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Drinking Age by Country 2024


  • The legal drinking age varies globally, with the USA being one of the highest at 21, while it's lower in many countries, and even nonexistent in some.

  • Several countries, particularly under strict Muslim rule, completely prohibit alcohol consumption, while others have varying legal ages by region.

  • A 2018 World Health Organization report found that 57% of the global adult population did not consume alcohol in 2016, with significant regional variations.

From hard liquor to hard seltzer, alcoholic beverages are a near-ubiquitous part of many modern cultures: Wine with dinner, beer with friends on the weekend, celebratory champagne toasts, and so on. However, because alcohol is a drug that can significantly affect a person's judgment and physical capabilities, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is age-gated in many countries.

Alcohol's effect on the body

In chemical terms, alcohol is an organic compound produced when grains, vegetables, or fruits are allowed to ferment. Medically, alcohol is classified as a depressant (as opposed to a stimulant such as caffeine or a hallucinogen such as psilocybin) with a wide range of physiological effects. Most of these effects involve the deceleration or obstruction of bodily functions. For example, alcohol inhibits physical motor functions and slows down reaction times. As a result, the more one drinks, the slower and clumsier they become. Similarly, alcohol also impedes the brain's communication pathways. Therefore, while one or two drinks can make a person feel looser and more relaxed, continued consumption will result in symptoms such as slurred speech, cloudy thinking, and poor decision-making. Excessive drinking can also lead to additional complications including vomiting, memory blackouts, sleepiness to the point of "passing out", and in extreme cases, alcohol poisoning. Finally, long-term overconsumption of alcohol can contribute to severe physiological conditions, including (but not limited to) pancreatitis, cardiomyopathy, liver disease, hyperglycemia, cancer, and various neurological disorders.

Minimum ages for alcohol consumption around the world

Alcohol consumption varies significantly between countries, as does the legal drinking age. In the United States, one must be at least 21 years of age or older to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages (with very few exceptions in some jurisdictions). Surprisingly, this is one of the highest drinking ages in the world. Just to the north of the U.S. is Canada, which has a legal drinking age of 18 to 19, and the drinking age is far lower in many other nations. In fact, some nations have no minumum age for alcohol consumption (though there may be a minimum age for the purchase of alcohol)—although, the vast majority of these countries still have laws about how old one must be to purchase alcoholic beverages. Conversely, in a few nations (typically under strict Muslim rule), drinking is outlawed entirely.

Alcohol abstinence around the world

Perhaps surprisingly, a 2018 report from the World Health Organization concluded that 57% of the Earth's adult population (in other words, 3.113 billion of the people aged 15 or older) had not consumed alcoholic beverages in 2016. In fact, 44% of global adults had never consumed alcoholic beverages at all.

According to the report, more than 50% of people in the Americas, Europe, and the Western Pacific Region (Japan, Australia, Oceania) drank alcoholic beverages in 2016. By comparison, only 32.2% of people in Africa and 33.1% of people in South-East Asia (India, North Korea, Sri Lanka, etc.) drank in 2016. What's more, 94.9% of people in the Eastern Mediterranean region (Egypt, Iran, Yemen, etc.) have abstained from alcohol their entire lives. Alcohol consumption, it should be noted, is illegal in many Eastern Mediterranean countries, at least for Muslims.

Drinking Age in Australia

The drinking age in Australia starts at 18. No vendor can sell to anyone who already has had too much to drink, and no one can drive with more than .05 percent of blood alcohol content in their system.

Supplying Alcohol to Minors

In many places of the world, you cannot buy alcohol for people under the minimum drinking age of that location. Usually, the only exception is for a parent or guardian buying for their own child. However, not all Australian locations require a parent or guardian present when a minor receives alcohol. Permission must always be obtained by the parent or guardian, however. Not all states or provinces have the same rules regarding this.

Dry Areas (No Alcohol Allowed)

Australia designates many places as “dry” or “alcohol-free” areas. Some of these include blocks 7 and 23 in the Canberra Central District and near the Canberra Theatre Center. Several sections of Phillip Park, large portions of Sydney and Queensland also have dry areas. Likewise, Melbourne City, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania designate their own alcohol-free sections.

Alcohol Advertising

Australia abides by the ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code. These regulations govern where vendors can market alcoholic products. These codes also control the content shown on radio and TV or in print or on outdoor signs featuring advertisement. The Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code also regulates the way adult beverages are promoted on social and digital media.

Drinking Age in Canada

The drinking age in Canada varies by province, which for most is 19. However, you can drink at 18 in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec as of 2020.

Minors Drinking

Minors may not always have permission to drink, depending on where they live. People underage can drink under parental supervision in some locations such as Manitoba and New Brunswick.

This pertains to public consumption on “licensed premises.” Prince Edward Island, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan allow serving to minors at home.

Drinking Age History

Canada used to now allow people to drink until age 20-21. In the 1970s, that’s when the country’s provinces and territories began to lower the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) to either 18 or 19 years old.

MLDA Impact

Apparently, studies concerning MLDAs demonstrated crash reductions and less alcohol consumption related to raised MLDAs. Reports also revealed possible decreased long-term effects otherwise caused by drinking too much, especially when driving. Therefore, Canada does recognize MLDA research and a need for a minimum drinking age in general even if not as high as other places, such as in the U.S.

Will Drinking Age Rise?

In 2018, talk of raising the drinking age in Canada did happen. However, Quebec Premier François Legault said that the province is not at this time planning to raise the drinking age. After more people drank more when ordered to stay home in 2020, however, who knows what the future will hold for this country?

Drinking Age in England

It’s not uncommon for European nations to serve alcohol to a child as young as five years old. However, the drinking age in the UK is 18, which is when young people can legally drink or buy alcohol in public.

Drinking at Home

At home, parents or guardians can allow their children to have alcohol. However, the UK chief recommends that underage persons not drink at least until they are 15. Usually, children as young as five don’t drink much, and having more than probably a few sips is not typically advised. Some experts might say to not allow young people to drink more than once a week.

At a Restaurant

Children 16 and 17 years old can receive wine from a parent, but they cannot buy it themselves at a restaurant. In this case, the permission applies to drinking while a meal is served, which usually is how alcohol is consumed when families drink together.

Going Into Pubs (Taverns)

Children can enter a pub, tavern or similar establishment accompanied by a parent if under 16 or 17 years old. However, they must be at least 16 when with their elders to drink or by alcohol. If going alone, they must be 18 to buy or drink.

Drinking Age in France

The Minimum Drinking Age in France is 18 for purchases and consumption of all alcoholic beverages. As of 2009, French teenagers could still buy wine, beer, and other fermented beverages at 16. However, that’s when talk of raising the minimum age spread.

The Culture

European nations serve alcohol at most meals, and the idea is not for drunkenness but for sipping. Furthermore, most of the countries, including France and Italy, consume alcohol with food. The concept of drinking seems to be less of a “big deal” in Europe than in America. Still, some concerns arise, especially among young people.

Youth Drinking Concerns

Italy, France and other European nations have high rates of alcohol consumption among the youth. They grew up with it, and for some reason, they feel compelled to overindulge more than adults. Researchers and public institutions continue to advocate less drinking among teenagers and children.

Raising the drinking age in France is part of that initiative. School-age children and young adults also receive some of the same warnings about drinking too much alcohol as do the adults.

Adult Drinking Concerns

On average, adult Europeans consume about three drinks per day. This calculates close to what the United States constitutes as being “a drink.” It's usually measured as approximately 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or a shot of hard liquor.

The European daily drinking limit is now one drink above what the France public health services recommends. Health services guidelines advise people to drink a maximum of 10 units of alcohol per week, though almost a quarter of adults in France exceed this limit.

Drinking Age in Germany

The Minimum Legal Drinking Age in Germany is 16 for both drinking wine and beer at an establishment and at home. However, the age raises to 18 when purchasing “spirits” (a.k.a. hard liquor), but 16-year-olds can buy beer or wine.

Will Drinking Age Rise?

On February 18, 2020, the German Government stated that they will not raise the drinking age to 18. Instead, the government responded to the Green Party’s concerns by advocating responsible alcohol use, which they believe is working.

Alcohol Consumption Decline

The Ministry of Health and other organizations have shown a decline in alcohol consumption. This data accounts for usage within a few years prior to 2018. Apparently, between 2014-2018, young persons between 12-17 have consumed less alcohol. Moreover, binge-drinking decreased. It’s because of this decline that the government believes the education about responsible alcohol use is working.

2020 Alcohol Consumption

During the year when most people were expected to stay home worldwide because of the Covid-19 quarantines, alcohol use still declined. Beer consumption dropped by more than 5 percent, wine sales declined by more than 2 percent, and spirit sales decreased by almost one percent.

This is different than much of the rest of the world staying at home this year. For many countries, alcohol used had increased, but not for Germany.

Drinking Age in Ireland

Only public businesses that have the proper license can sell alcohol, and the drinking age in Ireland is at least 18. Restaurants, hotels and resorts or pubs all have to abide by rules stating what hours of the day they can serve, and they could end up with fines, jail time or closure if they sell to minors.

Alcohol sales regulations

With the new Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 came with it updated alcohol sale regulations. These include prohibition of volume alcohol purchase discounts. This means grocery stores cannot offer percentages or monetary units (euros) off bulk alcohol purchases. Pubs could also lose their alcohol licenses, and owners maybe could end up in jail if they serve to minors.

Alcohol purchase laws

The court could sentence an adult a fine of at least €1500 ($1751.75 USD) if they buy alcohol for a minor. However, the Intoxicating Liquor Act states that individual adults or establishments could face penalties of up to €5000, which equals approximately $5819.30 USD.

Public intoxication laws

Anyone in Ireland drunk in public could face fines of at least €100-€500, which equals up to about $116-$582 USD. Disorderly conduct could result in more serious consequences, including stiffer fines or jail time.

Driving blood alcohol limits

Drivers in Ireland cannot have more than .05 percent blood alcohol concentration in their systems. If police catch people operating a vehicle above this BAC limit, they could face at least hundreds of dollars of fines. This country also does sentence people to jail and suspends licenses for varying periods depending on the offence.

Drinking Age in Italy

If you are traveling or studying in Italy, you might need to know what the drinking age is there. Youth ages 16 and over can purchase alcohol with the appropriate identification. Usually, any official photo ID works.

The Culture

According to Time magazine, Italy is considered a “sipping culture.” It’s not that people don’t get intoxicated here.

However, the overall alcohol consumption rate (technically referred to as “alcoholism”) measures lower than some other European nations and the United States. It’s why Italy now attempts to control teenage drinking more than they did in the past.

Selling to Minors

Apparently, Italy doesn’t enforce the minimum drinking age as much as other countries might. However, Milan has become stricter about serving alcohol to minors since 2009. At this time, fines were up to $700 for an adult purchasing alcohol for a minor. Citations probably have raised since.

Drinking on the Street

The country also has experienced greater penalties for drinking on the street as of 2020. In Florence, Italy, where they don’t sell alcohol in stores past 9pm, they issue fines of €500. This equals a little more than $500 USD.

Drinking and Driving

You cannot have more than a .05 percent BAC if you decide to drive in Italy. If convicted of driving while intoxicated, you could face hefty fines of at least hundreds of euros or more. Vehicle compensation, loss of license and jail time could also occur.

Drinking Age in Jamaica

The drinking age in Jamaica is still 18 as of 2021. Before deciding to drink in this country at ages less than 18, you should check your local laws. In some cases, countries do prosecute underage drinking outside their borders even if the vacation destination allows it at a lower age.

Violating the Drinking Age

Typically, U.S. law enforcement – or police from any country – leave you alone if you’re inside Jamaica and are at least 18 when drinking. However, you could possibly end up in trouble if still intoxicated when coming back into the U.S. or wherever home is to you if not allowed to drink when not yet 18.

Drinking on Ships

Since Jamaica exists in the water, concern about underage drinking prevails. Therefore, no one can consume alcohol on cruise ships unless they are at least 21. However, most of the local bars allow it on the premises.

Alcohol Availability

You can find alcohol just about any time of the day or night in Jamaica. Apparently, minors are even allowed to buy it in certain settings, but overall, the drinking age remains at 18. Most people here accept partying and alcohol to be the norm.

Alcohol Consumption

About 48 percent of people in Jamaica do binge-drink. Despite this island’s drinking age, some people who consume excess alcohol have not turned 18 yet.

Drinking Age in Japan

Japan has the second-highest drinking age in the world compared to most locations where the minimum age is 21 In Japan, you must be at least 20 years old to purchase and consume alcohol. You can use your passport for your ID at local establishments such as bars or restaurants.

Enforcement Challenges

Even though Japan does have laws that prohibit minors from consuming alcohol, it’s difficult to enforce. Alcoholic beverages available in vending machines pose a challenge with controlling underage drinking. The country doesn’t take drinking and driving lightly, however, whether you are underage or not.

Drinking and Driving Rules

Japan seems to have some of the harshest drinking and driving rules around the world. A blood alcohol content measuring only .03-.04 percent could land someone in prison for up to three years. It’s up to five years in prison for convictions that involve a .04 BAC or more. You could also end up with a fine of approximately 1.3 million yen ($10,000 USD) and lose your license for good.

Public Drinking, and Buying or Selling

You can drink in public in Japan, unlike many other countries. Since you can, you’ll see commuters sitting on trains or even sleeping where everyone can see them before driving again.

As far as buying alcohol, you can make your purchase just about anytime of the day or night at convenience stores in Japan. Vendors must, however, acquire licenses that pertain to the types of spirits they plan to sell, such as wine, beer or liquor.

Drinking Age in Mexico

The drinking age in Mexico in most states is at least 18 years old. No place in Mexico allows minors to buy alcohol, and people claiming to be of age must present identification at time of purchase. This established minimum age does control alcohol use, but the country also addresses other alcohol-related issues.

Underage drinking issues

U.S. Teenagers often travel to Mexico from Texas and other border states. However, they’re not allowed to drink if the minimum age of doing so is not 18 where they live. In any case, jail time or fines often are issued to underage drinkers who get caught if they’re not 18. Law enforcement also issues penalties to minors from a country where they can’t drink at this age.

Public intoxication laws

You cannot walk around with open alcohol containers in public, unless perhaps it’s at a bar or restaurant that serves cocktails or beer. People even have gotten caught consuming alcohol in secluded areas and fined or jailed. Carrying flasks or other closed containers is technically illegal too. However, law enforcement doesn’t usually make an issue out of it unless someone commits vandalism, human violence or other unruly act.

DUI blood alcohol limits

Persons operating a motor vehicle in Mexico cannot have more than a .08 percent of alcohol in their system. A first DUI offense could land a person in jail for up to 48 hours without being charged and cost them up to about $50881.26 pesos ($2500 USD) in fines. After the second time, a driver loses their license for up to three years.

Drinking Age in Puerto Rico

Talk of changing the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) to 21 peaked in 2013. However, the drinking age in Puerto Rico has remained 18 as of 2020. Heavy drinking has its consequences, so lawmakers continue to try raising Puerto Rico's MLDA.

History of MLDA Legislation

In November 2013, Democratic Party representative for the territory Puerto Rico Carlos Vargas pushed for making the MLDA 21 years old. The territory held out even after the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 came into effect. Before 1984, the age at which young people could buy alcohol varied by state even more so than when some states raised it to 21.

Economic Consequences

Puerto Rico did not receive any highway funding from the U.S. Federal Government because they refused to raise the drinking age to 21 years. It affected this island’s economy so much that more than 54,000 people residing there had left. Some bars, however, will not allow patrons to enter unless they are 21 even if the drinking age has not yet increased.

Youth Alcohol Consumption

Statistics do show the effect of having the drinking age set at 21 instead of 18, which is why lawmakers still try to convince Puerto Rico to change the MLDA. It does seem to cause less accidents and fatalities, especially in the young people.

About 90 percent of alcohol consumption in people under 21 involves binge drinking, and a 2016 report states that about 1 in 8 people on the island struggle with alcohol abuse. These statistics could possibly drive Puerto Rico to raise their drinking age at some point.

Drinking Age in Spain

The drinking age in Spain is 18 as reported in 2020, and the country has a similar culture as does Italy, France and other European nations. They often sip light alcohol such as wine or beer with meals, and some concerns do arise pertaining this approach used to control alcohol misuse.

Attitudes Toward Drinking

Families typically serve alcohol with meals, and children as young as five years old are allowed to have at least a little taste. The idea behind removing the shame associated with alcohol is thought to maybe teach people to use this substance in moderation. It can possibly teach a person not to consume alcohol to excess, but it doesn’t mean no one in Spain struggles with drinking too much.

Youth Binge Drinking

Most European Spanish families teach their children that they can enjoy alcohol in moderation. This coincides with safe alcohol limits for adults, which would be no more than one or two drinks per day. In this case, experts define one drink as approximately one can of beer or one glass of wine. However, new recommendations state that it’s better not to drink every single day.

In any case, young binge-drinking remains a concern. Therefore, the minimum age at which a young person can buy alcohol in Spain stays at 18 as of 2021. It used to be 16 years old.

  • All data current as of 2023
  • Age requirements are divided into beer, wine, or spirits and off-premise or on-premise sales. For countries whose age requirements vary, differences are noted in the Additional Details column.
  • On-premise consumption = bars, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs
  • Off-premise consumption = supermarkets, off-licenses, shops, online-stores

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For Consumption
On Premise Sale
Off Premise Sale
Additional Details
There is no national legislation prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors. Legislation in Luanda Pr...
Antigua and Barbuda16
18 for spirits, 16 for other alcohol beverages. Each federal state prohibits sale of alcohol beverag...
Prohibited for Muslims.
Prohibited for Muslims; Muslims require medical prescription for purchasing.
18 for distilled beverages of higher than 1.2%ABV and fermented beverages of higher than 22%ABV; 16 ...
Bosnia and Herzegovina1818
British Virgin Islands181818
Non-Muslims over 17 years of age are allowed to import alcohol not to exceed maximum total volume 2 ...
Burkina Faso1818
It is prohibited for any person with a liquor license to sell or supply alcohol beverages to anyone ...
18 in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec; 19 in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrado...
Cape Verde181818
Cayman Islands181818
Central African Republic2115
Lower if accompanied by a supervising adult.
Production of alcohol beverages by Muslims, their sale to Muslims, and their consumption by Muslims ...
Cook Islands1818
Costa Rica181818
Czech Republic1818
16 (beverages of <16.5% ABV), 18 (beverages of ≥16.5% ABV).
Dominican Republic1818
DR Congo1818
El Salvador1818
Equatorial Guinea212121
Falkland Islands181818
Faroe Islands181818
18 (1.2–22% ABV), 20 (>22% ABV).
It is prohibited to sell, serve or supply fermented alcohol beverages (beer, wine, cider and sparkli...
It is prohibited to sell alcohol drinks to anyone under the age of 18, other than the following two ...
It is prohibited to sell or serve alcohol to a person under 18 years of age. The law provides an exc...
Hong Kong1818
18 in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Puducherry, Raj...
Prohibited in Banda Aceh and Papua; 21 elsewhere for both on- and off-premise sale. According to Min...
There is a ban on alcohol, but religious minorities may purchase small amounts from shops owned by t...
Parents can permit their underage child to drink in private residences.
Israel law prohibits selling or serving alcohol to minors. Minors are prohibited to drink alcohol in...
Ivory Coast1418
Spirits and alcopops may be sold only to people at least 18, and other alcohol beverages to people a...
Sale of alcohol is limited to tourist resorts. It is prohibited to sell alcohol to local Maldivians.
Marshall Islands212121
21 in states of Pohnpei and Yap; 18 in states of Kosrae and Chuuk.
Those under 21 are prohibited from drinking alcohol; parents and guardians are prohibited from suppl...
Sale to Muslims is prohibited; 16 for non-Muslims.
A policy has reportedly been adopted that would make the legal purchase age 21. However, there are e...
New Zealand1818
Minimum age applies for beverages with 1.15% ABV or over; no restrictions on beverages less than 1.1...
No Restrictions (all other states),18 in Abuja, Prohibited in Borno.
North Korea181818
Prohibited for foreigners.
North Macedonia1818
Northern Mariana Islands212121
18 for beverages of 0.7-22%ABV , 20 for beverages of 22%ABV and above.
Residents need personal liquor licenses to consume alcohol in their private residences.
Purchase age for Non-Muslims is 21.
Papua New Guinea181818
Puerto Rico181818
Foreigners holding valid residence permits can apply for licenses to purchase alcohol beverages from...
Republic of the Congo1818
Penalties apply to parents of those under 16 years of age who consume alcohol beverages in public pl...
Saint Kitts and Nevis1818
Saint Lucia1616
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines1818
May sell or supply to persons aged 18 and above who are accompanied by parent or legal guardian and ...
San Marino1616
Sao Tome and Principe1818
Saudi Arabiaprohibitedprohibitedprohibited
Drinking or possessing alcohol is prohibited in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Persons who drink or po...
Sierra Leone1818
Solomon Islands2121
South Africa1818
South Korea1919
South Sudan1818
Sri Lanka2121
Off-premise and supply by any person: 18 for folk beer (2.25-3.5%ABV) and 20 for other beverages
18 for spirits, 16 or 18 for beer and wine depending on the Canton; Canton Ticino prohibits the sell...
Trinidad and Tobago1818
Prohibited in airports and stores.
Turks and Caicos Islands1818
United Arab Emirates182121
18 in Abu Dhabi, 21 in most Northern Emirates and Dubai, Prohibited in Sharjah.
United Kingdom1618
16 for beer, cider, and wine with a meal and bought by and accompanied by an adult. This does not ap...
United States212121
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act requires all states and territories to have a minimum purchasi...
United States Virgin Islands181818
showing: 206 rows

Which country has the lowest drinking age in the world?

Russia allows those as young as 16 to drink alcohol, but you must be 18 to purchase it. There are also several countries without an age restriction at all.

Which country has the highest drinking age in the world?

Certain provinces in India require citizens to be 25 to drink alcohol, but there are several countries, such as Afghanistan and Libya, where the practice is completely prohibited.

Where is the drinking age 16 years old?

Austria, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Morocco, Russia, and Uganda all allow 16-year-olds to drink alcohol, but there are restrictions on the type they can drink and when they can drink it.

Frequently Asked Questions