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Where is alcohol in Dubai illegal? Alcohol laws in 2023

by Polly B
Published: Last Updated on

For those choosing to move to a Muslim country or holidaying in Dubai for the first time, you might be a little bit worried about all the alcohol laws and how they might affect your holiday or lifestyle. You might have questions like, where is alcohol available in Dubai? Do supermarkets sell alcohol? I’ll give you all the information you need about the Dubai alcohol laws so you don’t need to worry about getting in trouble

I’ve seen lots of incorrect information being given out and many simply have not updated based on the changes in 2020. Rules do differ for Dubai versus Abu Dhabi, which also has caused confusion. There were also some more changes in 2023.

Is alcohol legal in Dubai?

This question is a common one for those who haven’t visited Dubai before or are visiting Dubai for the first time. Is alcohol illegal in Dubai?

Alcohol is available in many locations across Dubai and you certainly won’t have any problem finding a drink! There’s a multitude of hotels, bars, clubs and restaurants that serve alcohol. So yes, alcohol is FULLY legal in Dubai! This applies to both tourists and residents who are over the age of 21.

One of the Dubai drinking laws is that the venue needs to be attached to a hotel in order to serve alcohol.

However, you’ll even find entire large souqs (markets) such as Souq Al Bahar and Madinat Jumeirah where the entire complex is connected to a hotel. Thus having several bars and restaurants all serving alcohol. So you likely won’t even notice this is a rule. So whether you’ll looking for a tasty Dubai cocktail or just a beer with your friends, it’s very easy to find alcohol in Dubai.

You may also wonder if you can drink alcohol in your hotel room or at home. I’ll answer more about this below.

What Dubai alcohol laws changed in 2023?

The change for 2023 is that the UAE will no longer apply a 30% tax to the purchase of alcoholic drinks, making it cheaper to buy alcohol to drink at home and hopefully alcoholic beverages in licensed venues! However, the 5% VAT does still apply unless at a Duty Free.

Another change from the 1st January 2023 is that Dubai alcohol licenses will now be free to acquire!

The other big changes were in 2020 when Dubai no longer made it a criminal offence to drink alcohol without a license in licensed venues along with allowing tourists to purchase alcohol from off-licenses / liquor stores.

What is the drinking age in Dubai?

The Dubai drinking age or legal drinking age in Dubai is 21. Clubs and bars will ask to see proof of age with an ID for those entering establishments that serve alcohol.

Most bars and lounges are for over 21s only along with party style beach clubs such as Nikki Beach and Drai’s Dubai. There are restaurants which allow younger children where alcohol is served if you’re wanting a glass of wine with dinner. So if you have kids, just make sure to check the venue’s age policy.

Can women drink in Dubai?

can women drink in dubai? woman enjoying a drink together in dubai

Yes! The drinking laws of Dubai apply to both men and women equally. There is no distinction. Both men and women, tourists and residents can enjoy drinking alcohol in Dubai. In fact, Dubai can be amazing for women who want to drink. As you’ll find many venues do ladies nights where alcohol is either free or cheaper for women.

For more information about Dubai for Women and what it’s really. Read my previous article.

Can you buy alcohol in Dubai?

In addition to buying drinks in licensed premises, such as hotels and bars, you can also purchase from specialist stores that exclusively sell alcohol. Similar to an off-licence (or liquor store if you’re from the US). These shops usually only sell alcohol.

You will be pleased to know that this option is available to both residents and tourists. Before 2020, tourists weren’t able to purchase from liquor stores only residents. Unlike in Western countries, you won’t find a multitude of shops at every location selling alcohol. Only select shops at select locations sell alcohol in Dubai.

Here are some of the locations in Dubai where you can purchase alcohol:

  • African & Eastern – Burj Views, Downtown Dubai
  • MMI – City Walk
  • MMI – Mall of Emirates
  • MMI – Al Wasl (Next to Spinneys)
  • African & Eastern – Dubai Marina Mall
  • African & Eastern – Marina Walk
  • MMI – Armada JLT
  • MMI – Ibn Battuta Mall
  • African & Eastern – Arabian Ranches
  • African & Eastern – Motor City
  • MMI – Jumeirah Golf Estates
  • MMI – Town Square
  • African & Eastern – Deira
  • African & Easter – Bur Dubai

You do however still need an alcohol license in Dubai if you’re a resident to consume it at home in 2023, I will explain more about that below!

What is the process for tourists buying alcohol?

For bars and hotels, it’s very easy. Just as you would in any country, once you’ve proven your age to enter the venue. You can purchase alcohol at a variety of bars. You are not required to show proof of an alcohol license. But what about liquor stores?

  • Firstly, you will need to take your passport with you in order to buy alcohol. Using your passport, the store will generate a temporary membership number for you.
  • Second, you need to fill out a declaration form that you are not a resident of the UAE. The same laws apply that you should be over the age of 21 and none-muslim.

After this, you will be given a temporary 30 day membership / alcohol license so you can start your shopping straight away. You can also get alcohol delivered to you through Legal Home Delivery.

Better still, the temporary licence is free of charge, so fill your boots!

Do restaurants in Dubai serve alcohol?

Yes there are restaurants in Dubai that serve alcohol but not all restaurants serve alcohol in Dubai. If it’s a restaurant inside a hotel, then it’s highly likely to serve alcohol. If it’s a restaurant in a mall or on a street, then it is unlikely to serve alcohol.

Can you drink alcohol in Dubai in your hotel room?

wine bottle on ice bucket

So again the answer is yes! You can both take alcohol you’ve bought, whether at the airport or via a liquor store to your hotel room. Also most hotels in Dubai offer room service and you are able to order alcohol delivered to your room as well.

The hotels, especially luxury 5 star hotels, do often charge a premium for drinks. So often it is cheaper to buy alcohol at the airport. The second cheapest is from the liquor shops as they frequently do special offers but you will pay tax on the alcohol. There are limits however on how much you can buy, both from the airport and from a liquor store.

What are the laws for residents to buy alcohol?

There have been recent changes and changes in 2020 to the alcohol laws in Dubai and alcohol rules as a whole in the UAE. This has created a little bit of confusion and I’ve seen many articles giving completely wrong information!!

The answer is that residents in Dubai STILL NEED to apply for an alcohol license in Dubai in order to buy alcohol from a store and consume alcohol at home. However, the UAE has made it that it is no longer an offence to consume alcohol without an alcohol license in licensed venues.

Also the best part is now in 2023 that applying for an alcohol license is free of charge, so you can easily apply and it doesn’t cost a penny!

For Dubai, you will still need to show your alcohol license if you wish to purchase alcohol in a liquor store. Abu Dhabi have removed the need to buy an alcohol license completely in order to purchase alcohol. The other Emirates also do not require a licence.

The one exception is Sharjah, as Sharjah is a dry Emirate and no alcohol is to be sold or consumed there.

How much does a Dubai alcohol licence cost and what’s the process?

For Dubai, this license needs to be applied for in person from the approved retailers MMI or African + Eastern. You’ll need your Emirates ID or Passport, you can buy as soon as you apply with a code given on your phone. The cost of the license since 1st January 2023 is free and valid for 12 months.

My own experience, the physical card took 6 weeks to arrive but this was on the old system which was a lot more complicated and cost 270 AED! From those applying recently, they got their physical license in 2-3 weeks.

Since 2020 the entire process was made a lot simpler! Previously you needed to get No Objection Certificate (NOC) from your employer and landlord. Along with a copy of your rental contract and ID from your landlord. Yes I did ALL of this in the past! Now you only need your Emirates ID. Phew!

Also you used to get a book of offers or discounts with vouchers that cover the cost of the license before but now with it being free, it seems they’ve got rid of the voucher book.

Can you buy alcohol in a supermarket in Dubai?

assorted bottles and cans in commercial coolers

There’s a large brand of supermarkets called Carrefour in Dubai who you may know already if you’re from Europe. So many ask, does Carrefour sell alcohol?

The answer is no. Carrefour and other supermarkets in Dubai do not sell alcohol. Alcohol is only available from licensed shops also known as liquor stores or off-licenses. There is however a home delivery option from these authorised retailers.

Can I drink alcohol at home in Dubai?

You might also be worried that you can’t drink at home. Alcohol can be consumed by anyone over the age of 21 within a private residence, so rest assured you are fine to join the numerous people who enjoy a nice glass of wine or cold beer from their balcony in Dubai. However you do still need a license to buy alcohol and consume it in your home in Dubai.

Can you drink in public spaces in Dubai?

Alcohol should only be consumed privately or in licensed places and it is an offence to drink or be drunk and disorderly in public spaces. So do not, I repeat DO NOT, take your alcohol onto the beach, park or any other public areas of Dubai.

On a brighter note, many organised open-air events such as sporting events and concerts are partnered with a hotel or licensed venue. So you’ll happily find a choice of alcoholic drinks for your enjoyment while you enjoy your favourite band or sport.

In addition, you should of course be mindful that Dubai has many Muslim citizens so it’s best to be respectful of this. You may find on your taxi cab journey home from a fun evening out that you’ll have additional air-con as the driver winds down all of the windows in order to eliminate drink fumes! (This may or may not be based on a personal experience, oops)

What happens if you get caught with alcohol in Dubai?

a person s hands on the table wearing handcuffs

Prosecutions for alcohol possession or consumption without a licence were very rare and almost in all cases in conjunction with another offence. Now the UAE has officially stated it will no longer enforce this crime however you can still get into trouble for being drunk in public.

Of course you still need to be over 21 and consuming alcohol underage or giving alcohol to someone underage is also still a criminal offence.

There is also zero tolerance for drink driving, this means any amount of alcohol is not allowed when driving.

You cannot drink in a public space such as a beach or park (unless it’s part of a licensed venue) so if you get caught in possession of alcohol here this could also land you in trouble!

Please note – Public beaches, such as Kite Beach, not the ones part of your hotel resort which would be classed as a private beach

Also open air concerts and events are nearly always partnered with a hotel so there’ll be serving alcoholic drinks. These include events such as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Rugby 7s and Dubai Yacht Show.

Where can I buy alcohol without a license in Dubai?

You will not be asked to show proof of a personal license in any licensed establishments such as bars, clubs, restaurants and hotels. So bars, clubs, restaurants and hotels are where you can buy alcohol without an alcohol license in Dubai.

If you wish to purchase from one of Dubai’s licensed alcohol shops, you will need a license. For this reason, residents may drive to other Emirates where an alcohol license isn’t required such as Abu Dhabi, Umm Al Quwain or Ras Al Khaimah. This is nicknamed an “alcohol run.”

Another reason why residents used to drive to Ras Al Khaimah or Umm Al Quwain for alcohol is due to the fact that alcohol is cheaper there. The tax rate on alcohol in Dubai before 2023 was quite high at 30% tax. So alcohol runs to infamous places like Barracuda or Al Hamra Cellars are a rite of passage for those living in Dubai. Plus it made a nice day out!

However now with the alcohol tax abolished and only 5% VAT due in Dubai alcohol shops, it’s now no longer necessary to do an alcohol run unless you really don’t want to apply for an alcohol license for home reason.

Also for you newer people to Dubai, you’ll never have to worry about that last-minute party or dinner party and trying to get your hands on a bottle of alcohol to take! What a fun quest that was!

Is alcohol expensive in Dubai?

Dubai is one of the most expensive places in the world for alcohol. A beer will typically cost around 45-80 AED ($12-$22/£9-£16) in a bar and a wine is typically similar in price. It is also typically served as 125ml at this price. They have now gotten rid of the 30% tax that increased alcohol prices but it’s still not the cheapest place in the world for alcohol.

You should therefore still be prepared to pay premium prices for your drinks in most bars and restaurants. Although you can often find happy hour offers, ladies nights and all-inclusive brunches are readily available in many establishments. Making Dubai contradictoraly also quite cheap to drink!

If you’re a woman in Dubai, then you’ll be happy to learn that a ladies night often includes free alcohol for women. Usually you are given tokens or vouchers for 3 free drinks. These offers are most common in the week on a Tuesday night.

Airport duty free alcohol purchases can also work out cheaper as VAT isn’t added, for more details about buying at the airport. Read below.

Can I bring alcohol into Dubai? Alcohol at Dubai airport?

Yes you can buy alcohol from abroad and bring it to Dubai. There is also a small alcohol Duty Free shop on the arrivals side of Dubai where you are able to purchase alcohol directly in the terminal. It’s located where you pick up your suitcase from in most terminals.

The Duty Free Dubai allowance is as follows:

  • 4 litres wine OR
  • 4 litres spirits

Up to 4 litres is the limit of alcohol per person, so a maximum total of four litres. This can be of spirits, five 75cl bottles of wine or 24 355ml cans of beer or a combination of these not exceeding 4 litres in total.

You will need to show your boarding pass to make any purchases and keep this in the duty-free bag until you reach to Dubai.

For more information and to check, other destinations Duty Free allowances, visit Dubai Duty Free.

Can you drink alcohol in Dubai airport?

Yes, like the rest of Dubai, there are bars and restaurants serving alcohol to choose from in Dubai Airport. Alcohol is also served in the airport lounges.

Do Emirates flights serve alcohol?

Yes, Emirates flights serve alcohol onboard and a drink is included with your meal within the price of the ticket. You can also request alcoholic beverages through out the duration of your flight.

Make sure to check out my other Dubai articles when you’ve finished this one!

Dubai Female Dresscode: How to dress as a tourist when visiting Dubai
Can you drink tap water in DubaI? Is it safe?
17 amazing hotels with view of the Burj Khalifa for your stay

Is Dubai a country or a city? Answering your questions about Dubai
How is Dubai for women? What to know before moving or visiting

In conclusion:

Despite UAE being a Muslim country, alcohol is readily available in various licensed establishments and drinking appears to be actively encouraged in many Dubai hotels and bars with many special offers, happy hours and ladies nights.

However you must be careful about drunken behaviour outside of venues or when returning home from a night out as this can still lead to trouble with the laws in Dubai.

Alcohol in the UAE is overall easy to buy and consume and many tourists finding drinks in Dubai to be an amazing experience. So I hope I’ve answered all your questions around can you drink in Dubai? I hope you have an amazing time in the UAE and now understand more about the rules in Dubai including when you do and do not need a license!

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