Dubai Alcohol: Everything You Need to Know

If you are a tourist or resident of Dubai, you must know the rules and regulations surrounding alcohol consumption in the city. 

Despite being situated in a Muslim country, alcohol is legal in Dubai. However, there are laws and guidelines that you must follow to avoid any legal or cultural issues. 

We will provide you with everything you need to know about drinking and alcohol rules in Dubai. We cover the legal drinking age, where you can drink, obtaining an alcohol licence, where to buy alcohol for home consumption, alcohol prices, and guidelines for responsible drinking.

Additionally, we will explore the UAE’s zero-tolerance policy on drunk driving and guidelines respecting cultural norms and expectations.

Legal Drinking Age

In Dubai, the legal drinking age is set at 21 years and older. This age requirement applies to tourists and residents and is enforced across the city.

When visiting bars, clubs, and restaurants selling alcohol, patrons may be asked to present their ID to confirm their age before being served.

Underage drinking is not tolerated anywhere in Dubai. Anyone caught selling alcohol to a person under the legal drinking age is subject to penalties.

Where to Drink in Dubai: Hotels, Clubs, and Entertainment Hubs

In Dubai, alcohol licensing laws require that venues serving alcohol are attached to hotels or private clubs.

As a result, most bars, pubs, and restaurants offering alcoholic beverages can be found within or nearby hotels.

Hotels aimed at Muslim tourists are dry, meaning they do not serve alcohol. Hotel websites usually indicate whether they offer licensed bars and restaurants. If access to a hotel bar or restaurant offering alcohol is crucial, verify the hotel’s status before you book your stay.

Tourists can drink alcohol in Dubai in licensed venues such as bars, clubs, and restaurants without obtaining an alcohol licence.

Tourists who prefer to enjoy a drink in the privacy of their hotel rooms can buy alcohol from shops. An alcohol licence is required. Getting a licence is now free and easy.

Drinking In Public Areas

Drinking alcohol in public places, such as beaches, parks, and the street, is forbidden. Consumption is limited to licensed establishments (bars, clubs, and restaurants) and private spaces such as homes and hotel rooms. Ensure you respect these rules to avoid any issues with the local police.

Alcohol Licence

An alcohol licence is required for persons who want to buy alcohol from stores in Dubai.

There are two types of alcohol licences; one for residents living in Dubai and one for visiting tourists. Applicants for either type of licence must be over the age of 21.

Tourists in Dubai can apply for an instant 30-day alcohol licence. This licence allows them to purchase alcohol from liquor stores during their stay. To obtain this temporary licence, tourists should visit an African + Eastern or MMI Liquor Store with their passport and Dubai entry stamp. The temporary liquor licence for tourists is free and issued immediately.

An alcohol licence in Dubai is required for residents to purchase, transport, store and consume alcohol legally in their homes. Getting an alcohol licence was a complicated and expensive procedure, but recent changes have simplified the application process.

From January 2023, liquor licences for residents of Dubai are free. The previous 270 AED application fee for an annual licence has been revoked. Now, residents can apply for a licence with just their Emirates ID.

Furthermore, the application process no longer requires applicants to submit documents such as a tenancy agreement, labour contract, or salary certificate.

Alcohol Stores in Dubai: Where to Buy Drinks for Home or Hotel Room Consumption

While Dubai offers a lively drinking scene at hotels, bars, and other licensed premises, you may prefer to enjoy a drink at home or in your hotel room. There are approved stores where you can purchase alcohol. These stores differ from the supermarkets you may be familiar with in your home country.

In Dubai, stores selling alcohol are known as liquor stores. They exclusively sell alcoholic beverages. The two chains of liquor stores in Dubai are African + Eastern and MMI. Both offer a good range of beers, wine and spirits. These shops cater to residents and tourists, with tourists allowed to purchase alcohol from these stores since 2019.

Supermarkets in Dubai, such as Carrefour, do not sell any alcohol. Alcoholic beverages can only be purchased from the two licensed liquor chains.

However, African + Eastern and MMI offer a home delivery option, providing added convenience for customers.

Alcohol Prices in Dubai: Drinking is Now a More Affordable Experience

Dubai has recently made changes to its alcohol laws. The new legislation aims to attract more tourists and expatriates to the emirate.

A decision to temporarily halt the collection of the 30% tax on alcohol sales was announced by Dubai Municipality in January 2023. This move aims to boost tourism and attract more foreign residents to Dubai. It will remain in effect until at least the end of 2023.

The municipality tax cut has already impacted alcohol prices in Dubai. MMI immediately announced a 30% price drop at their Dubai stores after the decision. Most bars and restaurants also cut their drinks prices.

As a result of the change, alcohol prices in Dubai have become more reasonable. However, the UAE’s 5% sales tax (VAT) applies to alcohol purchases.

Drinking Laws for Women in Dubai

Girl with a cocktail

The drinking laws of Dubai apply to both men and women. There is no distinction.

Dubai can be a fantastic place for women who want to drink. Many venues run ladies’ nights where alcohol is free or much cheaper for females.

While Dubai is known for its relaxed and cosmopolitan atmosphere compared to other parts of the Middle East, women must be aware of cultural norms and expectations.

Modest attire is recommended in public spaces, and overt public displays of affection should be avoided to respect customs. Although women can freely enjoy alcoholic beverages in licensed venues, it is always a good idea to be mindful of one’s behaviour and surroundings to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience while exploring the city’s nightlife.

Responsible Drinking

While alcohol is available in Dubai, drinking responsibly and respecting the local culture is essential. Avoid being intoxicated in public, which can lead to fines or arrest.

Drink Driving in Dubai: A Strict Zero-Tolerance Policy

Dubai and the United Arab Emirates have a strict zero-tolerance policy on drunk driving, with a blood alcohol limit of nil. Any alcohol in your body while driving a vehicle is considered a criminal offence.

As per UAE law, driving under the influence is a crime, with severe penalties imposed on violators. Anybody found driving or attempting to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be sentenced to imprisonment and receive a hefty fine.

The recent sentencing of a British motorist to jail for drunk driving is a stark reminder of the importance of adhering to the UAE’s stringent drink-driving laws.

Customs and Dubai Duty Free

Travellers can bring limited alcohol into Dubai under the duty-free exemption.

The duty-free allowance for one person is 4 litres of wine or spirits, or two cartons of beer, containing 24 cans each, not exceeding 355 ml per can.

Passengers arriving at Dubai International Airport should note that Dubai Duty Free has outlets in the arrival and departure areas where they can buy alcohol.

Public consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited in Dubai. Consumption should be restricted to private spaces. After clearing customs, the purchased alcohol must be transported directly to your residence or hotel.