Is it illegal to drink alcohol in Dubai – the laws Brits need to know before travelling

Dubai is renowned for being filled with glitz and glamour from its epic shopping mall and breathtaking sights to the picture-perfect beaches.. and then of course its incredible bar and restaurant scene.

But for those wanting to check out the nightlife be warned – UAE laws on alcohol are very, very different to those in Britain.

There’s a common misconception that you can’t drink in Dubai, which is untrue – but there are some strict laws, and if you break them you could face some hefty punishments.

Essentially you can drink in Dubai if you’re a tourist; but you have to stick to the designated areas, and you can’t be drinking, or intoxicated, in public.

We take a look at the main rules you need to know before setting off, as well as the FCO travel advice .

Dubai has an incredible nightlife but be sensible with alcohol (Image: E+)

What is the drinking age in Dubai?

You need to be aged at least 21 years old to drink alcohol in Dubai.

Where can tourists drink in Dubai?

You can only drink in approved venues which hold the correct alcohol licences such as hotels, resorts, bars, restaurants and clubs.

However, take note; it is illegal to drink or be under the influence of alcohol in public . That means any time you are out and about whether you’re walking in the street or soaking up the rays on the beach.

The FCO warns: “British nationals have been arrested and charged under this law, often in cases where they have come to the attention of the police for a related offence or matter, such as disorderly or offensive behaviour”.

It’s illegal to drink or be under the influence of alcohol in public including beaches (Image: iStockphoto)

Can you buy alcohol in shops?

No – it’s an offence for tourists to buy alcohol from an off-licence. The only exception is you hold a UAE-issued alcohol licence which allows you to purchase alcohol to drink at home, but this is available to residents only.

Think about what you post on social media

Yes, your cocktail might be really pretty, but if you can it’s worth avoiding alcohol-related posts. If you do post, considering the captions and hashtags you use – try to avoid mentioning alcohol/drinking. Stick to sharing the beautiful views and sights instead!

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FCO advice on alcohol in Dubai

“Non-Muslim residents can get a liquor licence to drink alcohol at home and in licensed venues. These licences are valid only in the Emirate that issued the licence. Residents must also get a permit to be able to drink in licensed venues.

“Liquor licences are not available to non-residents, but it is possible for tourists and visitors to buy and drink alcohol in licensed venues, such as hotels, restaurants and clubs.

“However, you should be aware that it is a punishable offence under UAE law to drink or be under the influence of alcohol in public. British nationals have been arrested and charged under this law, often in cases where they have come to the attention of the police for a related offence or matter, such as disorderly or offensive behaviour.

“Generally, the legal age for drinking alcohol is 18 in Abu Dhabi, but a Ministry of Tourism by-law prevents hotels from serving alcohol to those under the age of 21. In Dubai and all other emirates besides Sharjah, the drinking age is 21. Drinking alcohol in Sharjah is illegal.

“Passengers in transit through the UAE under the influence of alcohol may also be arrested.”

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