Can you drink alcohol in Saudi Arabia?

Getting Drunk in Saudi Arabia

Everyone knows that drinking booze is against the Muslim religion, but can you drink alcohol in Saudi Arabia?

When I first flew into Riyadh, a few years back now, I was expecting to have a very dry life, but within 20 minutes of arriving on my new compound I was sat beside the pool with a large group of expats getting very drunk on a local brew called sidique or just sid for short. This drink is basically neat alcohol produced by fermenting sugared water and then distilling the resulting mix. As such it is very strong (neat medicinal alcohol) and most people will dilute a neat bottle of sidique 3 or 4 times to get a drink that is more drinkable; that’s turn one bottle into 3 or 4 bottles before you even start to mix it with your cola!

Most of the larger compounds have a bar of sorts, however most of them only serve home brewed booze which tends to mean lager that has been re-fermented to add back the alcohol, or wine which is fermented fruit juice available from the local supermarkets. Alcohol is actually very simple to make, you only need to add a couple of grains of yeast (cooking yeast is fine) to a bottle of non-alcoholic lager or a bottle of fruit juice with a little added sugar and leave it to ferment for a few days and you will have yourself some booze.


Alcohol is illegal


Alcohol is so illegal that you will not even find a version of your favorite Listerine mouth wash that contains it. You cannot buy alcohol in any form openly in KSA; although that does not mean that you can’t get it!


Bringing booze to Saudi Arabia


Don’t be stupid! Smuggling in booze is likely to get you into serious trouble, the sort of trouble that will entail long stays in jail and losing your job. It really is not worth the risk; you can buy alcohol when you get there if you ask around your fellow expats. Within a few weeks of being there I had enough contacts to buy just about any type of booze you could need, just don’t try to buy from Saudis or other Arabs.


Home made booze in KSA


There are many expats (and Saudis) who make their own beer and wine, it really is as simple as I described above although most will produce their booze on a slightly larger scale than a bottle at a time. The 5 or 6 gallon containers that you buy water in for your water dispenser are the perfect container for producing enough beer or wine for a small party. The whole process however can take over a month as you need the mix to ferment and then for the resulting mix to settle so that the suspended yeast sinks to the bottom before you siphon your nectar into individual bottles.

You can spot the brewers in the supermarket fairly easily, they are the ones with a trolley that is piled high with fruit juice, cases of non alcoholic beer and large bags of sugar. The fruit juice that comes in the glass resealable bottles is best as these bottles although a little more expensive are perfect for putting your beer back into when finished.

The results of home brewing can be highly unpredictable, especially if you fail to sterilize your kit properly before you start. Taste can also vary a lot depending on the amount of extra sugar you add and the quality of the beer or juice that you use for your base. I tend to add apple and peach juices to my grape juices as I find these improve the finished flavors. I have tried fermenting some of the flavored lagers also but I do not recommend them!

Alcohol in Saudi Arabia

Just add sugar, juice and yeast to brew your own.



Personally as a bit of a party animal I would tend to have 4 or 5 of these containers at various stages of fermentation, this however can be risky as if you are caught you will probably be thought of as a supplier and will have little chance of escaping being thrown in the jail. Never sell booze it really is not worth the risk! Remember also that they they do stink a little as they ferment so you will not want them in the house unless you can put them in a spare bathroom (which is what I used to do in my apartment off compound), or an unused bedroom.





Buying real drinks in Saudi Arabia


Real drinks are available, in fact one compound bar that I know of in Riyadh is stocked with nothing but bottles of Jack Daniels, Smirnoff Vodka, and the local favorite Black Label. Beer is harder to come by but you can still buy cans of beer if you are lucky enough to find them and willing to pay the price. A bottle of “real” drink can set you back over 1000SAR (that’s almost $300), although you can find “bargains” if you have patience and are prepared to shop around.


Saudis and Alcohol


While some Saudis follow their religion and do not drink, many will have a bottle of something stronger than lemonade in their home. Most of my Saudi friends that I socialized with regularly have a stock of whiskey and other booze and have even been known to turn up to work totally drunk!

If you want to see the real Saudi attitude to drink you only have to try to cross the causeway into Bahrain at the weekend where you will have to join a 4 or 5 hour long queue of Saudis on their way over to chase women and drink in  the many bars. If you don’t want to sit in your car on the bridge book a flight to Dubai for a weekend party; but book well in advance.


Buying Sidique


Sid is a neat alcohol that has been fermented and distilled, therefore it is risky! Poorly distilled sidique can contain other chemicals such as methanol which can turn you blind or even kill you so be very careful from who you buy. If you do buy sid check it by putting a small amount onto a teaspoon and light it. It should burn with a blue flame and leave no residue on the spoon. If the flame shows yellow or even worse green then do not drink it, just pour it down the sink! It is not worth risking your life for a drink!


Getting caught with Alcohol in Saudi Arabia


Do not travel with Alcohol in your car or on your person, there are many checkpoints and Saudi drivers are crazy so accidents happen frequently and you have to wait for the police! If I ever had parties off compound or away from my apartment when I lived off compound I would have a Saudi friend transport the booze. If a Saudi is stopped with booze the worst that is likely to happen is that the police will steal it and slap his wrists.

If you are stopped in a car full of booze you will either have to spend a lot of money on the police who have stopped you or you will be spending the remainder of your Saudi stay in the luxury of one of their hell holes of a prison. Just remember prison is for punishment in Saudi Arabia not for reform!


Drunk Driving in KSA


There is no law about driving while intoxicated, after all you can’t drink! That being said, if you are caught drunk behind the wheel of your car you will be in some very deep excrement. You need to completely sober and in full control of your senses to drive in Saudi Arabia at the best of times so it really is not worth it! Don’t drink and drive!



If you want to know anything else about drinking alcohol in Saudi Arabia just leave a message bellow and I will respond after I have finished having a drink by the pool with the guys!


34 comments for “Can you drink alcohol in Saudi Arabia?

  1. John
    August 3, 2012 at 10:04 am

    thanks for your advice.
    can i bring wine from bahrain by hidding it some where in my car from. Is it possible that police in causeway can trace by wine in my car by some device…. ?

    • admin
      August 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      Hi John,

      There is no device that they use to find bottles of wine on the causeway into Saudi but I have seen them completely empty a car checking behind door panels and everywhere, so if you are very unlucky and get caught you will be in some serious trouble. My advice is don’t risk it, let the others take the risks and buy inside Saudi or make your own.
      Getting caught will likely lose you your job as well as getting you some quality jail time! Its not worth it for a couple of glasses of plonk.

      • Ibrahim
        September 19, 2015 at 8:44 pm

        Do you have a bar

  2. January 12, 2013 at 2:18 am

    i want to make alcohol in my own room in suspense,even my apartment friend also doesn’t know about this in easy idea,,, how can i make plz tell me in easy idea
    tell me that which yeast is best n popular in Saudi that i can get easily in all market …… and can i mix in sprite ?
    just i m waiting four your reply
    MR.Tamash Thapa

    • admin
      January 25, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      Hi tamash

      Making alcohol is very simple – just take any cartons of fruit juice or even non-alcoholic beer, add a little sugar and some bakers yeast which you can find in any supermarket. After a few days it will start to ferment and the sugar will be turned to alcohol. When the bubbling stops you need to let it settle for a week or two then siphon out the “wine” or “beer”.. BUT it can stink, and people will notice if you are not careful.
      I will write a post in the next few days on how to do this..

  3. Mike
    January 25, 2013 at 1:49 am

    Hey, Im an airline crew and will be there for a couple of days. i really cant live without a drink so it would be great if u could give me the hook up from where i could get some stuff from. Thanks!

    • admin
      January 25, 2013 at 8:13 pm

      Hi Mike

      It depends where you will stay; you need to get invited onto one of the compounds and there you will easily find some booze.

      • Arun
        August 15, 2015 at 4:29 am

        Presently Iam in Saudi, Khobar. How can I get alcoholic drink (Standard one). I dont want to drink booze.

        • admin
          September 30, 2015 at 3:29 pm

          Just go across the bridge from Saudi to Bahrain.

  4. Dilemma daughter
    February 13, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Respected sir,

    We are Indians and were living in Europe and recently landed in Riyadh. My husband is working in a reputed university as Assistant professor . Myself a teacher. I’m writing this mail to enquire about the status of my father’s passport. I want to bring my parents to Riyadh for a visit and to help them to do umrah . My father was living here long years back. He had the habit of drinking and he was caught for alcoholic driving and he went to India while he was facing the trial on that. But now he stopped his drinking habit and now leading a good life. But now wish to do umrah and hajj. He said his finger prints were taken at that time in police station , before his departure in illegal way, like ten years back. His old passport is no more and he was working in Qatar with a new passport for all the years. He recently told all this to me when we are looking for visiting visa for them .

    My question is : Is it possible for my father to come to Saudi for visiting visa to stay with us for doing hajj and umrah as he now stopped that habit and leading a retired life in Kerala India? Please kindly give me guidance , like how to handle this matter as my parents are staying alone in native and there is no one to take care of them and they are getting aged as well.

    Hope you can understand my dilemma and hope I will get a solution to help my parents.

    Thanking you.
    Awaiting your reply.
    Best Regards

  5. Eddy
    February 21, 2013 at 1:55 am

    Hi, I am visiting Saudi for about a week for work in about a month. I am a daily drinker but it will be a good way to make a break 🙂 I like to test myself ! However, I realised something today:
    For medical reasons I have to put on my body a gel, every day (I can skip a day but no more). I just checked its composition: there is alcohol in it… Do you think a letter from my doctor will suffice or should I seek another solution? Thanks for any advice!

  6. Lucas
    April 10, 2013 at 6:39 am

    Hey dude, it’s been a while and you still haven’t posted the article about brewing your own alcohol in Saudi Arabia, I’ve browsed for some stuff online but most of it is aimed at a western audience, so I’d really appreciate it if you could give some pointers on the matter. Like the specific brand and quantity of the Juice to be used and most importantly, the yeast. I cannot stress this enough, please mention the brands. Also I’m in no ways versed in the art of brewing, have zero previous experience, so if you could do like a Dummies guide to brewing, that would be awesome.


  7. sj
    June 6, 2013 at 2:45 am

    can you bring brewers yeast, wine yeast, air lock fitting, and rubber fittings for bottles etc. with you into the air port?

  8. mike
    September 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    hi,iam in jeddah for 4 months working and my friend birthday is close, so we want to go to some place where we can drink and celabrate, my question is.. you can tell me the names of a few compounds where we can drink and eat ?? and doesnt require invitation, we have iqama..

  9. Cat Taps
    September 22, 2013 at 3:09 am

    What do you think is the attitude of Saudis to others drinking alcohol within their own country/cultures? I ask as I have clients who follow me on twitter and they are from KSA. I often mention birthday parties, football games, etc that I am at on twitter. Really like every weekend. I don’t specifically say I’m drinking but I’m sure it’s obvious. Actually, I do mention beers and stuff a lot- I’m into different kinds, etc, craft brews, so on.

    I assume that is a Saudi hires an American, they are OK with or at least KNOW American cultural norms are so…

  10. Ronnie
    October 25, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I was wondering if expats in Saudi ever bought booze off the internet from foreign countries such as the UK. Or if it would be a service that anyone would be interested in for that matter.

  11. taj
    October 28, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    i recently got selected in riyadh (pepsi co. as a supervisor)and my salary is 2000sr including home and transport is it an good offer and iam worried about drinks also can u guide me..

  12. moayad
    December 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Hi there,

    I live in yanbu, is there anyway you can hook me up where i can get invited onto one of the compounds in jeddah, riyadh or whatnot. thanks!

  13. Deke Rivers
    January 22, 2014 at 7:45 am


    Best advice I’ve seen so far, thanks. I’ve just accepted a job in Riyadh starting March 1. It will be a long term contract and I’ve been looking at compounds but have been told these are also “dry”. I am partial to a darn good glass of wine over dinner, it would appear that this is not an option, in Saudi anyway, therefore I’ll have to sharpen my distillation skills as per your advice.

    Thanks. Deke

  14. Lost in Jeddah
    March 30, 2014 at 3:38 am

    I can’t find the right words to thank you, i will start making beer in my home tonight, wish me luck and thank you so much, you’ve been very helpful

  15. Jon L
    May 1, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    Is it difficult to get a job in KSA if you have atypically Jewish last name? Just curious. I’ve applied a few times. I am highly qualified and I never hear anything back.

    Jon L.

  16. deepakh
    June 19, 2014 at 1:28 am

    Hi thanks for the lot of info … really appreciate

    1. i have to burn the liquor ?? , what if it is turn to burn in yellow, and still i want to drink it …. i spent like 300 SAR buying and checking , it all burn yellowish or brown or greenish – cant correctly say the color but definitely not blue .

    2.after drinking Sid(local brew) and if i had some minor health problem , or major serious problem – because of Sid , will the hospital do the treatment ? and after treatment the will punish ?

  17. James
    July 5, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Hello, im looking for real drinks in riyadh! Not home made crap that everyone is selling… Is it possible for you to help me find drinks like Gold label, black label, blue label, absinth, tequila(mexican) … Any of those or just someone that is willing to sell in bulk as in a load of black label or vodka ? Please i need to know a soon as possible

  18. trukka
    January 3, 2015 at 6:17 am

    Hi all..a friend was caught at private home party with booze available in Riyadh a few years back and even though he was not drinking was guilty by association and sentenced to 6 months in prison and 250 lashes..administered in lots of 15 lashes every Friday in public and then deported at end of sentence…seems a little harsh..can anyone confirm if this is common or would there be more to story he is not telling me?

    • admin
      September 30, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      Hi Trukka, sounds pretty normal by Saudi law.

      • David
        October 14, 2015 at 9:05 am

        guess I better cross KSA off my bucket list…thx admin!

  19. Sanderson
    January 5, 2015 at 6:44 am

    Just go to BAE compound on half moon bay, all the drink you want there on the last count 6 bars there

  20. Khalid
    January 22, 2015 at 5:40 am

    Apologies for the very late comment. I was wondering if you could bring wine yeast through amazon or something to KSA. Would they take it from you, and are the consequences to that serious or do they just leave it at that?

    I know that you can probably smuggle it since airports primarily look for items detectable under the metal detector, so does it go through that only that process when it’s ordered online, or is it thoroughly checked, and more importantly I’d like to know the likely consequences of it.

    • admin
      September 30, 2015 at 4:44 pm

      Hi Khalid, I bought in wine yeast a couple of times, I just put it in a jar of gravy powder, luggage was never checked. However I would not recommend doing this.

  21. Moha
    February 12, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Hello John how are you.I can provide a drink.

  22. Fernando
    February 19, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    Hello admin

    I’m a local guy from here Riyadh, but I happened to spend the last Five years studying in the U.S. I luv spending my free time celebrating having fun with ppl or that what I used to do back then. What about you invite me over one day to these compounds, u know as being a Saudi I can not get in there without a invitation.
    Hopefully u can help.

  23. tnya
    May 13, 2015 at 4:47 am

    I don’t know why the alcohol is so prohibited there, as I worked in Dubai and a lot of saudi mans use to come in the hotel I worked and get drunk with , hiding there with women , being rude with the staff . Those people are really fake .

  24. May 18, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    how many years on the jail of making wine in Saudi Arabia?

  25. Abeer
    May 31, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Can I contact you to get me a drink ? Just for tonight please ?

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