortunately don’t have any special rules exempting them from the ban on alcohol in Saudi Arabia. The same as residents, tourists are also not allowed to consume alcohol while in the country. Saudi Arabia has even gone so far as to say that you are not even allowed to consume while en route to the Kingdom. You can be arrested if you cross the Saudi border while still intoxicated or even just smell like alcohol.
Even alcoholic substances in your suitcase could get you in trouble.