A common question that’s being asked by young travelers before they travel to Greece for the first time: What is the legal drinking age in Greece?
If we take the question literally, the answer is: there is no restriction per se when it comes to drinking. However, if the question implies consuming alcohol in public such as buying in a bar, you must be at least 18 years old (same as in many other countries like Mexico and certain parts of Canada), though such limits are not strictly enforced; in reality no one really checks your ID when you enter the bar.
Such age coincides with the minimum age to obtain driver’s license in Greece. We’re all aware that drinking and driving can be a dangerous mix, and with the winding roads in the countryside, coupled with narrow lanes and occasional obstacles, they become the common causes of road-related accidents in the country.
Drink Driving Limits in Greece
As with many other European countries, the blood alcohol content drink driving limit set in Greece is 0.5 (0.2 for commercial or novice drivers). That’s more conservative than in the United Kingdom or United States. If proven you have exceeded limits, the exact fine you will have to pay will depend on the level of alcohol in your blood with three categories determining what you pay financially and in terms of penalties; Levels of 0.5-0.8 carry a 200 Euro fine and a penalty of 5 points, 0.8-1.1 brings a 700 Euro fine and a penalty of 9 points along with the suspension of your licence for three months and anything over 1.1 will incur a 1200 Euro fine plus a six month ban the and two months in prison.
Greece’s Drinking Culture
Traditionally, drinking alcohol is a very social aspect of the Greek lifestyle to the extent that not only do they drink it with every meal, but even some of the younger children will have a drink. In such Mediterranean culture, people drink moderate amounts of wine, beer, and spirits in a social setting as a way to strengthen bonds among friends and family members, and as a way to take a break from the daily work. However, that being said, getting drunk is not something that the Greek people take very well.
With tourists, this is something that a lot of them ignore or are unaware of and thus, Greek people aren’t too fond of foreigners drinking. On the other hand, the youth age is very aware of the drinking culture in Greece and take it as an opportunity to get away from home and have a good time with their friends.
Types of Drinks Servced in Greece
Greece has drinks preferred by locals and can be tempting to tourists to try in a country that doesn’t easily accept public drunkness.
Tsipouro: A drink which also goes by the name of raki and tsikoudia. It is a strong distilled spirit containing about 45% alcohol. Its Tsipouro: A drink which also goes by the name of raki and tsikoudia. It is a strong distilled spirit containing about 45% alcohol. It production is said to have started in Agio Oros in the 14th century and gradually spread to Macedonia, Epiros, Thrace, Thessaly and Crete.
Serving depends on time of the year, tsipouro can be a refreshment or as hot beverage. Depending on time of day it can substitute coffee or wine. Tsipouro is usually served in shot glasses, with ice, often with delicious meze including feta, ham, olives, tomatoes, halva or other desserts in restaurants.
Ouzo: A drink that is a symbol of Greek culture and has won favor among the people of Greece and Cyprus. It is a derivative from the anise-flavored version of tsipuoro and its production mainly from the island of Lesbos which lays claim as the originator and currently a major producer of the drink. Ouzo is traditionally mixed with water, and served with ice cubes in a small glass. It can also be drunk straight from a shot glass. It is served with a small variety of appetizers called mezes, composed of fresh fish, fries, olives and feta cheese. A few shots of ouzo’s distinctly sweetened taste can bring one to feel lightheadedness.
Ouzito: The Greek answer to mojito, it is a mixture of mint, lemon, soda water (or Coca Cola if you wish to make it sweeter) and ouzo. Sometimes strawberry and licorice is also added. Slice of lemon or leaves of spearmint decorates this drink. This is often consumed after food.
Retsina: A traditional Greek white resinated wine born during the ancient times. Retsina’s looks is deceivingly similar to a white wine, and even smells like a typical white wine. But at first sip, the taste is unmistakingly resembles to a pine resin, which is actually how the wine got its name. It pairs well with seafood, especially Greek lobster and other fish. It also does great with Greek meze spreads such as feta cheese and olives.
Responsible Drinking in Greece
If you plan on heading to Greece at any time and plan on having a drink or two, it’s important that you drink responsibility. If you don’t, not only are you damaging your own body but there’s a fair chance of you hurting those around you and their property whilst you are drunk.
Drinking and driving is not only risky to safety, but also comes with potentially higher risk to fines. Legal limit on alcohol consumption in Greece is 0.05 — lower than the 0.08 in the United States or United Kingdom — so when you’re caught with such level of intoxication, you may be subject to fine which amounts to a few hundred Euros.
As a sign of respect, try to limit the amount of alcohol that you consume and rather than risking your safety and the safety of those around you, leave your rented car or quad bike at home and walk instead.
Although there is no drinking age in Greece and no purchase age is heavily enforced, the law does all that they can to enforce their drinking while driving laws. In fact, the legal alcohol limit whilst driving in Greece is incredibly low in comparison to other countries and comes in at 0.05. I think it’s safe to say that if you don’t want to get arrested while you are on vacation, limit yourself and drink responsibly.
Getting Alcohol Poisoning While in Greece
If you want to get the full Greek experience whilst you’re there and try “ouzo”, an incredibly strong Greek alcohol drink, then be aware of the hangover that you will without a doubt suffer from the next morning.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to take things to another level and try something even more local than ouzo, a lot of bars in Greece brew some of their own spirits. Although illegal to do so, the police in Greece don’t enforce this too much. However, while these spirits tend to be fantastic, they are incredibly high in alcohol and for your own safety, you’ll only want to have one drink.
A lot of the beachside bars that you find in Greece are worth being wary of. Although their drinks can be very cheap, the chances are that you aren’t drinking what you’ve paid for.
These beachside bars are known notoriously for watering down their alcohol with ethanol rather than water. This is a cheap method for them to use and doesn’t make their drinks taste watery, although pure alcohol isn’t something that your body will accept lightly. Be aware of this whilst you are drinking in Greece as drinking one too many could result in alcohol poisoning.