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, or be under the influence of alcohol in a public space.
The legal drinking age is 21. Minors requiring something stronger than an orange juice should pack false beards.
It is an offence to buy alcohol from an off-licence without an alcohol licence. These issued to resident non-Muslims and, from summer 2019, non-Muslim tourists.
According to strict interpretation of Dubai’s alcohol laws an alcohol license is required to purchase alcohol in a bar, restaurant, or hotel. In practice, none of these venues require buyers to present their alcohol licence. Many tourists consume liquor without a licence and almost all encounter no problems.
On rare occasions, people are prosecuted for being drunk and/or not complying with alcohol licence requirements. In most situations, this is where they have drawn attention to themselves by committing a related criminal offence (including disorderly or offensive behaviour). In these cases the alcohol offences are usually added to a charge for the main offence.
Other points to note include:
- Drivers should note that Dubai has a zero tolerance policy on drink driving.
- Not all hotels serve alcohol. There are many ‘dry hotels’ aimed at Muslim visitors.
- Special rules come into effect during the holy month of Ramadan.
- Alcohol prices in Dubai are high.
Abu Dhabi and the other emirates of the UAE have similar laws regarding the buying and consumption of alcohol. The exception is Sharjah, where alcohol is completely illegal.