“Keep on chasing down that rainbow. You never know what you might find. Over the sunset on the horizon, it may be a dream but it tastes like poison. I’m going to take that tiger outside for a ride.” – Noel Gallagher.
“A wee carryout, yeooo!!” shouts an Ulsterman! Another of my “must dos” in India was to head to Gandhi’s State (/Province) of Gujarat, which has a ban on alcohol and a death penalty for the manufacture or sales of it, it’s a “dry state”. But a loophole allows you to buy and drink alcohol if you have a permit. After watching Michael Palin do this on a BBC documentary, I had to secure that permit and have a night on the rip in my hotel room. IN Northern Ireland, it’s known as a carryout, or a “C.O.”
I’ll be honest with you though – this task wasn’t that easy, not as simple as I expected. A series of tos and fros in between hotels and chaotic horn beepers and finally I breathed a sigh of relief and had that same sense of wonder as a 17 year old on the rip in Belfast City. I had finally secured my alcohol permit for the Gujarat state of India. This is the strictest “dry state” in India. Manufacture and selling of alcohol here still warrants a death penalty. However the Gujarat Government have allowed a certain number of hotels to legally sell booze to anyone who has a permit. I was based at the Formule 1 Hotel in Ahmedabad and as well as doing the Gandhi Tour, sights of Ahmedabad and a trip to Adalaj Vav (ancient well), I wanted to ensure I could have a beer here – Michael Palin-esque. I wanted to do it legally of course – getting the permit. I even took the same train as Michael Palin.
Foreigners need a permit to drink or buy alcohol in Gujarat State, as do Indians. This applies to all of Gujarat State. You could of course bring your own beer in across from one of the bordering provinces/states. But you’re breaking the law if you drink any of it here without a permit. I actually buzz off getting visas and permits, the adrenalin flow of it all, I remember being so excited when I got my Gorno Badakhshan and Afghanistan visas recently. Like Michael Palin, I was loving this adventure.
However I was based in the crazy city of Ahmedabad and despite booking my e-permit online, it just wasn’t that easy. I was travelling with my friend Katia from Brazil. At times it seemed like we were the only two foreigners in the city. Well, until we went to get our alcohol permits!
The Failed Application at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel, Ahmedabad
We got refused first of all, at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Ahmedabad, one of the nine listed venues in Ahmedabad that can legally sell you booze. I have been backpacking with my Brazilian friend Katia in India and she also wanted to get the alcohol permit.
First of all we headed to the Courtyard Marriott Hotel, one of the listed 9 hotels that apparently issues the permits. However, despite having our online permit, reference number, our passports and a receipt from our hotel, they wouldn’t issue a permit without a separate piece of paper which acts as proof of residence (albeit temporary for tourists). At this point, we didn’t want to go all the way back to our hotel to beg for this extra piece of paper, and they refused to fax or e-mail it over so the staff at Marriott kindly phoned another hotel for us to confirm they could issue the permit for us.
However they told us that the Grand Bhagwati Hotel could definitely sort out the permit so off we went, by tuk tuk around 4.45 pm. So my tip is to head to the Grand Bhagwati Hotel between 12 – 7pm.
Opening Times of the Grand Bhagwati Hotel Alcohol Shop and Permit Office
The Alcohol Permit Office at the Grand Bhagwati Hotel and the Liquor Shop officially close at 7.30pm but getting the permit can take up to an hour with queues etc so aim to get there between 12 -6 pm. Please note it is always closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Plus between 4 and 4.30 pm they are closed for lunch break. You are not allowed to even enter the liquor store without a permit. It’s all done by the book.
Getting to the Grand Bhagwati Hotel
Get a tuk tuk to the Grand Bhagwati and either trust the metre or bargain for a price. You should never pay more than 150 Rupees for any journey in Ahmedabad and can pay as little as 30 Rupees. The address is:
The Grand Bhagwati Hotel
S.G. Road, Ahmedabad-380054,
Ph: 079 26841000
Fax: 079 26840915
When you arrive at the Grand Bhagwati Hotel you will see a Liquor Store sign on the right hand side.
It’s on the ground floor. The Liquor Store is right beside the Office that issues the permits.
On the wall outside, written in English are the instructions for inland visitors (Indians) and international visitors (foreigners like me) to Gujarat buying the alcohol permit.
The online permit will not be sufficient. You need to have your passport and details checked and your permit must be signed and stamped by the officials at either this office at the Grand Bhagwati or another office. They are all very friendly. At the end of the day, they know why you are here and they are just obeying the laws set in place by the Gujarat Government.
Filling in the Form to get Your Alcohol Permit
Its fairly easy to fill in the form, in either Hindi or English. Five minutes maximum. Officially you need to bring and show the following things:
1.Your passport. A given.
2.Your Indian Visa and entry stamp.
3.A document from your hotel that proves you are staying in the Gujarat Province. Ask your hotel for this. Some may be fussy about it, but by law if you sleep there, they are obliged to issue you with a permit.
4.A filled in application form.
You don’t need any money or passport photos if you are foreign. The alcohol permit is free of charge. Indians, however have to pay. You must be over 25 years of age. Once you have all that ready they fill out your permit and hand it to you! Another happy success for me on my ongoing journeys.
It felt just like getting a visa and I was buzzing when they handed me the permit. Of course, you’re still in the same country but this is a special region. I asked them for a passport stamp as well but they said they don’t do that anymore, it would have been a nice quirky addition to my passport, but now I was happy. I had my permit and I was ready to buy some alcohol in this “dry state”.
Gujarat Only Beer: The Rare Kangaro 10,000
I will write a separate article for Thirsty Thursdays on how to buy the alcohol and the special treat – trying a beer that can only be purchased in Gujarat State – the elusive Kangaro 10,000 one of the coolest beers from my recent travels! Oddly it had an expiry date of 2015 on it, but I didn’t worry about that one bit!
Here’s the famous Kangaro 10,000. Cheers from Ahmedabad, Gujarat State, India!