Mexico is one of the most favored holiday destinations for many Americans. More than 39 million U.S. residents went on a trip south of the border, with Cancun topping the list. Mexico’s popularity as a travel spot may be due to its rich cultural heritage, sparkling white beaches and mouth-watering cuisine. But going on tours and enjoying local food are not the only things people do vacations.
More than half of travelers enjoy an alcoholic beverage — or two. Most of the more than 53 percent say they choose cocktails, some go for beer, others sip wine and a small percentage do shots.
But what if you or someone in your group isn’t of legal age to drink alcohol and you’ve booked a resort in Cancun?
Can a U.S. Citizen Under 21 Drink in Mexico?
Can everyone in your traveling entourage head to a Mexican bar and freely drink booze?
Travelers to Mexico are subject to the laws and regulations of the country. Because the legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, a U.S. citizen under 21 may be able to order alcoholic beverage. This is partly why you’ll find a lot of the spring breakers heading across the border for the sole purpose of partying.
So police authorities in border towns are clamping down on tourists who violate the following rules concerning alcohol drinking:
- Drinking from an open alcohol container in public
- Being drunk in public
- Driving drunk
- Drinking during ley seca, also known as the “dry law,” which prohibits alcohol drinking within 24 and 72 hours of voting
Although American tourists who are not of legal age to drink in the US may be able to drink in Mexico, an age limit still prevents minors from getting liquored up.
Can you drink in Mexico if you’re 16 years old? The answer is no. Again, Mexico’s legal drinking age is 18.
Violating Mexico’s laws on drinking will lead to penalties, the highest of which would be jail time. At the least, you may be kicked out of a bar or be fined if you get caught drinking as a minor. Expect penalties as well if you choose to drink and get drunk in public, and drive while under the influence of alcohol.
Drinking in Mexico
Now that you’re clear about Mexico’s drinking age, you must learn how to do it right. Some rules still apply even when you’re within the legal age.
For starters, proper identification is still necessary when buying or consuming liquor in Mexico. Much like U.S. restriction on drinking, Mexico’s laws compel bar tenders and liquor store personnel to require consumers to present an ID.
An ID may be required if you look especially young for your age. So carry an ID when you plan to duck into a liquor store or go to a bar with friends.
Follow the same kind of care you would when going out at night in the US when drinking in Mexico.
- Try to set a drink limit — and stick to it
- Never leave your drink unattended
- Never take pre-made drinks from a stranger
- Try to alternate between alcoholic, like a Hennessy white and non-alcoholic drinks, like pineapple juice
- Stay with friends
- Trust your instincts; when you don’t feel safe, move to another location or call a friend
Another key thing to watch for when drinking in Mexico is tainted alcohol. Just last year, about a hundred people died from drinking adulterated alcohol and liquor contaminated with methanol.
What is the Youngest Legal Drinking Age in the World?
Every country has a different legal drinking age. Aside from the difference between US and Mexico, there’s Japan, Thailand and Iceland, where 20 is the drinking age; in South Korea and Qatar, 19 is the legal age to drink alcohol. About 64 percent of the world, including Italy, specify 18 as the legal drinking age, and many others have made drinking illegal, like Libya, Saudi Arabia and Maldives.
Whereas Vanuatu, Togo, Burkina Faso and Timor-Leste have no minimum legal age to drink.
But which country has the youngest legal drinking age?
In Mali and Central African Republic, the legal drinking age is 15 years old.
Mexico or whichever country you visit as a tourist, drinking alcohol will always come with a risk. Even at any legal age, 18 and onward, practice safety. Yes, you’re on vacation and being carefree is part of the leisure experience. But anytime alcohol is involved, situations will be vulnerable to exploitation.
By all means, drink a shot (or two) of tequila or Mezcal while in enjoying the pristine beaches of Cancun. But do try to drink moderately.