If you are planning a family trip to Mexico—especially if teenage children or grandchildren are part of the brood—you may be wondering about the legal drinking age in Mexico and local drinking customs.
The short answer is that the legal drinking age in Mexico is 18 years of age across all the regions.
But read on, because it’s also useful to know how laws are enforced and what the risks of drinking in Mexico may be.
When you think about a Mexican getaway, it probably conjures up images of sandy beaches, aquamarine waters, sprawling resorts, tasty Mexican cuisine, historical ruins—and warm and gracious hospitality.
But aren’t frozen Margaritas and Palomas just as likely to come to mind? And have you ever tasted a Michelada (the spicy Mexican beer cocktail)?
The lure of the all-inclusive
Drinking is common at most warm-weather destinations, but this is especially true at all-inclusive resorts, where virtually unlimited, free food and booze are a big part of the draw.
Mexico has a large and growing number of all-inclusives. Along with visitors on honeymoons and attending weddings, these resorts are extremely popular with young people who seek them out for spring break, summer, and winter vacations. They are also popular with families who travel with children and young teens in tow.
Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott and Royal Resorts are among the brands that have recently announced plans to expand their all-inclusive properties in Mexico.
Some bartenders at these resorts may skirt the rules when teens are accompanied by their parents but don’t count on it.
The legal drinking age in Mexico: The rules
If your offspring are headed there independently, it’s prudent to talk with them so they understand the rules and risks of underage drinking in Mexico.
A reminder: The legal age to drink in Mexico—in every state across the country—is 18 years of age.
Many young people head to the beaches of Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Los Cabos with alcohol in mind, sometimes because they realize that the legal drinking age in Mexico is three years younger than the minimum age (21) in the U.S.
In addition to popular tequila-based mixed drinks, young people also tend to consume shots of tequila, a spirit that is indigenous to Mexico—most commonly served “neat” with salt and lime on the rim of the glass.
As mentioned above, young people (or those who look young) are supposed to be asked to produce photo identification to verify their proof of age—usually a driver’s license or passport.
This requirement applies to the purchase of alcohol in stores, restaurants, and bars (in Mexico, beer, wines and spirits are ubiquitous, even available in supermarkets).
Proof of age is also required when ordering alcoholic drinks at resorts, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
Consuming open alcohol bottles off-premises on public streets, and public drunkenness are both considered illegal in Mexico. Those who provide alcohol to minors can also be punished.
Exceptions to the drinking rules in Mexico
The Mexican laws regarding the purchase and consumption of alcohol aren’t uniformly enforced, especially in popular tourist destinations.
When they are, punishments for infractions run the gamut. They can range from being thrown out of an establishment to facing a fine, to even winding up in jail.
Depending on the officer and jurisdiction, someone can never predict the severity of the punishment.
Many all-inclusive resorts verify the age of younger guests at check-in and provide a colored wristband that identifies whether they are underage. But even then, especially when young people are with adults, people younger than 18 may still have access to alcohol.
Can minors drink in Mexico when accompanied by parents?
The rule is the rule.
The minimum age to drink in Mexico is 18, whether or not minors are with their parents. But many bartenders will turn a blind eye to mature-looking teens drinking with their parents.
Risks and dangers of underage drinking in Mexico
So should a parent let a minor drink?
While you may want to offer a taste of tequila or a mixed drink to a responsible young adult, it’s important to discuss limits and to warn them to be mindful of the dangers of tainted alcohol, particularly if alcohol is consumed in bars or nightclubs (as opposed to at a reputable hotel or resort).
A recent article in The New York Times warns that Mexico “has a robust illegal trade in alcoholic beverages that has either been unlawfully adulterated or produced under unregulated conditions.”
Drinking tainted alcoholic beverages has led to illness and death.
Some tips for lessening the risks of drinking tainted alcohol (which apply to travelers of any age):
- Be vigilant and never leave a drink unattended at a bar.
- Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
- Only purchase alcohol from reputable liquor stores, supermarkets or food stores; never purchase it from strangers on the beach or in the streets.
- Be sure the cans or bottles you purchase are sealed and haven’t been tampered with.
- Don’t consume enough alcohol to let your guard down.
Drinking and driving in Mexico
Drinking and driving in Mexico is illegal, a criminal offense that can result in harsh penalties including imprisonment or having your car impounded.
We have heard of situations, too, when travelers were pulled over by policemen for drunk driving and made to pay exorbitant fines to avoid those penalties.
While certain states have stricter rules, the national limit for blood alcohol content in Mexico is 0.8. So it is important to be vigilant about the specific rules of the state where you are driving before you get behind the wheel.
And one more reminder regardless of age: Alcohol coupled with heat and sun can dehydrate you due to its diuretic effects, so if you do drink be sure to hydrate with water.
This post contains affiliate links. This means that I may receive compensation if you click a link, at no additional cost to you.
Looking for non-alcoholic tastes of Mexico?
A number of companies are producing no-alcohol or low-alcohol versions of Mexican cocktails, which are a far safer alternative. These include:
This award-winning booze-free craft cocktail is low-calorie, low-sugar, and vegan. It embraces the flavors of red grapefruits and smoky charred oak resembling a reposado.
These drink mix packets are Margarita flavored, low-calorie, and non-alcoholic with zero sugar. Simply pour into a water bottle or glass, then shake and stir.
One more note: On drinking tap water in Mexico
While this post has covered the cautions of drinking alcohol in Mexico, many travel experts urge travelers to be careful about drinking tap water.
To avoid potential problems, especially for those with sensitive stomaches, it’s prudent to stick to bottled water. Many of our friends who live in Mexico peel their fruit and wash other produce carefully before consuming them.
Also on MoreTimeToTravel:
Save to Pinterest!!