A celebratory drink on the plane, is it worth risking arrest?

Travelling the world is a big achievement for anyone, especially a solo traveller. It can be quite a daunting prospect, but once you are sat in your seat on the aeroplane, ready to take off, you feel a huge sense of accomplishment, and so you should! I recently travelled to Australia to live there for a few months and I have never been more proud of myself. With a long haul flight such as mine, the excitement can come with a sense of dread when you look at the screen and notice you have over twenty hours until you reach your destination. That is the perfect moment to kick off your shoes, pop on a movie, and have a G&T. Or is it? Having a celebratory drink on the aeroplane is great to both calm the nerves and to mark the victory of making your flight without messing it up. But it is important to check that you are actually allowed to.

As seen in the news recently, if you are flying into the Middle East, including for a connecting flight, drinking or having alcohol in your system is an arrestable offence. This was the case recently for dentist Ellie Holman; she was detained in July this year having drunk one glass of wine on her eight-hour flight to Dubai from London.

In the UAE, if you are found carrying or drinking alcohol without a license, or even have it in your bloodstream, it is punishable by arrest and/or a fine. Tourists are restricted to consuming alcohol in a hotel or licensed premises, but despite the airlines offering you alcohol, it is not actually a legal place for tourists to have an alcoholic drink.

Now I am absolutely not preaching the alcohol-free life here, but what I am suggesting is to be more aware than I was at the time of my flight. When I read Holman’s story in the newspaper on my way back home I was gobsmacked; that could have been me. I flew to Dubai to get a connecting flight to Australia and, having consumed a few beers in victory, I am very lucky that my exciting adventure was not cut short by being unaware of local laws. If I had done the proper research I would have known that a can of beer was not worth jeopardising my once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The FCO’s Travel Aware campaign specialises in advising people of local laws and customs, so that you are not caught out when travelling to new places like I nearly was. It could be the best bit of travel preparation you do and could be the difference between you having the best time of your life or one of the worst.

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Alana Lloyd-Jex

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May 2022
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