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You Could Be Jailed in These 6 Tourist Destinations for Drinking Alcohol

Follow the rules when you visit.

“What would you like to drink?” can be such a loaded question. There are some rules that can make life easy: gin and tonic or mimosa for Sunday brunch; wines with meat and desserts; grappa or scotch after dinner; beer with friends or while watching sports events; and cognac on a cold winter night at home. Or, you could go rogue and mix it all up!

Drinking is (mostly) a socially acceptable part of the culture in many countries around the world, so in many places, you will find people raising their glasses in a toast. However, there are some destinations where the answer to “What would you like to drink?” should be answered with something alcohol-free. In these countries, drinking is regulated or restricted; there may be a total ban on drinking, a partial ban on public consumption, or a local ban for citizens. In Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, there’s a total ban, while non-Muslims in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan can get it.

You may not be able to take a bottle with you when you travel, or it may be socially disrespectful to indulge in spirits with company. So, it is suggested that you familiarize yourself with drinking laws and adopt culturally appropriate behavior.

INSIDER TIPThis is not an exhaustive list. Do your research before you travel!


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Qatar is the first middle-eastern country to host the FIFA World Cup. Human rights abuses in the country have dominated the headlines, but sports fans are also concerned about the football-watching experience in a nation where alcohol consumption is restricted. Alcohol is available in designated areas in stadiums before and after the matches.

Remember that public drinking in the country is illegal and punishable by fines (QAR 3,000) or six months imprisonment. Expats can buy booze using a permit, and tourists can get it at licensed hotels and bars. You can’t bring alcohol into the country and shouldn’t travel within the country with any spirits either.

Related: 11 Things You Need to Know Before You Go to Qatar

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Saudi Arabia

Alcohol is a complete no-no in Saudi Arabia. The consumption, possession, sale, and manufacture of alcohol is illegal in the country, and you could be fined, jailed, or flogged for breaking the rules in the conservative kingdom, which follows Sharia laws.

The Kingdom is considering selling alcohol at international airports and a new resort opening next year, Neom, may serve drinks to its guests, but there are no official confirmations on either yet.

Related: Saudi Arabia Is Open to Tourists, but Should You Go?


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The Maldives

Raise a toast to the blues of the Indian Ocean from your sunbed on the beach at a private resort in the Maldives. There is no restriction on imbibing liquor within resorts, but the Indian Ocean nation is also strict when it comes to alcohol consumption outside of these boundaries. You can’t bring bottles to the country or offer a drink to a local. 

Consumption of alcohol in the Maldives is a punishable offense with prison time and lashings. 

Related: It Took 4 Flights and 40 Hours But I Found Most Beautiful Color on Earth

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Manufacturing, selling, and consuming alcohol is illegal in the Islamic Republic of Iran. There are exceptions for Iranian minorities, but not for foreigners. You won’t be served alcohol at restaurants or hotels, and you’re not allowed to bring your own bottles into the country. Punishments for Muslims include lashings, but can also include the death penalty to repeat offenders. 

Related: If You Want a Luxurious Taste of Tehran, It’s Only One Click Away

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The UAE recently relaxed its alcohol laws. Now people can consume alcohol without a license in authorized areas. Sharjah is still a completely dry state. Drinking in public is an offense, and you can’t sell or offer alcohol to someone under 21 years old. 

Related: The Height of Luxury Is Swimming With Sharks in the Desert

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Each state in India has its own legal drinking age and laws. Consumption is illegal in Gujarat, Bihar, Mizoram, and Nagaland. In Gujarat, tourists can get served at a registered hotel with a license if they have an ID. But people found inebriated in the state can be arrested for public nuisance and those selling, manufacturing, or transporting liquor can be punished with a prison sentence of up to 10 years. In Bihar, the ban applies to everyone.

Related: Travel Etiquette: 10 Things to Consider When You Visit India