It seems that the press in the UAE and abroad are regularly filled with stories of expats who find themselves on the wrong side of the law after consuming alcohol and/or behaving in an appropriate manner in public while intoxicated. Earlier this month, for example, an Irish lady and a British male were jailed for two months after consuming alcohol and committing an indecent act in public.
There is no doubt about it, drinking alcohol in the UAE is a minefield, one that sadly many expatriates fall foul of. Mistakenly lured into a false sense of security by the apparently liberal nature of cities such as Dubai, many foreigners grow too relaxed after partaking in a few social events and find themselves in serious trouble with the law.
Here are 8 things you should know about alcohol and the UAE:
- While drinking alcohol is technically permitted in many areas of the UAE, expatriates who cause any type of trouble after consuming an alcoholic drink will be treated very severely indeed. If you are the type of person who can’t control yourself after a few drinks then it really is advisable that you stay sober.
- All expatriates need a license to drink in the UAE. You can apply for this license online (Abu Dhabi only) or via bottle shops. The licenses are fairly easy to attain and are relatively inexpensive but they will need to be signed and stamped by your employer. Don’t be tempted to drink without a license as the penalty for doing so could be as much as five years in jail and an AED 5,000 fine.
- Be aware of the license requirements for any friends and family who visit you. Technically the law requires all tourists to also have a license, even if they are consuming alcohol in a licensed bar or hotel. The problem is that the process for getting a license as a tourist is non-existent. The truth is that you and your guests generally won’t experience any problems providing you do not cause any trouble and remain sober looking and don’t stand out for being intoxicated.
- It is illegal to drink in the street or in any public place. Do not even consider doing this.
- The legal drinking age in the UAE is 21. As with many countries, you can take your chances and try and get served alcohol if you are under the age of 21 but be aware that the penalties if you are caught doing to will generally be much harsher than those you face at home.
- The rules pertaining to alcohol consumption change significantly during Ramadan. Make sure you are aware of them and observe them You can read more here: Expat guide to the holy month of Ramadan.
- Drink driving is illegal and expatriates should never consider getting behind the wheel of a car after consuming any alcohol: if anything goes wrong and you have the slightest whiff of liquor on your breath you will find yourself in significant trouble, even if the accident isn’t your fault. Furthermore, anyone caught driving under the influence can face jail, a fine, deportation and confiscation of their car.
- Expatriates should be aware that some conmen purposely target expatriates who they suspect have been consuming alcohol. For example, they may observe you having a drink in a hotel, purposely crash into your car as you drive home and then demand money in exchange for not informing the police. There is only one way to avoid such scams: make sure you do not do anything you shouldn’t be doing.