To drink or not to drink, that is the question. Can you drink alcohol in Dubai? Yes. Despite being a Muslim country, Alcohol is available all over the UAE. It is more prevalent in Dubai, having more of a tourist focus, but, alcohol is essentially available in most hotels, which have a license to sell alcohol. Some hotels do not serve alcohol, but in most, you will be able to enjoy a drink, at a restaurant, bar or nightclub as you would in any tourist destination. This fact alone has lead to a large majority of the nightlife being associated with the hotels, although there are a few places that have perhaps a 3 bedroom hotel to be able to serve alcohol.
To be able to purchase from the off licenses, you will require a permit that allows you to spend a certain amount of your salary per month on purchasing from the offies, such as A&E (African & Eastern), MMI, Spinneys Liquor and GMP. To obtain this license, you can either get your PRO to do it for you or you can fill in an application form from the stores who will arrange it with the police and authorities. You will need a whole range of documents including, a salary certificate, housing contract, signature from your employer, passport and visa copies, passport photos, and 150Dhs in cash. You will have to renew it annually. While the limit does exist in practice, the booze stores are often prepared to stamp unused allocations for previous months.
Here are some basics on what you need to know:
- The legal drinking age is 21.
- Your liquor license will be checked at the off license but not in the bars.
- If you get into trouble, have been drinking, and do not have a license, then this is a good excuse for the authorities to make your crime more serious.
- Alcohol is essentially for non-Muslims though there are numerous Muslims who in reality do drink at the bars.
- Sharjah is a dry emirate, but expats (with licenses) can drink in at home.
- Bars can close any time until 3, but usually do between 1 and 2.
- In the month before Ramadhan, many use up their full license in anticipation of the booze shop being closed.
- A beer will knock you back between 15 and 25 Dirhams
- You can bring in 2 bottles of spirits and 2 bottles of wine at duty free.
- Tuesday and Saturday are traditional ladies nights, where females are served certain drinks, usually cheap imitations or watered down tipples for free.
- During official mourning periods, alcohol will not be served for a period of time, either for a day, a week or the full 40 day period, depending on the Emirate
- Alcohol has a haram tax associated to it, on entry to the country, thus the prices are similar to the west.
- There is zero tolerance to drink driving. If you want to drink, don't drive - very simple. Penalties can range from large fines, to imprisonment and even lashings and deportation.
- Being drunk in public, is also a crime and can get you in trouble, so if you wish to drink, do it in moderation.
- It is also illegal to drink on the street, or in public.
- During Ramadan, some hotels opt not to serve alcohol, but many do. In recent years Abu Dhabi has started to allow hotels to serve alcohol, while Dubai has been serving during the holy month for a number of years.
- There are unofficial "holes in the wall" notable in Ajman and Umm Al Quwain, as well as some other word of mouth joints where you can pick up bottles at a slightly discounted price, but beware - if you get caught at the Sharjah border, you could be fined for transporting!
If you have a habit of mixing alcohol and other drugs, you might find it difficult to do the same if you go to a country where alcohol is strictly regulated and drugs are outlawed.