Recently, the laws regarding alcohol consumption for tourists and residents in the UAE have been questioned.
The laws can seem confusing and there while is no simple answer, Lovin Dubai spoke with Shaaban Metwally, a partner at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP who answered the most commonly asked questions. Here’s what you need to know…
1. As a tourist you can get arrested for drinking without a license but have no way of getting one, is there a safe way for tourists to drink here?
Alcoholic drinks are served in licensed hotels and clubs, both popular tourist destinations, but it is a punishable offence to be under the influence of alcohol without a license. While it mostly turned a blind eye to, it is illegal to consume alcohol without a license and as it stands there is no way for a tourist to apply for a license without a residency visa and valid emirates id. The majority of tourists and expats come to Dubai and encounter no problems in relation to drinking alcohol. It is considered common practice and the police do not actively enforce the law unless they really have to, for example, if a person is causing a disturbance, insulting others or acting as a threat to themselves or those around them. Generally, it is accepted that tourists will come to Dubai, enjoy their time in clubs and bars and leave without any trouble. It is only in very limited circumstances that we see people being prosecuted for alcohol consumption without a license, usually when their intoxicated behavior has led them to break another of the Emirate’s laws.
2. Why are residents/tourists allowed to buy alcohol at the airport without a license?
This is where the contradiction in the law lies. Technically, to purchase alcohol from Dubai Duty Free a person should be in possession of a valid alcohol license. People often assume that because the airport sells alcohol that it is perfectly legal to purchase it without a license, this is not the case, there are no exceptions to the law governing the sale of alcohol. Even though a license is not explicitly requested at airports you are not excused from the requirement to have one before you can legally purchase it.
3. As a resident/tourist, legally are you required to have a license to drink in bars here?
Yes, both residents and tourists are legally required to have a license to allow them to drink in bars. While most expats in Dubai are aware that they need a license to legally consume alcohol few people are aware that the same rules actually apply to tourists despite the fact that they cannot apply for a license.
4. Do you need a license to have alcohol in your apartment?
One common misconception in Dubai is that it is perfectly legal to purchase alcohol in Dubai Duty Free and then consume this alcohol in the confines of your own home. The law requires any foreign resident of Dubai to a hold a valid alcohol license before they are permitted to drink in their own home. The good news is that such licenses are actually pretty easy to get. If you are over 21 years old and are a Non-Muslim resident of Dubai with a monthly salary over AED 3,000 you can easily apply for license. To successfully obtain a license you must provide a copy of your passport and residence visa, a passport photo, a copy of your tenancy contract (or an NOC from the leaseholder) and a copy of your labour contract as issued by the Ministry of Labour.
Know the law
This information was provide by BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP.