Latest rules on alcohol for tourists in Dubai after government cut prices

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Travel to Dubai has become cheaper for travelers who have a drink on holiday as the government scraps its 30% municipal tax on alcohol sales. The country has also scrapped its AED 270 ($73) alcohol license fee that allows people to buy alcohol to drink at home. The reduction in fees and taxes is effective now and will be tested for one year.

Major liquor suppliers are already celebrating the news on their social media, instantly reflecting the new prices on their in-store stock, but warn the 5% VAT charge will still apply.

Drinking a Caipirinha cocktail in Dubai in the Madinat Jumeirah souk outside in a bar

“You no longer need to travel across the country to stock up on your favorite beverages. With the removal of the 30% municipal tax and the FREE liquor license, buying your favorite drinks is now easier and cheaper than ever!” said MMI Dubai, a major liquor supplier, on its Instagram.

This move should enhance Dubai’s appeal as a destination for tourists and digital nomads, to compete with its neighboring countries which also impose heavy taxes on alcohol. Tourism is a major source of revenue for Dubai, with tourist numbers growth of more than 180% in the first half of 2022, compared to the same period of the previous year, while new establishments are constantly emerging to meet this demand.

Modern skyscrapers and water canal with boats in Dubai Marina at sunset, UAE

Do I need a liquor license to drink in my accommodation?

For tourists staying in hotels, the answer is NO.

Tourists staying in private accommodations like rentals or Airbnbs will have different rules if they are looking to purchase bottles to take home. Tourists can apply for a free 30-day license to purchase alcohol, which is a streamlined process you can complete from two of the leading liquor suppliers in Dubai – MMI and African + Eastern. You just need to be at least 21 years old and you will need to bring your passport and a valid visitor’s visa to the store to get the license.

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Woman in a liquor store, buying wine.  Taken in Town Square, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Where can I buy alcohol?

MMI and African + Eastern are the two main legally operated liquor stores in Dubai and collectively have almost 40 stores in Dubai, which stock the most popular brands of wines, spirits and beers.

Tourists also have access to Legal home delivery service, which is the only legal alcohol delivery service in Dubai operated by MMI and African + Eastern. This service allows you to avoid going to the store and opt for delivery to your accommodation, available 7 days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The system does not currently offer same day delivery, so you will need to order before noon to get next day delivery and order a minimum of 150 UAE (40 USD). Currently, there is no limit set by law on how much alcohol you can buy, provided you have a liquor license to buy it.

Duty free store Johnnie Walker liquor company for duty free operations at international airport.

Where can I drink alcohol?

Alcohol consumption is restricted to certain places considered legal. This includes your residence or accommodation, as well as approved places in the city.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates People hang out near food trucks at the Food Truck Jam, a weekend with food trucks and live music at the Emirates Golf Club.  Dubai Media City as a backdrop.

Alcohol is not widely served in Dubai due to its Muslim population and Islamic laws, so you can only drink in officially licensed establishments such as hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs catering to expats and tourists. It is recommended by the United Arab Emirates Embassy do not ask for alcohol if it is not on the menu. If you come across places with signs that say “dry”, that means they don’t serve alcohol.

Clubs in Dubai normally start around 10 a.m. and close around 3 a.m., with alcohol service stopping around 1 a.m., but each location has its own schedule.

Dubai, UAE Beautiful beach bar overlooking the Burj Al Arab hotel.

Is alcohol expensive in Dubai?

A wide range of alcohol is served in Dubai, but its price is generally higher than at home. Drinking alcohol in Dubai is considered a privilege, but the recent removal of the 30% tax should make it more attractive to tourists.

Some remain skeptical that these savings will be passed on when consumed on site in bars and restaurants. According to The Washington Posta pint of Budweiser costs around $13 at a hotel bar near Dubai airport, while Legal Home Delivery advertises prices for a 1L of Absolut Vodka at UAS 191 (US$52), while wines start from UAE 22 (US$6), excluding 5% Value Added Tax.

Atlantis, The Palm Hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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