The Legal Drinking Age in Mexico: 2024

Drinking Age in Mexico: Los Cabos

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 Tequila shots, frozen Margaritas, and Palomas just as likely to come to mind? And have you ever tasted a Michelada (the spicy Mexican beer cocktail)? 

Tequila Sunrise: Another popular tequila-based cocktail
Tequila Sunrise: Another popular tequila-based 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.

Hotel zone in Cancun
Hotel zone in Cancun (credit: Jerome Levine)

The Legal Drinking Age in Mexico: The Rules

Agave plants in Jalisco
Agave plants in Jalisco

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.

Tequila shots "neat"
Tequila shots “neat”

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, carrying open bottles, and public drunkenness are all 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.
  • Drink moderately. Don’t consume enough alcohol to let your guard down.
  • Know your drinking companions and stay with a group of friends who have your safety in mind when you are in clubs and bars.

Download for Young Adults Heading to Mexico

San Diego State University (SDSU) isn’t far from the Mexico border so many of the university’s students vacation in Mexico. In fact, the school is only a half-hour drive from Tijuana.

To help keep its students safe, SDSU has created an excellent downloadable tip sheet for its students, Travel Tips South of the Border that explains Mexican laws (including those regarding alcohol) and identifies resources if travelers have problems in Mexico.

2024 Spring Break Warning

The US Embassy in Mexico issued a 2024 spring break travel warning that includes information about drinking in Mexico and pharmaceuticals. Specifically:

  • Unregulated Alcohol:  Unregulated alcohol may be contaminated, and U.S. citizens have reported losing consciousness or becoming injured after consuming alcohol that was possibly tainted.
  • Pharmaceuticals:  Counterfeit medication is common and may prove to be ineffective, the wrong strength, or contain dangerous ingredients.  Medication should be purchased in consultation with a medical professional and from reputable establishments.

It also urges visitor to drink responsibly and also watch their drink. What to do if you feel ill after drinking in Mexico:

If you begin to feel ill, seek medical attention immediately.  Report cases of suspected unregulated or contaminated alcohol to the Mexican Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk (COFEPRIS) by filing a report online at the COFEPRIS website, calling the COFEPRIS call center at +52 01-8—033-5050, or visiting a COFEPRIS office.

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. Frommers reports that drivers who fail breathalyzer tests can be fined up to $2,500 and denied entry to Mexico for up to 10 years.

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:

Crisp & Crude Paloma Daydream

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. 

 

 

 

 

Crisp & Crude Paloma Daydream
Crisp & Crude Paloma Daydream

SEE IT ON AMAZON


Margaritaville Singles to Go

Margaritaville Singles to Go
Margaritaville Singles to Go

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.

SEE IT ON AMAZON


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!!

Drinking Age in Mexico pin


Drinking in Mexico pin from BING
 

 

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *