Many people think that alcohol is completely banned in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates and that there are high penalties on the import, purchase and /or drinking of alcohol. There are rules but in Dubai you can drink alcohol. The rest of the Emirates are more stringent in the area of alcohol than Dubai and have different rules regarding the sale and consumption of alcohol, please note if you are planning to visit the neighboring Emirates next to Dubai. For example, the sale and drinking of alcohol in the Emirate of Sharjah is prohibited.
Importing alcohol into Dubai is not prohibited, per person (adults) 4 liters of alcoholic beverages can be imported into Dubai. It does not matter whether it is beer, wine or spirits. You can buy the alcohol at the airport of your own country but it is also possible to buy alcohol on arrival at the airport in Dubai in Duty Free shops which are located next to the baggage belts in the arrival hall. These purchases can be taken through the country without any problems, You can drink it for example in your hotel room. If you are planning to consume alcohol in Dubai, buy your alcoholic beverages at the airport.
As mentioned before in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates alcohol is not for sale in supermarkets and shops. The only “beer” that is available is the alcohol-free variants of Bavaria or other brands. There are also many non-alcoholic beers with taste, such as peach, orange, lemon and apple.
Alcohol license in Dubai
Since December 2020, Dubai has introduced new measures making it possible for tourists to buy alcohol in shops. The changes will allow non-Muslim tourists over the age of 21 to purchase alcohol from Mercantile and Marketing International (MMI) or the city’s African + Eastern liquor stores. Previously, only residents of Dubai with such a special red pass could open alcohol in Dubai.
As a visitor to Dubai, you can apply for a permit free of charge upon arrival in Dubai or at an African + Eastern store, which is necessary to buy alcohol in the stores in Dubai. This special permit shows that as a tourist you are not a resident of the UAE and agree to abide by the rules of the UAE regarding the purchase and consumption of alcohol. The permit is valid for 30 days and can be extended if you stay in Dubai for more than 30 days. More information about the Alcohol License in Dubai can be found at www.alcohollicencedubai.com.
Buy alcohol in Dubai
Anyone looking for alcohol in Dubai in the supermarket will return home disappointed. Alcohol is not sold in all supermarkets in the United Arab Emirates, so you will not easily find a shelf full of beer and wine in Dubai. You can still buy beer in the supermarket, but then it is alcohol-free. A brand that is strongly represented in Dubai in the alcohol-free beer shelf is the Dutch beer brand Bavaria. In addition to the normal non-alcoholic beer, you can also get 0.0% beer in Dubai with flavors including strawberry, peach, orange, apple and lemon flavored beer.
There are only two retail chains that are officially allowed to sell alcohol by law, these are African + Eastern and MMI. To be able to buy alcohol in this store you previously had to have an alcohol passport, a so-called “Alcohol License”. But since December 2020, the rules regarding buying alcohol in Dubai have been relaxed and tourists can also visit the African + Eastern and MMI stores.
The MMI and African + Eastern stores can often be found in or next to a Spinneys supermarket, you can find them in the Mall of the Emirates, Ibn Batuta Mall (Andalusia area), Al Safa (in the Spinneys), the Marina Walk in the Dubai Marina (next to the Spinneys) and the Jumeraih Beach Road (next to the Spinneys). You recognize the shops quite quickly because the windows of the shops are taped shut so that Muslims cannot see the alcohol bottles when they walk by. Check out the MMI website or the African + Eastern website for more information on all store locations.
Alcohol in restaurants and cafes in Dubai
Alcohol can be served in various restaurants, hotels, clubs and bars if the location has a permit. Often it is the Western hotels and the big known hotel chains that have such a license. The prices of alcohol are a lot higher in Dubai than we are used to, a normal glass of Heineken (0.33 cl) costs around 6 to 8 dollar and a glass of wine is between 10 and 12 dollar. Cocktails start at 12 dollar and can go up to 35 dollar.
With many excursions, it is also no problem to get alcohol. For example, with many dhown cruises and dune safaris you can get beer, wine and spirits. Exception is Friday, for religious reasons alcohol is often not given on this day.
Keep in mind that drinking alcohol is forbidden in public and driving under the influence is seen as a serious offense with high prison sentences. Public drunkenness is also seen as a criminal offense and is punished with high prison sentences. Be warned and pay attention! During the annual Ramadan no alcohol is served in many places, also in hotels, restaurants and clubs that have a permit and where normally alcoholic drinks are served.