Can I drink alcohol during my vacation in Abu Dhabi? Is it allowed? It is forbidden? What penalties are there? Do I even end up in jail? These and similar questions crop up again and again and might be a decisive factor while planning your vacation in Abu Dhabi. And quite a few have avoided the United Arab Emirates as a holiday destination because of these unanswered questions.
Vacationers who have ever been to Abu Dhabi or people who (like us) even live here can only smile about the myths that exist about drinking alcohol in UAE. Horror stories that someone has ended up in jail just because he has drunk a beer or a glass of wine in the emirates, just trigger bursts of laughter in Abu Dhabi residents.
Who does not like to drink a glass of wine in the evening at the hotel bar or have a cool beer at the pool or with your lunch? Am I allowed to? Can I drink alcohol in Abu Dhabi?
To answer these questions once and for all: YES, as a non-Muslim you can drink alcohol at certain, designated places and in the privacy of your hotel room. As long as you do not run around drunkenly, harassing people and singing loudly nobody will pay attention to you and you have nothing to fear from the police.
Alcohol is generally only available in hotels with alcoholic liquor and in bars or restaurants attached to hotels. You can buy alcohol as a non-Muslim in so-called "liquor shops" similar to the rest of the world. Those shops are scattered around Abu Dhabi and as tourist you will not need a license to buy alcohol. Those shops are for non-moslems only.
Alcohol consumption in the public is generally prohibited, just like in the USA. This is nothing unusual and in other countries such as Germany or Austria they are discussing implementing a similar law.
The legal side:
According to the law, alcohol consumption in the UAE is generally forbidden, but here we are talking about a law from the year 1972 and this is where theory vs practice jumps up. It is theoretically forbidden to drink alcohol in the UAE but there are plenty of bars and shops where one can buy spirits. So, figure yourself. We all do it but it does not turn us into criminals.
Dont ever drink a beer outside the designated areas in a public place though! This will be definitely punished. But feel free to consume it inside your hotel´s premises or in your hotel room or friends house..