Tourists visiting Dubai were granted quite the gift this summer after the government introduced free 30-day permits in July, allowing non-Muslims who are 21 and above to purchase alcohol from state-controlled stores.
Initially, only non-Muslim residents with liquor licenses were allowed to buy take-home alcoholic drinks. Tourists, on the other hand, were only permitted to consume their drinks from licensed bars, restaurants, and clubs — most of which are attached to a hotel and don't normally ask for permits unless the drinker is violating the alcohol license regulations.
According to AP, the government loosened its laws regarding alcohol after it had witnessed a drop in sales. According to a 2019 report by Euromonitor International, a leading provider of global business intelligence and market analysis, "The United Arab Emirates is facing tough challenges, as changes in both consumers' buying behavior and demographics started to have an effect."
The report predicts that until Dubai Expo 2020, "travel and tourism will continue to play an important role in the development of alcoholic drinks in the United Arab Emirates." However, speculations suggest sales of alcohol will be increasingly influenced "by in-country demographics and dynamics."
With a 50 percent import tax and a 30 percent sales tax, alcohol in the UAE is significantly more expensive than in other locations around the world.
- Be 21 years old and above.
- Be non-Muslim.
- License holders may transport their alcohol from the store to their homes. However, the amount in the vehicle should not exceed the license limit.
- Expatriates may buy alcohol from the Dubai duty-free, but the limit is two liters for both spirits and wine.
- The holy month of Ramadan has its own set of rules and laws, though prohibitions of daytime alcohol consumption were eased in 2016.
- Drink and drive. The UAE has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drinking behind the wheel.
- Drink in public. License holders may drink in the privacy of their own hotel rooms/apartments or at designated public places such as pubs, clubs, lounges, etc.
- Be drunk in public.
As for how to obtain such a license, tourists ought to fill a mandatory form at any outlet of Maritime and Mercantile International (MMI) — the sales and marketing subsidiary of Emirates Group, which is authorized to sell liquor and issue licenses to residents as well.
Another major liquor chain in the UAE is African & Eastern - one of the largest importer, distributor, and retailer of beverage alcohol brands in the Middle East and Arabian Gulf region - also provides tourists with a comprehensive guide explaining how to obtain a license.
Tourists must visit any of the stores of these two companies across Dubai with their original passport to complete and sign a form to confirm they are not a UAE resident and that they will abide by the UAE's laws when it comes to alcohol purchase and consumption. Visitors will then be handed a leaflet with more information on the UAE's laws and code of conduct, then begin their liquor shopping right away. Once the license has been granted, tourists can use it for 30 consecutive days; tourists who wish to extend their stay may renew their licenses.