Alcohol | the dry states

Approx read: 3 mins

Did you know you can’t buy a shot of whiskey at the Jack Daniel’s distillery? That’s because Lynchburg, Tennessee is a dry county: alcohol sales are illegal. Read on for more surprisingly arid areas.

I’ve been to 3 places in the world where the possession, purchase or consumption of alcohol is prohibited: the emirate of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, Tunis Lac, in Tunisia and Kerala in India. I brushed off the notion of not being able to have a drink at my leisure was just going to be part of the travel experience, but man was I wrong! When legislation means that the only thing beer-flavoured you can have on the hottest day of the year is a non-alcoholic ice block on a stick, then that massive psychosomatic need to be inebriated will have you gagging – trust me on this.

But it’s not just the normal contenders for ‘alcohol-is-evil’ places where you can’t get a drink – such as every teetotaller’s favourites Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.  Surprisingly, you may live or have been to countries where certain regions have total alcohol bans in place. And as ignorance is not an excuse in the eyes of the law, here are a couple helpful notes on where you can’t get inebriated; if that’s your thing of course…

Tennessee, Kansas and Mississippi are all dry by default, meaning each county within those states need to authorise the sale of alcohol in order for it to be legal. That includes New Orleans by the way…..though I can’t imagine anything going dry in that particular town. Although Arkansas has some reputation, or infamy, for its moonshine, over half of the 75 counties making up this state are officially dry. Yep, you can’t get a drink in most of Arkansas.

Oz, Indo, India?

Australians – known for some affection to the amber liquid – can’t drink in some regions in the state of Northern Territories given the crime, delinquency and social problems that are attributed to alcohol. Something similar applies in Canada’s newest state, Nunavut, where alcohol is severely restricted and outright banned given its impact on social order. These two places have other major issues that are impacting the indigenous populations, however, alcohol bans are seen to be effective measures in combating the ills affecting people residing there.

Indonesia has an alcohol ban in place in the state of Aceh, which holds some autonomy from Jakarta and does enforce sharia law, which naturally covers the drinking parts. Though you may not be keen on getting some vacation time in that place, what you will be interested in is the news that Bali could end up being devoid alcohol….so no more Bintang for you! Let’s hope that this rumour is no more than a knee-jerk reaction to stem the spate of deaths related to methanol poisoning in counterfeit drinks that were sold to tourists with fatal consequences.

Booze hacks

That marvellous and exotic Indian trip you plan should account for the alcohol bans in Gujarat, Kerala, Bihar, Nagaland and Manipur. There are some complexities to this though, and specially designated areas – read that as hotels – will always be ready to pour you a cold one. Just expect to pay a higher price than you may expect, and don’t count on walking out of a store with a six-pack tucked under your arm in these places.

Wherever there are bans on alcohols there will always be some form of supply, legal or not. I’ve heard rumours from fellow travellers of alcohol packed into luggage and being walked right through customs and immigration in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by holders of UN or diplomatic passports. Then there are the bootleggers who smuggle booze to all corners of the world to satisfy the dry throats of customers – even at great peril – but then, as Mark Twain put it so succinctly, ‘It is the prohibition that makes anything precious’.


An avid international traveller, surfer lover of the oceans, writer and researcher.