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 accommodated 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.

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 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.

Essentials

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