Lonely Planet Writer

Tourists are being cautioned not to drink alcohol on their flight to Dubai

Many of us reach for a glass or two of wine – or stronger – on long flights to help pass the time or ease into some sleep. Now people flying to Dubai have been warned to abstain.

Tourists are being advised not to drink alcohol on their flight to the UAE. Photo by ColorBlind Images

The warning came from the British Embassy in the United Arab Emirates who posted it on social media. It reminds visitors that it is illegal to be under the influence of alcohol while in Dubai, even if you drank it where it was legal to do so, for example on your flight over.

The embassy warns that “it is a punishable offence to be under the influence of alcohol in public – including when transiting through the UAE. If caught carrying or drinking alcohol without a licence or with alcohol in your blood you can be arrested.”

Visitors can often be confused about the UAE’s licensing laws. Photo by Daryl Visscher

The warning comes after a high profile case this summer which saw Dr Ellie Holman arrested and held for a month in Dubai after drinking a glass of wine on a flight from Britain. She has since been released and deported but it serves as a warning to both visitors and expats that strict laws do remain in place, although local authorities often turn a blind eye.

The law in the United Arab Emirates states that non-Muslim residents can only drink and purchase alcohol with a license and it is illegal to be under the influence of alcohol or drink without one. For visitors this poses a problem as it’s not possible for non-residents to get a license.

It is possible to buy alcohol in licensed venues as a tourist but it is still against the law to be under the influence while being in the country. Travellers have been charged and detained in the country for doing so, although the UK Foreign Office states that this normally only happens if the person in question comes to the attention of the police for disorderly behaviour. For further information, see their travel advice online.