Buying alcohol in the UAE? No problem.
Most of our friends abroad think that living in the UAE means that alcohol is as rare as a tropical rainstorm over here, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Just ask anyone who has been to a brunch in Abu Dhabi or Dubai before…. There are numerous off-licence shops around Abu Dhabi and bars, nightclubs and restaurants located within hotel complexes sell alcohol.
Here are some key things to consider, if you want to purchase alcohol in Abu Dhabi:
- Alcohol may only be purchased by Non-Muslims who are over 21.
- You should not be seen drinking or acting drunk in public. Penalties can be severe, including jail, fines, and deportation. Zero tolerance.
- Do not drive after drinking any alcohol. Zero tolerance. If a police officer believes that you have had alcohol prior to driving, you will be charged as such. No “but I only had one a few hours ago” will get you out of jail. Literally. Again, penalties are severe.
- If you are a tourist, holding a tourist visa, you may drink alcohol in your hotel bars and restaurants. You may not purchase alcohol from off-licence stores.
- If you are a resident, holding a resident visa, you have to hold a valid liquor licence in order to drink in hotel bars and restaurants, and to purchase alcohol in an off-licence.
- Note that restaurants located outside of hotel complexes are generally not licensed.
Warning: Each Emirate has ist own liquor licence and variations of this law. Sharjah, for example, does not permit any alcohol at all! If you plan to travel around, do your reading!
If you reside in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, you can apply for a liquor licence at the Special Licence Office online. You need the following documents (see full length pdf for more detail: liquor-licence-requirements):
- digital passport picture
- scanned copy of your Emirates ID
- scanned copy of your Passport front page and visa page
- salary certificate addressed to the Special Licence office (min. salary AED 2501) or other proof of income.
Go to www.auhsl.ae, register, and upload all of the above documents. After a few months (yes, months!) you will receive your license at your selected location.