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Can I Drink Alcohol in Dubai?

Alcohol in Dubai

Alcohol is something that most of us take for granted. In almost every country, an occasional drink is woven into the fabric of our lives and we particularly think of vacations as an opportunity to relax and enjoy a few refreshing beverages. So, it is understandable that most visitors to Dubai do not give much thought to the laws around Alcohol.

This can be a big mistake. While it is possible to buy and consume alcohol in licensed premises – which can be hotels, restaurants or clubs – it is actually illegal to carry alcohol or, amazingly, to have any alcohol in your blood.

Now, obviously, plenty of residents and visitors to Dubai drink lots of alcohol and do not get into trouble about that. The question of whether or not there is alcohol in your blood is only likely to become an issue if you have somehow drawn the attention of the authorities in some other way, such as getting into an argument or having some sort of accident.

The key point to remember is that, even though it was legal for you to buy and drink the alcohol in the licensed premises, it is illegal for you to have any alcohol in your blood on the way back to your hotel. Crazy, right?

So, keeping a low profile is important – don’t start singing in the shopping malls or hugging strangers on the beaches.

You can also be arrested for being the passenger in a car driven by someone with any quantity of alcohol in their blood, even if you did not know.

You should also be aware that, in Dubai, scammers can falsely accuse you of “causing offense” and are not required to provide proof or witnesses, their word is enough. They do this to extort a compensatory payment from you and, of course, given the rules around alcohol, a foreigner who is slightly drunk is a much easier target.

Officials can also play the alcohol card if you somehow annoy them. Last year, Ellie Holman, a 44-year-old Swedish dentist who lives in the UK with her husband and three children, arrived in Dubai for a short break with her daughter. The official who examined her passport on arrival asked if she had consumed any alcohol that day and she answered yes, she had been given a complimentary glass of white during her eight-hour flight from London with Emirates, the national airline of Dubai.

The fact that she admitted to having had one glass of wine that day was enough for Ellie and her daughter to be placed in a holding cell, with no food, water or access to a toilet. Ellie eventually spent a month in detention, waiting for a chance to plead her case. She was looking at a year in prison if convicted but, luckily, was granted a pardon by Sheikh Mohammed. Her family spent their entire life savings attempting to get her released.

Of course, over 15 million visitors to Dubai every year experience no problems at all, so, Ellie’s case should not put you off, but the Western consulates caution their citizens to remain aware that different rules apply in the United Arab Emirates.

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