I’m going to Dubai soon with my sister and two nieces. We are all over 25 and enjoy drinking alcohol socially, with a meal etc. None of us drink to excess or to get drunk. I’ve seen conflicting information about what is and isn’t permitted for foreigners regarding the consumption of alcohol. Are hotels allowed to serve alcohol to their guests? What about restaurants that are not part of a hotel?

  • Where have you read that licensed hotels, restaurants and bars are not allowed to sell alcohol to tourists? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Aug 9 at 18:51
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    Can you please explain the alleged contradiction? As in many western countries, it is prohibited to consume alcohol in public places, but it is of course not prohibited to consume alcohol in the licensed venues with the right to sell alcohol. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Aug 9 at 19:02
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    Inside an establishment like a hotel is not usually considered 'in public". – DJClayworth Aug 9 at 19:10
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    @Tor-Einar Jarnbjo I was probably being over-cautious in wondering if hotel bars might be considered public places. It’s not always easy to define, even in one’s own country, eg one city might have a different tolerance level /by-law. – Traveller Aug 9 at 19:15
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    @ThorstenS. I'm having trouble grokking your comment but Canada's rules on public drinking are similar to the US in this regard, at least where I've been. – Azor Ahai Aug 10 at 19:01
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Disclaimer: I have never been to Dubai, but all online sources I have found are consistent.

In Dubai, it is prohibited for resident moslems to buy and consume alcohol. Non-moslem residents and visitors above the age of 21 are allowed to buy and consume alcohol with restrictions similar to those in many western countries.

  • Alcohol is sold at retail stores. Both the retailer and the customer are required to have a license. Such licenses are issued to non-moslem residents, but seem difficult or more or less practically impossible to get as a visitor.
  • Alcohol is sold for immediate consumption at licensed bars and restaurants. Visitors are allowed to buy and consume alcohol at these venues.
  • Alcohol consumption in public places (and it is obvious that this means 'outside licensed venues') is strictly forbidden and often prosecuted.
  • Being under the influence of alcohol is prohibited in public, but there does not seem to be a clearly defined limit. Staggering around obviously drunk is probably not a good idea.
  • Driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol is prohibited.
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    I have lived in the UAE and have visited Dubai several times. The answer from @Tor-Einar Jarnbjo describes the situation very well.. – Richard Beasley Aug 10 at 8:36
  • "Visitors are allowed to buy and consume alcohol at these venues." Since Tomas By's answer directly contradicts this claim, can you provide some evidence? Also, how does a bar distinguish a visitor from a resident Muslim - do you have to show a foreign passport in order to be served? (Or are resident Muslims allowed to drink in bars and restaurants?) – Nate Eldredge Aug 10 at 15:35
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    @NateEldredge: there is no contradiction here, between the statements. You can buy and drink but it is technically illegal (as I understand it). I believe the distinction is the dress. Western clothes, ok; arab clothes, no alcohol. – Tomas By Aug 10 at 16:06
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    @NateEldredge The quote from Radha Stirling in Tomas By's answer is contradicted by statements on Detained in Dubai's own home page (section 'Top Drinking in Dubai Recommendations'): detainedindubai.org/alcohol Summarized, I guess it boils down to 'do not attract attention after drinking alcohol', which Ellie Holman clearly violated when she started arguing with the immigration officer about the validity of her visa. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Aug 10 at 17:37
  • I still see no contradiction. It is illegal but tolerated. – Tomas By Aug 10 at 18:08

Or maybe not.

It is wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood. It is illegal to consume alcohol at a bar, a hotel and a restaurant and if breathalysed, that person will be jailed.

(said Radha Stirling, CEO of the British human rights NGO Detained In Dubai)

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    Can you specify the source for your quote? – mdewey Aug 10 at 15:18
  • Does Stirling have a source for her assertion? – Nate Eldredge Aug 10 at 15:32
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    @Tomas By The news story strikes me as being as much, if not more, about not having the right visa and choosing to argue about it with an official, rather than having drunk supposedly one glass of wine on the flight. – Traveller Aug 10 at 15:52
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    @Traveller: the bit I quoted was the part I found relevant. I believe she is right. Same with relationships. As long as you don't get noticed you can live as a westerner but if you get into trouble for any reason, then they can make your life very difficult. – Tomas By Aug 10 at 16:00

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