If you enjoy having a few alcoholic beverages when you’re out on the town, or while you’re savoring a nice dinner, then chances are you like to down a few cocktails when you’re on vacation. In fact, if your home is consistently stocked with a nice assortment of beer, wine, and liquor, then your liver probably takes a bit of a beating when you’re on holidays. After all, what’s the point of going to a beautiful country with amazing sites, if you can’t blur the experience with a steady stream of booze?
Of course, if you only stay at five-star hotels when you’re vacationing, or you’re an eccentric millionaire who has their own taster, then you’re probably not too concerned about getting sick from the glass of cognac you order. Or, if you only travel to fancy resorts when you’re abroad, or you usually head to Europe, then you’ve likely never had to worry about finding alcohol, much less being allowed to drink it.
The reality is, of course, that not every country has beers for sale at the corner store or even clean ice. So, if you’re wondering if there are any drinks that you shouldn’t order in foreign countries, the answer is absolutely yes!
What country are you in?
Before you ask the first person you encounter in another country for “the biggest beer they have”, it’s probably wise to do some research and see if alcohol is even legal there. Getting slapped with a fine―or worse―for ordering booze in a nation that prohibits drinking won’t be a fun way to start the vacation.
While the thought of not being allowed to guzzle beers at the beach may horrify some, not every culture thinks drinking alcohol is such a good idea. For example, many Islamic nations forbid alcohol, or only allow it to be sold to tourists who have proper identification. Even then, it usually must be consumed in a specific area.
For example, if you’re 21 or older, you can order drinks from licensed establishments in the city-state of Dubai. However, you typically will need a special permit to buy booze to drink in your own residence.
And if you’re used to getting hammered back at your local pub and then stumbling back home afterwards, you may want to rethink that habit when abroad. Countries with stricter drinking laws usually frown upon our favorite pastime of being drunk in public. Wonder why?
In addition, be sure you know if you’re even old enough to order a drink legally in that country. Although the drinking age of 21 in the U.S. is actually higher than nearly every country, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear if you’re 18. While some nations allow 18 year-olds to drink alcohol, in other countries the required age is 19. Have fun in Portugal, where the drinking age is only 16!
Is beer safe?
Of course, for many of us the thought of vacationing without being able to drink beer is like going to the movies but not eating popcorn. It’s possible to do, yes, but why would you? While beer can be a delicious addition to any outing or meal, if you’re traveling abroad there are some things to consider before you order “whatever’s on tap.”
Common sense would tell you that, if you’re in an establishment that doesn’t look like it’s been cleaned…ever, you might want to stay away from draft beer. You may also want to stick with bottled beer, since the draft beer could have been served to someone else a few hours back, left over, and then recycled on to you and your pals.
While bottled beer is likely a safer way to go, if the label isn’t in English and you can’t read it, keep in mind that not every beer has the same alcoholic content as your favorite brew back home. For all you know, the beer you’re chugging back could have double the alcohol content of the kind you usually drink. Of course, if you’re looking to get absolutely tanked this might be a blessing, but it could also catch you off guard and leave you in a vulnerable position.
What about hard liquor or wine?
Yes and no. If you’re in a region where you’ve been advised to avoid drinking the local water in any form, then you’d better be able to pound back hard liquor neat. If you’ve spent next to no time in a bar or don’t watch television shows targeted to adults, “neat” means a drink with just the liquor and nothing else.
Often, the soda or juice that bars use for a whiskey and coke or vodka and cranberry is mixed with tap water. If the water isn’t fit for drinking, then taking your booze straight up is the way to go. Of course, since the ice cubes are also likely made from the same water that could turn your trip into a nauseous nightmare, also steer clear of any drink that’s “on the rocks.”
Remember to consider that, just like beer, the liquor you’re ordering could be way stronger than what you’re used to. So, you may want to take it slow before you order a triple.
As far as wine, if you can, try to order a bottle so that you and your friends are the first to crack it. This way you can be certain that you’re getting what you ordered and that it’s fresh.