As the region’s premier tourist and financial hub, it does not come as a surprise that visitors and expats flock to Dubai.
In a report published in Statista in November 2019, the number of overnight tourists in 2018 totaled 15.93 million, a remarkable leap from 2016’s 14.9 million tourists. This number has been steadily increasing over the last few years.
Apart from that, the United Arab Emirates was ranked by HSBC in 2019 as one of the top ten countries for expats.
So whether you are planning to visit Dubai or seek greener pastures here, it is worthwhile to know about local customs and laws to avoid any potential brushes with the law.
One particular subject you might want to know more about is alcohol consumption in the emirate.
Dubai prides itself on its deep roots in both Arabic and Islamic traditions. Although the emirate is known as one of the more glamorous and progressive cities, it staunchly promotes the protection of its traditions, culture, and identity.
In a nutshell, Dubai is conservative and traditional yet tolerant, with a progressive and open outlook. This is the key reason why there is a thriving expat population in Dubai.
If you are planning on visiting or living in Dubai, one crucial document that you should read is the Dubai Code of Conduct.
What does the document say about alcohol consumption?
As an Islamic city, Dubai strictly regulates the consumption of alcohol, in part as a measure of respect to the different nationalities and cultures present in the emirate.
The code of conduct expressly states the consumption of alcoholic beverages is only permitted in designated areas, including restaurants and venues with the appropriate licenses. Should you get caught under the influence of alcohol, even at minimal levels, you can either be fined or brought to jail.
The UAE also enforces a zero-tolerance policy toward driving under the influence of alcohol. If you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol, you can face a fine, jail time, or deportation. If you are a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who has imbibed alcohol, you may also be arrested.
Non-Muslims aged 21 and above are permitted to buy alcoholic drinks from licensed stores. In order to purchase, you will need to obtain a license. Furthermore, you should carry the alcoholic drink in a paper bag, obscured from the view of the public as a sign of respect for Islamic culture.
Apart from drinking in licensed establishments, tourists can now purchase alcoholic drinks from licensed shops. This measure has a two-fold goal: prevent tourists from breaking prevailing laws, and second, make Dubai more tourist-friendly. This new measure was introduced in 2019.
In order to buy alcohol from shops, tourists will need to secure an alcohol license, which is valid for 30 days and can be renewed should you choose to extend your stay in Dubai. This license can be obtained by non-Muslim visitors who are over the age of 21.
The license is free of charge, and you can apply for one upon arrival in Dubai. The application forms can be submitted in participating liquor stores in the city.
To apply, you will need to submit your passport, fill out a form, and submit evidence that you are not currently a resident of the UAE. Additionally, you need to agree to follow all the rules and regulations related to the consumption and purchase of alcoholic beverages.
Tourists should be aware that consuming alcohol outside of licensed bars and hotels without an alcohol license can lead to criminal charges. Furthermore, purchasing liquor from an unlicensed shop is also considered an offense.
The Dubai requirements for the application for a liquor license for residents has also undergone a few changes.
In the past, you had to present a No Objection Certificate or NOC, a labor contract, or a salary certificate if you wanted to apply for a liquor license, along with other documentary requirements.
Today, applicants are only required to submit an Emirates ID, proof of Dubai residency, passport copy and passport ID, an application form, and proof that you are non-Muslim and of legal drinking age.
To apply, you can visit a participating liquor store where you will submit the application form and the required documents. Do take note that your form needs to be stamped by your visa provider.
Alternatively, you can visit specific websites that process applications for liquor licenses. All you need to do is to sign up using your Facebook account and fill out the form. After payment, your application will then be processed. Your license will then be delivered to your home address.
The liquor license is valid for one year. To renew this license, you will need to submit copies of your passport, residence visa, tenancy contract, and your expired license.
If you have family members living with you who are aged 21 and above, you should encourage them to secure a license. Take note that people with student visas cannot apply for a license. Spouses on sponsorship do not need to submit an NOC.
Also, be aware that each emirate, with the exception of Sharjah, issues its own alcohol license. This means that your Dubai liquor license is valid only within the emirate. You will need to secure another liquor license if you are moving to another emirate. Also, if your visa has been stamped in another emirate, you will need to submit an NOC.
Err on the side of caution
Whether you are a resident or a tourist, securing the appropriate alcohol license is a must. Although some establishments do not ask their patrons to show their licenses, buying and consuming alcoholic beverages sans a license can lead to serious charges should you get caught.
Err on the side of caution and respect Dubai’s laws and regulations. All the steps involved are well worth the effort considering the fact that you can enjoy your favorite brew in peace, knowing that you are not breaking any law.