One of the things that concern people traveling or looking at setting up residence in Dubai is the strict rules which Sharia law imposes. Until November 2020, these were a real concern; however, some of the regulations have been relaxed after that date.
In November 2020, Dubai relaxed the strict alcohol laws it had previously imposed on its citizens. After the law was passed, the need to purchase an alcohol license to buy a drink or bottle of booze was noticeably relaxed. Even Muslim residents can now drink at home and in licensed venues.
Since the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has relaxed some of the very restrictive moral laws imposed on residents, anyone older than 21 can purchase and drink alcohol in an approved setting. Interestingly the relaxing of the law has also permitted unmarried people of the opposite sex to cohabit together.
You Can Buy And Drink Alcohol Under Certain Provisions
In the past, the alcohol laws were very strict and were “religiously” adhered to by the authorities. Residents and citizens alike were fearful of the consequences of even a small breach of the regulations.
In those times, Muslims were not allowed to purchase or drink alcohol anywhere in Dubai, and while foreigners had more freedoms, they still had to conform to strict policies.
It all changed in 2020 when several Islamic personal laws were reviewed and changed. It is good news for contemporary society in Dubai because it allows for social drinking and places the onus back on the adult to behave.
How to Get a Liquor License in Dubai
Although residents, tourists, and business or day visitors still require a liquor license, it is now available to own at no charge.
This follows the January 2023 Government of Dubai directives regarding consuming alcoholic beverages in Dubai. The free liquor license for residents and holders of an Emirates ID is valid for a period of 12 months and is also renewable.
Similarly, tourists and day visitors can also apply for a free-of-charge liquor license to purchase and consume alcohol in private. Tourist licenses are valid (and renewable) for a period of 30 days. Simply present your active passport online or in-store to initiate the application.
Where Can You Buy and Drink Alcohol in Dubai?
It is now allowed for anyone (Muslims and non-Muslims alike) to drink alcohol in the following places.
These venues have to be licensed before they are allowed to sell alcohol, and only holders of alcohol licenses are permitted to purchase alcohol from a retail outlet or online for home delivery.
Retail outlets that are permitted to sell alcohol outside of approved venues include.
What Are The Rules Which Apply To Purchasing Alcohol?
There are five primary rules regarding alcohol purchases and consumption.
- Consuming alcohol is no longer a criminal offense, however an alcohol license is required for all consumers. This applies to both Muslims and Non-Muslims.
- A person must be at least 21 to consume alcohol.
- Alcohol can only be drunk privately or in licensed public places.
- Anyone caught selling alcohol to someone under 21 years old will be punished.
- If alcohol is purchased with the intent of serving it to someone who is under 21 years, it is punishable under the same law.
The rules have been completely lifted for Muslims; however, during Ramadan, the restrictions for Muslims still apply. Therefore Muslims will not be served alcohol anywhere in Dubai during Ramadan.
While the rules were significantly relaxed in 2020, this is still a Muslim country under Sharia law. Residents, and particularly tourists, must respect the situation.
The most obvious requirements are listed below.
Only Drink Where Permitted
As Dubai is a strict Muslim country, it is essential that drinking is only done where permitted.
Both tourists and residents can drink at specific locations in the city, but there are some limitations you should be aware of:
- Drinking on the streets is forbidden.
- Drinking on beaches is not allowed.
- Drinking in malls is strictly forbidden.
- Bringing your alcohol to an unlicensed restaurant is forbidden.
This means there must be no drinking of an alcoholic beverage in any of the above situations.
Don’t Drink And Drive
As in any other nation globally, drinking and driving will incur a severe penalty.
Any motorists who are caught mixing alcohol or driving while under the influence of alcohol:
- Will be fined Dh25,000 (US$6,800). It was increased from Dh20,000 in 2020.
- Possibly be sentenced to a jail term, the length of which is decided by the court.
- Receive twenty-three black points on their license.
- And their vehicle will be confiscated for sixty days.
Don’t Drink At Work
As previously stated, it is illegal to drink in an unlicensed place.
If an employee is found to possess alcohol or drugs during office hours, they can be immediately dismissed. Under the UAE labor laws, no notice or severance pay is required.
Being Drunk In Public Is Not A Great Idea
When you visit any foreign country, but in particular one with strict obedience to a legalistic religion, you must respect the rules.
While drinking too much in your home country may be perfectly acceptable, obvious drunken behavior is seriously frowned upon in Dubai.
If you do slip up and have a few too many, don’t get caught wasted and roaming the streets. Public displays of intoxication such as falling around, loud serenading of people passing by, or vomiting in public is not permitted.
Also, starting fights, shouting, and doing dangerous drunken stunts under these circumstances will land you in trouble with the police.
This kind of behavior is unacceptable to the host nation, but it is also illegal and may result in you being sentenced to a time in jail or paying a hefty fine. Now that’s a hangover not worth having!
In short, when you want to pop out for a drink, be mindful of where you are and the sensitivities associated with Dubai’s own customs and practices.
An advantage is avoiding those horrible hangovers that follow a night on a bender!
Before the more relaxed laws, which were announced in November 2020, no Muslim was allowed to drink or purchase alcohol in Dubai, and non-Muslims had to pay for an alcohol license before they could partake in a tipple.
That has all changed now; tourists and residents alike, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, are permitted to buy and drink alcohol. As long as it is purchased from properly licensed venues or in the privacy of their own homes.