5 reasons to take a completely alcohol-free holiday

Dec 10, 2019

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I recently spent a week in the Middle East, working my way from the United Arab Emirates through Bahrain and up to Kuwait. I had just finished a week in the U.S. where the generous pouring of spirits led to a headache the next morning. It was time for a change. Knowing I was visiting destinations that did not have a big drinking culture like the U.K., I decided not to touch a drop the entire trip. I didn’t miss it at all and had a fantastic time. Here’s why.

My wallet thanked me

I paid 85p for a pint of beer in Budapest last December. That price is cheaper than anything you’ll find in the U.K. But in the Middle East, the prices were eye-wateringly expensive. A pint of Heineken at my hotel was £10. I don’t even like Heineken. A glass of very average wine was just as expensive.

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Rather than wasting hundreds of pounds over the course of the week to drink purely because I could, I kept my wallet closed as much as possible and opted for water and the odd soft drink or coffee, which were a fraction of the price. Dubai can be an expensive destination but I managed to really enjoy it on a budget. I figured I’d rather have a drink at an affordable destination than waste my money in an expensive one.

Related: 5 things you should know before visiting Dubai

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

I had more time to explore

Long lunches, happy hours and late nights in bars and clubs eats up a lot of holiday time. In the past, I’ve reached the end of the trip wondering where the time went and not actually having done anything cultural. In the Middle East, there was so much to see and do and I was glad I could experience everything without being distracted by when the next happy hour started. Meal times were efficient and delicious so I could refuel before the next activity.

I slept better

Going to bed every night with a clear head meant waking up with one, too. I didn’t stay out that late any nights, which meant a full eight hours sleep and I woke feeling refreshed, relaxed and ready to take on the day. No piecing together the previous night in my head or wondering where my keys were. I don’t usually have the luxury of eight hours sleep each night at home in the U.K., so it was fantastic to catch up.

Related: Is Kuwait the world’s most boring tourist destination? I went to find out

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

It was easy to stay healthy while travelling

I try and do some sort of exercise each day when I travel — whether it’s going to a hotel gym, a run along the beach or a guided walking tour. Usually I try and do this as soon as I wake up as if I wait until the late afternoon or evening, a rooftop bar at sunset seems far more appealing.

In the Middle East, without alcohol I felt motivated to exercise at any part of the day. If I felt restless as the sun set I would go for a walk or go to the hotel gym. There was far less need to plan exercise each day — the motivation came about more naturally.

I also found I made smarter food choices — no bar snacks to nibble on while having beers in the sun and no late night junk food to soak it up before bed either.

Related: Where’s the cheapest duty free? We checked 50 airports to find out

(Image by Getty/Asia-Pacific Images Studio)

Out of sight, out of mind

Had there been a pub on almost every corner in the Middle East like there is in the U.K., I might have felt more tempted, but because alcohol isn’t widely available in the Middle East I really didn’t miss it. If I went for a meal and was handed a menu there would usually be no alcohol listed on it. In some places I would specifically have to research somewhere that sold alcohol if I wanted to find it.

It felt completely normal not to drink in a destination where no one around you was drinking. I was very happy enjoying the authentic local experience of trying some local tea, juice or coffee. I was actually surprised how much I completely forgot about alcohol when I was somewhere where I didn’t see it all the time.

Bottom line

I’m not giving up drinking forever — it’s the silly season right now and “it’s Christmas” seems to be a widely accepted reason to have a drink right now as we reflect on the year and celebrate with friends, family and colleagues. And if I’m lying by the pool in Majorca next summer you can bet if I’m handed a menu I’m likely to order a margarita.

But if you are visiting somewhere where alcohol is either difficult to find or very expensive consider taking an alcohol-free trip — I loved it and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

Featured image by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy

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