Alcohol and Liquor Licences in Dubai

Information on the alcohol laws in Dubai - who can buy alcohol and where and how to get a liquor licence...

Dubai has strict laws concerning the sale, transportation and consumption of alcohol. Alcohol is sold by select retailers, but is subject to a 30 percent tax. Food products containing alcohol can be found in grocery stores with non-Muslim food sections.

Here are a few rules to remember for those who want to have a drink in Dubai:

  • The legal drinking age is 21
  • Alcohol is only available at licensed premises; ID will be required to prove age
  • It is illegal to sell or offer alcoholic drinks to Muslims
  • It is permitted to drink in your own home but an alcohol licence is needed to do so. See Applying for a Liquor Licence below for more information
  • It is against the law to drink alcohol in public places (for example in the street or on the beach)
  • During Ramadan only hotels may serve alcohol and only after 18:00
  • Public intoxication is illegal. Currently there aren't any legal limits to stay within, it will be at the discretion of the police if a complaint is made against a person for loud, aggressive or other drunken behaviour
  • Drink driving is totally forbidden. There is a zero tolerance policy and those caught can expect to be jailed

Buying Alcohol

On arrival in Dubai it is possible to buy some alcohol duty-free. However, allowances are limited to four litres of alcohol (for example, two litres of spirits and two litres of wine).

The only other way to buy alcohol for personal consumption at home is with a liquor licence. Once in possession of a licence go in person to an outlet of one of the chains mentioned below.

A liquor licence allows a person to purchase and transport alcohol within Dubai. It does not cover purchase and transport in, from, or through any other Emirate. This is especially important to note in the Emirate of Sharjah, where liquor laws are more strict than in Dubai.

Non-Muslim visitors are permitted to drink under the alcohol licence of the hotel they are staying at and do not require a personal liquor licence. However, obtain confirmation from the hotel or Dubai Police.

Note: A person must always carry their licence with them and the receipt of purchase if they are travelling in their vehicle.

Applying for a Liquor Licence

Residents in Dubai may apply for a licence as long as they are non-Muslims, earn a minimum salary (regularly reviewed) and are at least 21 years of age. However, certain categories of workers (domestic helpers for example) may not apply for a licence.

Application forms can be obtained from one of the two retail chains permitted to sell alcohol in Dubai – African & Eastern and Maritime and Mercantile International. Each licence issued has a monthly quota with a maximum expenditure limit per month. This is based on age, job, salary and the size of the family and is at the discretion of the Dubai Police.

Necessary Documents

  • Application form – this must be stamped by the employer
  • Passport and copy (must be valid for at least six months)
  • Residence permit valid for at least three months
  • Copy of the tenancy contract or a No Objection letter from the leaseholder
  • Employment contract mentioning monthly salary
  • Passport photograph
  • A letter of No Objection from the employer addressed to the Dubai Police General HQ
  • Appropriate fee
  • Those working in a Free Zone should have the No Objection letter stamped by the Free Zone Authority as well
  • Those living in shared accommodation must obtain a No Objection letter or a letter of consent from the owner

Note: For married couples, only the husband can apply. A wife can only make an application herself if the husband's company does not support applications for liquor licences for religious reasons. If she is married to a Muslim she must get written authorisation from him to apply. Married women whose husband is not working, or not in Dubai, must have an additional letter stating this. Single women may apply for their own liquor licence.

When making a first application, the husband can attach a passport photograph to the application so that his wife can use the licence to purchase alcohol. A wife can also request to be allowed to purchase alcohol on her husband's licence by sending a letter to one of the licenced outlets. This will then be stamped and signed and sent back within approximately three days.

The procedure usually takes about a week. Once a licence is issued it is valid for one year.

Liquor Licences from Other Emirates

A person holding a liquor licence issued in another Emirate must get a clearance certificate from the Liquor Licensing Department of that Emirate. They will need to show their licence and passport. Once they have obtained the certificate it should be submitted along with the above documents.

Renewing a Liquor Licence

Renewal is essentially the same as the initial application and there is a fee payable again. When renewing it is necessary to bring the old licence, residency visa, passport, tenancy contract or No Objection letter from the leaseholder and employment contract if the person has changed sponsorship.

Further Information