Is alcohol in Dubai illegal? Dubai’s Alcohol laws in 2024

by Polly B
Drinking in Dubai

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 about Dubai’s alcohol laws so you don’t need to worry about getting in trouble.

We interviewed residents who had recently gone through the Dubai alcohol license process. My daughter has gone through the resident’s alcohol license, and I’ve received the tourist one myself. I’ve also been to various off-licenses in the UAE.

So we’ll give you all the accurate and insider information.

I’ve seen lots of incorrect information being given out and many are not updated based on the changes in 2020 and 2023. Rules do differ for Dubai versus Abu Dhabi which also causes confusion.

Is alcohol in Dubai illegal?

This question is a common one for those who haven’t visited Dubai. Is alcohol legal in Dubai?

No alcohol is not illegal; alcohol is available across many locations in 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 over the age of 21.

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

However, you’ll find large souqs (markets) such as Souq Al Bahar and Madinat Jumeirah, where the entire complex is connected to a hotel with several bars and restaurants all serving alcohol. So you likely won’t even notice this is a rule.

So whether you’re looking for a tasty Dubai cocktail or just a beer with your friends, it’s very easy to find alcohol in Dubai.

What Dubai alcohol laws changed in 2023?

In 2023, the UAE stopped applying a 30% tax to the purchase of alcoholic drinks. This made it cheaper to buy alcohol to drink at home and in some licensed venues. However, the 5% VAT still applies unless at the Duty-Free in the airport.

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

Other big changes were in 2020, when Dubai de-criminalised drinking alcohol without a license in licensed venues and tourists were allowed to purchase alcohol from off-licenses / liquor stores.

What is the drinking age in Dubai?

The legal Dubai drinking age 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 want a glass of wine with dinner.

If you’re planning a meal with kids, make sure to check the venue’s age policy.

Many have minimum ages; For example At.Mopshere, which is a restaurant inside the Burj Khalifa, has a minimum age of 5 years old for lunch and over 8 years old for dinner. The lounge, dinner is for over 21s only.

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 drink alcohol in Dubai.

In fact, Dubai can be amazing for women drinking. Many venues have ladies’ nights where alcohol is either free or cheaper for women.

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

Can you buy alcohol in Dubai?

You can buy alcohol from licensed premises. Hotels, restaurants and bars. If you want to buy a bottle of alcohol to drink elsewhere, there are specialist stores that exclusively sell alcohol called an off-licence (or liquor store for my American friends).

You will be pleased to know that this option is available for both residents and tourists.

Before 2020, tourists couldn’t purchase from liquor stores. Unlike in Europe, you won’t find alcohol being sold everywhere. 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 still need an alcohol license in Dubai to consume it at home; we’ll explain more 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 without needing an alcohol license.

But what about liquor stores?

  • Firstly, you will need to take your passport with you to buy alcohol. The store will generate a temporary membership number using your passport.
  • Second, you must fill out a declaration form that you are not a resident of the UAE and non-Muslim. The same law applies that you must be over 21.

After this, you will be given a temporary 30-day membership (alcohol license) so you can start your shopping straight away.

Plus the temporary licence is free of charge.

Do restaurants in Dubai serve alcohol?

Yes, many restaurants in Dubai 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, 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 drink alcohol in your hotel room. You can take alcohol you’ve bought, whether at the airport or from a liquor store to your hotel room. You can also order alcohol from room service and many hotels have mini bars in rooms.

The hotels, especially luxury 5-star hotels, charge a high premium for alcoholic drinks.

It is cheaper to buy alcohol at the airport in Dubai. The second cheapest is from the liquor shops as they frequently do special offers but you will pay 5% tax on the alcohol compared to the airport. There are limits, however, on how much you can buy. Both from the airport and liquor store.

What are the laws for residents to buy alcohol?

There were big changes in 2020 to the alcohol laws in Dubai and UAE. This has created confusion and I’ve seen many articles giving wrong information!

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

Since 2023, alcohol licenses are free of charge. The process has also been made simpler compared to the past, so there’s no excuse not to have on these days.

You will still need to show your alcohol license if you wish to purchase alcohol in a liquor store in Dubai.

In 2020, Abu Dhabi removed the need for an alcohol license to purchase alcohol. The other Emirates also do not require a licence.

The one exception is Sharjah. 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?

The cost of an alcohol license in Dubai is now free and valid for 12 months.

The license must be applied for in person from 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.

My daughter’s experience was with the old system; the license took six weeks to arrive! The old system was a lot more complicated and cost 270 AED.

We interviewed those applying recently and they got their physical license in 2-3 weeks.

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

You used to get a book of offers or discounts with vouchers that cover the license cost, but now, with it being free, it seems they’ve gotten 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 chain of supermarkets called Carrefour, which is popular in Europe and sells alcohol. So some also ask, does Carrefour sell alcohol?

The answer is no; you cannot buy alcohol from supermarkets in Dubai. 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 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 glass of wine or cold beer from their balcony in Dubai. However, you do 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. This is illegal.

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 be mindful that Dubai has many Muslim citizens, so it’s best to be respectful. 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 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. Almost all cases are in conjunction with another offence. The UAE has officially stated it will no longer enforce drinking without a license as a crime. However, you can still get into trouble for being drunk in public.

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, are where alcohol consumption would be illegal. If your hotel resort has a beach, this would be classed as a private beach and many serve alcohol.

Also, open-air concerts and events are nearly always partnered with a hotel, so they’ll serve alcoholic drinks. This includes 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 was because alcohol was cheaper there. The tax rate on alcohol in Dubai before 2023 was high at 30% tax.

So alcohol runs to infamous places like Barracuda, or Al Hamra Cellars was a rite of passage for those living in Dubai. Plus, it made a nice day out!

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

For you newer people to Dubai, you’ll never have to worry about that last-minute party and trying to get your hands on a bottle of alcohol to take. What a fun quest that used to be!

Is alcohol expensive in Dubai?

Dubai is one of the most expensive places in the world for alcohol. A beer in a bar typically costs between 45-80 AED ($12-$22/£9-£16) and a glass of wine is similar in price. Wine is usually a 125ml serving, too; it’s a small measure compared to most places globally.

Despite the tax reduction in 2023, there hasn’t been much of a reduction in prices in bars. So be prepared to still pay premium prices for your drinks in most bars and restaurants.

You can find many happy hour offers, ladies’ nights and all-inclusive brunches available in many establishments. Dubai can be cheap to drink as a woman! We even have a Facebook group dedicated to sharing them.

If you’re a woman new to Dubai, then you’ll be happy to learn that ladies’ night often offers free drinks for women. The most common is tokens or vouchers for three free drinks on a Tuesday night. However, you can find ladies’ nights every night of the week.

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 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 throughout the duration of your flight.

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

Dubai Dresscode: How to dress as a tourist when visiting Dubai
– Can you drink hotel tap water in DubaI? Can you drink tap water in restaurants? 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 about alcohol in Dubai:

Despite UAE being a Muslim country, alcohol is readily available in various licensed establishments and drinking is 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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