Alcohol Myths in Dubai

By Lindsay Trivers October, 28 2019

When it comes to alcohol, myths about drinking in Dubai are kind of rampant. In fact, I can’t think of any other city in the world that attracts as much confusion and misinformation about what you can and can’t do – from the idea that drinking will somehow win you an all-inclusive night in the clink to the selection bordering on criminal.


To help clear things up, here are eight of the most common Dubai booze myths answered definitively in order to put them to bed once and for all.


1) You can’t drink here

False. You can most definitely drink here and I offer myself as exhibit A. Whilst it’s true that some venues are not licensed to sell alcohol, there are still plenty of places where you can get a drink, mostly in hotels. There are also certain parts of the city with special licenses to serve booze, so whether you want a fine wine with a great meal, a glass of rosé poolside, or to catch the game at the pub with a pint in hand, trust us you’ll be a-ok.


2) You can’t bring alcohol into Dubai

Again, false. If you live in the city, bringing alcohol into Dubai is one of the most cost-efficient ways to drink. Currently you can bring 4 litres of alcohol into the country (which works out to 5 standard bottles of wine), however, two stores at the airport also carry a great selection – Le Clos and Dubai Duty Free – with the former allowing you to shop online and pick it up on the way through.


3) You need special permission to buy alcohol in Dubai

True. Residents are required to have a license to buy alcohol, however, these rules were recently relaxed and the application process is now very reasonable. You can find out more by reading our article here.


4) Tourists can’t buy alcohol in Dubai

Drumroll please…false. Before the rules were changed this was indeed the case, but now all you have to do is present your passport and sign a waiver at one of the Emirate’s two chain stores – African + Eastern and MMI. Don’t be alarmed if Google Maps takes you to a steamy parking lot next to a shop with darkened doors, this is completely normal and once inside you’ll find a snazzy and well-organised store.


5) You’ll end up in jail if you get caught drinking in Dubai. 

The international media loves to throw shade at Dubai whenever someone ends up in jail for being ‘drunk’, but the truth is a little different. In Dubai you’re allowed to drink, you’re just not allowed to be intoxicated in public places or behave offensively – and that’s not exactly unreasonable all things considered, particularly if you’ve ever lived in a town that’s popular with stag and hen nights.

If you are drinking, stick to bars and restaurants and don’t take a six-pack to the beach. For starters, you don’t need to as there are endless beach clubs and rooftop bars (literally, endless) where you can watch the sunset over the Arabian Gulf. Also, don’t crack one for the road, as this can land you in hot water. On the plus side, you don’t see aggressive or violent behaviour and the streets don’t get used as an impromptu lavatory.


6) Alcohol prices are very high

There’s certainly some truth to this one. Many venues have bonkers mark-ups that have to be seen to be believed, however, others are far more reasonable, if only by comparison. It also depends greatly on where you’re used to buying alcohol; for instance, if you’ve been shopping in France or Italy where a decent bottle of wine costs 5 Euros at a grocery store, then you’re likely to find it excruciatingly expensive. If you’re from the UK, Scandinavia or Canada, where price gouging on alcohol seems to be a way of life then it’s probably not too far off what you’re used to.

This idea certainly isn’t helped by a lack of affordable wine on many menus, even though they are available.  Luckily there are places where you can find a bargain or at least one that feels like it.  Neighbourhood French Bistro Couqley, for instance, has 17 wines under the 200 AED mark. If you’re looking for a more premium expereince there is some great value on Ruya’s wine list. There’s also probably no need to point out that the biggest hack for wine lovers is a Friday Champagne brunch, where you can get the good stuff and great food on tap for four hours and it’ll cost you less than a bottle normally would.


7) The selection is terrible

Totally false. There’s a lot of wine, beer, whiskey and more on sale at every quality level, it just doesn’t always end up on the menus. If you’re looking for boutique treats, you’re more likely to find them in branches of MMI  and African + Eastern, or at Le Clos and Dubai Duty Free at the airport. Alternatively, you can pop across to another Emirate’s wine shops. Personally, I think this myth was born of too many boring wine lists – something the city suffers from all too often. If you’re looking to buy decent wine in the UAE you can check out our article on where to find it here.


8) There are no sommeliers in Dubai

You’d be amazed how many people still think this one is true, but no, it’s not. When I first moved to the UAE I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to work, or if there was even any call for sommeliers, but it soon became clear that venues not only wanted trained sommeliers but were struggling to find them. Thankfully, this is now changing, with venues like Grosvenor House and many of the popular DIFC venues having excellent wine teams. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of places whose wine programs don’t match up to the stars on their door, where the staff seem to be uncomfortable recommending the wines available by the glass, let alone discussing an extended list. To close this mini-rant, we often get asked where the best wine bars in the city are and the answer is usually wherever the best sommeliers can be found.

Want advice or information on alcohol in the UAE? Let us know and we’ll try and include it in an upcoming blog.


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