Attitudes towards alcohol vary widely from one country to the next -- and even from one state to another in the U.S. -- as do the laws surrounding its consumption. While many places in the world forbid drinking in any outdoor space, there are plenty of places where enjoying a cocktail outside is not just allowed but part of the local culture. Here are 12 destinations in the world where you can legally drink alcohol in public, and what you have to look out for to stay on the right side of the law. Cheers!
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As you’d expect from Sin City, laws about drinking in public are some of the most lax in the United States. Visitors basically treat The Strip like one big party zone, drifting between bars and casinos drink in hand — though with a couple rules to follow. The type of container matters: open-top plastic cups get the green light, but any glass is forbidden. If you bought a closed container of alcohol, you have to be 1,000 feet from where you purchased it. Also, don’t think you can slouch on the sidewalk getting sauced, the laws state you have to keep moving. But it’s not just on the neon-soaked Strip you can carry an open container, but most of the city, provided you’re nowhere near certain establishments such as churches, hospitals, schools, or drug and alcohol treatment centers. And, if you start acting drunk and too rowdy on the streets of Las Vegas, you’ll be amazed at how quick the LVPD shows up on the scene.
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As the home to Mardi Gras festivities, a lively bar scene, and general reputation for fun partying, it should come as little surprise that the Big Easy allows for some big public intoxication. Technically, drinking in public is limited to the historic French Quarter, though local police tend to turn a blind eye in the rest of the city as long as the container is plastic. Pretty much all bars will offers “go-cups” for revelers who want to move on and take their drink with them. Many bars on and around legendary Bourbon Street even have walk-up windows serving Hurricanes and Sazeracs. What’s more, Louisiana is one of just 10 U.S. states to allow legal drinking from age 18, as long as they’re accompanied by a guardian or spouse who is over 21.
While the state of Tennessee has some pretty strict open container laws, one zone that that has found itself totally exempt is in the city of Memphis. In an effort to boost the economy in the 1970s, Beale Street Entertainment District was given the green light for public drinking, which happily continues to this day. The area is only a single street in the heart of downtown Memphis, which runs about two miles from the Mississippi River to East Street. It is, however, packed with music venues, clubs, and bars buzzing with the city’s famous blues, R&B, and rock ‘n’ roll scene. Regular outdoor concerts and an international music festival also means you can take full advantage of the relaxed outdoor drinking rules.
A big draw for many Thailand tourists is its largely laid-back laws when it comes to enjoying oneself. This includes rules around drinking in public, which you can do pretty much everywhere here. While it might be frowned upon to walk down the street drinking in, say, Bangkok, on the islands and tourist hubs it is perfectly acceptable. There’s no carte blanche, however, with strict caveats for drinking in public parks or near places of worship and temples. Buddhist holidays, too, come with a strict ban on certain religious days on selling and drinking alcohol in public places. Note: It is technically illegal to post photos of alcohol on social media, so beware that insta-selfie if you’re holding a drink.
In a country where wine is completely interwoven into its culture, it stands to reason drinking in public is pas de problème (translation: no problem) in France. The phenomenon of the picnic, too, is practically a cultural institution so you can expect to see many of the locals enjoying an al fresco spread accompanied by a bottle of French red, white, or rosé. On a sunny day in Paris, the parks are full of picnickers enjoying a legal tipple, as long as no one gets rowdy. There are some exceptions, however, for example the beautiful Champs de Mars park with its iconic view of the Eiffel Tower has a strict ban on alcohol.
In a country so closely associated with propriety and a strict code of etiquette, it might come as a surprise that Japan doesn’t have laws forbidding public drinking. In fact, it’s a fairly common custom that locals and visitors alike enjoy in parks and other outside spaces, especially during local festivals and spring cherry blossom season. There’s little or no stigma attached to alcoholic consumption generally in Japan, even on public transport, as well as no laws against public intoxication. As long as you’re not misbehaving you can be as drunk as you like — the sight of well-dressed businessmen passed out after a few too many drinks is not uncommon.
While the English are known for their love of tea, it’s no secret that the British are also generally big fans of booze. Good thing, then, that drinking in public is legal, at least in most cases. In England and Wales, you can crack open a cold one in most public places, though the police can request you desist if they think there’s any danger of rowdiness. In London, carrying an open container of alcohol on public transport is an offense. While in Scotland each council makes their own rules on public drinking – Edinburgh is fine, in Glasgow you get fined.
Another country not shy of a shindig (hello, Carnival), enjoying an alcoholic beverage in public in Brazil is both totally legal and socially acceptable. Rio de Janeiro in particular offers a wide choice of outdoor drinking opportunities, exemplified by its iconic botecos — small and casual open-air bars scattered all over the city serving everything from canned beer to expertly mixed caipirinhas. Being intoxicated in public is also not an offense, and it’s common for the police to take anyone too far gone home, or to the station to sober up. Unlike many countries, drinking is also allowed in vehicles, assuming you’re not driving of course — for drivers the legal limit is zero.
While public drinking is technically permitted throughout Italy, being caught drunk in a public place is a definite no-no and comes with a fine. Even if you just want a wee tipple and have no intention of getting tipsy, it’s still worth being cautious as local regulations vary. Some obvious spots where drinking in public is forbidden include parts of Venice like St. Mark’s Square (though even sitting down is banned in much of the city!). In Rome, drinking after midnight on the street will get you in hot water with the authorities. Best to picnic with a nice bottle of Chianti in one of Rome’s parks — Parco Adriano is particularly good for eating and drinking al fresco.
Possibly connected to its long love affair with both beer and the outdoors, drinking in public in Germany is legal — or at least tolerated — pretty much everywhere. Laws might vary from state to state, though it’s safe to assume you won’t get in trouble for drinking in public. In its capital, during the summer, Berliners fill the parks or head to its lakes equipped with barbecues and booze. Also the so-called Feierabendbier (end of work beer) is still a large part of German working culture, with workers cracking open a can or a bottle on their way home. There is a ban on drinking on some of the train networks, so check signs before popping open your pilsner.
Apart from a few minor local regulations, the liquor laws in China are very relaxed. Alcohol can be purchased in practically any convenience store or supermarket, 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and around the clock — and can be legally drunk almost wherever you feel like. That said, you generally won’t see too many locals wandering around with booze outside, and most outdoor alcohol consumption is limited to food stalls. Lax laws around public drinking also extend to Hong Kong, where alcohol is a lot more expensive
As well being responsible for some of the world’s best known cocktails: Cuba libres, daiquiris, mojitos — the communist Caribbean island of Cuba doesn’t have laws prohibiting alcohol consumption in public. If you do decide to hang out in the street drinking with locals, however, you might attract the attention of the Cuban police who might question your behavior and move you along. Probably best to stick to the bars where they can mix you up one of the island’s famous concoctions. Or, get a cocktail at a beach restaurant on the sand.
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