You won’t go thirsty in Dubai, and the huge number of drinking holes tucked away all over the city attests to the extraordinary degree to which this Muslim city has gone in accommodating Western tastes. The best bars encapsulate Dubai at its most beguiling and opulent, whether your taste is for lounging on cushions in alfresco Arabian-themed venues or sipping champagne in cool, contemporary cocktail bars. Superlative views are often thrown in for good measure, whether from a perch atop one of the city’s tallest skyscrapers or at one of its many waterfront venues, some of which offer sweeping coastal or creekside panoramas. Most larger hotels also have English-style pubs, with obligatory faux-wooden decor and banks of TVs showing the latest sporting events – a lot less stylish than the city’s bars, but usually a bit cheaper.
Not surprisingly, boozing in Dubai comes at a price, thanks to high government taxes. A pint of beer will usually set you back around 30–35dh in a pub (more in a bar, assuming draught beer’s available, which it often isn’t), a glass of wine around 40dh and a basic cocktail around 50dh. Costs in the city’s pubs can be cut (slightly) by looking out for happy hours and special promotions, usually chalked up on a blackboard behind the bar.
Most bars open at 6 or 7pm and stay open till around 1–3am; pubs generally open from around noon until 2am; some places stop serving alcohol between 2 and 4pm (although they may stay open for food and soft drinks). Most of the city’s more upmarket drinking holes accept reservations (phone numbers for relevant places are listed), although the more club-style DJ bars often require a certain minimum spend in return for booking you a table. Smarter bars usually have some kind of dress code – don’t be surprised if you get turned away if you rock up in shorts and T-shirt.
Although Dubai is extremely liberal (at least compared to the rest of the region) in its provision of alcohol, be aware that any form of public drunkenness is strongly frowned upon, and may even get you arrested, particularly if accompanied by any form of lewd behaviour, which can be taken to include even fairly innocuous acts like kissing in public (see Culture and etiquette). The city also has a zero-tolerance policy towards drink-driving – worth remembering if you get behind the wheel on the morning after a heavy night, since even the faintest trace of alcohol in your system is likely to land you in jail.Read More
Alcohol is only served in hotel restaurants, bars and pubs, along with a small number of mall-based restaurants. It’s not served in independent restaurants, and is not available over the counter in any shop or supermarket in the city, although visitors are allowed to bring up to four litres of alcohol (or two 24-can cases of beer) with them duty-free when entering the country. The only exception to this is if you’re a resident expat in possession of an official liquor licence, in which case you can buy alcohol from one of the city’s two authorized retailers. In addition, note that alcohol is not served anywhere until after sundown during Ramadan.
Ladies’ nights are something of a Dubai institution. These are basically an attempt to drum up custom during the quieter midweek evenings – they’re usually held on Wednesday, Thursday or, most commonly, Tuesday nights – with various places around the city offering all sorts of deals to women, ranging from a couple of free cocktails up to complimentary champagne all night. Just be aware that where ladies lead, would-be amorous blokes inevitably follow. Pick up a copy of Time Out Dubai for latest listings.