Alcohol & the Law in UAE → How Not to Get in Trouble

UAE is under Sharia law, but that doesn't mean you are completely banned from drinking in the country.

License to Drink in UAE

While alcohol is served in some hotels and sold in a few designated stores, it may generally only be purchased by people who hold a liquor license. Yes. A personal liquor license.

People who consume or possess alcohol are required to have a Ministry of Interior liquor permit or they may face arrest, fines and possible imprisonment. Yes, alcohol is served in most major hotel bars, but technically that's only for guests of the hotel. People who consume alcohol in a hotel who aren't staying there are required to have their own personal liquor license.

Liquor licenses are only issued to people who possess current UAE residency permits and who are non-Muslim. The penalties for Muslims who are intoxicated are more severe and do include corporal punishment such as lashings.

What is Considered Illegal?

Just about any public activity that you can think of that involves alcohol is illegal. Drinking or being drunk in public is illegal, and believe it or not, the police are actually fairly good at spotting a drunk tourist and the defense of "But I've only had a few!" isn't considered a valid legal defense in the UAE and you may face immediate arrest and imprisonment simply for being drunk or drinking in public.

Driving with any amount of alcohol in your system is illegal and the penalties can be very draconian, so it really is something to avoid.

Alcohol-Related Incidents

Travellers arrested for any form of alcohol related incident are typically jailed for many days while awaiting a court hearing. The penalties for any form of alcohol related offense tend to be quite severe and increase in severity where driving and injury are concerned. Penalties include lengthy imprisonment (think years not months), fines and for Muslim travellers, even those not from the UAE, lashings.

Note that the liquor licenses are Emirate specific, and a liquor license issued for Dubai only allows you to drink in Dubai. A separate liquor license is required for each Emirate.

18 Comments

  • Janine Bartlett said

    while in Dubai, I was fined for drinking alcohol without a license. I was not aware that I had to have this liscence.

    I got fined and paid my fine

    Will I now have a criminal record in Dubai?

    I am in the process of applying to go abroad. Will this be a criminal offense. will I need police clearance - if I paid my fine?

    Thank you kindly

    Janinw

  • Adriano beltran said

    I cross the street in al satwa Dubai with the influence of alcohol and have an argument with the 3 people and not noticing that one of them is a police . I say bad words to the . I say motherfucker"
    And then they send me to the police I stay there for 12 hours and have a penalty of 500 . They release me and after 3 weeks I receive a paper from public prosecutor and they tell me that I need to go to Dubai court .
    I just want to ask what is the possible offence that they will give me .
    Thank you for the answe
    God bless

  • Carissa said

    One must not drink without license in UAE and also not drink in public places and not even go out while drunk. I think they get you charged with drinking in public.

  • kally said

    My brother was arrested for smuggling/possession of alcohol in Deira in May,, he kold weekly till July 22nd which was wen we last heard from him, he said he was to go to court on the 20th but for some reason he didnt. Its been over a month and there has been no word from him. Pls what do we do?

  • Andy said

    What a load of nonsense. While the article may technically be correct in terms of what the law is, it's a FAR cry from the reality of the UAE.

    I lived and worked in the UAE for five years and got smashed in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah more times than I can count. Dubai is party-central, the place is DESIGNED for people to go out and get hammered. Think night clubs, unlimited drink tickets for brunches. Prostitution is also absolutely RIFE.

    I'm sure these fines occasionally happen, but I don't know anyone who it's happened to. So long as you're only hammered on hotel premises (all nightclubs and beach bars are on hotel premises) you'll be absolutely fine.

  • Richard Mehrer said

    Andy is absolutely right. I lived and worked for more than a decade in MENA and never had, saw or heard of any problem I would not have had in any other European country.
    Common sense is the rule of the day and "draconian" results are so totally rare. Liquor is readily available even in Abu Dhabi at well known establishments. There are liquor stores attached to one of the biggest upscale grocery stores - Spinny's, and others.
    Nomad writers - you should be more careful.

  • Ronn Geramin said

    The short answer is don't go there. It's all fake anyway- there is very little of historic interest. They are very intolerant. And if you are Jewish they don't want you and make that clear. Not worth it.

  • rick be said

    I don't drink and saw no signs of drunkenness while I was there.But saw that Dubai seemed to want to become "party central".

  • Marty said

    The thing to be aware of might be fake comments in this thread here, using fear tactics to make you very afraid. Don't believe everything you read online, and in comments sections. Use common sense. Think what can happen anywhere if you're out of control while drunk. Especially in a Muslim teetotaling environment.

  • Matt said

    This article is completely off kilter. All of the comments up until Andy's are clearly fake comments. Andy's comment, while on the far opposite extreme is more accurate than the article's writer. For Ronn, well there is so much historic interest and tolerance in the whole of Dubai, UAE, and Gulf but I guess your eyes weren't open enough to see this. I really thought Nomad was a respectable source of information and insight but if I were a non-knowing traveler and wanting to travel to UAE I would probably be turned off by this article. So you have done your client base no justice in this writing as this is as far from reality as can be.

  • nayana said

    Police caught me at the out side .. that time i was fully drunk .. and they maked for me court case .. please anyone knows how much maybe fine ?

  • Johnathan said

    Can I take a bottle of wine with me into the UAE.

  • Mike said

    Did you all READ the article. It says that alcohol is available either with a license or in the hotel as a guest. So yes Andy, you can get smashed. But like you even said, you need to stay on the hotel premises. Richard, his first sentence clearly states that there are stores that sell liquor.

    Public drunkenness is a crime in MOST cities around the world. The difference in UAE is that they actually enforce their laws about it.

  • Frankie Frankosto said

    Well I got arrested for taking a dump in the street. $14.99 fine.

  • Kuban said

    Hello guys, my name is Rashid. I was stopped in the rta bus in Abu Dhabi for a drunk look, I completed the driver twice time when he was driving badly and at this time he called the police. I paid a fine of 2000 dirhams to go out and they tolld me I have a court. The fact I had a alkagol in my bag. Please tell me what it is go no be? It was on 18 of January, court will be 4 of April the sand me massage but I don't have time of court, location, anything they just sanded me Arabik massage Wich is I can not understand. Pls if someone have a experience like this situation, help me. My whatsApp +971561362766

  • tanay said

    Cid catch me in abu dhabi i was carrying alcohol and i drink before day so little smell came frm my mouth they took me in police station after court hearing i pay 5000* dhrm so i need to know later how much i have to pay or no need to pay after court hearing,,,plz let me know,,thanks

  • Gieanne said

    I was accused drunk here in Abu Dhabi somebody reported me to the police a week after I drunk so technically they did not caught me on act that I was drunk they just accused me and now they gave me a fine of 10,000 dirham. Is that really reasonable? I mean I didn't drive while drunk or whatsoever they just accused me. Please someone help me. Thanks..

  • Miss Claire Sullivan said

    i got drunk at a brunch and went to a friends house. they let me leave by myself to catch taxi but i was paryletic. I was found asleep on the roadside by police. I was arrested and in jail 2 days. paid 10,000 dirham. since been to court many times...now waiting judgement...i have been fired from work. does anyone know what my judgement will be?? if its a fine...will it be deducted from 10000 already paid??? please help. x

Add a Comment

Search World Nomads

Or browse by country list

Sign up for the latest news, deals & opportunities.