Dubai’s licensing laws require venues serving alcohol be attached to hotels or a private clubs. It is illegal to drink in the street or in a public space.

The legal drinking age is 21. Minors requiring something stronger than an orange juice should pack false beards.

Girl with a cocktail

It is an offence to buy alcohol from an off-licence without an alcohol licence. These are only issued to resident non-Muslims.

Special rules come into effect during the holy month of Ramadan.

Comments and Additional Information

  1. BRibz says

    Is it a law for all nightclubs and bars in hotels to have CCTV installed and recording 24/7? Is is punishable by law if they don’t?

    • Editor says

      That’s an interesting question. I’m no lawyer and don’t have the time to research it fully enough to give you a definitive answer. However, I’ll let you know what I’ve found out. It will at least give you a starting point if you want to investigate further.

      The relevant piece of legislation appears to be Law No 24 of 2008. The law relating to hotels is in the Annex No 2. As bars and nightclubs in Dubai are in hotels, this is the relevant section.

      The states that hotels and short-stay residences must have colour CCTV cameras in all entries/exits, at all reception desks, all lifts and lift lobbies, at all emergency exit doors, parking areas, entries to business centres, vehicle drop off points, and loading/offloading areas. It makes specific reference that there must be cameras at all entries leading to bars and nightclubs. It does not state that there must be cameras within the bars and nightclubs themselves.

      I believe there are fines for non-compliance. However, you should seek legal advice for a conclusive answer.

  2. WAQAR says

    I think they should also issue licenses to Muslim residents as well.

    • CLEAR says

      I agree with you, especially since we are “allowed” to drink in bars and hotels etc. This law make no sense for me.

  3. Mike says

    Can you buy duty free alcohol at the airport and drink in your hotel room?

    • Sam says

      You can buy alcohol at Dubai Duty Free but you can’t drink it legally in Dubai. To drink alcohol legally in Dubai you need an alcohol license.

      Do people do it? Of course they do. Everybody does it and most don’t have any problems. Rules like these are enforced only when tourists start creating problems.

      Legally you can’t even transport it in a taxi. They’ll happily sell it to you without an alcohol licence at Dubai Duty Free in the arrivals area.

      A blind eye is turned in most cases. Nobody asks to see your alcohol licence at Dubai Duty Free or in any restaurant or bar. Legally you need one though.

      Problems happen if you are drunk and go outside the hotel or bar or have an alcohol related incident. Take the case of British motorcycling champion Sean Emmett. His wife fell off a hotel balcony and died. He was arrested and fined for drinking alcohol without a license.

      People who have got drunk on Emirates flights and caused problems at the airport on arrival have also been arrested for drinking alcohol without a licence. Emirates, a government-owned airline, will gladly serve anybody alcohol.

      It is a crazy situation. In summary, nearly all tourists who want a drink do so and don’t have any problems. Strictly speaking they are breaking the law.

  4. PD says

    They should give alcohol licences to tourists and they arrive. It is legal to buy it at Duty Free but technically they can’t drink it anywhere without a licence.

    • Editor says

      It is a strange situation. I agree completely. To get a licence you need to be resident in Dubai and earn a certain amount. They could easily issue short-term licences for tourists without the residency and earnings conditions on arrival. I’m sure it could be stamped into passports in the same way as a visa on arrival is.

      I really don’t know why they don’t do it. It would encourage a lot more visitors to come to Dubai. They drink in hotel bars anyway, so I’m not sure why they won’t let them buy from stores.

  5. Mahendra143 says

    Thanks Jim, you made my point too. Those are the requirements folks for a liquor license to be acquired and MMI (Maritime and Mercantile International) or A&E (African & Eastern) are two liquor selling shops in Dubai that provide forms for alcohol license.
    Enjoy Responsibly Folks!

  6. Gangadhar says

    Can I purchase liquor at duty free shop and take them to hotel.

  7. Gavin says

    I don’t know where Gary Scotland was, but I went to the Irish Village and found plenty of drinks in an Irish "pub".

  8. Sherri says

    You cannot buy alcohol in shops or supermarkets in Dubai but it is readily available in bars, clubs and restaurants. You can buy it in duty free and take it in if you wish to enjoy it in the comforts of your own home/holiday apartment.
    Yes, like the UK if you are under-age you can take the risk of trying to get served but the consequences are a lot worse than being denied if you are found out.

  9. im always right says

    There are lots of places in UAE where you can buy alcohol, like the ‘hole in the wall’ place in Ajman, places in Um Al Quwain. I agree with Jason. I was 14 when I got into my first bar. There are clubs around here as well as the bars in hotels. I don’t think you have to be worried about the alcohol licence around here because it seems pointless to me as long as you know how to be sneaky and not attract any attention from the police then you’re good to go. Trust me, I’m born and raised in UAE so I know my way around. That Karama and Filipino thing? It’s been going on for ages! Plus there are other nationalities doing just about the same thing.

  10. A long-term Dubai resident says

    A load of nonsense is being posted. There are lots of decent, real pubs in Dubai. Muslims cannot get a booze licence as drinking alcohol is against their religion, that is not racist. It’s the main religion in the UAE, but they allow non-Muslims to drink and also to eat pork. It’s a pretty tolerant place if you follow a few simple rules.

  11. Nav says

    You can buy alcohol from the "hole in the walls" in Ajman/Umm Al Qwain and some of the other emirates.
    Ajman is an 45 min drive and a lot of people without a liquour license drive there and stock up.
    It’s safe/legal and everyone knows about it and does it.

  12. Jason says

    I have lived in Dubai for many years now, and I have noticed that it is easier to pose as 21 in Dubai, than to pose as 18 in the UK. I am only 16 now, but have used fake identification without any problems. Be aware that some places know these are fake and will most likely take them off you and do nothing further.

  13. Editor says

    Yes Nige.

  14. nige says

    Can you buy it in the airport and then take it to your hotel room?

  15. Eirik says

    How stupid? Why does it have to be 21? The proper age for alcohol should be 18 all over the world.

    • kirst says

      All over the world the drinking age is 18? Really? i can name several countries where the drinking age is 21. Like the USA! Dubai is the only Emirate where the drinking age is 21. In the other Emirates like Abu Dhabi the age is 18.

      • Read B says

        That’s why he said “should” you illiterate person.

  16. Editor says

    Barry, you only need an alcohol license to buy it in shops. To drink in hotel bars you don’t need a license. You can also buy alcohol without a license at Dubai Duty Free at the airport.

  17. Barry says

    Jim, Tell me I have got this wrong please. I have to apply for and pay for an alcohol licence to have a few drinks? What about visitors?

  18. Gary Scotland says

    There aren’t any real pubs in Dubai. The only place you can get a drink is in a hotel bar.

  19. Jim says

    Here are some more facts about the alcohol licence:
    – Minimum income for an alcohol licence is Dh 2,000 per month.
    – The licence itself is a chip card that records every purchase. Amount you can purchase every month depends on your salary. The CID also have access to your purchase records and can see how much you are spending on alcohol.

    • Mike says

      In regards to Jim’s question. You can drink in bars without a license, but I believe you need one to TRANSPORT alcohol, i.e. if a friend with a license buys it for you and you have to get it from his house to yours. If the police stop you with alcohol in your possession and you have no liquor license, you’d better find a good lawyer.

  20. Jim says

    In order to qualify for an alcohol licence you must be a resident of Dubai and not Muslim. To get one pick up an application form from either a A&E or MMI store. This must be completed and stamped by your employer and returned to the store along with your photo and copies of your passport, employment contract, residence permit and tenancy contract.

    • Og says

      What if the tenancy contract is not in my name and I want to get a liquor license? Is that possible?

      • Editor says

        According to the African and Eastern website you can get an alcohol licence if the tenancy contract is not in your name. You need to get a copy of the registered tenant’s contract plus copies of their passport and residence visa, plus a No Objection Certificate from them stating they have no objection to you holding an alcohol licence.

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