Are you traveling to Mexico with teenagers or college students out for spring break? A common question to ask, especially if drinking alcohol is part of the holidays, is what’s the legal drinking age in Mexico?

The minimum legal drinking age in Mexico is 18.

This ruling is more liberal than Americans, who must be 21 before engaging in alcoholic drinks. 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.

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

Cultural attitudes toward drinking in Mexico

Alcohol is firmly embedded in Mexican culture and history. Several traditional Mexican drinks, such as tequila and mezcal, are world-renowned, and it is frequently a prominent feature of social events and festivities. Cultural views about alcohol consumption, on the other hand, have led to some of Mexico’s problems with underage drinking and alcohol-related injury.

Traditionally, the indigenous peoples of Mexico utilized alcohol for ceremonial and medicinal purposes, and Spanish colonizers introduced it to the region in the 16th century. Alcohol drinking became more frequent and culturally acceptable over the following decades, and by the twentieth century, it had become a fundamental element of Mexican life.

Nowadays, drinking alcohol is frequently viewed as a method to connect with others and form relationships. At social events and gatherings, it is typical for relatives and close friends to share beverages and toasts. Drinking is also celebrated in Mexican music and culture, with several songs and films portraying it as a key motif.

Nonetheless, Mexico’s cultural acceptance of alcohol usage may contribute to some of the country’s problems with alcohol-related harm. Alcohol availability and societal views that normalize drinking can make discouraging underage drinking and promoting healthy drinking habits difficult.

Enforcement of the drinking age in Mexico

The enforcement of Mexico’s drinking age rule varies according to geography and circumstances. Underage drinking is widespread in tourist locations or prominent nightlife attractions, and the drinking age may not be strictly enforced as strictly as in other areas.

In hopes of improving revenue, certain places may not check for the identification or may turn a blind eye to underage drinking. Nonetheless, in some situations, law enforcement officers may crack down on substance misuse, especially if it is causing disturbances or leading to other unlawful acts.

Underage drinking is prohibited in Mexico, and individuals caught breaking the law may face fines or other legal consequences. Additionally, drinking alcohol can have negative health effects on young people, and parents and guardians are encouraged to educate their children about responsible drinking habits.

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.

Around 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 incident, but some end up in trouble mostly related to intoxication, drunk driving, and improper behavior.

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

Although enforcement of selling alcoholic drinks to that 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 on 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, drink 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 requirement:

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

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

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 a subject of such random spot checks.

Safety of alcohol consumption in Mexico

Since we’re on 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 bring 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 as long as 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 amounts 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, standards of security and safety leave a lot 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, so there’s a potentially higher risk of losing your possessions. Therefore, if you are going out for drinks or party all night, do not bring valuables. 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 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 she was taken off life support, Journal Sentinel reported.

Drinking age in Mexico may be the beginning question of an exciting adventure with the family or schoolmates. But it also carries several implications, mostly about safety and security. Enjoying a Mexico vacation is everyone’s hope, but it is also equally important to be respectful of the country’s laws and maintain common sense to ensure a similarly happy return from a memorable trip.