Legal Drinking Age in Mexico

Mexico Drinking Age

What is the drinking age in Mexico? The minimum legal drinking age in Mexico is 18.

This law is more liberal than in the US, where you must be 21 before you can drink alcohol. By law, Mexico requires young adults to show photo identification proving their age when purchasing alcohol. However, enforcement at resorts and bars isn’t always consistent. Travelers have observed that drinks are served to 16 and 17-year-olds. But that might be more anecdotal evidence than a common observation.

In comparison, Greece, France, and certain parts of Canada have a legal drinking age of 18.

Parents traveling with teenage children

Nonetheless, being aware of the law is key to avoiding confusion. Should you attempt to obtain alcohol as an underage drinker or a parent or companion of fellow teenagers, it’s totally up to you.

Therefore, families need to set ground rules and enforce a set of freedom accorded to teenage companions during their holidays. For example, how much independence should you grant your kids when they stray away from kid-friendly facilities and start teasing themselves into trying out alcohol out of curiosity? You don’t want to incite rebellion and impart a certain level of trust towards growing and maturing children.

Parents of college kids off to Mexico for spring break

Mexico is an attractive place for American college students as it has a more lenient rule on the drinking age. The minimum drinking age in the United States is 21. 100,000 American teenagers and young adults travel to Mexico resorts such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, or Cabo San Lucas. Most of them go for spring break each year. Most return home without any incident, but some end up in trouble, mostly related to intoxication, drunk driving, and improper behavior.

Specific laws are aimed at curbing driving incidents under the influence but don’t cover territories outside the border.

Cancun Nightclubs

Although enforcement of selling alcoholic drinks to those under-18 can be a hit-and-miss on the part of bars and resorts, Mexico often implements the law against public intoxication.

Whether you are a teenager who managed to sneak a pina colada, margarita, or mojito or an adult with no risk of violating the country’s drinking age laws, you are not allowed to drink in conspicuous places. You would be well advised to drink them in a confined area like a bar or your resort property. Being overly drunk and boisterous can lead to hefty fines or even jail time in Mexico.

While it is perfectly fine to travel with alcohol in a vehicle in Mexico, drunk driving is a criminal offense that may carry up to 36 hours in detention if proven you are over the legal blood alcohol content limit.

Blood alcohol content limit under Mexico laws

The national limit for blood alcohol content in Mexico is 0.8, but certain states impose more stringent requirements:

  • 0.4: Aguascalientes, Chiapas, Distrito Federal, Estado de México, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacán, Tamaulipas, and Veracruz.
  • 0.5: Chihuahua

If suspected of drunk driving, local police officers can pull you over and administer a breathalyzer test if they suspect you’re under the influence.

cancun mexico drinking age
drinking age in Cancun ,Cabo and around Mexico

In bigger cities, alcohol breathalyzer checks are commonly enforced, and police are allowed to stop motorists and ask them to take alcoholimetro (breath test) if they suspect the driver is over the limit.

This is strictly enforced on public transport drivers and those who handle bulky goods and toxic waste, but tourists driving to Mexico can also be the subject of such random spot checks.

Safety about alcohol consumption in Mexico

Since we’re on the topic of the legal age of drinking in Mexico, it is also timely to remind young holidaymakers in Mexico about alcohol consumption and safety in general.

Do not drink in public.

According to Mexico’s laws, it is illegal to display public intoxication or technically bringing along an open bottle of alcohol, mainly due to the risks it may pose. It is not uncommon to see young party-goers walking dazed and groggy on spring break, but they won’t be in trouble if they don’t pose a danger to others or risk themselves in accidents. Nonetheless, it is best to notify a friend about existing laws and to abide by them.

Be civil and avoid trouble.

Alcohol consumption has played a role in accidents, violent crimes, rapes, and even deaths in Mexico. Therefore disturbing the peace, displaying lewd behavior, littering, driving under the influence, and drinking on the street or public transportation may all be considered criminal activities by local authorities. Surely, those who had experienced it won’t say it’s worth it.

Be aware of drug laws.

Mexican law does not distinguish between hard and soft narcotics. Substances such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines are treated equally, and offenders can expect lengthy detention even before a verdict — and additional jail time if convicted — is reached. Although Mexico has decriminalized possession of certain substances, those caught with such amount can still be detained by authorities. Since excessive alcohol consumption could lead to property and use of drugs, travelers should be well aware of these laws.

Remember that the Mexican drug cartels have been dominating the wholesale illicit drug market and in 2007, controlled 90% of the cocaine entering the United States.

Do not go swimming after consuming alcohol.

Sure, both kids and adults want to have fun, and the beach or the resort pool is a beautiful way to refresh. But be careful, mainly when you just consumed alcohol. At some resorts, security and safety standards leave much to be desired. In addition to the influence of alcohol, some beach areas may feature rip tides and undercurrents, which could be hazardous and pose the risk of drowning.

Keep your belongings safe.

Consuming alcohol can disorient you and lower your guard down, so there’s a potentially higher risk of losing your possessions. Therefore, if you are going out for drinks or a party all night, do not bring valuables with you. A US passport book or US passport card was introduced in 2009 for American citizens traveling to and from Mexico. You don’t have to bring it with you (a copy would be handy), and it’s better off left in the safety of your hotel room’s locker.

Be aware of tainted drinks.

The U.S. State Department has issued a warning on possibly tainted or counterfeit beverages in Mexico. It advised vacationers who choose to drink alcohol to “do so in moderation and to stop and seek medical attention if you begin to feel ill.” One unfortunate victim, Abbey Conner, a 20-year-old from Pewaukee, died after being pulled listless from a pool at the Paraiso del Mar, part of a cluster of Iberostar resorts near Playa del Carmen, Mexico. She was brain dead and, a few days later, was flown to Florida, where Journal Sentinel reported she was taken off life support.

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