Selling and consumption of alcohol is illegal in some parts of India. I’ve got your attention now right? Yes, it’s true. There are a few states, and one union territory, where alcohol is not permissible by law. This modern day prohibition has been met with everything from cheers to jeers by local residents, and anger by some tourists who believe tour operators are responsible for not only telling them ahead of time that alcohol is not allowed, but should also find a way to supply their drink of choice.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rules. Each location listed below has a well known underground network of supplying alcohol to cash carrying customers. Police tend to look the other way when foreign tourists are involved. However, they can cause problems in areas which require drinking permits so be aware of the local rules. Also, homemade black market alcohol has been the cause of an alarmingly high number of deaths in recent years. Choose your drink wisely in areas where alcohol is forbidden. And finally, be prepared to give monetary gifts (baksheesh) where appropriate. Sometimes a few rupee notes are all that is required to earn “permission” to drink.
Tucked into the Central West bastion of India, Gujarat is the most well known dry state in the country. Geographically it’s sandwiched between 3 other states which freely serve alcohol, plus several union territories inside or near state borders. You are not legally able to drink alcohol in Gujarat unless you are permit holder.
Foreigners (including NRI’s) can purchase a 30 day liquor license/permit at designated 5 star hotels and other locations. To get a 1-month permit, you’ll need your passport plus some proof of the address where you’re staying while in Gujarat, be it a hotel business card or just an address scribbled on a piece of paper. Most hotels require a proof of stay over 24 hrs. Cost is Rs 100-200. You are then “entitled” to 2 units of alcohol each 10 days. A unit is a 750ml bottle of spirits. Visitors staying longer than 30 days who wish to drink will have to apply for a non-resident permit. Keep in mind this 30 day permit is a one shot deal. Once it expires, even if you leave the state and return months or years later, it is said you cannot apply for a new permit.
As of February 15, 2010, tourists arriving via Ahmedabad’s airport can purchase a liquor license on the spot via the Gujarat Tourism Department counter located inside the domestic terminal. The process to obtain the permit in the city is the same as at the airport.
TIP: Fortunately there are several wet spots in or near Gujarat for travelers who wish to more heavily partake of the drink.
Mt Abu: This well known getaway for locals is a short drive over the border of Rajasthan state on the northern edge of Gujarat. You won’t find a large foreign crowd in this state’s only hill station, but everyone is welcome here.
Diu: Located in the Kathiawar Peninsula of Gujarat, this union territory serves as the only wet spot in western Gujarat.
Daman: Better known as the “pub” of southern Gujarat. This is the sister union territory to Diu. Come one come all for free flowing alcohol.
Dadra & Nagar Haveli: Another sister act of union territories. Located right along the Maharashtra border, this area also serves as a wet spot for Gujaratis and foreigners looking for some liquid nourishment.
India’s only union territory that has a total ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol. Tourists are advised not to pack any alcohol from the mainland before flying into the islands.
Tip: If you must drink on a daily basis, this remote getaway is not for you.
Sale and consumption of alcohol is forbidden in Manipur, located in India’s far East. One would think this was indeed a dry state, yet local brews called ashaba and atingba can readily be found in most areas. This drink or hooch (as it’s commonly known as) is a mix of homemade spirits and detergent powder. Yum.
Authorities are said to look the other way from this thriving underground business. When raids are performed, it’s branded liquor which is confiscated and then resold to the general public (including foreigners) for a handsome profit.
Tourists are well advised to be cautious of any alcohol which is offered for sale or consumption in Manipur.
TIP: If you must have a drink while touring this region, cross state lines into Assam where alcohol is legally sold.
Hopefully you like wine, a lot. Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act banned the sale and consumption of all alcohol in the northeastern state in 1997. Ten years later, MLTP Act was amended which legalized the manufacture of wine from guavas and grapes but with strict rules. Government rules on percentage of alcohol to be included in the wine and the quantity of wine to be possessed by any individual were included in the amendment; it also forbids transport and export of locally manufactured wine outside the Mizoram. The result is Zawlaidi, a locally produced ‘love potion’.
A local boot-legged concoction called Zu is popular yet still illegal. It is a fatally toxic blend of methyl spirits and varnish. For this reason and others, a push for the full repeal of Mizoram’s prohibition has gained momentum each year. Until then, tourists must find alcohol from various underground sources. Brands and authenticity should be strongly questioned for safety. Be prepared to pay a premium for access.
TIP: Travel north to Assam to find legally sold alcohol.
Nagaland Liquor Prohibition Act was enacted in 1989 calling for a total ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol. A ban which draws many chuckles from locals who refer to Nagaland as a dry state in terms of access to water, not liquor. India-made foreign liquor (IMFL) is prominent in Nagaland, easily available even in grocery, confectionery, garment shops, restaurants and hotels. Local brew is called Zutho.
Authorities watch in quiet awareness to the illegal sales. Reports have even stated that several top police officials are now successful bootleggers. There are also thousands of booze joints in cities of Kohima and Dimapur where liquors of all brands are openly sold.
Recently, the state government had moved for partial lifting of the prohibition but it was strongly opposed by the Church and the Naga Mothers’ Association.
TIP: Skip locally made hooch and instead purchase foreign branded liquor from shops. Be prepared to pay a premium or cross into Assam for the same product at lower pricing where it is sold legally.
All states and union territories in India follow something called dry days, a time in which alcohol is banned from sale. These days usually center around national holidays or state elections. In some cases this is as regular as the first day of each month. Since dry days in each location vary, tourists should contact their hotel and/or tour operator to help ascertain which days are off limits for their planned itinerary.
There are three dry days of note each year across all India: Republic Day (January 26), Independence Day (August 15), and Gandhi Jayanti (October 2).
Dry days simply means the sale of alcohol is banned on these days. Consumption in the privacy of your room or home is not illegal. Plan accordingly