What is the Legal Drinking Age in Mexico?

If you’re planning to hang out with friends in Merida or travel to Cancun for spring break, you may be looking forward to some tropical drinks and beer.

Everyone in your group needs to understand the Mexican laws regarding the consumption and transportation of alcohol to prevent you from getting into any sticky situations.

Breaking the law, either intentionally or unintentionally, can bring about difficult consequences, so it’s better to understand beforehand so that you can enjoy your time in the Mexican sun.

The first step is understanding the legal drinking age in the country so that you can act appropriately and safely.

While many young people in the United States understand that the legal drinking age is 21, in Mexico, the legal drinking age is 18.

This draws many young people to the country’s beaches and resorts, particularly during spring break and the summertime.

Beyond this legal age to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages, there are several other things to consider to be safe while you are in Mexico.

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Enjoying a Mexican Spring Break

Mexican Spring Break

Many American students are drawn to the sandy beaches of Mexico for spring break and summer because of the lower legal drinking age.

While great food, music, and good times are readily available throughout the country, it’s important to understand that the drinking age and public intoxication laws are enforced.

The bottom line is that the legal age to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages is 18 years of age. No exceptions.

Also, even if you are of the legal drinking age, you need to be responsible even if you are hanging out in a resort bar. Many Americans get into difficult situations by being intoxicated in public or being arrested for drunk driving.

The same safety steps that you would take when partying in the United States should also be implemented while on vacation in Mexico.

Drinking While on a Family Vacation

The rules regarding the legal drinking age don’t change if you are traveling with your family. Your parents may be fine with you enjoying a cocktail or beer while you are with them but legally, it’s problematic if you are under 18.

Some resorts will turn a blind eye if you are having a drink with your parents, but you are still at risk of being detained because it is still against the law. Take a few moments to decide whether it is truly worth the risk of being caught.

Many resorts in Mexico require that guests wear a bracelet that identifies whether or not the individual is of legal drinking age.

They are usually colored coded so that servers can quickly identify whether a person is over or under 18 years of age.

Not all resorts have this system in place so if you, as a parent, are concerned that your young person might be drinking or tempted to drink, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on them and their activities.

While on a Family Vacation

Perhaps the best step that parents can take is to talk with their child prior to the trip and establish a few ground rules. This can help them understand the consequences should they be caught drinking while underage.

If you are okay with your young person having a drink while on vacation, set limits to the amount they can consume and the behavior that you expect.

Consuming Alcohol While on a Mexican Resort Vacation

As a young person, you will need to show a valid ID so that staff members can verify your age if you want to drink. As mentioned, some resorts use a bracelet system so this confirmation may occur when you check into the resort.

If you are wanting to purchase alcohol prior to arriving at the resort, supermarket and convenience store staff may ask that you show ID.

The same is true when you stroll into a resort or hotel bar. The bar staff has the right to ask for an appropriate photo ID.

While some resorts and hotels don’t strictly enforce drinking age rules and laws, it’s still important to be mindful of the law and the risks involved with underage drinking.

If you repeatedly ignore the law, you may be asked to leave the property. Also, the police or authorities could become involved. This will effectively ruin your vacation or spring break plans.

What are the consequences of underage drinking in Mexico?

When you are planning your vacation or spring break trip, you may be dreaming of lounging on a white sand beach with a drink in hand. If you are under the legal drinking age, there can be consequences if you are caught.

Many young people wave that thought away believing that they will never be caught and that, somehow, they are above the law.

It’s important to remember, however, that you are traveling in a foreign country with a different set of laws than you are used to. Sure, some restaurants and resorts are more relaxed about enforcing the drinking age laws.

However, this doesn’t mean that every business is that way. Drinking as a minor can carry some penalties that everyone in your party should be aware of.

Some restaurants and resorts will simply ask you to leave and never return but some may call local law enforcement.

Underage Drinking in Mexico

Driving while intoxicated or under the influence can result in jail time, up to 36 hours, and significant fines. It is a serious criminal offense.

This is also true if the individual is loud and intoxicated in public. Fines can also be imposed on underage individuals caught attempting to purchase alcohol.

On the other side of the coin, people caught selling alcohol to underage people can also end up in jail.

Drugs in Mexico

Drugs are often easily obtained in Mexico, particularly in and around resorts and beach towns. The penalties for being caught with an illegal substance will land you in prison. Those caught can be detained and sent to prison for one year.

Often, bail is not an option. That being said, even though they may be easy to get, the repercussions of being found with drugs are significant. You’re best off avoiding them altogether.

In general, the blood alcohol content limit in Mexico is 0.8. Some states have tighter regulations though. For instance, in Chihuahua, the blood alcohol limit is 0.5.

Several other states, including Veracruz, Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Hidalgo, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, Distrito Federal and Estado de Mexico have blood alcohol limits of 0.4. Abiding by these regulations can keep everyone out of trouble.

Drinking in Mexico

Drinking in Mexico

If you are not accustomed to drinking or are considering having your first drink in Mexico, here are some suggestions that can help make it an enjoyable experience while keeping you safe.

  • Don’t drink and drive – This holds true for anyone in Mexico, regardless of whether you are an adult or a minor. If the police believe that a driver may be under the influence, they will pull them over and perform a breathalyzer check. Also, many major highways and large cities have various checkpoints to check for intoxicated drivers.
  • Take legal taxis – If you will be traveling about town, using a taxi is an effective way to get around. If you are of legal drinking age and headed back to your resort, grabbing one of the many available taxis can be a safe way to return to the hotel. Ensure that the taxi is a legitimate, licensed taxi. This can be a dangerous situation otherwise. Also, ride-sharing services such as Uber and Cabify are readily available throughout the country. These services provide riders with an emergency or panic feature to keep each journey safe.
  • Protect your passport – Your passport needs to be secured. Many hotels provide in-room safes to secure any valuables. If you are asked for an ID in a restaurant or bar, a standard photo ID should be sufficient. If not, use your passport then return it to a secure location. Losing a passport or having it stolen can cause many headaches while on vacation.
  • Don’t drink alcohol while you are swimming – It may be appealing to go for a swim while having drinks beside the pool or ocean. However, it’s important that people don’t get into the water if they are drunk. This puts them at great risk of drowning.
  • Public intoxication and drinking – Drinking in public is illegal in Mexico. This includes drinking in the street, parks, and other public areas. Being drunk in public will also bring unwanted attention from the police.
  • Watch your drink – Unfortunately, pouring contaminated or tainted drinks is common in Mexico, particularly in beach towns. Be aware of this and watch while your drink is poured then be aware of it and never leave it alone. If you start feeling unwell, don’t drink any more of it. Get medical assistance if you become ill.

Can you bring alcohol home from a Mexican vacation?

It’s common for people to want to bring particular bottles home after a dream vacation in Mexico. It’s natural to want to share your experience with friends or relive enjoyable moments from your trip when you are back at home.

This is allowed. Realize that many airlines have limits on the amount of alcohol that you can carry. Also, any bottles need to be unopened and secured in your luggage.

Some popular choices include the following:

  • Tequila – Tequila is a spirit that is created from blue agave. It is probably the libation most associated with Mexico. The silver style is often used to create margaritas and many tropical drinks. Reposado, or aged tequila, is sipped straight.
  • Mezcal – Mezcal is also an agave product though it is produced using different methods to create smokey notes. It is enjoyed straight. Mezcal is growing in popularity but is not recognized as tequila.
  • Beer – With so many cerveza options in Mexico, you may find one that you want to bring home.

It should be noted that many of the spirits that you enjoy in Mexico while on vacation are available in the United States. This may make you forgo the hassle of bringing it home unless it is rare or particularly special.

Bring Alcohol Home

Also, remember to check with your airline about any rules regarding transporting alcohol. Many will have limits on the amount that you can have stowed in your suitcase.

Unless you go through duty-free, don’t put alcohol in your carry-on bag.

Many consider enjoying cocktails to be an integral part of vacationing in Mexico. Most young people also consider it to be an important part of spring break. However, young people are cautioned to follow the laws.

While young adults may be of legal drinking age in Mexico, sensible precautions and responsible drinking will ensure that everyone remains safe and doesn’t run into trouble with the police.

Underage drinking is taken seriously in Mexico and carries some serious repercussions. These can ruin what should be a very fun trip.

So, act responsibly when it comes to drinking. Don’t try to get around the law or believe that it doesn’t apply to you. If you behave responsibly, everyone will have a great trip.