Whether you are going on holiday to the UAE or are an expat in the area, if you want to drink a cocktail in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, then you need to understand a few things. To help you out, keep reading for everything you need to know about drinking alcohol in the UAE.
While the United Arab Emirates is an Islamic country governed by Sharia law, visitors to Dubai and Abu Dhabi are allowed to drink legally, subject to certain requirements. If you want to buy alcohol in Abu Dhabi, then you will need to obtain a purchase permission. Luckily, the process of getting a purchase permission is extremely easy.
All you have to do is take your passport to an African + Eastern store (there are 17 conveniently located ones across Dubai). Here, you will be asked to fill out a simple form and declaration that confirms you will abide by the rules and regulations of the UAE concerning alcohol purchase and consumption. Once this paperwork is completed, you will then be authorized to purchase alcohol from any authorized alcohol retailer.
To qualify for the purchase permission, you must be non-Muslim, and over the age of 21.
As a tourist, you can obtain the purchase permission for free, and it will be valid for 30 days. If you are staying in the UAE for longer than 30 days, you can renew it. Having your own purchase permission will allow you to purchase and transport alcohol for consumption inside your home, or when meeting at a friend’s house. It is highly recommended that you get one!
While you are allowed to drink, there are stringent rules, particularly that you are not allowed to drink in public places, such as beaches. The only areas where you are permitted to enjoy alcoholic beverages are in bars and restaurants that have their own licenses, or in the privacy of your hotel or accommodation.
For the best alcohol deals, you want to buy your alcohol from your local African + Eastern store. They offer an extensive portfolio of beer, wine, and spirits, so you can rest easy knowing that you will be able to locate the beverage of your choosing.
Alternatively, you can also opt to purchase alcohol from their website, which is very convenient. Just remember that you will have to show your original passport and purchase permission in order to buy alcohol from one of these stores. This specific regulation for purchasing alcohol applies to both residents and tourists in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Another option is to purchase a small amount of alcohol from a Duty Free shop at the airport. Keep in mind that if you do choose to buy drinks here, you must only consume it within the hotel where you are staying.
In the UAE, drinking in certain establishments can be quite expensive, which is why it is highly recommended that you seek out happy hours. Not only is it good for your wallet, but it also encourages you to try new places.
Some of the most popular happy hour offers in Dubai include those in Barasti (a beach bar), Black Tap JBR (for craft hops), Mint Leaf of London (for great views of Dubai's skyline), Nara (Japanese and pan Asian bar and restaurant), and Q43 (happy hour even on weekends!).
In Abu Dhabi, some of the best happy hour providers are Barfly by Buddha-Bar (tapas & drinks), Groovz (funky bar), Hamilton's Gastropub (industrial-themed venue on Saadiyat Island), and The Rooftop (watch the sunset over Al Ain!).
Dubai and Abu Dhabi both have fantastic bar scenes, with some of the best bartenders in the world making and serving these specialty drinks. For this reason, there are certainly some specific cocktails that you may be interested in trying while you are visiting the emirates.
Dubai’s most expensive cocktail, “Diamonds Are Forever,” can be found at the prestigious Burj Al Arab and will cost you one thousand dollars per glass!
A slightly more price-conscious option can be found at the Cocktail Kitchen located inside the Armada Bluebay Hotel. Here, mixologists specialize in Vermouth-based drinks, especially “Not a Shred of Saffron,” which is composed of sparkling wine, rockmelon, and rosemary.
In Abu Dhabi, you want to make sure you spend some time at the Skylite Rooftop Lounge, which is located in the Yas Marina District. Not only does it offer views over the Formula One racetrack, but it also has delicious food and drink. Try the "La Racasse," a unique combination of champagne, cognac, honey, orange bitters, and lemon sorbet.
One of the most important things you need to remember is that whatever you do, you do not get drunk in public while traveling through the UAE.
Public intoxication is an absolute no-no in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and the entire UAE. This means that if you are caught, you could end up being sentenced to six months in jail and paying substantial fines. Moreover, if you are in the country during the holy month of Ramadan, keep in mind that there will be additional rules.
Similarly, the country has a zero tolerance policy for drunk driving, which means you must have a blood alcohol limit of zero to get behind the wheel.
If you are caught driving under the influence, then it is highly likely that you will find yourself in jail before being deported. There is no point taking the risk, especially when Dubai and Abu Dhabi both have excellent public transportation options as well as ride-sharing apps (such as Uber). So, before you have a drink, make sure to figure out your transportation options.
Are you thinking of visiting the UAE anytime soon? Have you traveled there before? What do you think about getting a purchase permission?
Let us know your thoughts, questions, and any relevant experiences in the comments below!
Valentina Chessa is the Retail Marketing Manager at African + Eastern, the largest alcohol retailer in the Middle East with a network of 28 stores in the UAE, 5 in Oman, and a team of over 400 professional staff. The company boasts an extensive portfolio of beer, wine and spirits, and customers can shop online or at one of its conveniently located stores.