Vacation can be a time to do things that you wouldn’t ordinarily do, from rock climbing to trying a new food, like fried insects. For some people, vacation is a time when people shake their inhibitions and go drinking.
Around the world, countries handle alcohol differently and allow people to drink at different ages. If alcohol is part of your vacation holiday plans, you’ll want to know the legal drinking age at your destination.
Drinking at 16 and 17
In many countries, the minimum drinking age ranges from 16 years to 20 years of age. This means that if you’re planning a vacation in Italy, Boznia and Herzegovina, Luxembourg, Macau or Haiti, you can drink at the age of 16. There are a few countries that have minimum drinking ages that vary – in Belgium, Germany, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Austria or Switzerland, individuals may have to be 18 years old to consume specific beverages, but they can drink or purchase alcohol at the age of 16.
The island nations of Cyprus and Malta allow individuals to purchase alcohol and consume alcohol in public places at the age of 17.
Drinking at 18
In nearly 100 countries, including some hot destination spots, vacationers and natives can drink alcohol legally at the age of 18, whether in public or in private at home. The United Kingdom and Australia are on this list. Other countries that allow drinking at the age of 18 include Argentina, the Bahamas, Belize, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Fiji, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Ireland, the Maldives, Mexico, Russia and Sweden. If you’re traveling to Brazil or Canada, there are areas where you may have to be 19 to consume alcohol, but in others, 18 is the minimum drinking age. In France, if you’re drinking in private, there is no minimum drinking age.
Drinking at 20
There are two countries that allow individuals to purchase alcohol or consume alcohol in public at the age of 20 years. Those countries are South Korea and Nicaragua.
Drinking at 21
There may be exceptions to legal drinking ages in various countries. For example, in the United States, if a student must consume alcohol for educational purposes – like culinary training – the legal drinking age does not apply, because the student is likely not drinking a significant amount. Religious or medical purposes may also circumvent the minimum legal drinking age. Some states don’t prohibit alcohol consumption by those under 21 if a family member of legal drinking age is present, or if the individual is on private property.
If you’re planning to drink during your vacation, it’s a really good idea to do some research into the legal drinking age of your destination. That knowledge could help you to avoid legal trouble or insulting your hosts by not taking part in their customs.
Besides the legal drinking age, it is very important to observe each country's laws regarding drinking or being visibly intoxicated in public. Laws vary enormously from place to place, and you don't want to end up drunk and in jail in a foreign country.
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