When moving to Dubai, there’s a few things you need to know about the nightlife. As with any global city, the nightlife in Dubai is rich and varied. World famous music acts and renowned club DJs are increasingly adding this Gulf city to their tour dates as the number of hotels, bars, and nightclubs steadily grows.

The web is awash with articles warning the wary about the dangers of imprisonment and deportation for getting drunk in Dubai. But tabloids are tabloids in any country, and always jump on the chance to brand a foreign nation (especially a rich one) as somehow weird or unnatural.

So how much truth is there in the reports of Dubai’s no-tolerance policy towards alcohol and drunkenness and are there any places in Dubai where you can enjoy more than just a glass of wine with a meal?

Alcohol and the law in Dubai

Where you can drink in Dubai

In Dubai, alcohol can only be bought and consumed in public at licensed establishments. This normally means a restaurant, bar or nightclub attached to a hotel.

Drinking alcohol in any other public place is illegal. It is also illegal for anyone below the age of 21 to consume alcohol.

Buying alcohol in Dubai

Buying alcohol for consumption at home requires an alcohol licence and there are only a limited number of specialist outlets from which alcohol can be bought.

These include African + Eastern stores, of which there are 13 in Dubai, and Maritime and Mercantile International (MMI), of which there are 5. You can apply for an alcohol licence in store – you’ll need to get it stamped by your employer and pay AED 160 (£28).

No alcohol is sold in supermarkets.

If you’re about to move to Dubai, you’ll probably need to convert some of your savings into Emirati dirhams. 

However, it’s best to avoid using high street banks for this process, as you’ll usually have to pay high fees, and you won’t get the best exchange rate. 

That’s why we’ve done our research and compared all the major money transfer services on the market, so you can choose the right one. Check out our expert ratings and find the best money transfer provider today.

Laws about alcohol

It is indeed an offence to be drunk and disorderly so it’s important to be aware of how much you consume. Jail and deportation are not unheard of for people charged with this offence, although you shouldn’t get that drunk in public to begin with – in any country.

While the kind of behaviour that is associated with holiday makers in, say, Benidorm, would see you on the first plane home the standards are not as strict as you might imagine. As long as you’re not disruptive and don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself you’ll be fine – having fun is not illegal in Dubai.

Cost of alcohol in Dubai

Alcohol is expensive in Dubai. You can expect to pay 50-100% more than UK prices depending on where you are buying it from. It is much cheaper to buy at the duty free in the airport, or from specialist shops. If you are buying alcohol in bars, clubs or restaurants expect to pay what you’d spend in an upmarket establishment in your home country.

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Pubs and clubs in Dubai

Favourite expat spots in Dubai:

  • Longs Bar, in the Towers Rotana hotel, is an English style bar with music. Open until 3am.
  • Alamo, at the Dubai Marine Beach Resort and Spa, is a Tex-Mex restaurant and bar with a dancefloor. Popular with expats.
  • Irish Village is, as you’d expect, an Irish themed pub – one of several in Dubai – which does food and opens daily from 11am to 2am. Located next to the Aviation Club Hotel and Dubai Tennis Stadium.
  • The Junction, at the Century Hotel Dubai, is a South African bar with a live band playing most days from 9pm to closing at 2:30am. Happy hour runs from noon until 7pm. Also does food.

Other popular bars and pubs:

  • Carter’s is part of the Pyramid Complex at Wafi City. As night falls it slowly transforms from a restaurant into a popular bar with a DJ from 10pm to closing (2 or 3am). Features an oxygen bar for O2 lovers.
  • Left Bank, inside the Madinat Jumeirah, is a waterfront bar with an extensive food menu, cocktails and music. Open noon until 2am.
  • Champions is a sports bar at the JW Marriott with countless TV screens and happy hour from 6-8pm.
  • Kasbaa is a nightclub which is part of the Royal Mirage Hotel and therefore pretty swanky. It has an exclusive guest list and attracts the best DJs. Open from 9:30pm to 3am.
  • Atlantis, located on Palm Jumeirah, is another nightclub. This one is dance music focussed, features live performances from dancers and drummers and gets going around midnight.
  • The Agency Wine Bar, in the Emirates Towers Hotel, is elegant and refined without being too expensive. Open until 1am and bar snacks are available.

The above is just a small sample – there are many more pubs, clubs and bars already in existence in Dubai and there are many more on the way.