One of the most frequently asked questions, and confusing areas of Islamic Law and customs that visitors to Abu Dhabi need to be aware of is around whether it is legal to drink alcohol in Abu Dhabi
Drinking of alcohol is forbidden for Muslims under local laws – Sharia Law. However, accepting of the large non-Muslim expatriate population and tourism into the UAE, drinking of alcohol is allowed in Abu Dhabi under certain strict conditions.
Abu Dhabi is NOT a dry Emirate (in fact all of the Emirates except Sharjah permit alcohol under certain laws).
It’s imperative that these laws are abided by or you could land yourself in jail – more on that below.
UPDATE AS AT SEPTEMBER 2020: Licensing of residents for alcohol purchases looks to have been scrapped, as has the explicit ban to Muslims. The only rules reiterated are:
* The consumer must be over 21 years of age,
* Alcohol is for personal consumption only, and
* Must be consumed in private homes or licensed areasPer Department of Culture and Tourism, circular dated 15 September 2020
We have left the original article here for you in it’s entirety in case you seek any further clarification.
Drinking Laws in Abu Dhabi for Tourists
- Licensing laws require venues serving alcohol to be attached to hotels or private clubs.
- It’s illegal to drink in the street or a public place or be under the influence of alcohol in a public space.
- The legal drinking age in Abu Dhabi is 21 years old.
So the basic premise – over 21’s should drink only in licensed venues and behave yourself!
Where can I find a licensed premises?
Nearly all hotels in Abu Dhabi serve alcohol from a bar or restaurant. There are a limited few which are designated “dry” or “Family” and will not have a bar on-site – if this is important to you, do check the details before booking a hotel in Abu Dhabi.
Clubs, such as sporting clubs, golf clubs and purpose-built entertainment venues attached nearby to a hotel or beach club have alcohol serving licenses and serve as entertainment hubs around the city. Alcohol purchased must be consumed on the premises.
Drinking laws in Abu Dhabi for expatriates
Non-Muslim expatriates in the UAE are permitted to purchase alcohol from specialised stores if they purchase an alcohol license.
How do I get an Alcohol license in Abu Dhabi?
If you hold a residents visa, are aged over 21, earning at least 3,000AED per month and you are a non-Muslim, you can apply for an alcohol license which permits you to buy alcohol from licensed trading stores. These are inconspicuously signed but located all over the city, easy to locate on Google maps.
The license can be applied for at designated shops including Spinneys, High Spirits, GMP and African & Eastern, or you can apply through the Government portal online. You will need copies of your passport, Visa and Emirates ID (you no longer need a tenancy agreement, labour contract and salary certificate), along with passport photos and an application fee of 270AED.
The alcohol you can purchase in these stores is quite heavily taxed at 30% on top of what the supplier has already paid in import duty (don’t be surprised if you are visiting friends in Abu Dhabi and they ask you to stock up for them with your duty-free limit!)
Please see change of law as desrcibed above, the payment of an annual alcohol license fee is no longer required.
Other Frequently Asked Questions & Rules to Know about Alcohol in Abu Dhabi
So let’s set the record straight on a number of issues surrounding the purchase and consumption of alcohol in Abu Dhbai & the UAE.
Can I take alcohol into Abu Dhabi with me from Duty Free?
Individuals are permitted to import 4 litres of alcohol – see customs guideline here
But I’ve heard of people going to jail for being drunk in Abu Dhabi is this true?
What you will find is that there is normally another event that has lead to the individual being arrested, rather than drinking in itself. The police will then seek to add extra charges such as intoxication, or drinking without a license. Simply message, just don’t break the laws in the UAE and don’t get yourself heavily intoxicated.
Is there a drink-driving limit in Abu Dhabi?
Note that Abu Dhabi has a zero-tolerance policy on driving whilst intoxicated, your blood alcohol limit is 0.00.
Can I get liquor from a store on a visitor visa?
This is a grey area of the law, as technically, you need a liquor license to drink in the UAE, regardless of what type of visa you are on. But it’s served in bars everywhere, right?
Dubai has recently introduced free tourist alcohol licensing, but the same step has not been taken in Abu Dhabi Emirate.
How much will an alcoholic drink cost me in Dubai?
This is highly variable by venue, but don’t be surprised if a pint of beer sets you back as much as 50AED/$13.50/ €12/£10.5. A small glass of wine costs approximately 40AED/$10.8/ €9.8/£8.4. The classier the venue and the better the view the price will go up.
Alcohol in Abu Dhabi on the whole is pretty expensive as whilst permitted, it’s still discouraged through heavy excise taxes.
Where can I find cheaper booze in Abu Dhabi?
It is popular with the expatriate population to also head to the Northern Emirates of Umm Al Quwain and Ras al Khaimah where alcohol is supplied in larger stores without the added taxes.
For tourists, keep your eyes peeled for happy hour specials, and if you are going to be in the country for a few days, consider purchasing “Cheers Abu Dhabi” by the Entertainer, this is an online coupon product that contains discounts at bars and restaurants all over town.
But I saw alcohol on sale in the supermarket!
Look closely! what you will find is the “beer “on sale in the supermarket has zero % alcohol – if that’s your thing then go for it….
We hope this may have cleared up any concerns you have about drinking alcohol in Abu Dhabi and the UAE. If you are heading to Dubai, the rules are very similar except for the licensing of non-Muslim expats, the licensing authority and process are slightly different.
Please note, the information on this page is only advisory in nature. You should look to clarify laws for yourself and seek legal advice immediately should you run into any issues while drinking alcohol in Abu Dhabi & the UAE.