With Christmas fast approaching, (believe it or not), and because you have to stockpile any alcohol you need for a party in Dubai well in advance, we thought we’d cover the topic of getting an alcohol or liquor licence in Dubai because it is an important initiation for many who move to the emirate!

The licence is not difficult to get, but knowing where to start, understanding who will process the application and finding out which documentation you need can be a complicated task in itself.  Ask around and you’ll usually get a variation on the right theme – so here for the first time on Degtev is the complete, unadulterated guide to getting a drinks licences when you’re living in Dubai, so that you’re legally allowed to buy alcohol and consume it at home.

Fortunately Dubai has a liberal attitude towards alcohol compared to many emirates in the UAE, but you still need to know the rules and abide by them if you want to stay on the right side of the law.

If you want to drink alcohol outside your home then you can do so as long as you are 21 or more and you purchase alcohol from licensed premises.  These premises are not likely to be restaurants as the vast majority are unlicensed, but rather from hotel bars and their restaurants, or from private clubs and certain associations.  If you want to drink at home, you need a liquor licence.

To get your hands on one you have to go to one of the branches of the two dedicated retailers which are allowed to sell alcohol, these are MMI and A&E, (ironically!)  You need to be non-Muslim and you will need to be able to prove that you are also a resident in Dubai.  Ask a member of staff or go to the till and ask for an alcohol licence application form.  When you complete the form it’s sensible to add your wife/husband’s name and details as well if you will both want to be able to use the licence.

You will need to take the completed application form to your employer to sign and stamp and then you can hand it back at any branch of MMI or A&E and they will process if for you through the police department.  Together with the application form you will need to supply copies of yours and your spouses passports, copies of your residence permit, a copy of your Arabic and English Ministry of Labour contract, a copy of your tenancy contract, your property purchase contract or a letter from your employer if you live in company owned real estate, and finally you will need a photo of you and a separate one of your spouse if they are to be included on the application.  Make sure you have both signed the form as well, and when you hand it in retain the tear off strip from the application form as you represent this at the shop when you go to collect your licence.  When you hand your application in remember to ask how long it will take to process as times differ depending on the time of the year!  You will be charged around Dhs 150 for the processing of the application.

Once you get your licence back you’ll know how much you’re allowed to buy as this is restricted by the police department based on your salary and their discretion.  For most people the limit is fine and manageable, but as implied at the start of the article, if you’re planning a party you will need to stockpile for a few months in advance!  The card has a chip on it which records how much you buy and this prevents you from going over your limit.  The choice available at both MMI and A&E is incredibly impressive – but prices are also incredibly impressively high!  You pay the face price for the alcohol plus a 30% tax, so getting drunk in the UAE is nothing if not expensive!

Some expats will tell you not to bother with a licence because if you go to Ajman, Umm al Quwain or Ras al Khaimah you can buy drinks there without a licence from a couple of shops.  However, to do so and then transport it home is actually illegal and if you are caught you’ll have all that you have brought confiscated – and you’ll probably have something of an unofficial black mark against you.  We’d always advise sticking to the right side of the law in the UAE as the penalties if you fail to do so are nothing if not harsh!