Page update - May 2, 2023
How does the law in the UAE control alcohol consumption? Where can and cannot you drink? What are the fines for violations? How much does liquor cost in stores? Where can you buy? Read the answers on this page.
Prices and legal information on this page were updated in May 2023. Starting January 1, 2023, Dubai has abolished the resident license fee. Dubai has also abolished the 30% municipal tax on alcohol, resulting in lower prices. Read all the details below on this page.
And more great news! The first official alcohol delivery service in Dubai has started. All the details are below on this page.
From 2 January 2022, the minimum age for buying alcohol has been spelt out in Article 313 (bis) of the UAE Penal Code. And very strict penalties for selling alcohol to those under 21 have been introduced - a fine of AED 100,000 to AED 500,000.
On 8 November 2020, a large package of amendments to UAE laws - Law No. 15 (2020) - came into force. The amendments, among other things, touched on the rules for drinking and buying alcohol. So much so that we had to rewrite the page on alcohol in the UAE (this page) in its entirety. The information on this page takes into account all the latest amendments.
Being drunk or drinking alcohol in public places in the UAE is prohibited by the Penal Code. And the amendments on November 8 did not soften these rules in any way.
Drinking is allowed in authorized places (bars or restaurants) or at home, and a hotel room is equal to a home in this case. You may only be drunk at home or in a bar. That is, if drunk, you have to take a cab to the hotel (home).
UAE Penal Code Article 313/1-2 applies. Penalty: Jail of 1-6 months and/or a fine of up to AED 2,000.
See our page "Money in the UAE" for the current exchange rates of dirham (AED).
Note that these are criminal offenses. That is, if caught, they will not let you out of the country until the verdict of the court. You have to wait for a month or two, or even three. During this time, you have to live somewhere and eat something, and not all tourists have money for that. Tourists usually do not get jail, but only a fine.
But there is a positive point. The Nov. 8 amendments, among other things, give judges the power to determine whether an offense is weighty and worthy of trial. In theory, a judge can look at your case, declare it "non-serious", quickly issue a fine, and you can pay the fine and fly home. But this is only in theory, and will the judge do so specifically in your case? As luck would have it.
Also, article 313/1 subparagraph 1 forbids Muslims to drink alcohol at all. However, the punishment in this case is not specified and will be the decision of the judge.
The new amendments on Nov. 8 set the same minimum age for buying and drinking alcohol in all emirates at 21. Previously, only Dubai had the restriction of 21 years old, while the rest of the emirates had the restriction of 18.
Selling alcohol to those under 21 is a criminal offense. So, get ready to show your passport in a liquor store.
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In regular supermarkets and stores there is only non-alcoholic beer on the shelves, but no more than that. Not even alcohol-containing products.
You can buy alcohol in special liquor stores, which can be found in all the emirates except Sharjah. There are many liquor stores, so no need to worry. And it is not difficult to find such a store. You can get in a cab and tell the driver "liquor store", he will understand. Or use Google.Maps, type the phrase "liquor store" and the name of the emirate.
The two largest chains of liquor stores in the UAE are called African + Eastern and MMI. You can search on Google.Maps by these names.
If you are vacating in the Dubai Marina area (JBR), go to Dubai Marina Mall, where you will find African + Eastern on the ground floor. For tourists in other areas we recommend taking the Dubai Metro to Mall of the Emirates, where there is an MMI store. Metro station Mall of the Emirates. Find the detailed map of Dubai Metro in our review "Dubai Metro".
Liquor stores do not shine with bright advertisements and signs. So you need to know where to look. See the entrance to African + Eastern at Dubai Marina Mall in the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen. You should agree that it is not immediately obvious that it is an alcoholic beverage store.
Alcohol is poured in the hotel bars. There are separate bars (outside hotels), but they are few. Alcohol is sold in nightclubs and discos.
It depends on the Emirate. Before November 8, 2020, there was a de jure system of special liquor licenses in all seven emirates. But de facto in most emirates the license system existed only "on paper", and liquor stores didn't ask for the license.
However, in the past the police issued a fine for drinking alcohol without a license (even at home), usually AED 600. But the November 8, 2020, amendments canceled the license system at the federal level, and there is no more penalty drinking without a license.
HOWEVER! The Nov. 8 amendments give each emirate the right to set its own rules and laws regarding alcohol. So the situation in each emirate is a little different.
In Abu Dhabi the system of licenses has not worked for many years. Licenses are not asked anywhere for a long time. On September 15, 2020, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi officially canceled its liquor license system. And on November 8, 2020, the system was canceled at the federal level.
In the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, tourists and residents can now buy and consume alcohol without any bureaucratic procedures. But remember NOT to drink in public and DON'T go to any public places if you are drunk.
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Dubai has its own alcohol law. There is still a system of licenses, despite the amendments on November 8.
Tourists buy alcohol under a special tourist license, which the stores make out with a passport. A curious thing is that sales clerks often do not even tell tourists that they have issued this tourist license for them. And most tourists are absolutely sure that the alcohol was sold to them without bureaucratic procedures. The system of tourist licenses has been in place in Dubai since July 2019.
Keep in mind, this tourist license has no physical form. It is only the record in the database. So don't be surprised if you obtain the license, but don't get any document or card in your hands.
However, there is an important feature. The tourist license is valid for 30 days. That is, during these 30 days you can buy alcohol without problems. But after that you can not. This is important for the tourists who come for a long time, because the visa-free stay in the UAE for many countries is now 90 days.
Residents must obtain a license to buy alcohol. Since September 2020, Dubai has introduced new licenses (black and gold, pictured near, click to enlarge) to replace the old (red) ones. Starting January 1, 2023, the license is free of charge (it was AED 270 before), but it is still needed to be issued.
In addition, as of 1 January 2023, Dubai has abolished the municipal tax (30%) on the sale of alcohol. Prices have fallen.
Tourists and residents in Dubai have the right to consume alcohol, as there are no more penalties for not having the license. You need the license only to buy. But remember NOT to drink in public and DON'T go to any public places if you are drunk.
There is a special website where you can apply for a licence. The website address is licensedxb.com
MMI started delivery service since January 1, 2023. It's very convenient so you don't have to look for the store. The website address is mmihomedelivery.ae
Even if you're not going to order delivery, you can see the exact prices of liquor on this website. To order delivery you need to make a license at the shop in person or through the website licensedxb.com . You have to pay in advance and only by card. The minimum order is 200 dirhams.
Delivery from African + Eastern has been running since 2022. The website for Dubai is africaneasterndxb.com, for Abu Dhabi it is africaneasternauh.com
Sharjah has its own laws about alcohol. Sharjah is the most conservative emirate. The sale of alcohol is prohibited there, except at Duty Free airport.
There is a big "black market" of alcohol in Sharjah, and even underground clubs for expats, where they drink alcohol and can do many other illegal things. But these places have no value for tourists, because you need to find them first. Not for nothing they are underground, there are obviously no signs on them.
In the rest four the emirates no one was asked for a license before the amendments of November 8, 2020. And now the license system has been canceled.
In the emirates of Ajman, Fujairah, Umm Al-Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah you can buy and consume alcohol without any bureaucratic procedures. But remember NOT to drink in public and DON'T go to any public places if you are drunk.
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Prices vary a lot from emirate to emirate, and even from bar to bar and from store to store. We will talk about the average prices.
Beer costs from 8 to 50 dirhams for a bottle of 1 pint or 0.5 liters. A bottle of wine costs between 50 dirhams and 100 dirhams. Spirits price starts from 50 dirhams.
See the example of the current prices in a screenshot near, click to enlarge to full screen.
If you want to drink alcohol during vacation we strongly recommend buying alcohol in Duty Free at the airport or flying to the UAE with your liquor in your luggage. We explained in detail the restrictions on the import of alcohol into the country in the review "What is allowed and forbidden to bring into the UAE".
The November 8, 2020, amendments lifted bans on the sale of alcohol during the holy month of Ramadan and during Islamic holidays.
Previously alcohol was sold in Dubai even during Ramadan, but for this, stores and bars received a special permit. That is, the law worked according to the principle "it is forbidden if not permitted".
Now the law works according to the principle "allowed if there is no prohibition". The Emirates have the right to prohibit or limit the sale of alcohol on holidays and Ramadan. And most likely they will do so. Don't be surprised if alcohol stores are closed on holidays.
The penalties in the UAE are very severe. Article 49 subsection 6 of Law 21 (1995) on Road Traffic establishes the penalty of a fine of AED 25,000 and/or imprisonment. The term of imprisonment is not specified in the article, but will be at the judge's discretion.
Question: What is the acceptable alcohol content threshold in the UAE?
Answer: 0 in all cases.
Question: Is a beach a public place, can I drink on a beach?
Answer: Yes, beaches are public places. It is illegal to drink or be drunk on a beach.
Question: Can I drink on private beaches?
Answer: By law, you can't. But de facto, some private beach clubs serve alcohol directly to guests' lounges and don't mind guests being drunk. Fortunately, police don't patrol private beaches.
Question: At All-Inclusive hotels, can I drink at the bar only?
Answer: By law, only at the bar; from the bar you should go straight to your room. But de facto most of such hotels do not mind drunk (if not strongly drunk) guests walking around. Usually, if the guest acts normally then no problems. Please note that in the UAE the all-inclusive does not always mean alcohol as we talked about in the review "All Inclusive in UAE".
Question: How do the police determine intoxication?
Answer: By smell and behavior, then they do an alcohol test. The UAE Police have the right to do this test forcibly.
Question: Can I leave the hotel with a hangover smell?
Answer: By law, you can not, because they can do the test, and it will be positive. But in fact, when tourists go out, usually no one picks on them. But we still urge you to wait until the alcohol is out of your body.
- On Fridays, liquor stores are usually closed until lunchtime. Why, read the review "Friday in the UAE";
- What else tourists are not allowed to do in the UAE, read in our review "Laws of the UAE for tourists";
- Liquor stores do not accept dollars, pounds and euros, you have to pay in dirhams. Read our review "How and where to change money in the UAE";
- It is expensive to drink in the UAE, but also smoking has recently become not cheap. See our page "Cigarettes and smoking in the UAE" for more details and prices.
Enjoy your vacation in the UAE, and read our helpful for tourists and interesting pages about this country (see list of the pages below).
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